Photo of displayed Kabul loco

“Not something you would expect!” says wandering photographer Bob McIntosh, who took a nice photograph of the plinthed Henschel steam locomotive in Darulaman, near Kabul.

He also has a picture of a grain silo, which shows part of the defunct trolley bus route in Kabul.

A correpsondent called Ramon writes that The engine put on display must be engine no. 19680 or 19681. These two were reported to be kept in the shed for a long time. The 3rd engine has no. 19691, it is the last one in the row outside the museum.

Der Spiegel on King Amanullah’s visit to Berlin

Potentaten als Bittsteller (PDF) is a 2001 article about Afghanistan in Der Spiegel.

There is a 1989 photo of the steam engines at Darulaman. The text says:

Amanullah holte deutsche Firmen und Ingenieure ins Land. Sie errichteten Straßen, Brücken, Staudämme und eine königliche Residenz sowie Prachtbauten in Darulaman, einem Vorort von Kabul. Dort sollte auch eine deutsche Eisenbahn fahren, als Lieblingsspielzeug des Potentaten. Die mit dem Schiff nach Bombay transportierten Lokomotiven wurden von Elefanten über enge Passstraßen durch den Hindukusch geschleppt, ein paar hundert Meter Schienenwege verlegt. Noch nach über 20 Jahren Bürgerkriegswirren und der Zerstörung Kabuls standen dort auf einem von Disteln und Dornenbüschen überwucherten Anger drei verrostete Dampfloks und das Fahrgestell eines Reisewaggons „Made in Germany“.

Whch is something vaguely approximating to:

Amanullah sought German companies and engineers into the country. They built roads, bridges, dams
and royal palace in Darulaman, a suburb of Kabul. There should also be a German rail travel, a favourite toy of potentates. The locomtives were transported by ship to Mumbai and then pulled by elephant in passes through the Hindu Kush, where a couple of hundred metres of rail were laid [not sure I’ve got that translation quite right!]. Yet after more than 20 years of civil war turmoil and the destruction of Kabul, there overgrown by thistles and thorn bushes are three rusty steam engines and the carriage labelled “Made in Germany”.

There is a description (in German) of King Amanullah’s visit to Berlin in 1928.

Die politischen Konsultationen verliefen wenig ergiebig. Der Potentat trat als Bittsteller auf. Er brauche Geld, eröffnete der junge König sogleich dem greisen Reichspräsidenten, „Geld zur Entwicklung meines Landes“. Auch wolle er Eisenbahnen bauen. Bei den Eisenbahnen mahnte Hindenburg zur Vorsicht („wenig rentable Unternehmen“), und über besondere Geldmittel verfüge er leider nicht. Aber Deutschland sei gern bereit, Afghanistan „tüchtige Leute“ zur Verfügung zu stellen.

The political consultations were low yielding. The potentate appeared as a supplicant. He needed money, the young king immediately told the aged President [Hindenberg], ‘money to develop my country.” He even wanted to build railways. Hindenburg warned to be cautious about railways (“little profitable business”), and did not have funds. But Germany was happy to provide “capable people”.

(better translations gratefully accepted!)

The third loco identified

Simon Darvill has identified the “third” steam locomotive in Kabul. It is Henschel 19691 of 1923. The entry for it (and for 19680-1) is “Ferrostaal for Kabul-Darulaman, Afghanistan, British India”.

Meanwhile, a blogger in Kabul called Liz went to visit the Kabul museum last month, and provides links describing the revival of the museum. There is also a big photo of the plinthed loco in the snow.

Photograph of the Kabul – Darulaman railway

Karlheinz Rohrwild has found this wonderful picture in the February 1930 issue of the German magazine “UHU”. The caption says The 7 km long railway between Kabul and Darul-Aman was very over-filled..

Train at Darulaman

I guess the building in the background is the palace at Darulaman. Werner Müller has put on-line some fascinating old photos of Afghanistan and Darulaman taken by his ancestor Wilhem Rieck in the 1920s, which are well worth a browse, even if you can’t read German.

The Kabul locos

Two photos of an Old loco in Afghanistan taken by Major Rob Fraser of the Oregon Army National Guard were posted on Trainorders on 6 December 2006 (thumbnails only – full pics requires a subscription). Accoring to the report, The builders plate says: Henschel & Sohn, G.m.b.H., Cassel, 1929, 12 ATM, Kessel No. 1968.. The two locos previously in the shed have previously been reported as 19680 and 19681 of 1923, so this could be the mysterious third loco (and perhaps the last digit of the number has become illegible)?

Crane lifts Afghan loco Afghan loco on truck The May 2007 Rail Passion magazine article is broadly similar to this April 2006 article from NATO: German ISAF Personnel relocate historical railway engine. I’ve borrowed ISAF’s photos of the loco being moved, and from the un-bent cab it looks to be the one in Major Fraser’s photos (above). Other reports suggest that one of the three locos is actually 2′ gauge, rather than the 2’6″ of the other two engines, so all three are unlikely to have worked on the same line (if anyone happens to be passing Darulaman and has a tape measure, it would be interesting if the gauges could be confirmed). Quite where it did work is still a bit of mystery, as until recently all reports only mentioned two locos at the museum site.

The locos can (just) be seen on this photo at Kabul guide.

Une vapeur Henschel

Steam locos in Darulaman, October 13 2004 (Photo: Wim Brummelman)

The May 2007 issue of French magazine Rail Passion (issue no.115, page 86) has a one-page article by Dimitri Beck about the plinthed steam locomotive at Kabul museum.

“Une vapeur Henschel devant le musée de Kaboul” has two photos, including a rather nice view showing German NATO soldiers putting one of the locos on a four-axle military lorry; moving the loco 200m to the museum for safe-keeping took about 3 hours.

There is a mention of Wim Brummelman, who sent me some photos of the three locomotives in the past.

Thanks to Thomas Kautzor for alerting me to it.

German ISAF Personnel relocate historical railway engine

Gag Halfrunt has spotted that NATO’s International Security Assistance Force website has an article dated 22 May 2006 about moving the steam loco. There are a couple of photos of the loco being moved, and three more in a PDF newsletter.

KABUL – Afghanistan. A joint venture between the Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst and the German Supply Company 2, has led to the staging of a major attraction at, or to be more precise, in front of, the Kabul National Museum. A major operation was conducted in order to assist soldiers from the recovery unit lift a historical locomotive from its resting place with the help of their crane and a heavy multi-purpose truck. The engine, which had been neglected in the museum’s backyard, is one of just three historical railway engines left in Afghanistan. Now, after 80 years, it has been granted a place of honour in front of the National Museum, directly opposite the Darulaman Palace.

For five years only, between 1923 and 1929, Afghanistan had its own railway. Three steam engines manufactured by Henschel, a German enterprise, travelled on a test track running from Kabul, southwest to the Darulaman Palace, located 7 km from Kabul, at that the time, the fare for a one-way ticket was one Afghani or 0.02 Euros. The project, however, was short-lived, As long as Afghanistan does not have enough weapons to ward off acts of aggression by the big powers (British Empire and the Tsar) it would be crazy to allow the construction of a railroad track leading into his country, Emir Abdul Rahman (1880 – 1901) stated. Still today, Afghanistan remains one of the few countries in the world without a railroad system.

The idea to put the best preserved locomotive on display in front of the museum’s entrance came from the Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst and with the help of the German supply company the 10-ton engine was moved 200 meters and placed on a track bed which had previously been raised by the recovery unit. In view of the considerable age of the engine, this procedure had to be executed with great care and the utmost precision by the crane specialists. Finally, after almost three hours of nail-biting work, First Lieutenant Boris Barchanski reported, “Locomotive in place, mission accomplished!”