[Reader-list] Train travel in Pakistan

Zainab Bawa coolzanny at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 29 19:44:41 IST 2004

Dear All,
Here's a piece on train travel in Pakistan circulated on the IRFCA group. 
Wonder how trains are in Pak?

Last month on a brief vacation, I and four of my friends decided to go
to Rawalpindi by train. We had travelled several times upcountry by bus
and train, but this was the first time that I was travelling with my
friends. So we booked our seats and berths through a reservation centre
located at City Railway Station. Our journey, however, would start from
Karachi Cantonment Station (a.k.a. Cantt Station).

We had four options: the Chenab Express, the Khyber Mail, the Tezgam
and the Awami Express. We preferred the last one. We approached Cantt
Station, and were to travel in Awami Express. The train's last destination 
was to be Peshawar, while we would be getting off at Rawalpindi.

At the Cantt Station, we were welcomed by a steam locomotive, which has
recently been installed by the Railway officials to attract passerbys.
Thousands of passengers travel by train, as this is one of the best
local modes of transportation. The platform is a place full of hustle and 
bustle as the people start boarding the train. Coolies often overloaded with 
heavy bags, hurrying up to carry the luggage to the train; people trying to 
keep up with the coolies to make sure that the luggage is placed in the 
right bogie. You can also see some people walking up and down the platform 
to find their seats. Little children running to and fro, and some clinging 
to their parents too. A number of emotional scenes can also be witnessed 
here. Everyone on the platform waves a hand to say goodbye to loved ones, as 
the train slowly starts to move. Our train left the platform at 8:00am.

Once the train started its long journey, one of my friends suggested
that we should discuss the facts and figures about Pakistan Railways to
kill time as this was going to be a long journey. This was not difficult as 
we had gained a lot of information about trains while planning this trip. We 
learned that the first railway track opened for public traffic was on May 
13, 1861 from Karachi City to Kotri. The total length of the track at that 
time was only 105 miles. At the time of partition, Pakistan had a 5,048 
miles tracks. Now the Railway Network has expanded all over Pakistan, 
especially from the main cities to the far flung areas of the country.

Around 65 million passengers travel by trains annually, while daily,
228 mail, express and passenger trains operate throughout Pakistan. The
management of Pakistan Railways also operates special trains on various
occasions like Eid, etc., which helps thousands of passengers reach
their destinations on time. Another interesting piece of information we
learned was that there are also steam safaris being run by Pakistan
Railways so that we can enjoy the legendary Khyber Pass and Thar Desert.

>From Peshawar, one can travel in a safari train in order to experience
the beautiful and picturesque hills of North-Western areas of Pakistan,
along the Afghan border. And to explore the beauty of the Thar Desert,
safari trains run through Mirpurkhas. To see the Railway Museum in
Golra Sharif, a new service, the Gandhara Steam Safari Train has been
started from Rawalpindi. There are also a number of goods trains carrying 
kerosene oil, petroleum products, grains and many other things from Karachi 
to other cities of the country on a daily basis.

As our discussion was going on, the train made a short stop at the
Kotri Railway Station. We disembarked to walk and get some refreshments at 
the station. Here, we were surprised to see that the water coming from taps 
was very muddy. Passengers were forced to use this unhygienic
water for drinking and other purposes as well. We were also compelled to 
wash our hands and face with this muddy river water. After a little
while, the train started once again on its journey.

Our next stop was Hyderabad at around 11:00am. Here we preferred
staying inside and enjoying our home-made snacks, rather than going outside 
in the scorching heat. The train stopped here for half-an-hour; this is one 
of the stops where most of the trains stop for a longer period. After taking 
light refreshments, we started to play cards, reading digests and other text 
which we had brought from our homes or purchased from the book-stalls at the 
platform. All sorts of things are available at the platforms, there are 
stalls of edible items, tea stall and also those selling toys and newspapers 
and magazines. Though the reading material available there is slightly 

Our next stopover was at Rohri at 4:00pm, where we once again saw all
kinds of people lined up on the platform. It seemed so colourful as
though the whole platform had come to life. However, as before, people were 
using muddy water to wash, which came directly from the river to the city.

After this, we stayed for a short while in Samasata. Our next break was
around 11.30pm in Multan. It is one of the most famous and ancient
cities of Pakistan, also known as the City of Saints.

At the platform, everyone was rushing to purchase souvenirs for their
loved ones. Among other souvenirs, the Sohan Halwa of Multan is very
famous and the crowds thronged the stalls to get some for their loved
ones. After shopping, we had dinner at one of the restaurants at the

As the train left Multan City, we were almost asleep and by the time we
woke up, the sun was rising over Lahore city. Here our train stopped
for half-an-hour. Most of the travellers disembarked, while two or three 
bogies of our train were separated from the rest of the train. Here the 
train changed tracks and began to head towards Rawalpindi. The travel 
between Lahore to Rawalpindi is almost five hours. At 11.30 am, we were in 
Jhelum, while around 2:00pm we finally reached Rawalpindi Railway Station. 
Here, two of my cousins were waiting for us.

As we left the station, we admired the model of a narrow gauge steam
engine placed outside the building of Rawalpindi Railway Station. I am
sure, it was a tour that we will never forget

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