The end of metre-gauge steam in Pakistan

IMG_3757EXACTLY 15 years ago today (Wednesday, 1 June 2005) I spent 11 hours crossing the Thar Desert in the Sindh Province of Pakistan aboard one of that country’s last three surviving metre-gauge steam services, the twice-monthly 07.00 service MG-2 Down from Mirpur Khas to Nawabshah Junction.

Hauled by immaculate SP Class loco 138 (Kerr Stuart, 1921) our progress was always going to be pretty slow, with a timetabled arrival at the end of the 81-mile (129km) trip of 13.40. But after being halted in the searing 46C heat of the desert for several hours while the track ahead of us was repaired, we only made it to Nawabshah at about 18.00. Continue reading “The end of metre-gauge steam in Pakistan”

A trip on the world’s most expensive narrow gauge railway

IMG_2715What must be one of the busiest and certainly the most expensive narrow gauge railway in the world is a 43km (27 mile) stretch of 3ft (914mm) gauge line which carries the vast majority of visitors to the world famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru.

This is a delightful 90-minute trip down the Sacred Valley, but with a single ticket costing around $75 (£55) it is one of the most obscene rip-offs any tourist could be faced with, and a sad reflection of the privatisation process in Peru, which saw the line handed to Perurail – partly British-owned – in 1999. Continue reading “A trip on the world’s most expensive narrow gauge railway”

Pullman luxury in Peru

IMG_3174Rail travel in Peru is not something that the majority of its population ever gets to experience, but for the tourist wanting a bit of affordable luxury there is nothing to beat a day aboard the Titicaca Train on its thrice-weekly journey between Puno and Cusco.

Regular passenger services along this 385 km (240 mile) route ceased many years ago, and remaining freight traffic seems sparse, so the principal traffic for operator Perurail today is this service, and the even more up-market Belmond Andean Explorer, whose two-day itinerary includes a long branch off this route to Arequipa. Continue reading “Pullman luxury in Peru”

Sri Lankan railway miscellany

IMG_2400.jpgSri Lanka’s extensive broad gauge (5’ 6”) railway network not only boasts a great deal of classic mechanical signalling (see my earlier “Eye Kandy” post) but also offers some magnificently scenic rail journeys at absurdly cheap fares, and an interesting variety of rolling stock, imported from places as far afield as the US and Japan.

The island’s 937-mile (1,500km) network stretches from Jaffna in the north to Galle and Matara on its southern coast, with a route following the west coast northwards for some 85 miles from Colombo to Puttalam, the “Main Line” heading north-east from the capital to Kandy and on into the Tea Country to a terminus at Badulla, and other branch lines reaching the east coast at Batticaloa and Trincomalee.

Railways on the island were introduced by the British colonial government in the 1860s, and, for those with an interest in British traction, there are a couple of classes of diesel locomotives currently in service amongst the island’s varied fleet. Continue reading “Sri Lankan railway miscellany”

Eye Kandy

IMG_2795Take a three hour train trip from Colombo’s Fort station to Sri Lanka’s second city, Kandy, and there are plenty of reminders of the amazing legacy which Victorian railway pioneers left to this former outpost of the British Empire. While the train itself is likely to be one of the modern Chinese-built S12 diesel units dating from 2012, the bargain priced ticket (190 Rupees second class, or just under £1.00) will be a classic Edmondson card, like all the tickets issued at ticket offices throughout the country.FullSizeRender.jpg

For the first 90 minutes of the 75-mile journey there is nothing too special to see, other than three unidentifiable steam locomotives standing at the depot just east of the capital, but things start to change when you get to Polgahawela Junction, 45.5 miles from Columbo and the place where the northern route towards Jaffna and Mannar diverges, with the first opportunity to see the classic lower quadrant semaphore signals that are a feature of the route from here to Kandy. Continue reading “Eye Kandy”