Kabul quarry railway plan

And we are going to put down twelve miles of railway to reach a marble quarry, where the Ameer is going to quarry marble to build a new Cabul with.

Frank H Clemence, in an interview with the Liverpool Post which is quoted in the article “A Cheshire man at Cabul” in the Cheshire Observer of Saturday 20 January 1894.

Does anyone know whether this railway was ever built?

1950s Afghan coal mine film

“1950s Afghanistan Coal Mine, Miners At Work, Industry – Rare 16mm Footage” from Kinolibrary, which is “an independent archive film agency based in East London. Supplying high quality, rare and inspiring archive footage to documentary makers, ad agencies and museums”.

The video features some narrow gauge V-tipper wagons.

Museum photos and an angle iron plan

We saw the old trains of Kabul as well, which was very cool. I knew there was an original railway here but I didn’t know where or if it was still in Kabul.

A Day at the Afghanistan National Museum is an article by Jim Rentfrow at the website of the Green Gem Foundation, “new non-profit organization established to promote the development of ethical gemstones“.

He describes a visit to the museum on 17 December 2011, with some good photos of the “non-plinthed” Henschel steam locos, which along with the remains of the coaches seem to have gained a roof over them, which is good news.

Angle iron

Angle Iron Rail Project is Green Gem Foundation project to fund a “rudimentary rail system” based on trolleys running on angle iron tracks to ease work in gem mines in Kunduz, Nuristan or elsewhere. Apparently coal and peridot mines in Pakistan use this system.

Czechoslovakian wagons for the Karkar coal mine

The Williams Afghan Media Project has a picture in the Louis and Nancy Hatch Dupree collection of slides which shows narrow gauge coal mine wagons after delivery to Afghanistan.

The caption says These coal cars are from Czechoslavakia and are waiting for locomobile installation. The photo was taken at Pul-i-Khumri and is dated 10/1959.

The end of one wagon is marked, in English “made in Czechoslovakia”, while the ends of others say “Karkar” and writing I can’t quite read, but which may include “Afghanistan via Termez”(?). The wagons also have numbers, if anyone is into extreme wagon spotting…

There is also a photo captioned There are Coal Union lorries coming from Karkar on the right side, taken at Doab to Pul-I-Khumree in 1959.

More details of the Afghan coal mine railways.

Coal mining loco identification

There is some discussion of the coal mine railways on the Feldbahnforum website; see the Afghanistan Kohlenminen thread from 20 Okt 2010, 14:29 (you may need to register, and it is auf Deutsch).

The locomotive in this photograph is identified as a BND15. The hopper wagons at the mine are apparently the Czechoslovakian JDV (“unified mining car” design), manufactured by Zelezárny Vítkovicé (Vítkovice iron works).

If I have understood the thread correctly, some BND15 locomotives and also one BND30 were supplied to Afghanistan.

“The coal wagon rattles along”

I’ve been gathering some notes on coal mines in Afghanistan – I think there is something quite exciting to report soon – and then all of a sudden the BBC has this: Inside a crumbling Afghan coal mine by Quentin Sommerville, BBC News, Pul-e Khumri, northern Afghanistan.

Complete with pictures of the hand-worked narrow gauge railway.

Video of the railway in action. Keep going to the end for the tippler in action (and an abandoned tank).

More soon…!

Kunduz cotton railway

There was once a narrow-gauge railway in the Consolidated Cotton Company factory at Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.

I can’t find any information about Consolidated Cotton online, but according to USAID: In the 1960s, Kunduz was the home of the Spinzar Cotton Company, which helped to make it one of the wealthiest provinces in Afghanistan. Although the factory is no longer in operation, Kunduz maintains steadily improving infrastructure, with a plentiful water supply and high level of literacy.1

Spinzar which means white gold when translated into English, was formed in 1936 by a group of traders. It was sold to the state-owned Miley Bank of Afghanistan in 1944, ultimately passing to the controlled of the Ministry of Light Industry and Foodstuffs.2 Spinzar would appear to still exist, and it seems possible that it might be the same thing as, or a successor to, Consolidated Cotton.

The Consolidated Cotton Company of Kunduz, 63 per cent of whose stock was acquired by the Ministry of Finance in 1955, is gradually adjusting to provide a larger ginned cotton base for Afghanistan’s textile industry and for exports. In 1957, it replaced the old gins at Kunduz with eight new British models each having a capacity of 1500 pounds per hour and capable of extracting up to 37 per cent by weight of lint from long-staple cotton. It has also replaced or increased the number of gins in the outlying towns and plans to add several new ginning centers to its operations. But the most spectacular improvements are those being carried out in Kunduz itself, a rapidly growing city with a present population of perhaps 30,000, where the Company has employed Unimac of Austria to build new warehouse and operating facilities including equipment for making cooking oil, margarine and soap from cottonseed oil. The old operations of the plant have largely been modernized with the installation of air-suction and blower systems to carry the raw cotton from the storage sheds directly to the ginning plant and to feed the ginned cotton automatically to the cleaners and the hydraulic baling press. A narrow gauge railway then transports the bales to either of two warehouses with an 8000-bale capacity each.
Data on plant and operations from interviews with Messrs. Fox and Meyer, Austrian and German engineers, at the Cotton Company plant in Kunduz, September 25-26, 1957.

Source: The Kabul, Kunduz, and Helmand Valleys and the national economy of Afghanistan 3


  1. Afghanistan’s Provinces Kunduz, USAID website
  2. Afghanistan Rebuilding Agricultural Markets in Afghanistan Cotton Production Assessment, Chemonics International Inc for US Agency for International Development, Kabul, July 2004
  3. Aloys Arthur Michel, The Kabul, Kunduz, and Helmand Valleys and the national economy of Afghanistan, (National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA, 1959) p113

Jabal Seraj cement works railway

In the late 1950s an industrial narrow gauge railway served a cement works at Jabal Saraj, about 60 km north of Kabul.

According to An Historical Guide to Kabul1 The little town of Jabal Seraj is built around Afghanistan’s first hydroelectric station which was installed during the reign of Amir Habibullah (r. 1901-1919) by the American engineer, A.C. Jewett. There is also a large textile mill and a cement plant at Jabal Seraj.

One final industrial installation must be mentioned here, however. This is the newly-completed cement plant at Jabal Seraj. The 100-metric ton per day mill, built under the $5 million loan extended by Czechoslovakia. in 1954, was located at Jabal Seraj after a good deal of discussion regarding the proper location of Afghanistan’s first cement plant. Surveys made by an industrial engineer on the United Nations Technical Assistance Mission had recommended that the mill be built at Pul-i-Khumri, near the Kar Kar coal mines and with abundant local supplies of good limestone and gypsum. A ready market for cement is also to be found in the Kunduz Valley. However, the Ministry of Mines and Industries decided that the Kabul market should take precedence even if it was necessary to bring coal from north of the Hindu Kush to supply the plant. A belt of semi-metamorphosed (crystalline) limestone had been located by the German firm of Kochs in the folded and faulted strata just north of Jabal Seraj where the Salang River cuts through the sedimentary formations. So the plant was assembled, a small-gauge railway constructed and a quarry opened. However, the initial supply of gypsum for the mill was brought all the way from Pul-i-Khumri, while the extremely friable coal of the Ishpushta mine, located just north of the main Hindu Kush range and near the Great North Road which follows the Bamian and Surkhab Rivers, was being trucked in over the 9800-foot Shibar Pass and over almost 125 miles of unimproved roads. At the end of February, 1958, the plant had built up a four-months supply, calculated on the basis of from 24 to 30 tons of coal per 100 tons of cement, and was just beginning to operate its limestone crushers preparatory to making the first batch of cement. Enough gypsum was on hand for six-months’ operation, calculated at three tons per 100 tons of cement. But it appeared highly desirable for the plant to develop a local source of gypsum as quickly as possible. Limestone and water are available in sufficient quantity, but the cement mill also runs the risk of a shortage of electric power since it will require 12,000 kwh per 100 tons of cement. The electricity and coal needs of the Jabal Seraj cement factory will be reconsidered under “Power Resources and Requirements” of Afghan industry in Chapter X and related to the hope of building a second Czech-financed cement mill, with a capacity of 200 metric tons per day, at Pul–i-Khumri.

lnformation on the cement plant is from an interview of February 8 1958 with Mr Puchek one of the Czechoslovakia engineers at Jabal Seraj

Source: The Kabul, Kunduz, and Helmand Valleys and the national economy of Afghanistan2


  1. Nancy Hatch, An Historical Guide to Kabul, (Dupree, Kabul, 2nd edition 1971), quoted at aisk.org
  2. Aloys Arthur Michel, The Kabul, Kunduz, and Helmand Valleys and the national economy of Afghanistan, (National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA, 1959) pp70-1