Pakistan, 1996: The Meter Gauge Network of Mirpur Khas, Day 2

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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The Meter Gauge Network of Mirpur Khas, Day 1

Mirpur Khas, the Loop Line, and the route to Hyderabad

The culture shock for me sets in in the morning at six. From the minarets the muezzin's call to prayer over loudspeakers wakes up probably the majority of travelers in the parked train. After breakfast, it turns out that the planned trip over a portion of the Loop Line will be delayed. The departure of the 9 o'clock train will probably be at least two hours late -- an opportunity for a stroll.

Station Building of Mirpur Khas

Station Building of Mirpur Khas

The station building is impressive, and judging by the number of offices, many dozens of railwaymen work here. In addition to passenger services, goods services play an important role. Mirpur Khas is a major railway station for a lot of train services and houses several administrative offices as well. On the broad gauge track, ten pairs of trains run daily to and from Hyderabad. A further five pairs of trains run on the three meter-gauge lines, and perhaps one or two other trains.

19 January 1996

Mirpur Khas station concourse

Mirpur Khas station concourse

This Friday (the sabbath in Islam) it is now nine in the morning and there is not yet any major business at the various kiosks and and snack stalls in the station hall.

19 January 1996

Snacks at the railway station forecourt

Snacks at the railway station forecourt

Other food options in the station forecourt. The number of catering establishments suggests a greater need.

19 January 1996

Street scene in Mirpur Khas

Street scene in Mirpur Khas

Contrasts in the streets: Behind the clearly overloaded camel carts, there is a computer shop - even this place is not beyond the reach of the influence of the late twentieth century.

19 January 1996

Departure of the early train

Departure of the early train

A portion of the meter-gauge network is controlled from the East signal box. In the background, one track heads north towards Nawabshah. The tracks in the foreground lead to Khokhropar at the Indian border, and the Loop Line. The departing train, which has been delayed by over two hours, is heading out on the the loop line and will travel in a clockwise direction to stay on the Pithoro-Khokhropar route.

19 January 1996

In the signal box

In the signal box

The interlocking linkages in the mechanical signal boxes follow English design. The force required for setting the points by means of the multiply levered rods is considerable. Also characteristic of the English design are the setting angle of the lever, which is only 60° in contrast to 180° found in German designs for mechanical interlocking.

19 January 1996

Arrival of the night train

Arrival of the night train

This train starts at 3:30 in the morning at Khokhropar to arrive at 9:45 at Mirpur Khas. The locomotive No. 523 is, like most of the locomotives still in use here, of the YD class (wheel arrangement 2-8-2), and is among the few whose number can still be distinguished without difficulty.

19 January 1996

At Kot Ghulam Mohammad station

At Kot Ghulam Mohammad station

After a while we are on the move ourselves, with the service train travelling counterclockwise on the Loop Line.

The traffic on this track consists of one daily train in each direction. The entire meter gauge network faces closure in the near future.

There is lot of activity during the stop on the way at the station of Khot Ghulam Mohammad. Women and children usually travel in their own compartment in accordance with the strict Islamic society of Pakistan.

19 January 1996

Family picture

Family picture

While the kids are crazy about being photographed again and again and again, and even the men ask often, to attempt to photograph a woman in rural areas would be an unforgivable and probably quite dangerous breach of a taboo.

19 January 1996

Canal bridge

Canal bridge

On one of the many side channels of the Nara canal a bridge again serves as a motif. The train locomotive is now a nondescript machine, the MS series or SP (wheel arrangement 4-6-0) in questionable general condition. The wagon behind the locomotive is an unorthodox type of auxiliary water tender.

19 January 1996

Passengers

Passengers

The curiosity between tourists and locals is mutual. Not many foreigners come here. And the odd behavior of railway enthusiasts will likely seem to the people here as very strange.

19 January 1996

A street

A street

The competition on the street is certainly faster and runs more frequently than the steam-run meter-gauge railway, but whether it is more convenient is not entirely clear.

The donkey carts are loaded with sugarcane, one of the main crops grown in the area.

19 January 1996


In Digri, 60km south of Mirpur Khas, we get out and take the bus to return to Mirpur Khas. Again we are accompanied by a handful of armeded, uniformed personnel. On the train we have only two railway policemen -- is it safer there?

We get a hopeful message in Mirpur Khas. Our steam locomotive from Kotri has arrived and is ready for departure.

HGS on the return trip from Mirpur Khas

HGS on the return trip from Mirpur Khas

The best thing about HGS 2223 is probably the new paint. The oil-burning engine develops a massive amount of smoke, although without exhibiting the related performance. The real work is done at the rear end by a diesel banker, which has to provide the necessary acceleration more than once.

Theoretically, the locomotives of the series HGS ("Heavy Goods / Standard Gauge") with the wheel arrangement 2-8-0 are some of the most powerful machines of the surviving steam locomotive types of the Pakistan Railways.

19 January 1996

Overtake at Sultanabad

Overtake at Sultanabad

In the small station of Sultanabad, 13km west of Mirpur Khas, we wait for the overtake of the "Shah Latif Express" from Mirpur Khas to Karachi. It has first class and economy coaches and is hauled by a 3000hp Henschel locomotive of the HGMU 30 series of 1986-88.

19 January 1996

Departure from Sultanabad

Departure from Sultanabad

Waiting for the overtake and another crossing will cost as much time as usual and so this departure at Sultanabad is the last photo opportunity for today. Under steam power, we travel another 54km this evening to Hyderabad.

19 January 1996

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