Just finished Sean McMeekin's book The Berlin-Baghdad Express - The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, 1898-1918.
If a railway enthusiast picked this up he or she would be sorely disappointed. There is actually very little about how this amazing line was constructed. It is still the backbone of the railway system across large swathes of the Middle East.
Instead this is a book about Imperial Germany's attempts to harness the power of Islam against the British Empire. It catalogues the many schemes dreamt up in Berlin, at huge cost, with very little success. Spies, guns and gold tried to stir up Jihad across the Middle East, Persia and Afghanistan.
It's a great story, told fairly well, with more than a few topical references that also shed more than a little light on the current challenges in the region.
I acquired this title some time ago and really enjoyed it as it gave some very thought provoking insights to the German strategic thinking for the region. As you rightly say though - not much for the railway enthusiast!
On a different tack - have you read the History of the Balkans by Ferdinand Schevill?
All the best,
I have indeed, possibly my first general history of the region. A bit dated perhaps but still a good overview.