Travelogue - Pakistan, 1996
by Dr Roland Ziegler, 1999
Pakistan Railways still ran steam during the mid 1990s, in a few isolated areas across the network. In early 1996 I took the opportunity to join a group of railway enthusiasts to explore those last steam resorts on an organised tour.
I wrote an illustrated report on the tour sometime later and published it on my first website. The internet at that time was very much in its infancy. My report was in German and I did not expect many readers. Over the years, however, it received much more attention than anticipated. Several of my photos were used for other publications, with permission, particularly by people from English speaking countries. Unfortunately, I never found the time to translate the report itself into English to make the text accessible to a wider audience.
Then, towards the end of last year, I was approached by Satish Pai, who offered to do the translation work to publish it on the Indian Railway Fan Club web pages (IRFCA). I quickly agreed to this and after a few weeks of struggling with language and lingo here we are: My Pakistan Railways tour report of 16 years ago, now finally available in English. Many thanks go to Satish for both having the idea and carrying out the work. For me, looking into this travelogue in depth again after several years revived many of my memories. I hope the reader will find it useful and enjoyable, too.
Roland Ziegler, April 2012
This travelogue was originally published by Dr Roland Ziegler in 1999 in German. This English translation is by IRFCA, 2012. The original German version is available at www.rolandziegler.de
Pakistan is not just one of the best known and most popular travel destinations, but as just one of the last countries with active steam in recent years, has attracted several transport enthusiasts. I participated in one such trip for railway enthusiasts, in January 1996.
We first visited Mirpur Khas (east of Hyderabad), the center of the steam-operated meter gauge network, with our mostly steam-hauled special train. Next it was off to the north, to Malakwal, north of Faisalabad, where in 1996 there were still steam operations in the working timetable. The repair and restoration works of Pakistan Railway at Lahore was on the agenda, and also the picturesque forest railway of Changa Manga. Further, we visited Taxila and Havelian -- a touch of the Himalayas. The conclusion and climax of the trip was a journey to the legendary Khyber Pass.
Here we go:
On the rails in the south-eastern desert province of Sind:
Then 1,200km to the north:
The major focus on Punjab around the last steam depot, with some side trips:
- Malakwal and on to Faisalabad
- Lahore and Changa Manga
- Malakwal again: From Lala Musa to Gharibwal
- Malakwal again: To Khewra
At the foot of the Himalayas:
The legendary railroad to the Afghan border:
Travel to Pakistan is today associated with some risks. Those who intend to go there should get in touch with the relevant institutions and acquaint themselves thoroughly with the current security situation, especially in the aftermath of September 11, the conflict in Afghanistan, and the rise of extremism.
My trip was in 1996 before there were major shoot-outs in Karachi, raids in rural areas, danger from tribal feuds and kidnappings in the North West Frontier Province including Peshawar, and the danger of thieves in Lahore. Baluchistan was virtually inaccessible to western travelers. The border with India, especially in Kashmir should be avoided and only Punjab was known as quite safe.
Since my trip, robberies and kidnappings have also been reported in Punjab and the conflict having flared up again with India will not simplify traveling to the border regions.