Iraqi Republic Railways

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Iraqi Republic Railways (IRR)
Government-owned corporation
Industry Rail transport
Founded 1905
Headquarters Baghdad, Iraq
Products Passenger Rail Transport
Iraqi Republic Railways
National railway Iraqi Republic Railways Company
Track gauge
Main 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

Iraqi Republic Railways Company (IRR) (Arabic: الشركة العامة لسكك الحديد العراقية‎‎) is the national railway operator in Iraq.


IRR comprises 1,905 kilometres (1,184 mi) of 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. IRR has one international interchange, with Chemins de Fer Syriens (CFS) at Rabiya. The system runs from Rabiya southward through Mosul, Baiji, and Baghdad to Basra, with a branch line from Shouaiba Junction (near Basra) to the ports of Khor Az Zubair and Umm Qasr, westward from Baghdad through Ramadi and Haqlaniya to Al Qaim and Husayba, with a branch line from Al Qaim to Akashat, and east-west from Haqlaniya through Bayji to Kirkuk.


Germans, Norwegians, French-Syrian colonial officials and others at the train station in Tell Kotchek, 1940.

The first section of railway in what was then the Ottoman Empire province of Mesopotamia was a 123 kilometres (76 mi) length of the Baghdad Railway between that city & Samarra opened in 1914. Work had started northwards from Baghdad with the aim of meeting the section being constructed across Turkey & Syria to Tel Kotchek and an extension northwards from Samarra to Baiji was opened in December 1918.[1]

From 1916 onwards an invading British Military force brought narrow gauge equipment, firstly 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge and later 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge gauge from India to Southern Mesopotamia to construct various sections of line to support its offensive against the Turks. Britain defeated the Ottomans and Mesopotamia became a League of Nations mandate under British administration. In April 1920 the British military authorities transferred all railways to a British civilian administration, Mesopotamian Railways.[2]

The metre gauge line from Basra to Nasiriyah was the most important section constructed during the war in terms of its significance as part of later efforts to construct a national railway network. Soon after the end of World War I this was extended northwards from Ur Junction outside Nasiriyah up the Euphrates valley with the complete Basra to Baghdad route being opened on 16 January 1920.[3]

The other section of metre gauge line built during World War I that had ongoing significance was that from Baghdad East north eastwards to the Persian border. After the war the eastern end of this line was diverted to Khanaqin and the wartime built line north west from Jalula Junction was extended from Kingerban to Kirkuk in 1925.[3]

In 1932 Iraq became independent from Britain. In March 1936 Britain sold Mesopotamian Railways to Iraq, which renamed the company Iraqi State Railways.[2] Work resumed on the extension of the Baghdad Railway between Tel Kotchek on the Syrian frontier and Baiji. The through route was opened and completed on 15 July 1940.[2] In 1941 the Iraqi State Railways PC class 4-6-2 steam locomotives were introduced to haul the Baghdad — Istanbul Taurus Express on the Baghdad Railway between Baghdad and Tel Kotchek.[4] From 1941 onwards the UK War Department supplemented ISR's locomotive fleets: the metre gauge with HG class 4-6-0s requisitioned from India[5] and new USATC S118 Class 2-8-2's from the USA,[6] and the standard gauge with new LMS Stanier Class 8F 2-8-0s[7] and USATC S100 Class 0-6-0T's.[8]

Principal railway routes in Iraq

In 1947 the Iraq Petroleum Company opened a branch at Kirkuk, which it operated with its own Hudswell Clarke 2-8-4T's from 1951.[9][10] ISR opened a new metre gauge line from Kirkuk to Arbil in 1949. A joint road & rail bridge was opened across the River Tigris in Baghdad in 1950, finally connecting the east and west bank metre gauge systems.[2] ISR added new steam locomotives in the 1950s: 20[11] metre gauge 2-8-2's from Ferrostaal of Essen and 10[12] from Vulcan Foundry[13] in 1953 and 20 more[14] from Maschinenfabrik Esslingen[15] in 1955-56 and 2-8-0s from Krupp, plus standard gauge 2-8-0s also from Krupp.[16][17]

In 1958 when Iraq's Hashemite monarchy was overthrown and a republic declared, ISR was renamed Iraqi Republic Railways.[2] In 1961 IRR began to replace its standard gauge steam locomotive fleet with diesels from ČKD[18][19][20] and ALCo.[21][22] In 1972 several classes of steam locomotive were still in service on the standard gauge system,[23][24] but these were replaced by further classes of diesel from Alstom, Montreal Locomotive Works and MACOSA.[22] IRR did not begin to replace its metre gauge steam locomotives until after 1983.[2][25]

In 1964 IRR extended its standard gauge network with a line from Baghdad to Basrah which opened for freight in 1964 and for passengers in 1968. It has since been extended from Shouaiba Junction to the port of Umm Qasr.[2]

From 1980 until 2003 IRR suffered approximately one billion United States dollars' worth of war and looting damage.[26]

Passenger services[edit]

In around October 2008, a commuter service resumed between Baghdad Central and the southern suburb of Doura.[27] There is a nightly service between Baghdad and Basra and a Friday-only pilgrims service to Samarra. In March 2009, a weekly service started between Baghdad and Fallujah. The Baghdad - Mosul line is almost ready for passenger services to resume.[when?] Transport Minister Abdul Jabbar Ismail said that he hoped to extend the existing network of 1,243 miles (2,000 km) to between 2,485 miles (3,999 km) and 3,107 miles (5,000 km) but that there were obstacles such as budget restraints and contract approvals.[28] CSR Sifang Co Ltd. is supplying 10 new 99 miles per hour (159 km/h) trains in 2014.[29]

Rolling stock[edit]

Current (information partly from 2004)[edit]

Class Image Axle Formula Number Year in Service Power
Constructor Notes
DHS 101-3BB Bo-Bo 3 1986 600 Nippon Sharyo Not in service anymore[30]
DHS 111-3BB Bo-Bo 3 1973 600 Nippon Sharyo Not in service anymore[30]
DHS 121-7BB Bo-Bo 7 1982 600 Nippon Sharyo Not in service anymore[30]
DHS 131-144 Bo-Bo 14 2002-'03 1000 Tülomsas 8 in service in 2004[30]
DEM 2001-2010 Co-Co 10 1963 1650 ČKD 5657 - 5766. Not in service anymore[30]
DEM 2011-2020 Co-Co 10 1964 1650 ČKD 5802 - 5811. Not in service anymore[30]
DEM 2101-2105 Co-Co 5 1965 2000 Alco 3416.01-3416.05. Not in service anymore[30]
DEM 2201-2220 Co-Co 20 1971 2000 Alsthom Not in service anymore[30]
DEM 2301-2330 Co-Co 30 1975 2000 Montreal LW 6083.01-6083.30. Not in service anymore[30]
DEM 2331-2361 Co-Co 30 1976 2000 Montreal LW 6093.01-6093.31. Not in service anymore[30]
DEM 2401-2455 Locomotive in downtown Baghdad, Iraq.JPEG Co-Co 55 1980 2000 Macosa 1631-1685. Some maybe in service[30]
DEM 2501-2582 Co-Co 82 1983 2250 Henschel 32711-32720, 32639-32710. Seen in service in 2007. 2559-2561 were formerly dedicated to Saddam Hussein’s private passenger train.[30]
DEM 2701-50 Iraq; diesel locomotive DEM2716.jpg Bo-Bo 50 2001 2000 Dalian In service[30]
DEM 2801-30 Co-Co 30 2004 2630 Lugansk Some maybe in service[30]
DES 3001-36 Bo-Bo 36 1962-'73 650 ČKD [30]
DES 3101-200 IRR dieselelectric locomotive.jpg Co-Co 100 1979-'81 1100 ČKD 11301-11303, 12204-12211, 12272-12360[30]
DES 3301-6 Bo-Bo 6 2004 1200 Bryansk [30]
DEM 4001-11 Co-Co 11 1980 3600 Alstom [30]
DEM 4101-61 Co-Co 6 1980-'82 3600 Alstom [30]
DMU 10 2014 3600 CSR 160 km/h. 10-car long-distance train has two power cars and accommodates up to 343 passengers intended for Bagdad - Basra.
* DHS = Diesel-hydraulic, DEM = Diesel-electric


Class Image Axle Formula Number Year in Service Power
Constructor Notes
HJ Class 4-6-0 203 1902 Originally built for Bengal and North Western Railway. Exported to Iraq in Second World War. [31]
HG Class 4-6-0 1907 Robert Stephenson One seen as 132 in 1967. Originally built for Burma Railways. Exported to Iraq later. [32]
HG Class 4-6-0 1920 Nasmyth Wilson One seen as 179 in 1967. Originally built for South Indian Railway Company. Exported to Iraq later. [33]
HG Class 4-6-0 1923 North British One seen as 193 in 1967. Originally built for South Indian Railway Company. Exported to Iraq later. [34]
HGS Class 4-6-0 1921 Vulcran Foundry One seen as 149 in 1967. Exported to Iraq later. [35]
NA Class 4-8-0 226 1920 North British Originally built for Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway. Exported to Iraq in Second World War. [36]
? 0-6-0 ? 1912 Borsig One photographed in 1967 on display at Baghdad West Railway station.[37]
? 0-4-0VBT ? 1928 Sentinel Two photographed in 1967 as RM2/RM3.[38]
PC class The British Army in the Middle East 1943 E25833.jpg 4-6-2 4 1941 Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Series 501-504. Built in 1940. 504 lost during transport to Iraq. Out of service in 1967.
TD Class Stanier 8F 2-8-0 No. 48479.jpg 2-8-0 12 1942 NBL 143 Sent to Iran after 1941 Anglo-Soviet invasion. Ten were purchased by I.R.R. in 1947, two in 1948. Operated until the seventies. 1 Currently possible disused - abandoned in field near IRR 33°20′43.20″N 44°21′13.90″E / 33.3453333°N 44.3538611°E / 33.3453333; 44.3538611. Series around 1400. War departement 70746> 1402
SA Class S100Design.png 0-6-0 5 1942-'44 Davenport Series 1211-1215. In 1967 at least two active. According to some they were used by Palestine Military Railway first. P.M.R. 106 > 423, 165 > 425, 404 > 429, 406 > 430, 434 > 431, 437 > 432, 512 > 438.[39]
V 0-4-0T 1910 Borsig One seen as 208 in 1967 on display in Shalchiyah.
W 2-8-2 1943 Alco One seen as 63 in 1967.
2-8-4T 1951 Hudswell Clarke
Y 2-8-2 10 1953 Vulcan Foundry One seen as 80 in 1967
Z 2-8-2 1956 Esslingen One seen as 96.


Iraq-Syria Direct Railway Link[edit]

Syrian Railways had been extending a rail route from Deir ez-Zor Junction towards the modern Husaibah branch terminus on the Iraqi side of the border, which was built as a through station. The route follows the Euphrates river valley and Google Earth shows the route complete to within 30 kilometres (19 mi) of the border, but requiring a major bridge across the river. This route would be more direct than the existing one via the border station at Tall Kushik.

Iraq-Jordan Direct Railway Link[edit]

In August 2011, Jordanian government approved the construction of the railway from Aqaba to the Iraqi border (near Traibil). The Iraqis in the meantime started the construction of the line from the border to their current railhead at Ramadi.[40]

High-speed Baghad-Basra line[edit]

A 650 km (400 mi) 250 km/h (155 mph) line between Baghdad and Basra was planned, with the Iraqi Railways and Alstom in discussions.[41]

Although not true high-speed rail, it operates since 2014. New trainsets for use on the Baghdad-Basra route were unveiled in China in February 2014 before being shipped to Iraq.[42]


IRR uses Soviet-style SA3 automatic couplers. In order to allow interchange with CFS and Turkish State Railways which both use screw couplers, IRR locomotives and most wagons are equipped with screw couplings and buffers. In Iraqi service the buffers do not make contact and the screw couplings hang down unattached. The railways in adjoining Saudi Arabia use American type Janney automatic couplers. There is currently no rail link planned to Saudi Arabia.

Rail links to adjacent countries[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hughes (1981) p. 87
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Hughes (1981) p. 90
  3. ^ a b Hughes (1981) p. 89
  4. ^ Hughes (1981) p. 98
  5. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust: Image no. br670530
  6. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust: Image no. br670522
  7. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust: Image no. br670616
  8. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670501
  9. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670604
  10. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670534
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670415
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670436
  16. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670614
  17. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670619
  18. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670305
  19. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670310
  20. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670502
  21. ^ The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670309
  22. ^ a b Hughes (1981) p. 97
  23. ^ Railway & Archiving Trust, Iraqi standard gauge railways (gallery of photographs from 1967)
  24. ^ [4]
  25. ^ Railway & Archiving Trust, Iraqi metre gauge railways (gallery of photographs from 1967)
  26. ^ David White (1 March 2004). "Rebuilding Iraq's ravaged railways". Railway Gazette International. Retrieved 9 September 2007. 
  27. ^ "All Aboard the Baghdad Metro", Los Angeles Times, 18 November 2008
  28. ^ "Iraq's Struggle to get railway back on track after neglect and war", The Times, 14 April 2009
  29. ^ "Iraqi inter-city train rolled out". Railway Gazette International. 25 February 2014. 
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s HaRakevet: Rothschild PhD, Rabbi Walter (march 2005), I.R.R. Diesel loco stocklist. Series 18 issue 68
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ HaRakevet: Rothschild PhD, Rabbi Walter (September 1989), Palestine Military Railways Ex-LSWR 0-6-0's Series 2 issue 5
  40. ^ Construction begins on 500km Jordan-Iraq railway, Construction Week, 24 August 2011
  41. ^ "Alstom in deal to build high-speed rail in Iraq". The Telegraph. 26 June 2011. 
  42. ^ "New Iraqi inter-city train rolled out". Railway Gazette. 25 Feb 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  43. ^ [5] Archived 26 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine.


  • Hughes, Hugh (1981). Middle East Railways. Continental Railway Circle. pp. 87–99. ISBN 0-9503469-7-7. 

External links[edit]