The Blue Raccoon

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Berlin-Baghdad Railway
There was one--or most of one--and it helped start World War I

Steel road to an alternate world: The Baghdad Railway near Aleppo. Image: Reinhard Dietrich.

The notion seems incongorous like Richard Brautigan's "Tokyo-Montana Express."  

But industrious Wilhelmine Germans, seeking to shore up their status in the Levant, feed their growing petroleum and industrial needs, and prop the faltering circumstances of their new best friends, the Ottoman Turks,  in 1888 founded the euphonious and metaphorically rich Anatolian Railway Company. Sounds to me like an early 1970s guitar-driven band.

Work on the railroad proceeded in a quiet way from 1899 to 1902--the British had German naval power to worry over and didn't say much otherwise-- then the Germans, in order to defray costs, offered shares to their fremenies France and Britian. And thereby hangs a tale which I'll get into later.

Map of nearly completed Berlin-Baghdad Railroad that would have enabled Germany to ship tank cars of crude from the oil-rich province around Mosul had war not broken out. The rail line ran through lands controlled by the German-Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany's ally Turkey, which then controlled what would become Iraq after the Great War of 1914-1918. Not inconsequentially, it would have also outflanked the British and French-controlled Suez Canal, through which Britain's own supply of oil from Iran flowed by ship. [Image and caption from] Part of this route was already established by the Orient Express line.

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At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was the real cause of the First World War. High costs of passing through the Suez Canal and Gibraltar Strait, collected by Britain in those days, caused Germany to pursue this option.


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