According to TCDD records, Selim and Benliahmet Stations built on the Sarıkamış-Arpaçayı Line, which were put into operation in 1899, were left to the Republic of Turkey with the Gyumri Agreement signed in 1920. The station, which was operated under Erzurum-Sarıkamış-Kars and Şuabati Railways for a while, joined the State Railways in 1927.
The story of Selim and Benliahmet Stations, which is featured in the press and social media from time to time, dates back to the beginning of the 1970s. During this period, the Turkish Republic State Railways carried out various afforestation works, large and small, in various geographies, especially in Eastern Anatolia, where winters are tough. With these works, it was aimed to protect both the station and its surroundings from winter conditions and to build a natural green wall consisting of trees on the railway side.
To date, there have been various rumors about who planted these trees in some blog posts, news and websites. After a detailed research we made in our institution, we finally reached our retired staff, Turgut Ertop, who gives the life water of trees.
Turgut, who retired from our Institution in 2008, had a detailed and sincere conversation on many issues from planting works to other parts of Anatolia, where he worked at that time. sohbet we realized.
Turgut, first of all, can we get to know you a little bit?
I was born on November 1, 1943 in Merzifon. My mother was a housewife, my father was a machinist at the Merzifon Power Plant. I went to primary and secondary school in Merzifon. Since there is no high school in Merzifon, I had to study in the provinces. Accommodation to study in the provinces was a little difficult due to the conditions of that day. A friend of mine's father was a railroader, so he said he was going to the Railway Vocational School. Then I said I would come too and we applied to the school. They told us that we would take the exam in Sivas. We took the exam in 1960 and we won.
What effect has the Railway Vocational School had on your life?
After passing the exam, we came to Ankara. I studied at the Railway Vocational School in Ankara for 3 years. We saw things in this school that we had not seen before. It is impossible to forget the contribution of railways in our upbringing. Everything from our clothes to our food was met at the highest level. According to the conditions of that day, we had a good salary. We had very distinguished and experienced teachers in our school. For example, our mathematics teacher was also taking classes at the Military Academy. Our history teacher was an associate professor. When he told a war lesson, you were living that war. So they put a lot of effort into raising us. We used to call our French teacher Emel Hanım “Mother”. Whatever qualities a mother has, she carries them all. He took care of us with our food, drink and everything.
How did you feel at your first job when you graduated?
I graduated at the age of 20 and started working in Divriği. Of course, Divrigi doesn't even cross my mind. I was guessing that I would go to either Amasya or Samsun. Then I landed in Divrigi at 12 am with the Eastern Express, I have a wooden suitcase in my hand. I went to a hotel, I came to the station in the morning, our Branch Chief Veli Bey greeted me and then I went to work. On my first day, I started to cry, "What am I going to do here?" Two years later, when I was enlisting in the military, I cried "how do I get out of here". Divrigi was a beautiful place. It was such a warm city in that cold face. It had brilliant people and employees. I was so sad that I left there for military service.
What did you experience in Sarıkamış where you went as Section Chief?
I went to Sarıkamış in 1969. Kars was very dry at that time. There was a shortage of food, including animals. You cannot cope with the cold of Sarıkamış. In the winter, it was spent with very intense snow work. While I was working, I could not watch the snowfall even once with pleasure. When it snowed, our work would increase. For example, I had an incident like this at that time. While we were working between Erzincan and Erzurum, we had our road sergeant, Ahmet Sergeant. The sergeant wanted to retire, our branch chief did not want him to retire due to the shortage of working people. Ahmet Sergeant's mother was also hearing these conversations behind the door. His mother suddenly came during this conversation and said, “Chief, let my son retire so that the snow does not fall on my son's shoulders anymore”. In other words, we would draw a lot of snow, it would make conditions very difficult. Because of the fact that the trains remained on the roads in places like Sarıkamış, the forestation work was started for this reason. We call it cultural fortification.
I guess your afforestation activities started here, right?
Yes, it started here. They said they will send you a tree. In the first plan, they were going to send 4-5 thousand. They said to plant these trees along the road, wherever the snow holds the most on the railway. We said, “There is animal husbandry here, there are pastures everywhere. We said, “If we plant these trees, the animals will eat it.” That's why I said, "Give me 15 to 16 thousand trees and I'll plant them at Selim and Benliahmet Station." Because in those stations, when the train stopped in winter, it could not get up because of the snow, it would freeze where it was skidding. It was not possible to play the frozen train. At that time, there were no diesels, there were steam engines, the rail and the wheel would stick together. That's why I said let's plant trees at Selim and Benliahmet Stations. Thanks to them, they found our proposal on the spot and we started the forestation work in the spring season of 1971.
We started to plant the trees that came in tubes from Amasya Forest Nursery. The biggest problem there was water. The Russian pump building was used to supply water to the trains. When we planted the trees, we had to activate it as well. We started watering these seedlings with the water we got from the pump. Its soil is a beautiful country, so only care was needed for the saplings. Of course, the places that dried up were trees, but we added new ones right away. In 1971, we reforested the entire Benliahmet Station. When the work at this station gave positive results, we came to Selim Station after that. In 1972, we afforested Selim Station. We planted 6-7 thousand saplings at Selimiye Station and approximately 10 thousand saplings at Benliahmet Station. In total, 16-17 thousand saplings were planted.
What did you experience while planting Selim Station?
There is a village close to Selim Station; Kirkpinar Village. Of course, the villagers there also contributed to the trees' coming to this day. The person who installed this sapling from Amasya and gave the first life water has a great effort in this afforestation business. They also protected and guarded them as much as we did. Otherwise, they wouldn't have become like this today. For example, they pruned the lower branches of the pine trees. This has been an important factor in the trees becoming more bushy.
Maybe less planted at Selim Station. Because some of the trees were planted in other workplaces in this region. For example, when we planted the trees, ten trains would pass through Benliahmet Station, five of them during the day and five at night, until the evening. It takes at most an hour for trains to leave this area from one station and arrive at the other station. If those at the station watered the trees in these other free times, every station on the line would be green. In general, the planter guarded the tree. This order would not come from within.
I retired in 2008. A retired friend of mine who passed away in Kars had a son, a teacher. Asım Sergeant (Asım Gültekin) called me and found me. Asım told me, “Chief, no one looks after these trees. When my chief said, "He gave a hand to those," I told him that I was retired. “Even if you retire, my chief, you have your say,” he said. I left there in 1975, but we never cut off our contact there. We were in constant contact with those who went there. They wouldn't hurt me for the sake of it, I mean it sincerely. At that time, there were no such mobile phones, we would call and ask, still, what happened to these trees. Every time I called, they would pick up the phone saying, "Chief, you will probably ask about the trees again".
Did you return to the stations after your duty was over, did they recognize you as the person who planted the trees when you returned?
Of course I'm back. Years after I became the assistant manager, we went to the stations we planted as part of our tour. There was a station chief there named Yener Bozkurt. In my time, he was a switchman in Selim Region. They gave the duty of Benliahmet Station Chief to this friend. We arrived at the station at night, there is no electricity again, there is a gas lamp, he is working on his desk. Our Regional Manager, Ahmet Bey, told Yener, “Whenever Yener asks whoever says I planted these trees, he says. What are you saying?” he asked.
Our regional manager talks about the trees, but Yener Bey does not answer at all, he is busy with the dispatch of our vehicle. Meanwhile, I approached Yener Bey and said, “What news, Mr. Yener?” When I held the kerosene lamp to my face in order to get to know me on the question I asked, he suddenly became very emotional and started to cry and hugged me. Then he said to the regional manager, "You asked the Director to plant the tree, here is my brother Turgut."
In other words, even though we had to withdraw from the trees after our retirement, I can say that we have been instrumental in their care by asking our friends there. Of course, I am sure that our friends who worked at the station showed the same sensitivity…
In addition to what Turgut Abi conveyed to us; After nearly 50 years of afforestation of Selim and Benliahmet Stations, the surroundings of the stations located in a steppe region have been transformed into a forest by these railwaymen. All railwaymen who worked at the station during this 50-year period, by paying special attention to the trees around the station, have been instrumental in reaching the present day. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you our other station chiefs who worked at these stations.
- 1975 Necati Atesci,
- Hikmet Yilmaz between 1982-85,
- Between 1985-95 Yini Bozkurt,
- İbrahim Yeşilyurt between 1995-99,
- Between 1999-2002 Alaattin Uğurlu,
- From 2003 to 2010, Ramazan Bozkurt was the last station chief.
- 1980 – 1985 Yener Bozkurt Station Chief,
- 1985 – 1987 İsmail Baran,
- 1987 – 1990 Halis Ekinci,
- 1990 – 2009 Turgut Altun,
- 2018 – 2019 Kemal Koz…