Chaman – Spin Boldak railway construction reportedly begins

Pakistan Railways has started work on a project to lay an 11 km railway line from Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan, SAMAA TV reported on 5 November 2021. “The construction material is being transported to the area to lay the track which will extend to the zero line, SAMAA TV‘s Saeed Achakzai reported on Friday. Pakistan Railways officials told SAMAA TV that the rails would soon be laid on the sleepers. The most recent effort to construct the Chaman-Spin Boldak line was launched last December when Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed announced the revival of the project.”

There is also some history, citing this website :-)

Chaman, Shela Bagh and Gulistan stations in 1895

Photo taken by William Henry Jackson and published in Harper’s Weekly, 1895, now available on the Library of Congress website.

Chaman station
Railway station at Chaman, near Kojak Tunnel.

Gulistan station
Gulistan Station on the Great Military Railway.

Gulistan station
Although labelled as “Gulistan Station on the Great Military Railway, at entrance to Kojak Tunnel”, this is actually Shela Bagh station.

Paris conference discusses Afghan railways

A Ministry of Mines statement on the 4 July 2011 conference in Paris.

Conference on Afghan Railways development held in Paris

A comprehensive plan for building railways in Afghanistan based on economic criteria was welcomed at a special conference in Paris.

The Conference, organized by the Afghan and French governments, was attended by representative of the G8 group, international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, European Union, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, India.

The inaugural speech of French Minister of Transport Thierry Mariani, was followed by His Excellency Wahidullah Shahrani, the Afghan Minister of Mines, who presented the plan, designed to facilitate transport of goods between South Asia and Central Asia and revive the historic role of Afghanistan as the transport hub of the region.

Mr. Shahrani clarified National and Regional Resource Corridors Program drafted by the Ministries of Mines, Transport and Civil Aviation, and Public Works. The Program was warmly received by the French Minister of Transport and the participants.

Representative of G8 and international organizations expressed their willingness to consider giving financial and technical support to the proposals for the Mazar-i-sharif-Andkhoi, Kandahar-Chaman, Kabul-Torkham and Kabul-Mazar-i-sharif railways projects financially and technically, and emphasized the need for a clear organizational structure and railway management regime.

Railways are vital for Afghanistan’s development and the exploitation of Afghan mineral resources. Accordingly the comprehensive railway plan has emerged from coordination by the Ministry of Mines with other relevant organizations.

Mr Shahrani, in his dual role as the Minister of Mines and Head of the Infrastructure Cluster, was accompanied by Engineer Abdul Quddus Hamidi the Minister of Public Works, Dr. Daud Ali Najafi Acting Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation, and Mustafa Mastoor Deputy Minister of Finance.

Source: Ministry of Mines, 2011-07-09

Chaman in 1896

The Royal Geographical Society Picture Library has a photograph showing Railway & telegraph plant for Kandahar / Defence tower & barracks for troops / Railway terminus at Charman, taken by AC Yate in 1896.

The preview is a bit too small to see very much, but it might show the railway stores which were allegedly in place ready for rapid construction of a line across the border from British India to Kandahar in the event that Imperial Russia made a move on Herat.

There is also a view of the Railway station at Chaman: tug of war – Pathan v Punjabi Mohammedan (2nd) Baluchis in Pakistan, also by AC Yate and dated 1896-97.

Presumably the photographer is the Captain AC Yate who wrote The Transcaspian Railway and the Power of the Russians to Occupy Herat in 1891, arguing for building a railway to Sistan (the Afghanistan/Iran/Pakistan border area), rather than Kandahar: The press and the public are at this moment advocating the extension of our railways to Kandahar; but that this could be done without precipitating a rupture of our relations with the Amir is doubtful.

The RGS has various other interesting photos – a search for railway brings up shots of colonial (and other) lines, and there are views of the Bolan Pass line.

Pakistan – Afghanistan feasibility studies

Peshawar-Jalalabad railway route

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Railways (PR) has completed a feasibility report of the Chaman-Qandahar railway track and it has now requested the World Bank to assist in the feasibility of the Peshawar-Jalalabad route.

Director Planning Ministry of Railways Aftab Akbar told APP that the PR’s top priority is rehabilitation, upgradation of infrastructure and lying of new tracks with an aim to be a hub of economic activities for regional countries.

[More about Pakistan Railways’ plans]

Source: The News International, 2011-03-28

In January 2010 a Chaman – Kandahar study was reported as having been submitted to the Afghan government.

The Khojak rope inclines

There is an article about the Khojak Rope Inclines at the Funimag website, which covers funicular railways.

The Khojak tunnel is (now) in Pakistan, on the railway from Quetta to Chaman on the Afghan border.

The defense and the supply of Chaman could not wait for these three years of digging Khojak tunnel. The Indian government decided to build a temporary line of communication, quick and inexpensive to cross the mountains until the end of the work in the Khojak tunnel (1889-1891).

The temporary railway line was built in 1888 and crossed the summit chain Khwaja Amran mountains with the help of four inclined cable railways which allowed to move locomotives and carriages from one side to the other side of the mountain.

Quetta to Kandahar feasibility study

Feasibility report of starting railway service from Quetta to Kandahar okayed

QUETTA: The feasibility report of starting railway service from Quetta to Kandahar has been prepared and sent to the Afghan government and its response is awaited.

This was stated by deputy superintendent of Pakistan Railway Balochistan while addressing a press conference at his office here on Saturday.
Source: Online-International News Network, 2010-01-17

This is the Chaman – Spin Boldak – Kandahar line, which has been under discussion for a very long time.

Kandahar railway on War Office map is an online resource for anyone interested in knowing more about the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878-1880. It is also the home of the Second Afghan War database project, a collection of names, family histories and stories concerning those who participated in this lesser-known campaign from the days Queen Victoria’s British Empire.

Map showing proposed Quetta - Kandahar railway, 1895

The website has this 1895 War Office map, which, interestingly, shows the never-built railway from the Indian (now Pakistani) border at Chaman to Kandahar.

British reconnaissance parties looking for a route for the proposed railway had reached Kandahar by December 1879, but they were in enemy country and so it was difficult to identify an optimal route. The British authorities realised it would not be possible for the railway to reach even as far as Quetta before the end of the war, and so the work was given a lower priority. When a new cabinet was formed under Gladstone in April 1880 they put the planned extension to Kandahar on hold.

Pakistan Railways still runs to Chaman, and plans for an extension as far as Spin Boldak resurface every so often – it even appears on some more recent maps, though it has never existed.

Are you there Moriarty?

And finally… while Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick Dr Watson may not really have been in the Second Afghan War, it seems a Moriarty was

Afghan fruit by rail

An article on the rail transport of Afghan fruit to markets in India.

Fresh Fruits from Afghanistan to India!

I fondly remember as a youngster – in late 1940’s and as late as early 50’s – the repeated shouts of burly, awesome Pathan vendors in our ‘mohalla’ in Lucknow: “Fresh luscious grapes from Chaman; red juicy pomegranates from Kandahar; “Buy them now, eat them now, lest you repent!”

But whatever the virtues of the vendors, their assertion about the quality of their products was never in doubt. So with this childhood experience when I read the following lines in P.S.A Berridge’s old classic, “Couplings to the Khyber: The Story of The North Western Railway” I became really nostalgic about the fruits which are certainly no more:

“Built primarily as a strategic line the Chaman Extension Railway served for many years hundreds of tons of luscious fruits — grapes, peaches, and nectarines in particular from Afghanistan found their way to the markets of far-away cities in India. Before 1947, in the summer months, there used to run every day a train with its ice-packaged refrigerator vans destined for places as far away as Calcutta and Madras.”

Let me now construct this interesting rail transportation story which has a human angle too.


Source: Arunachala Grace, Sacred Power Site of South India, 2009-10-18