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-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 HearnĀ  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.