Agreement signed for north-south corridor studies

This looks potentially significant, although the words if feasible are probably quite important. I will try to study the announcement in more detail later this week.

MINISTER SHAHRANI SIGNS HISTORIC RAILWAY AGREEMENT

Kabul: September 22, 2010

Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani today signed an historic agreement with the China Metallurgical Company (MCC) for a railway to connect Kabul to Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
This northern railway project is part of the Aynak Copper Mine Contract, signed between the Government and MCC. The contract specifies that MCC constructs a railway, if feasible, from northern Pakistan through Kabul to southern Uzbekistan. This rail link will connect Afghanistan to the railways of Pakistan, India, and South East Asia and to the extensive rail system of China, Europe and Central Asia.

Minister Shahrani said, ‘When complete, the railways will give substantial benefits for the Afghan economy in trade, employment and cheaper prices. This northern railway is part of a wider plan to extend the Afghan rail network to connect Afghanistan to ports in Iran and Pakistan.’

The next step is for MCC to commission and fund a competitive tender for a feasibility study to examine the preferred route proposed by the Government’s Inter-Ministerial Railway Committee. It will take up to two years for the detailed route study and another six months to complete the full feasibility study.

The feasibility of the second part of the railway, from Kabul through Bamyan, Doshe, Kunduse, Niadabob, Hairetan and on to Uzbekistan, will be studied for an additional 18 months with construction to follow.

MCC will build the railway according to the ‘BOOT’ principle – ‘Build, Own, Operate and Transfer’. MCC will own the railway until it has recovered its capital costs through collecting transport fees. The details of the BOOT Agreement will be negotiated once the Government have approved the feasibility study prepared by a independent contractor funded by MCC.

The railway will be designed to have the size and capacity to carry the heaviest of loads – copper cathodes, copper concentrates, and commercial goods for transit, agricultural products, passengers and normal freight.

MCC will employ Afghan labor as much as possible in the construction and operation of the railway. Prior to the transfer of ownership to the Government, MCC will complete a training program for Afghan workers to operate the railway. The training will range from

basic functions to high level executive management.
Estimated costs for the entire railway range from US $ 4 –5 billion. Completion of the entire route could be within five years from starting the detailed route survey.

Benefits
The opening the new railway will bring many benefits to Afghanistan. Costs of goods and services will fall due to lower transportation costs. Huge economic and social development opportunities will arise along the rail route as companies switch from road to rail transport. The mining and extractive industries will become more cost effective along the resource corridor developed with the railway.
Source: Ministry of Mines, 2010-09-22

Kabul railway parcel stamp

The Trains on Railway Parcel Stamps & Railway Letter Stamps of the World pages of the Aphabetilately website includes a picture of a 1923 issue of a 2 paisa railway parcel stamp from the railway to Darulaman. A paisa was a subbdivison of the Afghan rupee used in the 1920s.

The stamp is described as “small quantity issued, no used copies seen”, citing page 29 of Patterson, presumably Afghanistan: Its Twentieth Century Postal Issues by Frank E Patterson III (New York; The Collectors Club, 1964).

The logo is the national emblem of Afghanistan, first used during the reign of King Amanullah and now in the centre of the current national flag. It shows a mosque, with the mihrab (the niche indicating the direction of Mecca) and a minbar (pulpit), with a royal shako (hat) above. The rays forming eight points were inspired by the 19th century Ottoman Imperial standards, and the shape changed from a circle to an oval in 1921, according to the Afghanistan 1919-1928 section of the Flags Of The World website.

Kabul railway coach photo

Abandoned railway coach in Kabul

Google’s archive of photos from Life has this one (above) captioned “Deserted Afghan railway car after failure to begin rail system”.

Dated 1938 in the caption, the picture shows an overgrown bogie coach from the short-lived narrow gauge railway which ran for 7 km between Kabul and Darulaman.

The number painted at each end is “2” – a vehicle number, or a class number? The coach is noticeably longer than one in labeled “1” in this picture below, which was taken by Wilhelm Rieck in 1923 and is said to show the first train, so perhaps it is a class number, with the bigger coach being second class.

The Life photo shows another coach at the back, apparently a lighter colour, which is presumably the first class car. But is there a third vehicle as well, in front of that one?

This picture below appeared in the February 1930 issue of the German magazine UHU, and shows two coaches plus some wagons.

Train at Darulaman

Amazingly, the locomotives have survived, though only the underframes of the coaches remain.

China – Kabul rail plan in the Daily Telegraph

China extends influence into Central Asia, says a report about railway building in China by Malcolm Moore in the Daily Telegraph of 18 October 2008.

The move will connect Xinjiang to railway lines as far off as Moscow and Tehran and a direct route is also being planned through the Hindu Kush to Kabul. The lines will open Central Asia to Chinese goods and companies, and will serve as conduits for oil and petrol to be brought back. Source: Daily Telegraph 2008-10-18 (from the printed version – the online version has minor differences)

This Afghan line is presumbly related to the copper mine project. A schematic map in the printed version of the newspaper shows a railway continuing onwards from Kabul to Tehran. Other plans have suggested a line from the existing railhead at Hayratan to Herat, then to Iran over the line which is now under construction.

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.