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:


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Here we see the junction at Kacha Garhi, from the Baedeker guide of 1914 (which had become outdated by then):


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?