The Samjhauta Express gets all the news coverage, but its little known cousin the Thar Express remains away from the limelight. A look at its history.
While most of the railways in Pakistan came under the North Western Railway headquartered at Lahore, the metre gauge lines in Sind were run by the Jodhpur state railway. This is what the network looked like in 1933. Some smaller branches were not completed by then.
This being 1933, there is only a little dashed line indicating the boundary between the British-ruled province of Sind and the state of Jodhpur. At around that time there was a mail train between Jodhpur and Hyderabad on the metre gauge, possibly with coaches from Ahmedabad which would have joined at Luni. Here you can see the “trans-border” timetable of the Jodhpur Railway in 1943, which was not too different from what it was in the 1930s:
The rest of the Jodhpur Railway in 1943 is here:
So we see the mail trains between Luni and Hyderabad Sind running without a stop at Munabao, although Gadra Road and Khokhropar seem to have been more important stations.
It would have been possible to travel by train from Bombay to Karachi by a roundabout rail route via Ahmedabad, but this would (at the bare minimum) have involved changes of train at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Probably ships were more convenient.
Came 1947 and the Jodhpur railway authorities continued to run trains into West Pakistan for a few months. There seems to have been some cross-border services up to 1965 but details are lacking. Apparently the Pakistani forces did intrude across the border to Munabao (as they did at Khem Karan further north), besides shelling Gadra Road which is close to the border. This station was to serve Gadra town which was now on the other side. All cross-border train services between India and both wings of Pakistan ceased after this.
In 1971, the Indian army returned the compliment and advanced about 50 km into Pakistan, capturing Khokhropar and a few other stations beyond it. Documentary films of that time show Indian diesels (probably YDM-4s) running to Khokhropar. Incidentally Pakistan Railways generally neglected these MG lines and never got round to getting diesel locos there, though they seem to have shifted some of the more numerous steam locos from East Pakistan to run the limited services (much to the delight of foreign steam fans).
By 1976, the Samjhauta Express between Amritsar and Lahore got going. Now that was the only way (other than very limited air services) for the ordinary passengers from India and Pakistan to cross the border. Anyone from western India who wanted to travel to southern Pakistan had to make a long detour up to Amritsar and Lahore.Gradually both countries got round to reopening this long-forgotten link.
To be continued.