Did you know...? #08
Did you know that Cockerill has supplied rails to the whole world?
It was from the very first days of the history of railways that the Cockerill company set out to manufacture rails, by supplying the Belgian state with the equipment required to establish the first line on the European continent: Brussels-Mechelen, in 1835. Cockerill is thus immediately to position itself as a partner of choice for countries taking up the great rail adventure. The most astonishing example of this is the Hedjaz railway, made famous by the film Lawrence of Arabia.
It is in fact Cockerill which supplies the 10,000 tonnes of rails required to construct the line which connects Damascus to Mecca. The works begin in 1900 and are complete in 1908. Unfortunately, right from the beginning the railway is subject to attacks by neighboring Arab tribes. Certain sections were placed on metallic sleepers to frustrate the local habit of using the wooden sleeepers to feed their camp fires.
Following this, the line is to be damaged several times by battles of the First World War, with the final attack being that by the bands of Arabs led by Lawrence of Arabia. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Hedjaz railway is never to operate again to the south of the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.