From Ankara to the east by train

Johannes Heger from Austria, founder of, had traveled from Ankara to Tehran in 2014. Below was published at Bahnforum in German, and was reproduced for Rail Turkey by Google Translate.

This year I have again made a trip to Iran. This time I have a group of friends from Italy accompanied, where we started our ride from Ankara. Here I would like to play a few visual impressions. Anyone who knows my earlier report on this route, maybe a couple of reps but also see new images.

It began with an overnight stay in a Turkish village …

The idyll is deceptive, however, because if you continue to direct the view, you have a view over the capital of Turkey – from Castle Hill (Kale) from the middle of the old town.

In another five minutes taxi ride we come to the actual starting point of the journey

The understanding with the Turks is difficult, they speak almost no foreign languages. But then the Iranians can be found on the platform and so we know how to give up the luggage in the baggage car. A rather complicated procedure: one gives the suitcase on the platform with a stand off and is rewarded with a handwritten note on an old, somewhat yellowed form. With this you have to be in an office at track 1, where it is exchanged for a computer printout. Once back on the platform, it has in front of the expression at the kiosk and get a receipt on which the case number is. At the same time a Eitkette is stuck on the suitcase.

Now finally allowed the Trans Asia retract.

And a little later, it goes through a hilly landscape

Then it is quite flat again …

While the train is running towards my last trip here 3 years ago but slightly faster, because in many places the tracks the route but were renewed seldom allowed speeds over 80 km / h.

The conceived in building new railway line from Ankara to Sivas will not touch, which is why they will be for Trans Asia in the future is of no interest Kayseri. Because there always rise to many Iranians. There are mainly relatives and friends expatriate members of the religious community of the Baha’is, who are discriminated against and persecuted in Iran. The Diaspora of Kayseri has become one of thousands of members. The Verabscheidungsszenen at the station are lively and poignant.

The next day we follow the course of the River Murat, a tributary of the Euphrates (Turkish: Firat), which we crossed in Sivas. First, it goes to a dam along.

Little by little, the valley narrows. We wechslen multiply the valley on beautiful white truss bridges.

The route runs through a geologically unstable area

And so it always comes back to track interruptions with spectacular accidents. Opposite my last trip 3 years ago, I could see two new accident sites. In the first well Personewagen harm came.

Near a power plant construction site, which will change radically in the future of the valley, the route was moved to a new tunnel. Also in other places the path is Completely restructured relaid in part because the valley is flooded.

Accident scene # 2 -. This time there were freight cars

In the almost untouched and fascinating landscape, there are from time to time sign of human civilization.

We keep in Kale – What’s in Turkish castle (Arabic: qal’e). There is first changing of the guard, because the train is accompanied by heavily armed soldiers. As in some northern Firat Valley I was traveling by train in 1992, there were those two per wagon. Meanwhile, the situation between the Turkish state and the Kurdish separatists has eased somewhat why the mood is also here a little looser. However, I do not want to provoke the uniformed men with machine guns and shoot their picture unnoticed from the hip.

Our train is still waiting on a train meeting. The superstructure can be more to be desired – correspondingly low are the rates.

Finally meets the weekly circulating twice Vangölü Express from Tatvan to Ankara an order just take a passenger. Even otherwise, take the train rather more staff and accompanying soldiers as passengers, while the Trans-Asia is filled to the last place.

Accident scene no. 3 – this is older. Apparently here the route was blown up by Kurdish separatists Sichen why it came to the derailment.

Despite its name, the Trans Asia Express ends for TCDD in Tatvan

The first car now – we are pushed back to the port from Tatvan Station – drives still on more than 1000 km. It is the Iranian van with our luggage. Schoolchildren watch the once weekly event and throw luckily this time no stones (which was not always).

It’s almost at a walking pace through a S-curve to the lake. The locomotive pushes from behind.

Here the track a turning loop runs to which today replaces the former triangular rail junction above Tatvan.

While we have already risen to the ferry and the baggage car will be loaded.

Short is also the first passenger coaches strayed to push the ship to the baggage car in his posistion. Continuous coaches between Istanbul and Tehran, there was, however, only in the early days of Trajektverkehrs in the 1970s.

Aboard the Trans Asia, the mood is one crescendo since departure. War during the ride of the center of the dining car boisterous singing and dancing so now shifted on the ferry, the scene in the two passenger decks. A traveler has disguised himself as Haji Firouz, a popular figure around the Persian New Year, which is celebrated with the beginning of spring.

The Iranians have the situation under control. Songs and dances from all parts of the country are presented. Here a Kurd to the vocals. He is accompanied this by a musician on the Setar, a stringed instrument with three sounds – as the name suggests – but with four strings, because 2 to the same sound – have voted – but offset by an octave. Now the mood peaked. Iranians enjoy a few hours, which is still missing up to the border wild celebrations as it only in private is possible across the border to the general public.

At the deck railway freight cars also be carried – and a few bikes, the there are also people who make the long journey to the Orient by bike.

Although the Lake Van is fairly quiet at our crossing the cars are lashed firmly on the ship.

The only continuous trolley Ankara-Tehran is Iran’s luggage carts

The old ferries from the 1970s are at end of life. Since a few years will be built on two new ferries, which can be each accommodate up to 50 cars. The specially designed a shipyard was built in Tatvan, since transport of the vessels to the located 1500m above sea level Lake Van would not be possible. By the end of at least one of the vessels is scheduled for completion.

The connecting train in Van has 2 hours late. We remain on the ship, because the waiting room at the pier is only heated insufficiently. Finally arrives our train. We need Before we are concerned about the Persian tickets, as these are issued only here because the tickets sold in Turkey serve only as a voucher. Also here, the places for the Iranian train are redistributed. The issue of tickets for more than 400 passengers but is handled by the extensive existing Iranian staff very efficient and an rapidly.

Around midnight we reach the border station Kapiköy. Here we need to get all the passport control. There is icy cold and there has been fresh snow in early April. We are at about 1800 meters above sea level. Turkish border guards work – if at all – only very slow and unmotivated, so that the procedure takes more than an hour to complete before we can get back into the train.

What happens next in Iran and what I experienced there in the coming weeks with further 2500 km ride takes in another report.

Greetings from Tehran

Route, timetable, options and fares of Transasia Express (Tehran-Ankara)
Other stories about this train

Cover photo by Johannes Heger


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