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Once the bustling heart of the Bekaa-Syria train line, Riyaq Station now sits derelict, its steam engines rusting away. Usually closed to the public, the station was opened up for an exhibition of paintings by British artist Tom Young and snaps by Lebanese photographer Eddy Choueiry, hoping to shed light on the bygone days of Lebanese rail.Organized with the help of NGO Train/Train Lebanon, the Rotary Club of Chtoura-Bekaa and the I Have Learned Academy, the weekendlong event celebrated the 124th anniversary of the Beirut-Damascus line, which this region's first locomotive plied, starting Aug. 4, 1895 .Another line -- connecting Riyaq to Homs, via Baalbeck, Labweh and other villages -- was laid in 1934 .During Lebanon's Civil War, the country's railways were abandoned and never repaired. The Syrian army occupied the Riyaq Station and sustained many bombings.Inspired by the station, Young's 15 paintings include present-day renderings and depictions of the site in its heyday as imagined by the artist.The Riyaq factory also produced airplanes, the artist said, making it a target for Anglo-Free French forces during World War II.Young said many of his canvases were painted on site in the weeks leading up to the exhibition.
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