Pakistan, 1996: Malakwal again: To Khewra

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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Malakwal again: To Khewra

Short trip Malakwal - Haranpur, Around Malakwal station, and the second line to the Salt Range : Malakwal - Khewra

Even on the third day at Malakwal, organization of our train journey is far from perfect. According to the itinerary (and even according to the plan of the Pakistan Railways) this morning we are supposed to have a special train on the line to Khushab as far as a town called Lilla (about 50km). Nothing comes of this. After many negotiations on the train consist, locomotive, and direction of travel, all that materializes in the morning is a short trip of 9km to Haranpur, on the branch line from Gharibwal. Perhaps the station master in Malakwal is from a different clan than the organizers in Karachi.

After a prolonged lunch break, in the late afternoon a second trip is arranged to the Salt Range, this on the route to Khewra. And this time we manage to get a mixed train consist, instead of using our sleeper coaches.

Malakwal station

Malakwal station

Two trains ready for departure from Malakwal station in the morning. On the left is our sleeping car train, to be hauled by the SPS on the long distance trip to Haranpur, 9km away. On the right, a local train, presumably the morning train to Gharibwal, hauled by an SGS loco.

24 January 1996

Trains crossing in Haranpur

Trains crossing in Haranpur

Arriving in Haranpur, we await the crossing with another local train, probably the R435 to Malakwal from Lilla, which like almost all the local trains runs as a mixed train.

24 January 1996

Timber loading in Haranpur

Timber loading in Haranpur

At the loading track in Haranpur timber is delivered for loading and weighed. The effort spent on handling this small amount of trunks and branches shows how forest-poor this country is, and how rare the timber is (see Changa Manga).

In the background the hills of the Salt Range can be seen.

24 January 1996

Malakwal, track work

Malakwal, track work

Back in Malakwal.

Major track work is seen at this crossing. The numbers of supervisors and workers are roughly equal.

24 January 1996

Malakwal, signal box

Malakwal, signal cabin

The mechanical interlocking at the western end of the station serves the lines to Kushab (towards the Salt Range), to Sargodha, the branch line to Bhera, and the tracks to the depot. It is equipped with the standard English design linkage mechanism, which requires the full strength of one's body when operating it.

24 January 1996

Malakwal, arrival of a mixed train

Malakwal, arrival of a mixed train

Meanwhile, the sun has unfortunately hidden behind the clouds.

The local train that is arriving is probably R443 from Bhera, hauled by an SPS.

To the left can be seen the crossing and the work being performed on it.

24 January 1996

Malakwal, interlocking

Malakwal, interlocking

In the English style mechanical interlocking technology the points are operated by rodding and the signals by (single) wire. The interlocking happens at the points as can be seen in the picture (compared to the standard German system where the interlocking of points and signals happens right at the signal cabin).

To keep such a system operating requires not only a lot of oil and grease but also a lot of labor for maintenance.

24 January 1996

Malakwal, market

Malakwal, market

As might have been foreseen, our next train ride would be delayed until the afternoon. So it was time to take a look at the nearby train station area. Almost immediately next to the railway premises is the market of Malakwal.

The fruit stand shown here is but one example of the colorful variety on offer in this market. My attempt to buy some oranges after taking this photograph is only partially successful. Although I can get some oranges in a plastic bag here, when I try to pay for them my payment is firmly rejected. Indeed, the vendor is delighted to be able to give this stranger the fruit as a gift.

24 January 1996

Malakwal, level crossing

Malakwal, level crossing

Finally, we set off again. The level crossing on the western side of the station is often closed, building up long traffic jams. Automobiles have penetrated even to this area, but are not yet dominant on the streets.

24 January 1996

Bridge just before Khewra

Bridge just before Khewra

Worked by SGS 2470 the afternoon mixed local special to Khewra, 24km from Malakwal, is approaching. The branch line here diverges from the line Malakwal - Kushab at Chalisa Junction, which is the next station after Haranpur and comparable in importance to it.

Unlike the road to Gharibwal, this line actually climbs a few meters. The wagons are all empty, so that our locomotive has no problem in tackling the modest slope.

24 January 1996

At Khewra station

At Khewra station

Technically Khewra is not the end of the track. The track continues a further 3km to Dandot. But here the real mountains begin. On the slopes (directly behind the tender) the road can be seen. The railway runs through a cutting - somewhere in the middle of the picture in the background. The route through this cutting has probably been hit several times by landslides, so it is official closed now.

The white deposits on the ground are not remnants of snow or ice (although it was quite chilly outside), but salt. The salt is mined in the mountains here and loaded on to the railway.

24 January 1996

Khewra station, derailment

Khewra station, derailment

The driver can be persuaded, however, to cautiously enter the closed section to Dandot -- with just our passenger coaches, leaving the goods wagons behind. (In British railfanning slang such ventures are called "Rare Track Bashing".)

However, uncoupling and shunting the wagons is not done cautiously at all. Speeding on the rough loop track leads to this derailment. In view of the mishap, the driver now has very serious reservations about further movement, and after some back and forth the action to Dandot is called off. Meanwhile, it is also almost dark.

Instead we head back to Malakwal again, and the freight cars including the derailed ones remain back in Khewra.

24 January 1996

Our chef in the dining car

Our chef in the dining car

It will be the last supper our cook prepares in the kitchen of the restaurant car. For the last few days of the tour remaining, we will get hotel food.

Although various people have been suffering minor digestive problems, there are no reports of any extensive problems with the on-board meals.

24 January 1996


So begins the last night ride in the sleeper coach. It will take us back to Lala Musa first, and from there we will continue on the Pakistan mainline to Rawalpindi and Taxila. According to the schedule we should be holding to, at 18:00 we should have already made it to Lala Musa instead of still sitting in Khewra, and so because of the delays our schedule once again sees minor alteration. In place of being hauled by diesel, our last overnight train journey will be completely under steam, and a planned longer pause at Rawalpindi in the middle of the night is cut short to brief service halt. According to plan we were supposed to have steam traction only from Rawalpindi, but since the designated locomotive has not been sent ahead in time, we can enjoy it all the way from Malakwal

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