Torghundi and the railway from Turkmenistan

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A short section of 1520 mm gauge railway crosses the border from Serhertabat (formerly Kushka) in Turkmenistan to a freight yard at Towraghondi in Afghanistan.
This is the less well known of the two Soviet-built lines in Afghanistan, being in a remote location and carrying less traffic than the line from Uzbekistan to Hairatan.

Turkmen Railways locomotive at Towraghondi

Turkmen Railways locomotive at Towraghondi (Photo: Afghanistan Customs Department)


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History

The line to Torghundi is a short extension of the strategic branch line from the Trans-Caspian railway to Kushka (now Serhetabat), which had opened in December 1898.1

The imperial line did not cross the frontier into Afghanistan. The opening date of the short cross-border extension is unclear, but it was possibly during the 1960s.2

If anyone can offer any information about the opening date, do get in touch.

Soviet map showing the railway from Kushka to Towraghondi

This Soviet map from 1985 shows the railway line from Kushka – Кушка – to Towraghondi – Турагунди. The pink/dotted line is the border, with Afghanistan to the south and west and the USSR to the north.

The road and railway run in parallel across the border, with only a short length of railway and some sidings on the Afghan side of the frontier.

As well as taking supplies to Soviet forces in Afghanistan after the military intervention in 1979, the railway was used during the withdrawal. The line probably fell out of use with the end of the Soviet intervention, and fell into disrepair.

Rehabilitation

On 11 July 2011 two sleeper-laying ceremonies at Towraghondi in Afghanistan and Serhetabat (the new name for Kuskha) in Turkmenistan marked the start of work to rehabilitate the cross-border railway.

The US$550 000 cost of “full replacement of mechanisms and equipment” on around 2 km of railway was met by Turkmenistan, with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov telling Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai the funding was being provided ‘with a view to further developing and strengthening the neighbourly relations between Turkmenistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as well as providing assistance to the people of Afghanistan in reconstruction of the national economy.’ 3

Guests at the events included Afghanistan’s Public Affairs Minister Sohrab Ali Safari, Minister of Labour & Social Security & Disabled & Shaheed [martyr] Affairs Nurmuhammet Garkyn, Governor of Herat Seyit Hoseyin Anvari and Ambassador to Turkmenistan Abdulkarim Haddam. Representatives of nearby Afghan settlements with ethnic Turkmen populations also attended, while Turkmenistan’s Minister of Railway Transport Deryaguly Muhammetguliev led the Turkmen delegation.4

Work to restore the railway to use was completed the same year.5

Operations

Yard Engine

Turkmenistan Railways locomotive at Torghudi, 28 November 2007 (Photo: Holdemhill)

Freight trains across the border and shunting in the yard are handled by Turkmenistan’s national railway as part of its network.

Photographs show type 2ТЭ10, ТЭМ2 and ЧМЭ3 (ChME3) locomotives in use.

There are gas storage facilities at the Towraghondi terminal, and gas can be transferred from rail to road tankers.6 7

The Turkman rail branch from Mary to Torghundi handles 2/3 full load trains (carrying 46-50 wagons) daily to the very active unloading terminal at Torghundi. Most traffic is imported to Afghanistan but there are also some exports of fruit/vegetable traffic from Afghanistan. Some 60% of the imported traffic is Fuel oil/LPG/petroleum – traffics which are unsuitable for intermediate transshipment.
Sherkhan Bandar to Herat Railway Line Pre-Feasibility Study, 20108

There is a passenger service as far south as Kushka, but it does not run in to Afghanistan.9

Place names

The spelling of the place name in the Latin alphabet is very inconsistent. Here are some variants I’ve come across, and a “Turghondi” road sign which might offer a definitive answer, as much as there can be one.

Romanised Cyrillic Turghondi road sign
Kushka, Gushgy
Serhetabat (since 1992)
Кушка
Серхетабат
Turghondi, Torghondi, Towraghondi, Turghundi, Torag Hundi Турагунди

Photographs

Some photographs by Elfstone44 showing a diesel-hauled train and a derelict carriage at Towraghondi.

turghondiRR CIMG0447 CIMG0448

There are more photographs at the website of Norbert Ratzke of Köln who was in Herat from January to April 2004. He says At the Turkmen-Afghan border a Russian [sic] train runs about 500 meters on Afghan territory. There it is unloaded and returns to Turkmenistan. The pictures show a 1520 mm gauge diesel locomotive (half of a 2ТЭ10Л?) crossing the border, and the freight yard at Towraghondi.

Train at the Afghanistan - Turkmenistan border

News

News and updates about Towraghondi.

Next page: Hairatan and the Friendship Bridge

References

  1. Хронология событий, Ministry of Railway Transport of Turkmenistan
  2. Frank Selman suggested to me that the railway was opened to tackle smuggling. “In the 1960s Afghan truck drivers were allowed to cross the border into Soviet Turkmenistan to unload exported cargo at Kushka station. This resulted in grand-scale smuggling and corruption, businesses in which the Afghans excel. Afghans from Herat still relish smuggling good-time stories. So the railway was extended, and all the loading and unloading took place later on at Torghundi in Afghanistan.”
  3. Afghan rebuild underway, Railway Gazette International website, 12 July 2007
  4. Turkmenistan starts reconstruction of Afghan railway, turkmenistan.ru, 12 July 2007
  5. Sherkhan Bandar to Herat Railway Line Pre-Feasibility Study. Phase II Final Report Volume II Supplementary Reports ADB TA 7259 – AFG: Railway Ddevelopment Study, Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. HB Consultants. May 2010 p2-6.
  6. NAPCO Group, Dubai/Afghanistan.
  7. Gas Group, Afghanistan.
  8. Sherkhan Bandar to Herat Railway Line Pre-Feasibility Study. Phase II Final Report Volume II Supplementary Reports ADB TA 7259 – AFG: Railway Development Study, Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. HB Consultants. May 2010 p5-4.
  9. Branchlines to the south, Fahrplancenter

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