A trip back in time on Lebanon's disappearing railway

Lebanon's 408km of railway once connected the country to its neighbours, but today the train stations stand abandoned.

Changiz M Varzi | | Middle East, Lebanon

In August 1895, the first steam train departed from Beirut and passed across the Bekaa Valley towards Rayak station, near the border with modern-day Syria. It was the golden age of rail transport in Lebanon.

Lebanon's 408km of railway once connected Beirut to Damascus, Syria, and Haifa, a coastal city in present-day Israel. Today, there is nothing left but dilapidated station buildings and rusted locomotives. The Lebanese civil war, which ran from 1975 to 1990, effectively put an end to rail transport in the country.

Some train stations were demolished by warring factions during the civil war; others were later bulldozed for highway projects; still others have simply been left abandoned. Historic locomotives rust at Rayak and Tripoli stations, while in Europe, the same engines are preserved in museums.

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