The International Steam Pages

Little and Large, Pakistan, 1992

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

After a couple of days on the metre gauge at Mirpur Khas which I could quite happily have extended, Samasata was, frankly, a bit of a let down. It wasn't just that I would have to sort everything out for myself (I added it to my schedule after I arrived in Pakistan when I heard that steam was still active) but the fact that the only active steam was a sparse service on the branch to Bahawalnagar and then on to Fort Abbas. My recollection is that the station turned out to be more or less in the middle of nowhere and that I decided that I would have to claim a permission I certainly didn't have to use a room in the railway bungalow. Once again the first class pass which by now was rather tatty came in very useful.

I think the timetable required two locos with an overnight lay over either at Fort Abbas or Bahawalnagar and I ended up spending two not very successful days photographically riding part way down the branch, by now I was more or less exhausted and the adrenaline no longer worked. I do know I got at least as far as Hasilpur before returning with presumably a diesel working as I have no pictures of it! I photographed CWD 2-8-2 5690 on the first day and sister loco 5626 on the second. To me the most interesting feature was one of the early stops which carried the delightful name 'Baghdad' - a slide to surprise those who might think that it was taken some distance to the west...

Firstly this is 5690 waiting to depart Samasata in the early morning:

Undoubtedly Baghdad and I promise you not a 'Photoshop job'...

5626 taking water along the way:

A spontaneous run past in the near desert...

On two days when from the evidence of the slides the light was rarely better than mediocre, the only picture I have in good light is best described as 'still life', my recollection is that it was taken during an unscheduled halt on the outskirts of Samasata (see right thumbnail!):

By the time I got to Changa Manga on New Year's Day 1993 after my fourth overnight journey, I could barely keep my eyes open. The situation was embarrassing as a special train on the Forest Railway had been arranged for me the day before, but as today was a holiday, the normal tourist trains would be running but there would be no chance of a logging train. (For those not familiar with it, Changa Manga is a man made, irrigated forest, designed to provide a sustainable harvest of wood. It has a 610mm gauge railway system which still operates.)

0-4-0T Andrew Barclay 1763/1923 looked to be serviceable but was not in steam.

Given my rudeness in failing to turn up as scheduled, everyone was very helpful, I was granted a special train on the spot with 0-6-0T John Fowler 21496/1936:

After which there was not a great deal to do except wait for a steam hauled tourist train with Fowler 17208/1927 in the sun (at least one of the diesels was in use too).

It was all very pleasant but perhaps not quite what even an avowed narrow gauge enthusiast like I had come to Pakistan for. Perhaps if it had been a working day and I had felt less tired, I would have enjoyed it more. The vultures looked particularly bored, they must have feasted on one of the cows recently... 

I took a late afternoon train up to Lahore and went overnight to Malakwal, the details are too deep in the memory to dredge. I had one last day with the SPS and SGS and this is 3159 leaving south past one of the gantries controlled by the south box on 2nd January 1993. The small boys playing cricket on the open area to the right next to me were too preoccupied with their game to strengthen their throwing arms by chucking the traditional stones at the visiting gricer.

Shortly afterwards SGS 2410 appeared unexpectedly on a full freight heading in the general direction of Kushab. Totally exhausted, instead of racing into a proper position, I clapped on the zoom lens and banged off a few exposures to finish my film.

I took yet another overnight train and next morning I was back in Islamabad for my flight home which included an extremely cold couple of hours on the runway at Moscow. I had had no tummy troubles at all in the country, but the Pakistani Airways  food ensured a couple of days off school later in the week.

Rob Dickinson