150th Anniversary of Railways in Pakistan

Owais Mughal

Today, May 13, 2011, is the 150th anniversary of railways in Pakistan as the first track that became functional in areas which now comprise Pakistan was inaugurated on May 13, 1861.

The photo above shows railway tunneling in Bolan Pass. The photo is credited to Agha Waseem.

The section that was inaugurated on this day 150 years ago was the 173 km long track between Karachi City and Kotri.

Following is an advertisement of Pakistan Railway which was published on the 1953-54 year book of PR by the Railway Division, Government of Pakistan.

I believe most of our readers know that Pakistan Railway is one department which has been in red for several years. Infrastucture at several places is literally 150 years old with a dire need of rehabilitation. Rolling stock has become a laughing stock with failing engines and aged coaches.

The photo below shows an all-steel French rake of 8-Down Tezgam on its maiden run at Lahore in 1953. Tezgam has a Karachi-Rawalpindi route.

What needs to happen in my opinion is the immediate rehabilitatation of track starting with Karachi-Peshawar and Sukkur-Quetta-Zahidan routes. Freight and cargo should be handled by railway instead of road transport because that is where the sustainable income for Railway can come from. I am sure it is easier said than done because over the years road and highway infrastructure in Pakistan has become pretty decent where as Railways in comparison has declined. Therefore why would a trader or a company move its freight business to railways unless Railways can better itself over road transport and provide a healthy competition. Since Railways is a Govt owned department therefore patronage from Government will be needed for its upgrade just like National Highway authority has successfully done for major highways in Pakistan.

Following is another historic photo showing an all steel coach from France getting unloaded at one of the new jetties of Karachi Port in 1952.

One more aspect that I want to talk about is the tremendous potential of tourism that Pakistan Railway has to offer. Several sections of Pakistan Railway especially those in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and Baluchistan are Engineering and architectural marvels that can bring tourism to Pakistan from far and away. Sounds like a far cry right now but with ample security and comfort for passengers it is indded a possibility. Up until few years ago Pakistan was also one of the last few destinations in the World with working steam engines. Tourists used to flock here from all over the world to take rides in last working steam trains. This tourism can be revived with some Government patronage – I would also go as far as to suggest something like Orient Express Pakistan on Zahidan-Quetta-Lahore-Peshawar route.

The photo above is a distant shot of a train between Sibi and Mach. The photo is credited to Agha Waseem.

On another related topic, couple of months ago there was news that the electrified rail section between Lahore and Khanewal is being torn down because there is not enough electricity and electric locomotives to run electric trains. This was a sad news that hit close to home. I know a cousin of mine who worked as an electrician on the construction of Lahore-Khanewal electrified section in the 1960s. So many people’s hardwork had gone in keeping this wonderful infrastructure built and kept. It feels sad to see it falling apart.

I want to request to our readers that whenever they take ride in Pakistani trains – take care of is rolling stock and infrastructure. No litter and no political graffity on trains. It is one heritage which is worth preserving and be proud of.

And another thing I am proud of is how over the years at this blog I’ve been able to build an encyclopedia of Pakistan Railways. Please see the list of my posts related to Pakistan Railways here and consult any of these for more information.

Pakistan Railway Discussion Group:

If you want to learn more about Pakistan Railways, then feel free to join the ‘Pakistan Railway (PR)’ discussion group. Everything and anything related to PR is discussed here e.g. preserving of Pakistan’s rail heritage, steam locomotives, sharing of photos and news, time tables etc. You can join the discussion group here.

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