The train station building
The Jaffa train station building was built in 1892 as part of the first railway line between Jaffa and Jerusalem. The start of its operation marked the beginning of the age of modern transportation in the Land of Israel.
Until the eve of WWI in 1914, the station and railway were operated by a French company that acquired the license granted by Turkish Sultan Abed el-Hamid to developer Yossef Navon in 1888.
The railway was prosperous in those days. Despite the slow, 4-hour trip from Jaffa to Jerusalem, the railway train served an increasing number of merchants, tourists and pilgrims, including the “visionary of the State” Theodor Herzl and German Kaiser Wilhelm II. In 1913, for example, some 183,000 passengers journeyed through the station. A first class ticket for travel in special cabins cost 50 grush (cents) and a second class ticket cost 30 grush.
“… for had they not scrimped where they ought not to have scrimped, the track would not have been so long… But the really terrible thing is that the railway is lacking a number of truly necessary things. Where, for example, is the drinking water in the railcars… ashtrays for cigarette ash? And last but not least, where, I respectfully inquire, is the lavatory?...” Hemda Ben-Yehuda, “HaZvi” newspaper, 1907
From the end of WWI to the eve of the War of Independence in 1948, the rail line was operated by the Palestine Railways company.
The train station building is the central and most important building in the Tachana and as such, it was restored scrupulously. The building was constructed symmetrically and its architectural design was greatly influenced by the 19h century European-Templar construction culture.
The central area on the ground floor served as a tickets hall and featured a cashiers’ counter. The east wing housed the station offices – the station manager’s office, a room for railway employees and a private waiting room. A spiral staircase led to the second floor, where there were additional rooms for railway and station employees. The single storey west wing was divided into two sections – a luggage room and a waiting room. Local building materials were used for the construction of the station, mainly sandstone and burnt bricks. Steel beams, an innovative material at that time, were used to build the ceilings, at great expense.
Only minor changes were made to the building over the years, mainly the addition of awnings to various facades, which were built after 1910. The southern awning, made of steel beams filled with wood and covered with zinc, is unique and was created by the same French company that built the Eiffel Tower.