Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The Gauges

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There are different gauges, that is, the width between the two railway tracks for the train. In Pakistan we had four.
Decauville. The smallest was the Decauville track, 2 feet wide, that was used in the early 1960s only for a short time and an even shorter distance to haul equipment. It was subsequently dismantled. I believe the train in the Chhanga Manga forest is the same gauge. Narrow Gauge. This had a width of 2 feet 6 inches. There were several lines. The ZVR between Bostan (northeast of Quetta) to Zhob (Fort Sandeman) was the showpiece of this gauge in Pakistan. At 319 km, it was the longest stretch in this gauge in the entire subcontinent. It also had the honour of running through Kan Mehtarzai at 2224 metres (7290 feet) above the sea which was the highest in the world for NG.

There were NG lines from Mari Indus to Bannu and Tank. Another from Kohat to Thal.

Metre Gauge. This measured one metre or 3.3 feet. It was used in Sindh to connect with the Jodhpur-Bikaner Railway in Rajasthan. There was one from Mirpur Khas to Khokhropar on the border. And there was the Mirpur Khas-Jhudo-Jamesabad loop. All NG and MG services were closed down between 1986 and 1989. The reason was that the locomotives had become unserviceable. Compare the smaller gauges in India where Tata kept them going with indigenously manufactured diesel locomotives.

Broad Gauge. The subcontinent was given this gauge of 5 feet 6 inches by Raj railway engineers even when Europe was favouring the Standard Gauge of 4 feet 8 inches. In Pakistan all main and branch lines work on this gauge.

Related: Wheels of Empire

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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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