The longest railway tunnels in India-June 2018

The list of long railway tunnels in India have undergone frequent changes in recent years. Fortunately the Wikipedia article seems to have been kept up to date:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rail_tunnels_in_India_by_length

In undivided India the 3.92 km long Khojak tunnel in Baluchistan had been opened in 1892; for more details see :

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/the-rail-tunnel-in-baluchistan-which-appeared-on-a-currency-note/

This was in fact the longest rail tunnel in South Asia until the Konkan Railway opened in the late 1990s. As you can see from the above list, the majority of the long tunnels are on the Konkan route. The longest is the Karbude tunnel at 6.5 km.

Some other longer tunnels opened in recent years the Sangar tunnel (2.4 km) on the Jammu-Udhampur section and the slightly longer Khowai tunnel on the Karimganj-Agartala section which was recently converted from MG to BG. Other examples in the North-East included some old and new ones on the Lumding-Badarpur section, and some yet to come up in Manipur. One tunnel of 1.9 km length on the existing Lumding-Badarpur metre gauge alignment has been abandoned, although a longer one on 3.2 km has come up on the new BG alignment.

There are some older and shorter tunnels on the trunk lines, notably at Monkey Hill, Parsik, Saranda and Gurpa.

However, the longest tunnel on IR is the 11.2 km long Pir Panjal tunnel between Banihal and Qazigund which provides a link between Jammu and Srinagar. More details can be seen here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pir_Panjal_Railway_Tunnel

Opened in 2013, it will be part of the main route into the Kashmir valley once the problem-ridden section between Katra and Banihal is completed in the next few years. At the moment it serves a number of DMU passenger trains between Banihal and Baramulla (though some run only upto Budgam just north of Srinagar). These trains seem to be popular with the local people at the Banihal end as they save a lot of time and distance compared to the road route between Banihal and Qazigund. And the rail route is far less likely to be disrupted by snow than the road route.

It is likely to be the longest rail tunnel in India for a long time to come. There is expected to be a 8-km long tunnel on the uncompleted Katra-Banihal section which would take over the second spot from the Karbude tunnel. It will still exceed the two long road tunnels under construction at the Rohtang Pass and Patnitop, although the latter would also result in a considerable saving in distance on the Udhampur-Banihal road route.

Station signs in undivided India

Here are some pictures of stations and signs as they were in the 1940s or earlier. It is interesting to see the languages used in some of  the signs, as these places are now in Pakistan

First, Karachi Cantt in the 1940s (from a film shot by a British soldier):

 

Lahore, probably 1940s:

Lahore-just-before-Partition

 

Landi Khana. This is truly a rare picture, as it could have been taken only between 1926 and 1932. Note the Gurumukhi script.

LANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Landi Kotal, probably 1930s:

Landi Kotal Railway Station during British Raj

Landi Kotal another old

Shelabagh, close to Chaman on the border with Afghanistan and not too far from Kandahar. Note the southern end of the Khojak tunnel:

Shelabagh (old)

And finally Tanduri, on the now-closed Sibi-Khost section. It appeared in the 1891 timetable and never again. Perhaps the extreme heat gave it its name and hastened its closure:

Tanduri

(This picture seems to have been taken in 2009). The sign does look to be a century old.

Finally, this is what you would see while entering British India from Afghanistan at the Khyber Pass border checkpoint in the 1930s:

Afghan border

Afghan border (4)

It is easy to guess that the milestone refers to Peshawar, Jamrud and Landi Kotal. The station of Landi Khana was still closer to the border. It appears that an embankment and maybe rails were laid from there to the border, but trains never ran on them.

And when you tried to cross into Afghanistan at other points on the border, you would see this:

Afghan border(3)

The rail tunnel in Baluchistan which appeared on a currency note

The Khojak tunnel on the way from Quetta to Chaman on the Afghan border was one of the earlier marvels of railway engineering in British India. Opened in 1892, it was 12,870 feet long (2.44 miles/3.92 km) and was the longest rail tunnel in South Asia until the Konkan Railway came along over a century later.

The location of most lines in Baluchistan can be seen here: (Kandahar is a little beyond the border at Chaman).

Bolan

The story of the alternative routes to Quetta is a long and complicated one and will have to wait till another day. Suffice to say that that the Bolan route involved gradients of 1:25 for several miles which was far more severe than any BG or MG main line anywhere else in undivided India. And double tracks were also used because of the slow speeds although there was little passenger traffic north of Quetta.

You may note a station called Hindubagh on the NG line to Fort Sandeman. As you may guess, it became Muslimbagh while the terminus became Zhob before the line closed around 1990.

You can also see the long lonely line to Zahidan in Iran starting off from Spezand. With luck, it has been running passenger trains twice a month for the last few years.

The southern end of the Khojak tunnel started near Shelabagh station. Note the double line though the tunnel.

Khojak

And this scene appeared on earlier Pakistani currency notes:

Pak note Khojak

(This note was in circulation from 1976 to 2005.)

A longer article about this tunnel can be seen here:

http://pakistaniat.com/2006/12/18/railways-khojak-tunnel/

This site (which became inactive in 2011) contains a number of other articles about Pakistan’s railways by Owais Mughal.