The International Steam Pages

The Last 4-4-0s, Pakistan, 1992

This is the first part of 'Two Weeks in Pakistan, 1992" - click here for the index.

Refreshed in a fashion having enjoyed the first of many 'chais', we journeyed east to Lala Musa where we decamped in the middle of night. The shed here was empty and the yards seemed full of rusty and unwanted coaching stock left over from better days for the railway. Some time before dawn, SPS 4-4-0 2997 swept in from Malakwal and went off to be serviced. What was to be a long and memorable day for me started off slowly as the line south was flat and straight with just a few irrigation canals for interest. I was very much feeling my way with what I could get away with photographically and we were almost in Malakwal before I took the camera out. Our train was halted for an adverse signal, it was too good an opportunity to miss, never mind I would have to walk to the station afterwards.

Not only did I have a great shot 'in the bag', it set a marker for what I wanted... There was no need to find a room in Malakwal's "hotel". I had been allocated space in the railway bungalow used by visiting inspection teams, even the bed was brand new as the old one had been ruined when flood waters had inundated the town a few months before - there was a tide mark about a metre or more up the wall to show for it. Back at the station, there was a lengthy service stop before the train would continue to Sarghoda and I caught my first sight of SGS 0-6-0 2405 which I guess was about to work the Gharibwal branch. 2997 was to be replaced by sister loco 3159 and as always on the sub-continent some minor hitch attracted a huge crowd of (inevitably nearly all male) onlookers. In fact, even in those days one was left wondering how they managed to populate the place when there was scarcely any evidence of the female half of the species.

The camera bag was dumped in the cab and I shinned up a signal for the loco backing on to its train, showing not just the classic British semaphore but the large tank which held the loco's fuel oil. With my loco inspector on the footplate there was no chance of being left behind after the departure shot. 

Even with a leisurely schedule, there was a limit to what I could get away with and after organising a couple of gentle departures (with easy reboarding) in the soft winter sunshine, I sat back and enjoyed the ride, I was knackered anyway.

Returning north in the afternoon with 2988, the light was less than perfect for photography which was just as well as the train's conductor, not surprisingly, was none too happy about HIS train being hijacked by a foreigner. I contented myself with just one run past over an irrigation canal and kept a low profile for the rest of the journey:

I had several more days in the Malakwal area, two of which were spent cycling between spots to try to optimise opportunities with what was by now a rather sparse steam service. This was a genuine departure from Chak Saida, just south of Malakwal with a suitably modest amount of smoke.

At this time of year with the inevitable late running, the afternoon arrival from Sarghoda tended to be frustratingly just after sunset:

"It was the night before Christmas and all over the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..." This was 3191 on shed on Christmas Eve, 1992. Night photography here was a hazardous activity with all sorts of open pits in the unlit area outside. Without a flash unit, I was at the mercy of the 'natural' shed lighting.

Five days of steam in Malakwal was simply not going to be enough, by opting for overnight journeys between centres, I managed to squeezed in an extra day here at the end of the trip. However, before that there was the small matter of adding Malakwal's SGS fleet to my 'bag'.

Rob Dickinson