Railways in Iran – Part 12 – Photographs from the Second World War

While searching for information about the railways of Iran on the internet I came across a set of photographs taken by one particular soldier in Iran during the Second World War. The photos are held at the Lancaster City Museum which provides a home for the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum. [1]

I contacted the Museum with a view to including some of these photographs in my article about the Railway of Iran between 1910 and 1945. The curator, Peter Donnelly, was very happy for me to do this and commented:

“I am happy that you can use the images with a link back to the King’s Own website. They are an interesting collection of photos from a former King’s Own soldier, and would always be good to know a little more about them!” [2]

On reflection, and with the museum’s approval, it seems to me that rather then hiding these photos within the text of another article, I should give them a more prominent place in this series of articles by allocating a post to those images and only then referencing them in the article which covers the period of the Second World War in Iran.

The photographer was Sergeant Frederick Winterburn and he has eleven pages of photographs on the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum’s website. The eleventh page of these relates to his service in Iran. [3] His photographs carry the overall reference KO2953 and the photographs from Iran are in the range 220 to 324. They are protected by copyright asserted by the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum and they are used with permission. [2]

Frederick Winterburn enlisted into the King’s Own Royal Regiment on 18th September 1931, as number 3710004, signing up for seven years regular service and five in the reserve. He left the regiment in 1938, but was recalled from the Reserve on the outbreak of the Second World War. In February 1940 he transferred to the Royal Engineers and served with Number 159 Railway Construction Company in Iran and Italy. His peace time job appeared to have been with the permanent way department of London Transport, thus his service with the Railway Construction Company would appear logical. [3][4]

The collection of documents and photographs covers his service with both the 1st Battalion, King’s Own and the Railway Construction Company. The material held by the museum is available on eleven web-pages and includes:

  1. Index of documents and photographs [3]
  2. Documents and booklets
  3. Funerals in Egypt
  4. Funeral of Lieutenant Colonel Irvine, Commanding 1st Battalion, King’s Own
  5. Soldier Portraits and Groups
  6. 1st Battalion King’s Own in Egypt 1930-32
  7. 1st Battalion King’s Own and Wellington, Southern India
  8. Miscellaneous Photos
  9. Ships and Boats
  10. Colombo, Ceylon
  11. Railways and 159 Railway Construction Company [4]

It is the last page of these which interests us in this series of articles.

All the photographs can be accessed on line and I have reproduced here a selection of the one’s most relevant to the series of articles I have been writing about the Railways of Iran. The page heading is: Railways and 159 Railway Construction Company, Royal Engineers, Second World War.

This first picture shows men hard at work digging foundations. It is not possible to ascertain whether the excavation is railway related, all that can be said is that the work is taking place in close proximity to the railway. At the rear of the picture it is possible to make out a railway embankment and the railway itself. Given the sequence of these photographs, this is most likely to have been taken in Iran. Reference No. KO2953/220.

This picture of a group of soldiers was taken in 1942 and probably shows members of the 159 Railway Construction Company, Royal Engineers, in Iran. Reference No. KO2953/238

This photograph shows the site of a railway accident, a run-away train, near Shahzand in Persia, now Iran, in 1942. The incident took place on 4th November 1942. The picture shows the recovery operation underway.  This is the first of a sequence of images which relate to the accident. Reference No. KO2953/242. The reference numbers for the other photographs that Winterburn took that day are: KO2953/243 to KO2953/247

Loading of goods wagons, probably somewhere along the length of the Trans-Persian (Trans-Iranian) Railway. Reference No. KO2953/248

This image shows a soldier posing alongside what was probably the Trans-Iranian Railway. The tunnel portal is typical of those built for the Trans-Iranian. Reference No. KO 2953/265

Tehran Railway Station, Iran during the Second World War. Reference No. KO2953/275.

Railway sidings and the station at Tehran, Persia, now Iran, in the Second World War. Reference No. KO2953/276

This Locomotive is a 2-8-2 tender locomotive in use during the War. This is an excellent picture of a USATC S-200 class locomotive designed by Capt. Howard Hill in late 1940. Despite their magnificence, these locomotives were unable to pull the loads required of them in the Elburz mountains and were used in conjunction with Beyar-Garratt articulated locomotive. These locos would cover the distances where the grades were not too steep and the Beyer-Garratts were reserved for the steep 2.8% grades in the mountains – particularly between Pol-e-Sefid and the summit at Gaduk. The loco bears the number 42405 The first two digits specify its Class using the continental notation which is based on axles rather than wheels – 4 powered axles coupled together and 2 axles which have the smaller wheels are are purely load-bearing gives the Class number of 42, 405 is the engine number in that Class. Reference No. KO2953/277.

The locomotive depot in Tehran during the Second World War. Reference No. KO2953/278.

Railway locomotive in collision with run-away tanker wagons, between Samangan and Shahzand, Persia, now Iran on 4th February 1943. Reference No. KO2953/279. This is one of two photographs of this accident the second one is reference KO2953/280.

Recovering of railway locomotive which had run into the traverser-pit at the locomotive depot in Tehran. Reference No. KO2953/281

A fantastic action photograph take in very close proximity to the running lines of the Trans-Iranian Railway and high in the mountains. Notice the snow on the hills adjacent to the tracks. This is a steam-powered goods train. Reference No. KO2953/283.

Another USATC S-200 class 2-8-2 designed by Capt. Howard Hill in late 1940. The 2-8-2 locomotive has failed to wait for the turntable to be aligned and as a result has lost its tender into the turntable pit. A second 2-8-2 is working to re-rail the stricken locomotive. Reference No. KO2953/323. Another picture was taken on the same occasion and referenced KO2953/324, but not reproduced here, allows the stricken locomotive to be identified  as a USATC S-200 class 2-8-2  No. 42452.

I find these photographs fascinating. There are an amazing range of photographs on the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum site. I encourage others to access their site. [1]


  1. http://www.kingsownmuseum.com, accessed on 8th April 2020.
  2. Email 11.45am 9th April 2020, from kingsown@lancaster.gov.uk.
  3. http://www.kingsownmuseum.com/ko2953pageone.htm, accessed on 10th April 2020.
  4. http://www.kingsownmuseum.com/ko2953pageeleven.htm, accessed on 8th April 2020.

1 thought on “Railways in Iran – Part 12 – Photographs from the Second World War

  1. Pingback: Railways in Iran – Part 2 – 1910 to 1945 | Roger Farnworth

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