Dubai's first 'metro'

Before asphalt made transport easy in the Emirate, one construction company used a light railway to move sand, gravel and building materials for the new Port Rashid.
Dubai's first 'metro'
By Andrew Grantham
Tue 13 May 2008 04:00 AM

Before asphalt made transport easy in the Emirate, one construction company used a light railway to move sand, gravel and building materials for the new Port Rashid.

The Dubai Metro is a vast, expensive and extremely ambitious project. With the main Red Line having more than 52kms of track, the Green Line a further 18kms, there are also plans afoot to build a further two lines, extending right up to the Abu Dhabi border.

Big and costly it might be. However, it is not the first railway to have been built in the UAE, nor indeed the first in Dubai.

Back in 1968, construction firm Costain International Ltd commenced construction of Dubai's Port Rashid. It was decided to use rail transport for moving materials as there wasn't a road network at the time.

Costain set about building a standard gauge railway, and while the exact length has been forgotten, it can be speculated that it must have spanned several kilometres.

After laying the track, several locos were tracked in. All were made by the Burton-on-Trent based firm Baguley-Drewry and of the five that Costain had purchased, three were brand new, while the other two dated from the 1950s.

The breakwaters for the port were composed of rock brought by road from Bayadat Quarry, some 20 miles inland, and then transferred to the standard gauge railway at a large construction yard adjacent to the future port's site.

When the breakwaters were completed in 1971 the track was lifted and all rolling stock stored in an adjacent plant yard.

Further extensions of the breakwaters were commenced in late 1975 but this time regular road-going trucks were used for all transportation of materials.

This meant the end for a couple of the trains. After years of neglect, at least two were hauled out to Bayadat Quarry, about 30kms out of Dubai on the Al Ain road, shortly before the Jebel Ali-Hatta crossroads.

Costain had been working the quarry, and this was where two of the machines spent their final days before being broken up in the early 1990s.

Happily, it wasn't the end for the whole railway. The firm paid for some relocating the railway for light community use. Some of the tracks were dug up and relocated to Musrif National Park.

One of the locos was brought in - serial number 3655 - and some rail trucks were converted to carry passengers. The train spent the years between 1975 and 1981 chuffing parents and children around the park.

After this date, the machine was put on a plinth, where it remains as a testament to the UAE's first railway, unless any readers know better?

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