Hidden stories of the Khyber Railway-4

Concluding the series with an attempt to answer the question “Where did the Khyber Railway end?”

Anyone familiar with this line would know that

The line up to Landi Kotal was opened on 3 Nov 1925,

and was extended up to Landi Khana on 3 Apr 1926

and the section from Landi Kotal to Landi Khana was closed on 15 Feb 1932.

There is no mention in the Annual Reports of IR of that period (up to 1931) about any further line being opened beyond Landi Khana

Now see this map (presumably prepared by Bayley and Hearn) which is part of the papers they read at the Institution of Engineers.

Khyber map

Beyond Landi Kotal there is the reversing station of Tora Tigga, and finally the “terminus” at Landi Khana. This too is a reversing station from where a line appears to proceed to a point on the Afghan border.

However, there does not seem to be any explicit mention of the tracks being laid beyond Landi Khana. In their paper it is mentioned that Landi Khana is a reversing station from where there is a short distance to the border.

Richard Wallace, who has studied this line in detail, says that tunnels were built beyond Landi Khana but rails were not laid.

Probably this brief writeup by Andrew Grantham sums it up:

http://www.andrewgrantham.co.uk/afghanistan/railways/khyber-pass-railway/

In particular: “An alignment was cleared for a extension of the line from Landi Khana to the Afghan border post, although it is uncertain whether any tracks were ever laid on this final section of the route.”

One interesting thing I found was in this map which was part of the 1930 NWR timetable:

NWR-1930 map

This shows “Torra Tigga Nala” beyond Landi Khana. Perhaps this is where the tracks were supposed to end. I have not come across this name anywhere else. It may well be an error connected with Tora Tigga, or the place where the rails were expected to end.

This extract from the 1930 NWR timetable shows the trains running to Landi Khana.

Landi Khana 1Landi Khana 2

It is a little hard to read the footnotes. But they mention that the trains ran 7 days a week (both ways) up to Landi Kotal and continued beyond to Landi Khana on 2 days. In the last days of the Khyber Railway there was one pair of trains a week to Landi Kotal.

Finally-it may not be too difficult to locate the mythical tracks beyond Landi Khana. See this video from 2017 where the visitors walk down to the station from the highway:

 

Even the water column still works!

Closing with old pictures of the station, which must be from before 1932:

Landi Khana campLandi Khana camp-2Landi Khana station

 

Hidden stories of the Khyber Railway-3

Here we look at the abortive line which was started in the 1900s to link Peshawar to Afghanistan, which even had some train service for a short while before it was suspended. The actual line through the Khyber Pass came later.

This gets rather complicated, so I will be giving details of the references for those who are interested in more details.

A quick summary from Andy Grantham here:

http://www.andrewgrantham.co.uk/afghanistan/railways/kabul-river-and-khyber-pass/

Here is a station list from Fergusson, which covers the Peshawar-Landi Khana section:

Khyber line station lists

The line was completed up to Jamrud in 1901. There was an intermediate station at Kacha Garhi which soon vanished from the timetables. (Islamia College was there until the 1930s).

Main references:

  1. Gun-running and the Indian North-West Frontier by Arnold Keppel (1911), can be found in pahar.in and archive.org   Cheap reprints also available on Amazon etc. It has useful insights on the NWFP in those days. The latter part deals more with the places around the Persian Gulf.
  2. NWFP Administration under British Rule (1901-1919) by Lal Baha, 1978. Found in pahar.in. Chapter 4 deals with railways and roads.

Kacha Garhi is where the new line started. The line to Warsak was completed by 1907 and, according to Keppel’s book, had one pair of trains a day from Peshawar to Warsak. There were also trains from Peshawar to Jamrud, end of the line until 1925.

Here we see the junction at Kacha Garhi, from the Baedeker guide of 1914 (which had become outdated by then):

txu-pclmaps-khyber_pass_1914

This extract from the official railway map of 1906 may be more useful:

Peshawar area 1906

You should be able to just make out the line going north from Kacha Garhi to Warsak and a little beyond.

This extract from 1911 is a little better:

Peshawar area 1911

Here we see the line going north of Kacha Garhi and then turning west. The experts in the government were still divided between going directly west through the Loi Shilman valley into Afghanistan, or by going by a more roundabout route along the banks of the Kabul river. The construction was sanctioned up to a point where the two alternative routes would diverge. But the construction seems to have halted a little beyond the westward turn.

Also there seems to be a wrong place-name here as Skhakot (Flag) is actually the name of a station on the Nowshera-Durgai line (near the latter).

One more map from Keppel’s book:

Peshawar map from Keppel's book

If you look carefully, you will see the line going north from a point between Peshawar and Jamrud, and turning west after reaching the river. That point is Warsak, which can be found on current Pakistan maps on Google Maps etc. The end point of the line is similar to the 1911 map above.

Also note the “other” Warsak further west near the Afghan border, and the projected terminus at Dakka across the border. Briefly, the Loi Shilman route involved a tunnel from this Warsak going further west towards Dakka. The river route can also be imagined here, continuing from the end-point here, up to Palosi and down to some point near Dakka.

Finally, see this from a report on Lord Minto’s time as Viceroy:

Minto note on Loi Shilman route

Coming next-where exactly did the Khyber Railway end?

 

 

 

Hidden stories of the Khyber Railway-2

Another look at the neighborhood, this time from Wikimapia. Can’t say how reliable it is, though it does show the elusive places such as Kacha Garhi and Dakka.

https://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=34.010621&lon=71.511898&z=14&m=w&show=/38342473/ur/%D8%AD%D9%84%D9%82%DB%81-%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A6-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%85%D8%A8%D9%84%DB%8C-%D9%BE%DB%8C-%DA%A9%DB%92-75&search=Peshawar

Start from Peshawar Cantt and move west. The route of the Khyber Railway is shown quite clearly here, unlike in Google Maps.

https://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=34.029616&lon=71.272945&z=14&m=w&show=/38342473/ur/%D8%AD%D9%84%D9%82%DB%81-%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%A6-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%85%D8%A8%D9%84%DB%8C-%D9%BE%DB%8C-%DA%A9%DB%92-75&search=Peshawar

Note the two pairs of reversing stations. The one between Landi Kotal and Landi Khana has not seen trains since the 1930s, and saw regular services only from 1926 to 1932.

Also reposting the basic map:

Khyber map

Next, we come to the planned narrow gauge line from Jamrud to Dakka across the border.

It is covered in this earlier post:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2019/06/14/book-on-industrial-locomotives-of-south-asia/

Whatever was done here, no traces of this narrow gauge line have been mentioned by any visitor. The construction of the actual BG line started soon after the 1919 war.

Then there was another abortive project to reach Afghanistan in the 1900s, which actually did see some BG track rapidly constructed and shut down equally rapidly in 1905-1907. That will be in the next post.

 

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.

 

The importance of Landi Khana-1

You would have heard of Landi Kotal, long known as the terminus of the Khyber Railway and the main cantonment guarding the head of the pass.

Landi Khana is not so well known. We first look at a detailed map of the Khyber Railway, which featured in an article by Victor Bayley and Gordon Hearn, the men most responsible for the construction of the line:

Khyber map

This lists all the stations on the line. Most of them were not shown in timetables.

The line was completed up to Landi Kotal in 1925 and to Landi Khana in 1926. Actually the line (or at least the embankment) was built up to a point right on the border. This point is mentioned as Torra Tigga Nala in contemporary accounts, though it is unclear what exactly it was (A station? or siding? or no track at all?)

Trains ran all the way up to Landi Khana in the first few years. Then the King of Afghanistan “requested” the Indian government to close the last stretch of the line. So no trains ran beyond Landi Kotal since 1932.

Here we see the 1930 NWR timetable for the line going all the way to Landi Khana:

Landi Khana TT 1 001

My old friends from Dehradun would note the passenger train connecting Peshawar Cantt with that city. Coming to the point, we see from the small print that the trains ran between Landi Khana and Peshawar twice a week, and started from Landi Kotal on the other five days. This was the peak traffic for this line; by the time regular services ceased in 1984 the train ran up to Landi Kotal only once a week.

In the reverse direction, we see the same pattern, except that on Sundays the train left Peshawar later to provide a connection with the Frontier Mail and ran up to Landi Kotal.

Landi Khana TT2

Timetables in later years mentioned that “Passports will be examined at Jamrud”, meaning that you needed a passport to travel into the tribal territory where the British government had limited powers. However (as my father recounted), tourists from other parts of India could travel up to Jamrud, probably have their picture taken there, and say that they had visited the Khyber.

This is a picture of Landi Khana station (which obviously was taken between 1926 and 1932):

LANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Note the Gurumukhi script. And the ever-reliable HGS locos which tackled the Khyber and Bolan passes without much fuss.

There appears to have been a small military outpost here, but it must have closed long ago. Which is why many people (even those presently living in Pakistan) do not know of its existence. As we will see, the remnants of this station still stand but there does not seem to be anything around it. The local villagers still use water from the water pipes laid in the 1920s for watering engines.

This is a grab from a video taken a few years ago:

Landi Khana station today

No one has bothered to remove the Gurumukhi inscription, which has been done in many stations in Punjab since 1947.

You may find it interesting to watch this 9-minute video (entirely in Urdu) from 2017 to see this place as a sideline to a trip up to the Afghan border:

One of the places they passed was this station which was one of the stops on the excursion trains which ran until the floods wrecked the line in 2008.

Shahgai (Khyber)

Here another sign in Gurumukhi script still survives, unlike this one from pre-partition Lahore:

Lahore-just-before-Partition

If you approached the Afghan border, you would see this sign if you tried to cross anywhere except the official route:

Afghan border(3)

 

And if you did succeed in crossing, you could look back and see this:

Afghan border

It should not be difficult to understand what P, J and LKL were. In those days all distances were measured in miles.

Now, you may say, you have told us all about a corner of Pakistan so obscure that few Pakistanis (leave alone Indians) have heard of it. Why is it important?

The answer is: It was important to know about it if you were an Indian POW in Pakistan in 1972.

To be continued.

 

Changes in station signs over time-1

From the areas now in Pakistan in the 1930s/1940s:

Lahore-just-before-PartitionLandi Kotal Railway Station during British RajLANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Note the combination of languages; including Hindi in Lahore and Punjabi in all these places.

Landi Khana had train services only between 1926 and 1932. Then the station and tracks seem to have been undisturbed until the floods of 2006 seemingly closed the Khyber line forever.

Now we see current pictures of Lahore and Landi Kotal (where excursion trains ran sporadically from the closure in 1984 until 2006).

The only languages here are English and Urdu (although a few stations such as Peshawar also have Pushtu):

Peshawar City new

Note how the regional language has been pushed into a corner.

However, you can still visit the long-forgotten Landi Khana station which is some distance from the highway into Afghanistan:

Landi Khana station today

This is taken from a video shot a few years ago. As this is a remote and long-forgotten place, no one bothered to remove the Punjabi script.

(While many people in Pakistan speak Punjabi, they use a different script unlike the Gurumukhi used in India).

And this station which used to be a stop for the trains from Peshawar to Landi Kotal:

Shahgai (Khyber)

Here, perhaps it was found to be too much trouble to modify the sign which is fitted into the sturdy boundary wall.

We now compare the old and new signs at Shelabagh (on the way from Quetta to Chaman on the border near Kandahar):

Shelabagh (old)Shelabagh new

It is not clear what is in the smaller inscription in the newer sign, but normally the Balochi language(s) do not appear on the signs.

The southern end of the famous Khojak tunnel is seen here. Until the Konkan Railway came along, it was the longest rail tunnel (3.9 km) in South Asia.

And finally to Karachi (1940s) and now:

 

Karachi Cantt new

As you can see, somewhat distorted Hindi (Devanagari) script was used earlier. Today we see Urdu along with Sindhi.

While hardly any pre-1947 pictures from the area now in Bangladesh can be seen on the net, there are still some interesting points to be noted. (To be continued).

 

The Khyber Pass in the 1930s-photo feature and other rail-related material.

This post is dedicated to a photo album which used to belong to a British soldier named Albert Chalcroft who appears to have been posted in Landi Kotal in the Khyber Pass, (close to the Afghan border) in the late 1930s. As it often happens, the album was discovered by his descendants many years later (maybe c.2010) and was put up on the net.

This album is interesting in that it shows many aspects of life as a British soldier in the Khyber Pass area at that time. There are some pictures of trains on the Khyber Railway as well as a number of crashed light aircraft. Some pictures appear to show the road crossing between India and Afghanistan. However there are hardly any captions.

Many of these pictures have ended up in the results of Google searches for the Khyber Pass.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjAkttMW

Explanatory notes:

Landi Kotal was the terminus of the Khyber Railway which was opened in 1925. From 1926 to 1932 it ran a few miles further towards the border up to another station called Landi Khana, though this section was closed in 1932.

A collection of old timetables of the North Western Railway (which covered most of present-day Pakistan and a bit of present-day India) can be seen here:

http://www.irfca.org/gallery/Heritage/timetables/nwrtt/

The line up to Landi Khana can be seen in the folder of the 1930 timetable. Only a few routes are shown here.

The entire NWR timetable as of 1943 can also be seen in another folder, which is from the Indian Bradshaw of that period.

Note the bit about passport checks at Jamrud in the 1943 timetable. As I understood from my father and other older persons who had traveled there, tourists from other parts of India could travel up to Jamrud fort in the 1930s but not beyond without special permission. However, they could claim that they had seen the Khyber Pass.

And the milestone at the border refers to P = Peshawar, J = Jamrud  and LKL = Landi Kotal (the main cantonment at the top of the pass).

The last few pictures show Mr Chalcroft and his wife in later years. He appears to have worked in the Customs and Excise department at Liverpool.