The International Steam Pages

Steam in Pakistan, December 1998

Peter H. Patt sends some news from Pakistan (5th January 1998):
"A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit the remaining steam activities on the meter gauge lines around Mirpur Khas in the South-Eastern parts of Pakistan.

Steam still continues but the activity is on a very low level - the number of engines required to run the remaining services vary from 1 to 4. Luckily the shed foreman manages it to keep 5 engines running - but had to buy spare parts for his steam engines from a scrap dealer who got them from the now closed steam loco repairshop at Lahore.

The shedīs running board speaks a clear language:

the tracked mileage for September 1996: 40.028, for September 97: 12.636 and for September 98: only 11.547!

While the line to Khokhropar sees a well patronized daily return service (train no MG5/6) plus an additional train (MG14/15) on Mondays only up to Pithoro, the other once-a-week-services to Nawabshah (MG21/22 Sunday) and on the Loop-line (MG14/15 Monday) run as Ghost trains with more staff than passengers.

The reason for the continued service to Khokhropar is the massive presence of the national army forces in this boarder region to India. All transports of heavy material have to be done either by air or by rail because some of the road bridges are too weak to carry the heavy load vehicles. Amazingly the army sponsors new river bridges for the rail! The next step should be that the army sponsors new steam locomotives as well because as they do not talk to Indian people on the other side of this dangerous border they donīt know that there are a lot of jobless Indian meter gauge diesel available...

Because of the army presence in this area it is highly recommended not to go there without an official permit and the guidance by an army officer. Although I followed all rules even I (with an railway and army official) had massive problems at Pithoro Junction where it needed a lot of phone calls between "my" army officer and the army headquarter to prevent another army guy to arrest all three "intruders".

Some details for number-fans:

serviceable: MS63, YE722, YD520, YD522, SP138

dumped: YD523, YD524, SP127, MS65, YE728

under repair: YE732

On the train back to Karachi I met a driver from the Karachi diesel shed who proudly told me that a German engineer arrived a week ago who did the fine-tuning of the new Adtranz diesel locomotives which have been bought by the Pakistan Railways recently (funded by a Japanese world bank contribution). Of course I was invited to visit the shed and to tell everybody that these new diesels are the best the Pakistan Railways could get.

During our conversation the engineer told me: "I really donīt know what those people will do with these machines if an electronic breakdown occurs - there is nobody available here to repair the high-tech electronic parts of these locomotives. And they wonīt have the money to get spare parts from abroad".

I should have told them that SLM would be able to offer something more exciting...

The other news from the steam scene on Pakistan: the narrow gauge line at Bostan will not return to any (steam operated) service because of political reasons although all preparations have been done, including the repair of G46 and GS62 and a set of passenger coaches. As the railway minister who ordered the reinstallation of passenger services on this line has been sacked, it is now concidered that everything he did was wrong and therefore a continuation of the already started program is not possible...

The forestry railway line at Changa Manga and the excursions trains on the Khyber Pass tracks still run, the proposed return of preserved steam to Malakwal (1 SGS and 1 SPS) hasn't proved any progress - and is unlikely to happen as the Lahore repair shop is closed.

Rob Dickinson