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CFOA - Chemins de Fer Ottomans d'Anatolie

CFOA History

The line from Istanbul to Anatolia started in 1871 (reign of Sultan Abdulaziz) when the Ottoman government started building a line from Kadiköy, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus to Pendik. The line was then extended to reach Gebze and then Izmit. This line was standard gauge from the beginning and the financing was backed by French capitalist, like most of the Government project (indeed the French Banque Ottomane was acting as central bank).

The legend goes that this line was built to allow the Sultan to go quicker hunting in Izmit. The truth is that the line served a populated area along the Marmara Sea and was intended from the start to go onwards to Anatolia and to Mesopotamia. However, the line proved difficult to manage and its operation was transferred to a British company in April 1880 for 60% of the gross receipt in return. It is most likely that, at that time, a narrow gauge extension was built as far as Adapazarı.

The financing of the extension of line to Ankara proved difficult. The British investors formed an Anglo-American syndicate under the leadership of Sir Vincent Caillard, then chairman of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration. But the Syndicate could not pull up the capital required. Dr George Von Siemens, then managing director of the Deutsche Bank, was tipped off about the project by another banker, Alfred Von Kaulla from Württembergishe Vereinsbank who was in Istanbul at that time to handle the export of Mauser riffle to the Ottomans armies. After much haggling, the Deutsche Bank finally won the concession on October 8, 1888 to build a line from Izmit to Ankara.

This concession was to last 99 years, later extended to 114 in order to match the Baghdad Railway concession. The concession provided also a revenue guarantee of 15000 Francs per kilometer and per year from the Ottoman Government. This guarantee helped reduce the risk on the return on capital employed; it proved a key point in securing the investors.

The Deutsche Bank formed a subsidiary "Bank für Orientalischen Eisenbahnen", incorporated in Zürich, Switzerland. Securities from this bank were floated throughout Europe. This provided the financing for another subsidiary company, Société du Chemin de fer Ottoman d'Anatolie (CFOA) which was incorporated the October 4, 1888 also in Switzerland to build and operate the line Izmit to Ankara. The shareholders included The Deutsche Bank of course but also other investors, among them British and French. Sir Vincent Caillard was even elected chairman of CFOA board. M. Lambert and G. Auboyneau, two French directors, were also on the CFOA board. The Deutsche Bank looked for foreign investors to get more international support and to share a financial risk it could not undertake alone.

In turn, the CFOA subcontracted the building of the line to main contractor Philipp Holzmann of Frankfurt-am-Main. Holzmann started actual work in May 1889.

Using an option to repurchase the concession, the Ottoman government transferred the Scutari Izmit line on January 11, 1889 from the British to the CFOA. In return, the CFOA paid 6 million Swiss Francs to the Ottomans. This deal was part of the agreement between the Ottoman Government and the Deutsche Bank from the onset. It made full operational sense to regroup the line under the same management.

The branches

The main extension of CFOA occurred in 1893 when it got the concession for a branch from Eskişehir to Konya. This concession provided also for a spur to Kütahya. This Konya branch became later the starting point of the Baghdad Railway.

The CFOA finally built a short branch from Arifiye as part of a concession to bring the railway to Bolu. The Bolu line was to be extended to Ismetpaşa on the Çankiri Zonguldak line. To this day, Bolu has no trains.

Some sources indicates that the CFOA got also a concession to extent the Ankara line to Kayseri but this was not done.

Port concession

It addition to railways, the CFOA seeked to operate ports, and above all Istanbul. Haydarpaşa port equipment proved soon to be too small to handle all the traffic generated by the railway. Having difficulties in getting the permit to extend Haydarpaşa, the CFOA developed a new port in Derince next to Izmit and commissioned its contractor, Philipp Holzmann, to build it along with grain silos. These silos, of a total capacity of 12200 tones were inaugurated in 1897. The new Derince port provided some relief to Haydarpaşa and to the end part of the line, especially during harvest time. Finally, Haydarpaşa was extended in 1899. At this time, CFOA gained total management of the port, including custom duties. This activity was transferred to a subsidiary company " the Haydarpaşa Harbour Company" and the port is still under TCDD management.

World war 1

Being mostly German, the CFOA was not placed under military control during World War I. But the CFOA had to handle much additional military traffic to bring supplies to the Eastern front in Palestine and Mesopotamia. This railway could play fully its strategic role, despite the Baghdad railway not being complete. The Germans boosted CFOA capacity by transferring many rolling stocks from Europe.

Things turned nasty after the war. After, the Moudros armistice in 1918, the Allied moved into Turkey and the CFOA was placed under British Military control. However, the British had to withdrew quickly from central Anatolia under the pressure of the Nationalist led by Atatürk. They moved back towards Istanbul in orders to keep control of the Straights. Consequently, on February 22, 1920, operation of the line between Büyükderbent and Ankara / Konya was given to the Nationalists. On 23 March 1920, Atatürk gave the order to the nationalist army to take control of the line and start operating it. Due to the lack of properly trained personnel, the army had to improvise and turned into railway men whoever looked suitable.

In June 1920, the Greeks crossed the Milne line around Izmir they were occupying since 1919 and moved towards Bursa. Despite some brilliant victories, the Turkish Nationalist Army had to retreat and left Eskişehir as well as significant part of the CFOA under Greek control. At the worst time in summer 1921, the Nationalist could only control the Polatlı Ankara part of the line. The system was damaged and poorly maintained with minimal, or even no traffic, especially where the line was crossing the combat zone. The Sakarya Battle in September 1921 was the turning point were the Greeks started being pushed out of Anatolia. However, it took another year until the Turkish Army entered Izmir in September 1922. The CFOA system was now in the worst condition, having been systematically destroyed by the various retreating armies. Most bridges were sabotaged, the track ripped out, some stations blown up, the rolling stock damaged. At this time, the traffic was impossible. At once, the Turkish Nationalist Army started to rebuild the infrastructure and the rolling stock in order to resume operation as soon as possible.

The Lausane treaty in July 1923 put an end to the war and allowed the Allies to leave Turkey. The British gave back in September the last stretch of the CFOA (Haydarpaşa to Büyükderbent) which was not already under Turkish control. The British finished leaving Istanbul in October 1923.

Chemins de fer d'Anatolie Baghdad

Despite being in control, the Turkish government was not the legal owner of the CFOA which still existed as a company since it was incorporated in Switzerland, a neutral country all along. At this point, the Turkish republic created a state body, the " Chemins de fer d'Anatolie Baghdad" with a dual purpose (law 506 of March 3, 1924; decree of April 22, 1924):

  • to operate the CFOA lines
  • to buyout the shareholders of the CFOA. This task was finally completed in 1928 when all CFOA assets were purchased for 484,4 million Swiss Francs (law n°1375, dated 31 december 1928). This amount includes the ports as well as the Mersin Adana line. Transfer of ownership was effective January 1, 1929.

The CFOA presents no major engineering difficulties. Just like the other lines, the difficult point is the climb for the seashore to the Anatolian plateau. This is done after Arifiye, slowly rising to Bilecik and then steeply rising to Karaköy. The worst section is a 2,5% climb during 16km after Bilecik. Thus Bilecik became a major banking station in the steam age. Even today, the heaviest trains still require a helper.

CFOA lines opening dates

fromtoOriginal companyOpening yearOpening datekmmilesaxle load (t)remark
HaydarpaşaFeneryoluOttoman gvmt1872 3,72,317taken over by CFOA
FeneryoluFenerbahçeOttoman gvmt1872 1,40,917taken over by CFOA
FeneryoluPendikOttoman gvmt187222 Sep 187221,113,217taken over by CFOA
PendikGebzeOttoman gvmt18731 Jan 187319,21217taken over by CFOA
GebzeIzmitOttoman gvmt1873Aug 187346,929,317taken over by CFOA
IzmitArifiyeCFOA18901 Sep 189148,930,417 
ArifiyeAnkaraCFOA189231 Dec 1892436,7271,417 
EskişehirAlayuntCFOA189430 Dec 189466,941,617 
AlayuntAfyonCFOA18954 Aug 18959458,417 
AfyonKonyaCFOA189629 Jul 1896272,2169,217 
AlayuntKütahyaCFOA189430 Dec 18948,85,517 
ArifiyeAdapazarıCFOA18991 Nov 18993,2217 
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