The Khyber Railway, India

The Locomotive, March 15th 1926, Page 80.

The vision of an ‘Afghan Express’ leaving Bombay for Cabul [Kabul] on arrival of the British mail steamer has been all but realized by the opening of the latest addition to the Indian trunk railway system, the extension of the main lines of the N.W. Ry. from Jamrud to within about a mile and a half of the Afghan border. The new line is 27-¾ miles in length and is a wonderful triumph for British engineering skill. Leaving Jamrud at a level of 1,496 feet above the sea, it reaches its summit at Landi Kotal, 3,494 ft., in a distance of 21 miles, and thence falls to the terminus at Landi Khana, 2,622 ft., in a further distance of 4-½ miles mostly at 1 in 25, whence a good road enables communication being maintained with Cabul, 115 miles distant, and the interior of Afghanistan.

As already mentioned in these pages the new railway has been constructed on the 5ft. 6in. gauge to the enlarged dimensions recently adopted by the Railway Board for all new Indian railways, and one of our photos shows a sample covered goods wagon built to the size now permissible with a load limit of 31-½ tons, coupled to a standard wagon of 22 tons capacity.

The view of the railway, taken near Landi Khana, gives a good idea of the rugged country it traverses; this spot is close to the Afghan frontier. There are thirty-four tunnels aggregating three miles in length and numerous bridges, with a viaduct of some importance at Bagiari, near Jamrud.

There are four reversing stations, two below the jaws of the Jamrud end of the pass; one beyond the point where the line passes from the main valley to the Tora Tigga Valley by a tunnel, and the fourth at Landi Khana.

Torghundi rail terminal in 1960

A photo of a page of an unknown bilingual book showing photos of the “railhead at Torghandi” and the construction of a “Torghundi-Kandahar concrete highway”. Someone has added “1960” to the electronic image; presumably the date of the book.

The railway across the Afghan border from the USSR (now Turkmenistan) might have been built as part of the USSR – Herat – Kandahar road project.

Anyone know the name of the book?

King Amanullah crossing the Polish-Soviet border

Border between between Poland and the USSR decorated with a banner saying Hello Shah of Afghanistan
The border between between Poland and the USSR decorated with a banner saying “Hello Shah of Afghanistan” when King Amanullah of Afghanistan passed through by train on his way between Warsaw and Moscow on 2 May 1928.

1922 railway map of Poland

1922 railway map of Poland from

Amanullah left Warsaw1 by train on the morning of Wednesday 2 May 1928.

Białystok station was decorated with Polish and Afghan flags. The visit of an exotic guest attracted people to the station, but the police only allowed people with special passes on to the platform. Representatives of administrative and military authorities, social organizations and the press started arriving at the station at noon.

King Amanullah at Białystok

The train arrived on time 12.50, as a military band played the Afghan national anthem. Amanullah appeared at the window in civilian clothes, when General Sosnkowski and Colonel Wieniawa-Długoszewski alighted onto the platform. Local dignatiories boarded, and Deputy Voivode Skrzyński entered the coach and welcomed the king in French; he answered in his own language, expressing thanks for their best wishes and admiration for the Polish army.2

The train then continuted to the Polish border town of Stołpce (now Stowbtsy in Belarus), where Amanullah changed to a Soviet train and was due to enter the Soviet Union at 20.00. The Times reported that the wooden arch spanning the tracks a yard inside the Soviet border had been specially decorated,3 as seen in the photograph.

There were further speeches, guards of honour and anthems at Negoreloye and Minsk.

Amanullah arrived in Moscow on the morning of Thursday 3 May 1928, and went to a villa belonging to the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs where he was to be accomodated. The King then visited Mikhail Kalinin and others, Lenin’s mausoleum and an official reception given by Kalinin.4

  1. Polish illustrated news coverage of Amanullah’s visit to Poland
  2. Król Afganistanu w Białymstoku, Włodzimierz Jarmolik, Kurier Poranny, 20 Febraury 2010
  3. “King Amanullah Leaves For Moscow.” Times, London, England, 3 May 1928: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 9 March 2016.
  4. “Afghan Royal Visit To Russia.” Times, London, England, 4 May 1928: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 9 March 2016.

Map of the country between Sind and Candahar showing the course of the proposed Railway

Third Afghan War 100th anniversary

Follow the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Third Anglo-Afghan War in real(ish) time on Twitter at @ThirdAfghanWar.

Disclaimers: I’m no expert, so some of the details may be a bit out. In particular, the reported dates of some events, especially on the Afghan side, vary between sources or are simply a bit vague. The sources used are pretty much entirely from the British perspective. Obviously things from the time might not reflect modern attitudes. Basically, don’t take it too seriously!