Ghora Tram: Historic Horse Tram Returns to Gangapur!

By Owais Mughal, March 9, 2010.

This article has appeared earlier on the website, All Things Pakistan.
See other articles by Owais Mughal on Pakistan.

This post has turned 180 degrees in its tone in the past 30 minutes of our editing. Read below how.

I found the title photo of this post in a web search and was totally mesmerized by it. I strarted writing this post with an admittedly ignorant view of the subject and almost made fun of why a horse driven trolley could be a project to inaugurate in today's modern world.

Horse tramway
Horse tramway

But boy was I wrong! As I started a quick web search on this project, I realized the historical value of this seemingly old and rusty trolley. And now I am very grateful that someone has actually taken the initiative to rehabilitate this part of our history.

Chak Number 591-GB is a small village in Faisalabad Division. It is also called Gangapur -- named after the famous philanthropist and engineer Sir Ganga Ram. Some text on the web suggests that Sir Ganga Ram owned the village of Gangapur (confirmation needed). It is said that he was a landlord here and turned it into a model village of the late 19th century. He introduced modern agricultural means and machinery of the time to Gangapur. One such machine was a heavy duty Electrical Motor which was installed in 1898 on Gogira branch canal to pump water for agriculture. This motor was brought to Gangapur from Lahore by railways and this is where the story of our today's post starts.

Horse tramway
View of Horse tramway

The nearest Railway Station from Gangapur is another village called Buchiana (101 km from Lahore on Sheikhupura - Shorkot branch line). From Buchiana to Gangapur the distance is approximately 3 kilometers and in 1890s there were no means avialable to transport a heavy electrical motor from Buchiana Railway Station to Gangapur. Therefore Sir Ganga Ram ordered a special railway track to be built for the purpose between the two villages and a horse-driven trolley was used to transport this electric motor to Gangapur. After the motor was installed, the horse driven trolley remained in operation to transport people between the two villages.

Therefore the horse driven trolley that we see in the title photo is now 112 years old (built in 1898). It remained in continuous operation for 100 years until 1998 when financial problems and disrepair of track and trolley put an end to the service. That was until yesterday. As our title photo from March 9, 2010 suggests that after 12 years of dis-repair and non-service the horse tram of Gangapur has now been rehabilitated and put back into service. Yes!

The DCO of Faisalabad, Mr. Saeed Wahla, inaugurated this rehabilitated horse tram (locally called GhoRa train (horse train).

The district government contributed Rs3.3 million, the Jaranwala Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) Rs40,000 and villagers Rs1.7 million to restart the facility.

I've also read on the web that both PTV and BBC had made documentaries on this horse tram which attracted many tourists to the area.

The video below is a 3 minute clip of this horse tram that I found at YouTube. It shows the Gangapur trolley operation from a time before rehabilitation.

There are/were two horse trams: Following is an extended video clip of the same video as above. The video is without any audio therefore a bit of a drag but it shows one very important detail. Around time sequence of 3 min 15 second, it shows how two horse trams meet somewhere in the middle of the route on the single track and then the swap of passengers, their luggage and horses takes place.

OK. Now that I've given the serious history of the project, how about we go back to my original idea of discussing some lighter details of the title photos here.

Note how many pink color haar (garlands) have been put in the neck of the chief guest. As if they were not enough, a guy is holding several more spares in his arms on the same trolley. The single-vehicle entrouge has been provided with its own ample security too. One can see a policeman standing towards the back of the trolley along with several media people.

In the second photo the over-do of pink garlands on the Chief guest is more visible. Only his face is visible. Neck downwards the poor guy is all covered in pink.

I want to end the post with this sher (poetic verse) -- which I've used in another post earlier too -- but let me repeat it anyways:

rau mein hai rakhsh-e-umr, kahaaN dekhiye thamay
na haath hai baag par, na paa hai rakaab meiN

A non-poetic translation of above verse goes like this

The horse of life is running fast, let's see where will it stop
Neither the reins are in our hands nor our feet in the stirrups

Margin of error in dates mentioned here

I have found 3 different years being mentioned at different websites, as to when the track was first opened. They are: 1895, 1898 and 1903. The 1903 date is mentioned by Dawn newspaper.

For now I am going with the 1898 date -- as quoted in this post -- to reduce the margin of error. Therefore in 2010, the Gangapur horse tram is anywhere from 107 to 115 years old.

Similary Dawn report quotes 1993 as the year when the horse tram service got suspended (reason given is stolen track pieces). At another web source this date is given as 1998. I've used 1998 in the post above -- but wanted to let our readers know that there is +/- 5 years approximation here.

I will of course be looking to authenticate these dates and to remove the margin of error. As always help from readers is sought.

Related material: See the photo album on the horse tram by M. Imran Akhtar.