Khyber Railway photos at the British Museum

A couple of photos of the Khyber Railway at the British museum website. As is all too common in Britain, the terms and conditions of the website are written in complicated legalese and don’t really give a clear answer to the question “can I use the image on my own website?”, so here are links instead.

Bagiari Cutting through the Khyber Pass

Photograph of a railway engine [2287] stopped in a narrow defile in the Khyber Pass (NWFP, Pakistan) with two persons standing next to it, one a local man and the other a European identified in the caption as Dr E S Appleby. A third local man stands on the front of the engine itself.

Photograph of a railway engine [2287] stopped at Jamrud Station (NWFP, Pakistan) at the eastern end of the Khyber Pass. Dr E S Appleby and ‘Guard’ Garlick said to be in the scene. The station name is visible in the photo.

Opening of the Khyber railway

The UK’s National Army Museum has this rather good photo of The opening of the Khyber railway, 1925. Photograph by Randolph Bezzant Holmes (1888-1973), India, North West Frontier, 1925. NAM Image Number 118645.

The text says:

The Khyber Pass Railway from Jamrud, near Peshawar, to the Afghan border near Landi Kotal was opened on 4 November 1925. Built to allow easier movement of troops to the frontier, the railway climbed more than 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) through 34 tunnels and 92 bridges, and culverts to reach Landi Kotal.

RAF on the Afghan border

(no trains in this post!)


“ON THE AFGHAN BORDER – Air-Marshal Sir John Steel inspects the Bomber Squadron R.A.F. at Risalpur.”

Air Marshal Sir John Steel inspects the line of planes at the Royal Air Force (RAF) base, Risalpur, India. Formation of planes flying over Khyber Pass – problem bordering area between India and Afghanistan. Several shots of the planes in the air.


Hawker Hearts – early biplanes.

Several shots of the aircraft in flight over snow covered mountains in Afghanistan. RAF (Royal Air Force) man handle plane at base on the North West frontier. Shots of aircraft coming into land at the base. More shots of planes in-flight.

(Hawker Heart should presumably be Hawker Hart.)

Khyber Ropeway at Ali Masjid

I recently acquired a postcard entitled “Alimusjid Fort with Ropeway, Khyber Pass”, published by Mela Ram & Sons of Peshawar in the 1920s.

This aerial ropeway carried freight from the railhead at Jamrud to British military posts in the Khyber Pass during the period between the Third Afghan War and the opening of the Khyber railway.

1920s postcard showing Ali Masjid fort and the Khyber Pass ropeway

The ropeway’s history has been somewhat ignored in comparison to the railway. I have been (very slowly) doing some research at various libraries, and am putting together an article which should appear on this website in due course.

If anyone knows anything about the ropeway or the Khyber Ropeway Company (the army unit which operated it) then do please get in touch. I guess it is pretty much beyond living memory now, but someone might have heard some stories, read their grandfather’s diary or have found some old photos of it tucked away.

(Also, do ropeway historical societies/publications/enthusiasts exist?)

Khyber Pass railway tunnel photo

A photo of the Khyber Pass railway from the Railway Gazette International archives.

On the back of the picture is a handwritten caption: “On the Khyber Railway – a push trolly on a down grade entering a tunnel, after it has already passed through the top tunnel. P.W.R.”.

PWR is presumably Pakistan Western Railway. The back of the picture has a 30 March 1962 date stamp; this might be when the picture was developed or when the magazine received it, rather than when the picture was taken.

Edmund Rich’s Kabul River Railway archive

Bonhams auction 19952 on 4 December 2012 included this lot 283, which sold for £3750.


A very good archive representing the military career of Edmund Rich (1874-1937), an officer of the Royal Engineers and surveyor, mostly on the North-West Frontier and in Burma (at first in conjunction with the Survey of India and latterly as one of its directors), also relating to survey in South Persia during World War I, and with the British forces in Southern Russia in 1919, comprising a series of photographs albums, loose photographs, autograph letters, orders, draft reports, maps ephemera, etc., together with a small quantity of photographs, letters and documents relating to Rich’s ancestors, those of his wife Aileen Owen (d.1918), and their son (quantity)

In 1905 Rich was sent to Peshawar in charge of No. 12 Party with orders to survey the sensitive area north of Kohat Pass. This work lasted four years and included the Bazar Valley and Mohmand campaigns of 1908. The archive contains Rich’s alternative survey for the Kabul River Railway which resulted in the cancellation of the line then under construction, and the dismantling of track and bridges already in place. 1909-1911 were spent in England (Rich married in 1910).
Source: Bonhams

According to the auction listing, the most substantial of the items include “An album containing titled in manuscript ‘Views of the Khyber Pass…taken chiefly by E.T. Rich when surveying there 1905-1909, approximately 176 gelatin silver prints”.

From this it can be inferred that photos of the Kabul River Railway might well exist.

If you bought this archive, and you happen to read this webpage, is there any chance that I could have a look at it, please? :-)

(a different Edmund Rich was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 13th century, which complicates web searches for any information about this particular one)

Pakistan Railways CEO’s photos

Photos from an online album by retired Pakistani railwayman Kiskhan: “I joined the Pakistan Railway as a junior officer way back in 1968. I rose to become its General Manager and CEO in Jan. 2000 and finally retired in Jun. 2003 at the age of 60.”

The Khyber Pass line. Note the umbrella, and “Coupling to Khyber Pass” headboard:
Through the Khyber Pass

The Pakistan side of the Afghan border at Chaman in 2003:
Chaman - Afghan border 2003