ABU NA'AM STATION
To follow the railway northwards between Istabl Antar and Zumurrud Stations, it is necessary to go offroad (4-wheel drive vehicles are required). A good point to start the journey offroad is where the railway embankment splits off from the tarmac road (10 kms south of Abu Na'am Station):
25° 8'46.03"N 38°51'6.84"E
From this point northwards, the railway embankment acts as your guide.
The main station building, to the east of the line, was built in the local black basalt stone
The barracks block at Abu Na'am Station housed a large garrison force
The twin metal water tanks were given a protective stone cladding after Lawrence's raid in March 1917
Abu Na'am - meaning: 'Father of the Livestock'
Often erroneously translated as 'Father of the Ostrich', which would have a long 'a' vowel (alif).
Two-storey black basalt station building. Two small birkas. The name plaque in bright yellow sandstone stands out vividly against the dark walls. The date on the plaque is 1907 (1325 AH).
Double-tank water tower (with stone cladding) to the north of the station.
Barracks block to the south of the station. Metal water tank and a small birka to the west. Large stone oven.
The main station building and the water tower were built on the east side of the line, while the barracks block was situated on the west.
A small Ottoman building, a well (with a pump house) and a small white mosque, 150m to the west of the station, are still in use today.
Turkish graves to the east of the station.
Remains of a wagon (wheels marked DUCREE 1906 am 3949) has disappeared from the site.
There were several attacks on the station during the war. The earliest, in March 1917, was Lawrence’s first attack on the railway. At the time of Lawrence’s raid, the area around the station had 'many bell-tents and shelter tents… and the perimeter was heavily entrenched.'
In Sept 1917, demolitions were carried out by Major Davenport and an Arab group on the curved section of track south of the station.
The large mountain dominating the station to the east is Jebel Unseih. By 1918, the defences of the station had been reinforced. Close to the main station building, 2 large wooden stables housed 2 squadrons of cavalry. Fortified posts were established in the hills on both sides of the line.
October 1918 - At the end of the war, the station fell to an Arab force under Farhan al Aida.
SITES SOUTH OF ABU NA'AM STATION:
Bridge - A 10-arch bridge (see below)
( 24.878700, 39.105389;
24°52'43.30"N 39° 6'19.64"E )
The long bend in the line south of Abu Na’am was the target of repeated Allied attacks, owing to the fact that curved rails were in short supply and difficult to replace.
SITES NORTH OF ABU NA'AM STATION:
Bridge - A 5-arch bridge (see below)
( 25.271557, 38.825196;
5°16'17.54"N 38°49'30.69"E )
Wadi Hamdh Bridges - An 11-arch bridge and a 19-arch bridge. Fortified outpost on hill. (see below)
(11-arch bridge: 25.274459, 38.825646;
25°16'28.01"N 38°49'32.32"E )
(19-arch bridge: 25.275186, 38.825700;
25°16'30.65"N 38°49'32.53"E )
The two bridges spanning Wadi Hamdh
The Wadi Hamdh Bridges from the south
Abu Na'am comprised three main structures - the barracks, the main station building and the water tower. During the war, there was also a large military encampment which strengthened the garrison force
In March 1917, Lawrence carried out his first raid on the Hejaz Railway at Abu Na'am Station, 130 kilometres north of Medina. The raiding party was assembled at the desert camp of Prince Abdullah (Sherif Hussein's second son) at Abu Markha and included Captain Raho, an Algerian in the French army, Mohammed al Khadhi, Sherif Fauzan al Harthi and 25 Otaibi and Juhanni tribesmen. Lawrence clambered up a small rocky hill two kilometres west of the railway and used it as a vantage point to survey the station prior to the attack. Lawrence was joined by Sherif Shakir (Abdullah and Faisal's cousin) in the evening before the assault, but the plan for a full frontal attack had to be abandoned as he arrived with only 300 men, instead of 900 as had been expected.
View of Abu Na'am from the hilltop vantage point that Lawrence used to reconnoitre the station and its garrison
View looking north from the hilltop vantage point Lawrence used to reconnoitre Abu Na'am Station (just visible at the end of the clip) in preparation for the attack. The station had a military encampment as well as a barracks block. The large garrison of almost 400 men meant that the raiding party was unable to carry out a full scale frontal attack, but had to make do with a heavy artillery bombardment.
Abu Na'am from the north looking out across the wide valley plain to the hills Lawrence crossed on his ride from Abu Markha to carry out the raid on the station
A huge stone oven situated in the barracks block was required to provide freshly baked bread and occasional roasted meat for the station's garrison
During the attack, a sustained artillery barrage inflicted considerable damage to the station. The barracks block and the main depot building were hit, causing the upper floors to collapse. The metal water tank was pierced and knocked out of shape, while the pump room was hit by three shells, bringing down a wall. 'The well house was demolished and the tents and the wood pile burned and a hit was obtained on the first wagon of the train in the station. This set it on fire and the flames spread to the remaining six wagons, which must have contained inflammable stores since they burned furiously.' The locomotive uncoupled and moved southwards, but was stopped by a mine laid by Lawrence prior to the attack. The engine driver carried out some hasty repairs and within half an hour was able to clank off slowly to the safety of Istabl Antar Station.
An Arab advance on the station captured two outposts and forced the Turks to withdraw to their entrenched defensive positions. The northern section of the station was taken, but the barracks block with its large garrison held firm and the attack was brought to a close. Two small groups were left on the railway to carry out minor demolitions. The raiding party returned to Prince Abdullah's camp in excellent spirits. 'We had taken 30 prisoners... and had killed and wounded 70 of the garrison, at a cost to ourselves of one man slightly hurt. Traffic was held up for three days of repair and investigation. So we did not wholly fail.'
The station lay on the wide flat wadi floor two kilometres east of Lawrence's hilltop vantage point
As well as a tented military encampment, Abu Na'am comprised three principal structures - the barracks, the main station and the twin water tower. All of the buildings suffered severe shell damage during the attack. The remains of a makeshift cemetery to the east of the station bears testimony to the heavy losses sustained by the isolated Ottoman garrison during this and other engagements of the war.
Traditional black bedouin tent pitched just to the north of Lawrence's hilltop surveillance position at Abu Na'am Station in 2019
Small water reservoir (birka) by the main station building
Sunken stone defence post by the barracks block
Camels crossing the valley floor in front of Abu Na'am Station
Damaged rolling stock at Abu Na'am in 1998, evidence of heavy fighting at the end of the war when the station finally fell to an Arab force of the Anaiza tribe under Farhan al Aida. These items have now sadly disappeared from the station