Mashin Khana

The state arsenal and factory in Kabul had a narrow gauge “portable railway” supplied by Leeds company John Fowler & Co.1 Fowler produced 60 cm gauge portable light railway equipment, initially under an agreement with French engineer Paul Decauville.

Mashin Khana, Kabul

The Kabul factory known as the Mashin Khana (machine house) was established by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan, with Englishman Thomas Salter Pyne as his engineering advisor.2 3 Pyne had previously been an overseas representative of Fowler, and later received British and Afghan honours for diplomatic work.

Books could probably be written both about the factory, which was the amir’s attempt to buy-in an industrial revolution, and about Salter Pyne himself. As it is, little has turned up about the railway so far.



  1. A Brief History of John Fowler & Co, Kris Ward,
  2. For a detailed history, see Capital Concentrations and Coordinations: Peshawar Subsidies and Kabul Workshops, in Connecting Histories in Afghanistan: Market Relations and State Formation on a Colonial Frontier by Shah Mahmoud Hanifi.
  3. For discussion of the weapons produced there, see The Mashin Khana, The History of the Kabul State Arsenal,

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