Bridge over River Soan: Rawalpindi Mianwali Line
07 March 2013
The line south from Attock city to Daudkhel and Mianwali was meant to be the direct connection between Rawalpindi and the ferry of Darya Khan connecting with Dera Ismail Khan. In that way, it was another strategic line. But it does not feature in any history of the North Western Railway.
The reason for its obscurity is not peculiar, however. When work on this line commenced in the mid-1890s, the situation in Afghanistan had about settled, if settled that country was ever going to be. Moreover, the connection to Darya Khan by way of Malakwal and Khushab had been commissioned in 1887 taking much of the importance of this direct line from Rawalpindi. In a way, this lonely little stretch of railway was stillborn, so far as its main strategic purpose went.
Time passed and with independence, it became just another line connecting local stations by passenger train. However, today there are two express trains running this line between Peshawar and Karachi. As with most such branch lines, it underwent little up gradation and as late as the end of the 20th century, the maximum permissible speed on this line was only sixty kilometres an hour.
For the traveller in a hurry to get from place to place, this slow line is tedium. But for the railway buff, there is much to appreciate and enjoy. Three magnificent brick and steel structures bridge the Nandna, Shakardara and Soan rivers. Of these, the last carries the rails some forty metres above the stream bed and is the highest railway bridge in the country.
Some of its stations, far from any road head, keep the aura of the romantic past. In their free moments – and of these there are plenty on this line – the masters and their crews swap tales with visitors. Tales of haunting and of mysterious murders; of attempted robbery and of eloping lovers attempting to flee murderous relatives. Here the only link with the outside world for station masters is the two-way railway radio network and the occasional train that passes through. Other than that, they may well be living in the 19th century.
However, few outside the railway even know of the magnificent heritage sitting lost and forlorn on this forgotten section. As they awoke to the need of restoring the pretty station of Attock Khurd and turning the one at Golra into a museum, railwaymen will one day surely recognise the merit of the architecture on this line. When it gets into public knowledge, railway buffs will venture the slow journey out of Rawalpindi come hear the tales of mystery from the station masters of this line.
posted by Salman Rashid @ 11:24 AM,
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