Hidden stories of the Khyber Railway-1

The Khyber Railway may not see trains again. While its basic history is known well enough, there are a couple of planned extensions which may have changed the history of the route if they had been implemented.

We start with the basics, from this “official” map used by Victor Bayley and Gordon Hearn  in a paper presented at the Institution of Engineers in the late 1920s. It can be found in “Couplings to the Khyber” by PSA Berridge:

Khyber map

Not all of these stations appeared in timetables.

The Khyber Railway actually starts from Jamrud, which was the railhead beyond Peshawar Cantt since 1901. Work on the present line started in the 1920s, and the section up to Landi Kotal was opened in 1925 and up to Landi Khana in 1926. While an embankment may have been built up to the border, probably rails were not laid. These are points which are yet unclear and can be established only by visits to the area-if it is safe enough.

The stations listed in timetables are given in the Fergusson lists:

Khyber line station lists

 

Note Kacha Garhi, we will meet it again soon. It seems to have been in the timetables only around 1910.

As most readers know, passenger trains did run up to Landi Khana up to 1932. Then the ruler of Afghanistan “requested” that this be stopped, and the trains then ran only up to Landi Kotal.

It is unclear how useful the line was for freight. Typically there was a passenger train from Peshawar Cantt to Landi Kotal on one or two days of the week from the 1940s onward. Regular services stopped in 1984, though tourist specials ran on and off until rainstorms washed away large parts of the line in 2006.

Even so, it is still possible to see see remnants of the line and stations (yes, even Landi Khana) if you travel by the road which now sees plenty of goods traffic into Afghanistan.

Next we come to the lesser-known stories connected with the line’s construction.

To begin with:

The official date of opening from Jamrud to Landi Kotal was 3 Nov 1925. and to Landi Khana 3 Apr 1926. Nothing is said about the line beyond Landi Khana.

But Richard Wallace has found evidence that work on the tunnels was continuing even after these dates. Not so surprising, as it is possible to run trains through tunnels where all work has not been completed as long as there is nothing to block the rails.

To be continued.