ISTABL ANTAR STATION
Two-storey black basalt stone station building. The name plaque is missing.
Barracks with a well to the north of the station building.
Remains of a yellow works motor vehicle from the 1960s restoration project.
A square metal water tank with bullet holes.
The twin-peaked Jebel Antar (named after the protagonist in a celebrated Arab love poem, not dissimilar to Romeo and Juliet) dominates the station to the west. During the war a Turkish look-out post was established on the summit.
Istabl Antar Station with Jebel Antar silhouetted against the setting sun
The barracks block with its well visible at the rear
The distinctive twin-peaked Jebel Antar to the west of the line signalled to the travellers that their long journey was nearly over
On 7 August 1917, Major Herbert Garland, with 36 Arab dynamiters and 200 tribesmen under Sherif Nassir, set out from Prince Abdullah's camp at Abu Markha. After watering at Helwan, close to Jebel Antar, they made their way over a mountain path towards the railway. Becoming aware of their presence, the Turks moved troops onto the line and started to patrol the area in heavy numbers. Garland was forced to retreat.
The following morning, Garland was astonished to discover that his advance had been visible from Istabl Antar Station. Believing the railway to have been on the other side of the hills, the party had trotted up Wadi Hamdh in broad daylight, in full view of the defenders. Garland set out again at dusk for a night raid, passing within 1,000 metres of the station. The approach was made on foot, but 7 of the group never reached the line and only 100 rails were demolished.
On 31 January 1918, a French raiding party mined a train carrying spare rails and wood between Abu Na'am and Istabl Antar. Two engines, a tender and three wagons were destroyed in the attack.
Sketch map made by Bimbashi (Major) Herbert Garland showing the stretch of railway attacked in August 1917
Main station building with yellow works vehicle from the 1960s restoration project
The great twin-peaked Jebel Antar, towering over Istabl Antar Station, 110 kilometres north of the Holy City of Medina indicated to the weary pilgrims that their long and arduous 4-day train journey from Damascus was almost complete.
The famous English explorer Charles Doughty recounts in his book Travels in Arabia Deserta a very curious remark that was made to him in 1876, over 30 years before the Hejaz Railway was built at Istabl Antar. The warden of the caravanserai fort at Medain Saleh, Haj Nejm, an old Moor of Fez, had spent time in his youth as a soldier in the service of the overland pilgrimage road. Sitting in the fort with his blunderbuss on his knee, he related to Doughty that while in the vicinity of Jebel Antar 'he had seen there... a railroad,' a claim to which an incredulous Doughty saw fit to comment: 'These simple men believe in good faith that telegraph and railways be come down to us from the beginning of the world'!