Trans-Iranian Railway

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North-south railroad completed in 1938, which links Caspian ports in the north to Tehran and Persian/Arabian Gulf ports in the south.

The Trans-Iranian railway, one of the great engineering feats of the twentieth century, was commissioned by Reza Shah Pahlavi after his consolidation of power in Iran in 1925. Preliminary planning and construction efforts were contracted with KAMPSAX, a Scandinavian syndicate, in 1933. With the hub at Tehran, single tracklines were laid north and south through mountain and desert terrain to newly constructed ports on the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf coasts. The 865-mile (1,392-km) railroad became operational in 1938, with 190 tunnels, totaling 47 miles (76 km), and traversing mountain passess higher than 7,000 feet (2,135 m).

The railway symbolized the new regime's goals of nationalism, independence, and modernization. To avoid foreign exploitation, particularly from English and Russian interests, it was financed by taxes on the popular subsistence items of tea and sugar. Ironically, during World War II, the railroad was commandeered by the Allies as a major supply route to the Soviet Union.


Millspaugh, Arthur C. Americans in Persia. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1946.

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