Trying to identfy places in Kabul

Does anyone know the location of any areas in or near Kabul which a British visitor in around 1900 might have called Chardchi and something like Indeptai/Indeppe/Indebbe (the handwriting is hard to read)?

They were possibly near the Kabul River and/or Asmai Heights (TV Hill) and/or the former workshops and arsenal.

New York Times on the National Museum of Afghanistan

The New York Times has a very interesting article about the National Museum of Afghanistan, which mentions the steam engines (and links to this website; *waves* to the sudden spike in visitors).

While the emphasis is on the ancient, there are more modern artifacts as well — including several rusting steam locomotives in the gardens. “We have them to remind people that at the end of the 19th century, Afghanistan had railroads, while at the end of the 20th, it did not,” Mr. [museum director Omara Khan] Masoudi said.

Source: Saving Relics, Afghans Defy the Taliban. Rod Nordlandjan, New York Times, 12 January 2014

While there were almost certainly no operational railways in the closing days of the 20th century, were there any at the end of the 19th century? It is possible there was something in a factory in Kabul, but I’m not sure whether there were any others. The steam locomotives in the National Museum of Afghanistan date from the 1920s.

“Two ancient steam engines…”

Some things that touring President Eisenhower and his retinue didn’t have a chance to see during their six-hour trip to Kabul last December:
The country’s only railroad – well, railroad equipment. Two ancient steam engines and tenders given Afghanistan by the late Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. The train used to make miniature runs from the Parliament building to the palaces in the center of town. Now there’s not even a track and the engines are kept as curiosity pieces.

Source: Contrasts Plentiful In Afghanistan, AI Goldberg of AP’s Moscow staff, in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune of 1 February 1960.

Another mention of there only being two locomotives in the past – however today there are three locomotives in the museum. It might be noted that the Kaiser had abdicated in 1918, while the locomotives date from 1923.

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.


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.

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.