The Trains to Nowhere
Turkish Concentration Camp for Steam Locomotives
Sometime in 1991 right at the demise of operation of steam motive power in Turkey it was decided to store many of the remaining locomotive types in a museum in Çamlik just south of Selçuk. Çamlik was once the home of a repair depot for Turkey’s oldest railway and as such had space including a turntable.
Early impressions of what is now one of the strangest railway museums I have ever visited is that it was once merely somewhere to store the then unneeded locomotives. Fortunately, they remain there in 2019 in largely intact condition, but unfortunately they are left to slowly crumble in the warm Turkish sunshine. Visitors are at liberty to clamber up and down footplates to their hearts’ content, but clamber you must as the only way is up as the lady once sang. To gain access you have to climb up via the maker’s steps and handrails, just as loco crews did all those years go. No handy wooden access platforms here, but sharp edges of rusting footplates make a hazardous adventure for eager enthusiasts. Broken steps that had obviously collapsed under the weight of an unsuspecting visitor remain on the ground where they fell.
I had wanted to see something that I would be quite familiar with, a Stanier designed 8f built in wartime Britain under a War Department contract and wasn’t disappointed as I soon stumbled on 45161 built in 1942 by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow. The first thing that struck me was the controls were all back to front! Right-hand drive, the opposite of British locomotive left-hand drive practice at the time, apart from the Great Western of course, they always had to be different. Apart from that and having airbrakes instead of vacuum it was mostly complete. A tender full of coal and water and a bag of firelighters and almost ready to chuff off! Well not quite, but you get the idea. The gauges were still fitted but apart from one broken one they have all strangely been painted over in black paint. Sadly like most of the many other exhibits years of neglect have taken their toll, but to the hardy British restorer it would be an easier task than those dragged out of Dai Woodham’s Barry Island scrapyard during the 80s and 90s apart from the 2400 miles trip home that is.
The rest of the museum or should I call it mausoleum was both interesting and depressing in equal measure. There are not many places in the world, probably none, that you could find a collection of 33 locomotives from Britain, Germany, USA, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and France. All are equally accessible by the usual method of climbing onto the footplate. So many are in a state of disrepair that it makes this quite a hazardous venture, but nonetheless great fun.
There is a limited amount of rolling stock on display, mostly German built during the Nazi era and also sadly suffering from neglect, leaking roofs, crumbling vestibules, broken windows and beautiful wooden interiors with art deco lighting, still with luxurious seating all sadly slipping into oblivion. One would hope that someday soon some money and attention will be diverted to this unique and important collection and rescue it from its inevitably sad fate.
The gate leading into the museum area and connecting it to the nearby mainline gives it an appearance of being a sort of concentration camp for steam locomotives that no one had a final solution as what to do with them.
On a happier note though the visitor toilets are kept in excellent condition and the site benefits from an excellent restaurant and refreshment area. I can heartily recommend a visit to Çamlik Train Museum.
The author of this post, Ray Coggin, is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.