Pakistan, 1996: The Meter Gauge Network of Mirpur Khas, Day 1

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

This is a part of the travelogue detailing Dr Ziegler's travel through Pakistan in 1996.

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Next: The Meter Gauge Network of Mirpur Khas, Day 2

The Meter Gauge Network of Mirpur Khas, Day 1

Kotri Junction and the meter-gauge route from Mirpur Khas to Pithoro

Bus arrival at Kotri Junction

Bus arrival at Kotri Junction

The proper start of our tour was at Kotri Junction. Kotri is on the way from Karachi to Hyderabad, on the west bank of the Indus. From here the line to Larkana and Habib Kot / Shikarpur branches off to the right from the main line along the Indus.

From the airport in Karachi, we had taken the bus to the train station here at Kotri -- a journey of about 170km through hilly desert-like landscape. The luggage arrived as it usually does in Pakistan, travelling on the roof.

18 January 1996

Special train on the platform

Special train on the platform

The special train is ready at the platform. These coaches will be our home for the next few days on the journey across Pakistan. They are veteran vehicles, no longer in the best condition. The organizers of the trip had emphasized authenticity. The coaches consist of sleeping and couchette cars of different designs. The sleeping car in which I was accommodated had large four- and six-bed compartments, and an en suite shower room with (Asian) toilet. The loading gauge clearance of the Indian broad gauge allowed a much more spacious interior design that what we are accustomed to in Europe. At the end of the train there was a dining car, where we had our half-board meals. Unfortunately, none of the vestibule connections between coaches were usable, so that moving between coaches and especially to the dining car was only possible when the train had stopped.

18 January 1996

Kotri Jn locomotive depot, with the locomotive of the special train

Kotri Jn locomotive depot, with the locomotive of the special train

The departure was scheduled for noon, so there was enough time for a visit to the depot of Kotri Junction. Here it turned out fairly soon that the steam locomotive No. 2223 of the HGS class, which was to be our train's locomotive, was apparently not yet ready. The engine was smoking quite a bit, but a number of people were working on the locomotive, knowing that the smoking was still not quite up to standards.

18 January 1996

Painters at work

Painters at work

As the locomotive will probably not be ready for the next few hours, one can take the time to detail and paint the loco at rest!

For our train this means that we get diesel traction today.

18 January 1996

Locomotives parked in the depot

Locomotives parked in the depot

The depot in Kotri Jn had lots of parked locomotives of the HGS and SGS classes in various states. There are no longer any more steam operations in the working timetable here.

18 January 1996

A truck and a fruit stand

A truck and a fruit stand

The depot and the train station are a little distance from each other. The walk offers a view of two typical elements of Pakistani roads: the decorated truck and the roadside fruit stand.

18 January 1996


We left Kotri Junction at about 13:00. Our train was hauled, as expected, by a diesel locomotive. For the 76 km from Mirpur Khas, we need about two hours.

A meter-gauge train departs from Mirpur Khas

A meter-gauge train departs from Mirpur Khas

Mirpur Khas is the center of a meter-gauge network in the southeastern part of the province of Sind. Originally this network ranged through the west to Hyderabad, but that was later regauged to broad gauge. About mid-afternoon we arrive here in our diesel-hauled broad-gauge train.

On the meter gauge network, steam is exclusively used for motive power. In 1996, three routes were operational:

  • The route east to Khokhropar, a small village on the Indian border, 125km from here. (The track went on to India.)
  • To the north or northwest to Nawabshah, with links to the main line (130km).
  • The Loop Line to the southwest, 190km loop length.

In the foreground the points mechanisms and signal wires that can be seen are recognizably of English design.

18 January 1996

Inside the train

Inside the train

For our evening program, we take the 4pm train over a portion of the line to the Indian border. For security reasons, half a coach is requisitioned for us European railway enthusiasts, where we were guarded by rifle-bearing railway police in view of the robberies, kidnappings, and other perils in this area. The eastern part of the Sind province is dangerous not just to foreigners. The official safety instructions recommend avoiding travel by land after dark.

18 January 1996

Jamrao Junction

Jamrao Junction

At Jamrao Junction, 8km from Mirpur Khas, the Loop Line branches off to the south. The halt at the station is used for the first false departure (staged departure for photography) with the regular train, to the curious interest of the normal passengers, which results in a further delay to the already considerably late running of the train.

18 January 1996

Evening light

Evening light

Water is available here only because of the extensive irrigation system. In addition to its use in agriculture, the pond here serves as a nice foreground for an evening motif of our meter-gauge train.

18 January 1996

A farm

A farm

These farms in the countryside may perhaps seem idyllic, but they are evidence of extreme poverty, from which the farmers cannot escape despite good harvests because of the prevailing feudal system.

18 January 1996

Sunset at the Nara Canal

Sunset at the Nara Canal

The Nara Canal is a tributary of the Indus. Tens of thousands of square kilometers of the desert landscape are used for agriculture. The large irrigation channels are a typical feature of the landscape in Sind and Punjab, and bear witness to the tremendous achievements of this country in building its infrastructure. Pakistan can not only feed itself but also export a significant share of its agricultural production.

18 January 1996


We reach Pithoro station, the eastern terminus of the Loop Line, where we wait for a return train, during which time it is utterly dark. After a few more kilometers, our train then reaches the small town of Dhoro Naro, which marks the end of our train journey today. Here we wait for a bus that then takes us back to Mirpur Khas, with curtains drawn and several security personnel escorting us. In every village there is a police roadblock, but the presence of our uniformed companions ensures a speedy transit through the roadblock in each case. Other participants who had already arrived two days earlier and had hired a taxi for a day of train chasing reported that their taxi driver had stressed the need to be back in town by dusk.

Mirpur Khas and its station, however, seem to be harmless. We spend our first night in the special train on the main platform, without any special safety precautions taken.

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Next: The Meter Gauge Network of Mirpur Khas, Day 2

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