In 2000 when I originally wanted to visit the Saudi Arabian
part of Tapline which subsequently was called off I decided to stop in Jordan for a few days and go along the Jordanian
section of the line and Riyatain.
I met Hanna Kreitem and his family and I was surprised to learn that they never had been
back to Riyatain since it was closed down.
I was planning to go there there and Hanna arranged with either Saleh or Issa Widyan to
meet me to get access to the station and while talking it over, Hanna, his wife
and his son Henry decided to go as well. On the way I wanted to see the old
employees and our first stop was at Sukhneh a smalll village a few miles west of
Zerqa, where we found Abdel Hadi Ras.
Abdel Hadi left Tapline on the mid
Seventies and I had always made it a point to pass by him whenever I drove to
Amman. So I was looking forward to see him and his family again. We were
received as long lost family but were disappointed to learn that Abdel Hadi had
suffered a stroke a few weeks earlier from which he was slowly recovering.
The time passed very quickly and we had to continue the rest of our
next stop was Mafraq where we wanted to see Assad Nukho. We arrived at
his house only to be informed that Assad was in the United States
visiting a relative. As is customary, we just could not continue the
trip without having coffee, tea and Arabic sweets. I was disappointed to
miss seeing Assad again .
On the way to Mafraq we bypassed Jerash because the
previous day I had been to Jerash to visit the ruins once again and
to find Osama Yassin. I happened to drive through the center of Jerash
and found the streets deserted. I stopped at a spot to look around
for somebody and in a narrow alley I heard some voices. So I walked down
a few more steps and a man came out of a building. I asked him if
he knew somebody by the name of Osama Yassin. He was surprised and it
turned out that he was Osama's uncle. So that solved my problem and we
went together to see him. Osama is doing well and owns a very
successful large olive processing business in Jerash.
In Mafraq the road lay-out has changed considerably, the junction
between the road coming from Amman and the H4 road is now totally
changed. This picture shows the fly-over coming from Amman while we are
driving eastwards on the H-4 road.
The villages we passed on this road have grown
tremendously, a far cry from the few small farms of the old days. The
change must have been brought on by the availability of water and
electricity now extending just past the Km 1013
Hanna had spoken with Saleh Widjan on the telephone and we had
agreed that we would meet at Km 1035.
Right a the turn off road is a large electricity sub station and many
other buildings have sprung up all over the area. The same is true for
Km 1035 station, I could not believe the changes I saw there.
When we arrived there, we were received by Issa Widjan
because Saleh had to leave unexpectedly. I asked Issa if the water well
that we had drilled in 1983 to produce water to displace the oil in the
Syrian/Lebanese section was still being used, he said that the casing
had caved in due to lack of cathodic protection ! A surprising
development as the well is about 50 feet from the UCP station.
Apparently the cable had been cut and nobody had noticed it.
We departed with Issa to Km 1013 just for a quick
look. We entered the old equipment room and found some of the
radio equipment dating back to the 1960's still in place.
Going further east towards Riyatain the landscape
became more familiar, fewer houses and less agriculture.
Once we passed the S curve I could see the station in the distance and
it was already very obvious that all the trees had died as there was no
sign of anything green. We turned off on the dirt road and instead of
having to make a left turn by the station wall, there was now an
entrance straight ahead through an opening in the wall into the old
A soldier stopped us from entering but after a short discussion with
Issa, he allowed us to proceed..
The two family houses are now separated from the rest of the compound by
another wall. One of the houses is infrequently used by the military to
house officers when they are in the area, hence the wall and the guard.
Hanna Kreitems house is completely intact, complete with the old Tapline
furniture and other furnishings, quite a surprise ! The other house that
was used as a guesthouse is completely empty. I remember that whenever I
stayed in this house I could always hear the wind, it was always windy
at night, rushing through the pine needles. The trees have all died and
the noise will no longer be heard.
We then drove to the old entrance and went to the Pumphouse. Entering
the Pumphouse through the large rolling door on the west side I
was facing the turbine that had not been fired since 1975. I had a
closer look at it found it to be intact ( I never forget old habits), I
lifted the cover and the Sundstrand fuel pump was sitting there. As with
so many other things I saw on this trip, seeing this pump reminded me of
something that happened here in Riyatain back in January 1957.
The turbine had just been installed and had been on line a few times.
VHF radio problems however meant that it had to be run attended at all
times. John Kelberer who at the time was Superintendent of C.E.& I.
brought me from Sidon to sort out these communications problems. The
problem however shifted from radio to mechanical problems with the
Sundstrand fuel pump. Sitting in the long table in the Control Room he
decided to take the pump apart because something was stuck so that it
did not deliver enough fuel. He knew how it was constructed and on
opening the back end, told me to put my hands under it
"because there were some small pistons inside that would fall
out.". Off came the cover and out came 24 ? small pistons half of
them rolling off the table onto the tiled floor. We did not see
any problems and tried all that afternoon and evening to reassemble the pump but
to no avail. One needs twenty four fingers to old the pistons down
while the cover is replaced. There was no spare pump available so we had
to try to reassemble this one. We got some help from the mechanics but we
lacked the dexterity and the room to hold them all in the right position
Only after extensive tests was it discovered that these very close
tolerance pistons were sticking
because the fuel and operating oil used by these pumps were incompatible and
when they came in contact it formed a thick waxy residue. The problem was finally resolved by
changing the type of operating oil.
I had another look around and compared the present
view with those in the days that we were still in operation. The station
was always very well maintained and many trees , including
olive trees were planted within the boundary walls. The Recreation Hall always
extra inviting after a long hot day because of the beverages served.
So I will complete this write-up with a view of what is left of that
very nice bar inside.
We drove away from Riyatain as the sun was setting on the western
Just like it did years ago on Tapline
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Kendal: November 2002.