The International Steam Pages

The Great Salt Range, Pakistan, 1992

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

After my ride to Sarghoda and back, safely in the railway bungalow, I was fed and watered by the resident attendant who brought me delicious, if somewhat repetitive, meals. As I recall, he had been pensioned off from some operating department after an unfortunate accident had left him lame. I was also 'adopted' by a young lad, Saeed Ahmed, from the town who was very helpful during my stay, I helped improve his English and in return he procured me a bicycle.

Next day, it was time to catch up on SGS activity. Knowing I would want to photograph them in action the inspector put us on a diesel hauled train across the river to (I suspect) Haranpur and from there local transport to await the arrival of the daily train to Khewra, the line onwards the short distance to Dandot being closed owing to a landslip. The 'Great Salt Range' is appropriately named as there are salt mines in the area and a factory owned by ICI processed it nearby.

We went off and waited by a dry river bridge just outside the station. I think my companion was worried we might be taken by surprise by the train's arrival but there was no chance of that happening as it crawled up the hill with a plume of jet black smoke which at times threatened to engulf SGS 2410.

Up at the station, the loco was held on the train for me to photograph it while the boiler was raided for some hot water:

I hope it wasn't used to make the chai that followed:

With hours to kill, it was the perfect opportunity to have a quick look at the salt mine narrow gauge railway behind the station, I assume it was 2'6" gauge (762mm) it looks too wide for the 2'0" Thomas Kautzor claimed in a later report.

In due course, it was time to turn the loco and head home.

 With the line running almost due east, nothing could be done photographically till the sun went down but there was no point in not having another cab ride.

Next day, it was the turn of the Gharibwal branch train, being an entirely flat run, the train was quite a long one. With no turning facilities at the end of the line, and the line running more or less north/ south, it was essential to send out SGS 2471 tender first so it was right for the return working. Gharibwal had a cement factory with its own diesel and here also was abandoned SG 1055 which belonged to the irrigation department. Gharibwal is close to the Salt Range as this departure picture shows:

By Haranpur, the sun had broken through the haze:

Approaching Malakwal, I requested the train slow down to let me run ahead. I got a couple of shots in before the young boys decided to join in...

I wasn't finished with the SGS just yet. Not far short of the big Victoria bridge over the river (photography totally banned), the recent floods had left a small 'lake' which was rapidly drying out - man and the kingfishers were competing to remove the fish trapped in it. On Christmas Day, I cycled out to it for the Gharibwal train. The irrigation pumps were chugging in the background and I bought a couple of juicy oranges to slake my thirst. And then the train came... Every gricer must have a perfect moment or two in their personal history. This was one of mine:

Now follow that! It was time to board the overnight train for Lahore and Moghalpura Works.

Rob Dickinson