Jabal Seraj cement works railway

In the late 1950s an industrial narrow gauge railway served a cement works at Jabal Saraj, about 60 km north of Kabul.

According to An Historical Guide to Kabul1 The little town of Jabal Seraj is built around Afghanistan’s first hydroelectric station which was installed during the reign of Amir Habibullah (r. 1901-1919) by the American engineer, A.C. Jewett. There is also a large textile mill and a cement plant at Jabal Seraj.

One final industrial installation must be mentioned here, however. This is the newly-completed cement plant at Jabal Seraj. The 100-metric ton per day mill, built under the $5 million loan extended by Czechoslovakia. in 1954, was located at Jabal Seraj after a good deal of discussion regarding the proper location of Afghanistan’s first cement plant. Surveys made by an industrial engineer on the United Nations Technical Assistance Mission had recommended that the mill be built at Pul-i-Khumri, near the Kar Kar coal mines and with abundant local supplies of good limestone and gypsum. A ready market for cement is also to be found in the Kunduz Valley. However, the Ministry of Mines and Industries decided that the Kabul market should take precedence even if it was necessary to bring coal from north of the Hindu Kush to supply the plant. A belt of semi-metamorphosed (crystalline) limestone had been located by the German firm of Kochs in the folded and faulted strata just north of Jabal Seraj where the Salang River cuts through the sedimentary formations. So the plant was assembled, a small-gauge railway constructed and a quarry opened. However, the initial supply of gypsum for the mill was brought all the way from Pul-i-Khumri, while the extremely friable coal of the Ishpushta mine, located just north of the main Hindu Kush range and near the Great North Road which follows the Bamian and Surkhab Rivers, was being trucked in over the 9800-foot Shibar Pass and over almost 125 miles of unimproved roads. At the end of February, 1958, the plant had built up a four-months supply, calculated on the basis of from 24 to 30 tons of coal per 100 tons of cement, and was just beginning to operate its limestone crushers preparatory to making the first batch of cement. Enough gypsum was on hand for six-months’ operation, calculated at three tons per 100 tons of cement. But it appeared highly desirable for the plant to develop a local source of gypsum as quickly as possible. Limestone and water are available in sufficient quantity, but the cement mill also runs the risk of a shortage of electric power since it will require 12,000 kwh per 100 tons of cement. The electricity and coal needs of the Jabal Seraj cement factory will be reconsidered under “Power Resources and Requirements” of Afghan industry in Chapter X and related to the hope of building a second Czech-financed cement mill, with a capacity of 200 metric tons per day, at Pul–i-Khumri.

lnformation on the cement plant is from an interview of February 8 1958 with Mr Puchek one of the Czechoslovakia engineers at Jabal Seraj

Source: The Kabul, Kunduz, and Helmand Valleys and the national economy of Afghanistan2


  1. Nancy Hatch, An Historical Guide to Kabul, (Dupree, Kabul, 2nd edition 1971), quoted at aisk.org
  2. Aloys Arthur Michel, The Kabul, Kunduz, and Helmand Valleys and the national economy of Afghanistan, (National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA, 1959) pp70-1