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American Foreign Service Report No. 59




No.59 Date of Preparation Jan. 24, 1925
To. Department of State Date of Mailing Jan. 25, 1925


Office: American Consulate, Teheran, Persia


Reference to request: In answer to Department's instructions of September 24, 1924.
  File No. 165.210/181 and Commerce letter of September 17.
  Enclosing letter from National Automobile Chamber of Commerce


Geographical designation: Persia - Iraq - Syria
Schedule No. and Subject:   E - 7020 Roads




Source: Director of route.


George Gregg Fuller Signed
Officer Preparing Report American Vice Consul


Reference to previous reports: Bushire report of May 30, 1924 entitled
"Three Motor Routes across Syrian Desert published in Commerce Reports of September 8th.


Over a year of successful operation has proven that the automobile route from Beirut and Damascus to Baghdad ad Teheran, is feasible and practical. It has rapidly grown in popularity and few persons think of travelling to Europe by any other route. This report deals with the improvements in the roads., services available to individuals, and charges in the service via Palmyra.



One correction  of previous reports is the distance from Beirut to Damascus, which is about 72 miles instead of 107. Another correction is the map of the Persian route. This should go from Hamadan to Kasvin on the road to Resht and there turn east to Teheran.


On the desert trail itself little has been done or needs to be done in the way of improvements. Most of the way when on tracks gets bad there is an endless choice of ground on either side for a new track, The worst part of that road was through a short, narrow valley out of Wadi Hauran, and there the rocks and stones have been removed. The French authorities have improved a swampy by south of Palmyra, and also the road between Damascus and Palmyra which was rather rough. The mud is still bad as one approaches the Euphrates river, especially when the water is high, but this is difficult to remedy and has never proven an insurmountable barrier.


Work on the Persian section has been going on all year. The swampy part between Teheran and Kasvin has been greatly improved, and it is hoped that there will be no delays there this spring when floods sweep down from the mountains. The greatest obstacle is the snow during December, January and February. During these months the mountain passes are almost impassable, but each car f the Eastern Transport will carry two drivers, and by frequent shoveling they hope to maintain their schedule with no delays. At most there will be only a delay of a day or two. The snow drifts across the road to a great depth in a few hours, so it requires constant work to keep the route open. Up to the present time, there have been no delays this winter.


In general it can be said that the entire route is very good from May to December, that there is some mud in the desert after rains in February or March, and the Persian section is liable to delays of up to one or two das because of snow during the three winter months.



There are garages in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Khanikin and Teheran. Repairs can be made more or less satisfactory at each of these places. Spare parts for many American cars are carried at Beirut and Bagdad.


Gasoline is kept at the above towns, and also at Kebeissa, Palmyra and Hitt. The stocks at these places are the property of the Eastern Transport, and could not be sold to a private tourist except in emergency and on presentation of permission from the main office. The price of gasoline varies from 40 cents to $1.50 per gallon, depending on the locality. In Teheran Russia gasoline is available, very volatile and often unclean. At Khanikan, Bagdad, Kebaissa and Hitt, Anglo-Persian gasoline of poor quality is sold. Palmyra, Damascus and Beirut have good gasoline form America.


American lubricating oil is obtainable everywhere as far as the Persian border. In Persia Russian oil must be purchased. It is dirty and on some cars seems to loose all lubricating properties within 100 miles. In Teheran it costs around $7 to $8 per gallon.



The British Company which runs direct from Damascus to Bagdad, the Nairn transport Company, financed an independent driver during 1924 on the Bagdad-Teheran route. A fortnightly service was maintained with two American cars, and the British Legation mail was carried, but this service did not prove profitable and was discontinued on January 1st.



The Nairn Company charges 30 pounds sterling from Beirut to Bagdad and caries without charge 60 pounds of baggage. The Eastern Transport caries 80 pounds and charges 25 pounds for the same trip. The average price from Bagdad to Aleppo is $85.


Independent drivers can be secured for various prices depending on the season. They are always obtainable for $40 to $50, and during the pilgrim season, when 500 or more persons are carried ij one direction on their way to or from Mecca, the empty cars returning can often be obtained for $8 to $10. These cars are usually in the last stage of disrepair and are constantly breaking down the Nairn route and waiting for some of the repair service cars to come and give them help or supplies.


The fare from Bagdad to Teheran is likewise 25 pounds. Fromm Teheran the fare is in Persian currency, being Tomans 112 1/2 to Bagdad or Tomans 225 to Beirut. This includes the rail fare from the Persian border to Bagdad.


Single cars can be secured for the Teheran - Bagdad trip for Tomans 375. The Toman is approximately equivalent to the dollar.


Out of these Persian fares there must be paid Tomans 44 per car as road tolls in Persia. Tomas 34 for each truck and Kran 54 for each passenger. Hence over 40 % of the fare goes to the Government.



The Eastern carry baggage up to 80 pounds without charge. Above that, or for baggage not accompanying passengers there is a charge of 2 shillings per kilo for either half trip, or 4 shillings per kilo for the entire trip, up to 125 kilos.


From 125 to 150 kilos (I think there is an error here, it should be to 250 kilos otherwise the rate table does not make sense - Editor) the charge is 1 shilling 8 pence per kilo, from 250 kilos up 1 shilling 6 pence. Contract rates are made as low as 1 shilling per kilo.



The Eastern now have established two services; the fast service makes the trip between Beirut and Bagdad via Palmyra in a day and a half, and the so-called "tourist" service, in 2 1/2 days as hitherto. Cars on the fast service are driven night and day, but stops are made at Kebeissa and Palmyra.


The fast service leaves Beirut every Friday morning and arrives in Bagdad every Saturday afternoon. The tourist service leaves Beirut every Monday morning and arrives in Bagdad every Wednesday afternoon.


Returning, the fast service leaves Bagdad every Sunday morning, arriving the next day in Beirut, while the tourist service leaves on Sunday mornings and arrives on the following Tuesday afternoon.


The Persian service leaves Bagdad on Alternate Sundays beginning January 4th. at 10 p.m., by railway. The motors have hitherto been carried on flat cars on each train, but beginning in February they will not be taken to Bagdad, but will remain in Persia. The train arrives at Khanikin early Monday morning. The cars leave Khanikin at 8 a.m. Monday and run to Kermanshah on that day, to Hamadan on Tuesday to Teheran on Wednesday. During the winter months this schedule must be modified and one more days required, the cars running from Hamadan to Kasvin on Wednesdays, and on to Teheran on Thursday.


Southbound the schedule is the same, except that the cars leave Teheran on alternate Fridays at noon, beginning January 2nd. When the weather is better they will leave on Saturday mornings. The same time is taken between each city and Bagdad is reached by the Khanikin train at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.


More or less close connections are made at Beirut with the Messageries Maritime Line for Marseilles, and with the Lloyd Trestino or Sitmar Lines for Italy. Both of these lines proceed first to Egypt. The slow service passengers can take the train from Beirut to Alexandria and there catch the fast Lloyd Testino steamer for Italy.



Both the Nairn and the Eastern continue to use American cars only, and each company has attached to its convoy light speed trucks to carry the passengers' baggage. Beginning April 1st the Eastern will adopt a heavier American 2-ton truck.


On the Eastern's fast service American cars will not be used. Panhard-Levassor cars have been purchased, with 30 H.P. sleeve valve engines. The all-weather bodies will be equipped with 6 Pullman individual seats, shock-absorbers and super-springing, s passengers can sleep during the all night journey.


This adoption of a French car was partly for political reasons. The company is Syrian and is dependent on French support in maintaining roads and other ways. It may also be that American manufactures were partly to blame. The Near-East agent of a large American automobile company, complained that American companies adopted too superior an attitude. He had prepared or was intending to prepare, a series of interesting photographs, showing his cars in difficult and historic surroundings, but the company wrote they would pay him nothing for such pictures as its cars were so well known they needed no advertising.


Although this was probably true, it did not increase the good will of the native force, and may be compared with the policy of the German Mercedes. When a German writer was to start on a trip through Persia, the Mercedes factory furnished a large car paid its freight to Persia and return, then made the traveller a present of a new 90 H.P. Mercedes, all for mention in travel letters and 6 photographs.