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Here we see the junction at Kacha Garhi, from the Baedeker guide of 1914 (which had become outdated by then):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

 

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 meaningful 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. The last two pictures appear to be of Mr Chalcroft’s sister.