First freight train from Iran to Afghanistan

A trial freight train on 2 December 2020 delivered 500 tonnes of cement on the new railway which runs from Khaf in Iran as far as a station at Rosnak (Rahzanak, روزنک) in Afghanistan’s Herat province.1

A passenger train also ran from Iran to bring officials to and from a meeting with their Afghan counterparts.

Rosnak is on the Islam Qala to Herat road to the north of Ghourian (Ghoryan, غوريان, Ghurian). Construction works can be seen in Bing maps (but not Google Maps). Jono (Jonaw, Junaw) has been mentioned previously as a station; I’m not sure whether this is referring to the same place.2

The new railway is in effect an extension of the Iranian rail network across the border. After many years of proposals, construction officially began in Iran on 29 July 2006. The line is being built in four stages, with the latest section being the 62 km stage 3, and completion of the project has taken a lot longer than was envisaged.

An official opening ceremony for the first three sections of the Khaf to Herat railway is planned for 10 December 2020.

Construction of the fourth stage is being planned, with work to be undertaken in two phases with the first running to Robat Paryan and the second to Herat airport.

The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the line is one of the most important regional connectivity projects, as it will provide the land-locked country with a link to ports and to the rail networks of Iran, Turkey and Europe. Freight traffic is predicted to be around two million tonnes a year and include oil, construction materials and food.

AfRA said the operation of a passenger service is also being considered. Studies when work on the line began estimated that passenger traffic could reach 321 000 passengers/year, and freight traffic 6·8 million tonnes/year.3

Place names

The romanised spelling of the various place names varies quite a bit. If you have strong views on the “correct” versions, now is the time to try to get a standard established!

A note on gauges

The new Iran to Herat railway is 1435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) gauge. Known as “standard gauge”, this is the nost widely used gauge in the world and is found in Iran, Turkey, most of the Middle East, China and most of Europe (except the former USSR, Finland, Iberia and Ireland).

The other railways into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan (1 line) and Turkmenistan (2 lines) use the 1520 mm (5 ft) broad gauge, commonly called “Russian gauge”, which is used instead of 1435 mm in the former USSR, Finland and Mongolia. Pakistan uses the even broader “Indian gauge” of 1676 mm (5 ft 6in), although the network does not reach Afghanistan.

This means that in the event of a hypothetical railway line being built from Herat to Torghundi (for Turkmenistan) or Mazar-i-Sharif (to connect with the line from Uzbekistan) there would have to be a break of gauge somewhere. While gauge-changing trains exist, for most freight you may as well just transfer containers between ordinary wagons of different gauges, which is what happens every day on the border between China and the 1520 mm gauge region.

References

  1. Reported on the Afghanistan Railway Authority’s Facebook page, 2 December 2020. Also BBC News report, اولین قطار حامل بار از ایران وارد افغانستان شد, 2 December 2020
  2. The Iran-Afghanistan border area is not shown in much detail by the free online mapping and aerial photography services that I’ve found…
  3. Opening up Afghan trade route to Iran, Murray Hughes, Railway Gazette International, January 2008

Iran – Herat province railway photos

Afghan railway students studying in Uzbekistan

Iran – Herat railway photos

Test train carries officials from Iran to Afghanistan

A test train has carried officials from Iran and Afghanistan on the 62 km third section of the railway under construction from Khaf in Iran to Afghanistan’s Herat province.1

The train on 28 October 2020 comprised MAPNA/Siemens Safir/Iranrunner diesel locomotive2 number 1540 and two coaches. It ran from Iran as far as Rosank(?) station in Herat province, returning to Iran again in the evening.

Officials from bth countries inspected the line, stations and other installations on the line, which forms the third section of the long-running Khaf – Herat railway project and is expected to be officially opened in the near future.3

The Afghanistan Railway Authority said the new railway would provide the country with access to Iran’s railway network and sea ports, as well as to the railway networks of Turkey and Europe. This would enable Afghanistan merchants to export goods quickly, safely and at a low cost.

(Photos: Afghanistan Railway Authority)

  1. Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook post, 28 October 2020
  2. See Manufacture of 150 Diesel-Electric Locomotives, MAPNA
  3. Afghanistan Railway Authority Facebook post, 28 October 2020

Aqina – Andkhoy railway construction

Construction of the 30 km railway extension to Andkhoy from Aqina on Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan.

King Amanullah crossing the Polish-Soviet border

Border between between Poland and the USSR decorated with a banner saying Hello Shah of Afghanistan
The border between between Poland and the USSR decorated with a banner saying “Hello Shah of Afghanistan” when King Amanullah of Afghanistan passed through by train on his way between Warsaw and Moscow on 2 May 1928.

1922 railway map of Poland

1922 railway map of Poland from http://www.lithuanianmaps.com/Maps1922-39.html

Amanullah left Warsaw1 by train on the morning of Wednesday 2 May 1928.

Białystok station was decorated with Polish and Afghan flags. The visit of an exotic guest attracted people to the station, but the police only allowed people with special passes on to the platform. Representatives of administrative and military authorities, social organizations and the press started arriving at the station at noon.

King Amanullah at Białystok

The train arrived on time 12.50, as a military band played the Afghan national anthem. Amanullah appeared at the window in civilian clothes, when General Sosnkowski and Colonel Wieniawa-Długoszewski alighted onto the platform. Local dignatiories boarded, and Deputy Voivode Skrzyński entered the coach and welcomed the king in French; he answered in his own language, expressing thanks for their best wishes and admiration for the Polish army.2

The train then continuted to the Polish border town of Stołpce (now Stowbtsy in Belarus), where Amanullah changed to a Soviet train and was due to enter the Soviet Union at 20.00. The Times reported that the wooden arch spanning the tracks a yard inside the Soviet border had been specially decorated,3 as seen in the photograph.

There were further speeches, guards of honour and anthems at Negoreloye and Minsk.

Amanullah arrived in Moscow on the morning of Thursday 3 May 1928, and went to a villa belonging to the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs where he was to be accomodated. The King then visited Mikhail Kalinin and others, Lenin’s mausoleum and an official reception given by Kalinin.4

  1. Polish illustrated news coverage of Amanullah’s visit to Poland
  2. Król Afganistanu w Białymstoku, Włodzimierz Jarmolik, Kurier Poranny, 20 Febraury 2010
  3. “King Amanullah Leaves For Moscow.” Times, London, England, 3 May 1928: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 9 March 2016.
  4. “Afghan Royal Visit To Russia.” Times, London, England, 4 May 1928: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 9 March 2016.

Map of the country between Sind and Candahar showing the course of the proposed Railway