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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Casey Jones Goes to War

Veresk Bridge

Mazandaran Savadkooh: View from the Veresk Bridge.
I don't remember what exactly got me started on this, possibly one of Comrade Misfit's posts about steam locomotives. Anyway, I got started rummaging around and discovered this little bit on Schenectady History dot org. Alco is the compact version of "American Locomotive Company".
Alco was also on time in the kind of war story most satisfying to railroad men. The story was told in "Casey Jones Goes to War," by Amy Porter, in Collier's magazine, May 20, 1944:
The Trans-Iranian railroad gave America's soldier railroaders one of the hottest, coldest, toughest jobs they ever had to do. In the critical days of late 1942, Russia called for more supplies. Nazi submarines were crippling the Murmansk convoy route. The Mediterranean was closed to Allied shipping, and although generous supplies were being brought around the tip of Africa and landed at Persian Gulf ports, only a feeble trickle got through to Russia. The inadequately powered Trans-Iranian Railway was the bottleneck.This 650-mile road bisects a 150-mile stretch of desert before it struggles to heights of more than 7,000 feet in the Elburz Mountains. Temperatures range from 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert to 40 below in the mountains... There are 225 tunnels, thousands of bridges.
British steam locomotives and even America's 2-8-0's were not powerful enough to negotiate this tortuous road and haul much freight. It took most of their power to carry the coal and water on which they ran. Something had to be done.
At this point American Locomotive Company representatives were called to Washington... Could P. T. Egbert of Alco, Washington wanted to know, get some diesel-electrics over to Iran quick? Mr. Egbert could. And could Alco, by the way, convert the diesel axle arrangement somehow so the Iran road could bear their 120-ton weight? They could.
In the first week of December, twenty-nine diesels with six axles instead of the standard four were delivered at the Persian Gulf-along with a newly recruited American Locomotive shop battalion, eight hundred strong, to play nursemaid to the thousand-horsepower giants. The M.R.S. (Military Railway Service) took over operation of the road, and shipments increased until in May, 1943, Russian requirements in munitions and supplies were exceeded by 18 per cent...
Now a great fleet of diesels and a grand division of M.R.S. troops have the Iran situation well in hand.
Wikipedia has a story article about the Trans-Iranian Railway.
Odd old film, in French, no subtitles: Reza Shah of Iran inaugurates the Trans Iranian Railroad

Costain built 11 miles of the Trans-Iranian Railway, seven tunnels and two viaducts in isolated mountainous terrain - for £1 million.


The Veresk Bridge is right in the center of this map. You will notice how the rail line doubles back, loops around and even crosses itself here. This explains how we can see the viaduct in the second picture from the bridge in the first picture.
    The map is about 9 miles top to bottom. Iran has a green fringe along the shore of the Caspian Sea. This area is right at the southern edge of this green fringe which makes it about 50 miles from the coast.
    I made this map by tracing the railway line in the map version and then changing the base map to the satellite view. The little white blobs are tunnel entrances. There are more tunnels but Google Maps ran out of ink, or memory, or something.

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