The International Steam Pages

Case Notes - Pakistan 4
Malakwal 2

Terry Case writes about his travels for steam. Further tales will follow from time to time covering more of Australia, India, South Africa, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Click here for the Case Notes Index.

Other Pakistan tales:

Happy New Year! 1st January 1995 and an overnight derailment had prevented some locos from reaching the shed, SGS 2473 was assisting in clearing up operations opposite the West Signal Box.

Winter mornings could see a light frost, as seen here on the same occasion.

Malakwal had plenty of action to entertain fans, unfortunately fans were also a source of entertainment for local kids. Favoured retreats were the signal boxes where I was made welcome or the cool, dark station restaurant which proudly displayed old china, leftovers from more prosperous times.

The West Box was quite busy as it not only controlled departures and arrivals from Sargodha and the branch lines but also the points and crossovers for locomotives going to and from the shed. 

Late afternoon was a good time to visit the box as it was quite busy with locomotives moving off shed, the pilots at work and a number of passenger workings all to be seen. Occasionally over loaded ballast would test the assigned SGS, the locomotive lurching over a series of points before being opened up and it could take quite some time for it to heave its train out of town.

A number of levers required maximum effort to pull them and the points especially caused problems. A crowbar was kept near the door and had to be used to move points as the signalman tugged at the offending lever.

The afternoon arrival from Khusab (R457) was an SPS diagram, on one occasion it rolled in with SGS 2451 and a van at the rear, I was told they were working back light attached after going out on an unbalanced freight. The SGS was in poor condition but had a loud exhaust that was noted as it pulled the empty stock out past the signal box, prior to propelling over the crossovers into the carriage sidings. The Khusab trains loaded 5/6 coaches plus vans. 

Another passenger working I liked to watch was the late afternoon passenger to Gharibwal. The SGS charged out of the station with people hanging on to the frames of the water tank and guards van, it only loaded to 2 coaches and vans, which was never enough to accommodate the passengers. Sometimes it would have another SGS and guards van at the rear, they would return on a night freight.

This is a Pakistan commuter train! SGS 2471 heads train 4 bound for for Gharibwal on 31st December 1994.

The 16.35 to Sargodha looked good departing behind its SPS while there was some diesel action, the Bhera branch used railcars which were later replaced with light lines diesel power. Amazingly the elderly steam locomotives outlived India’s modern WL class built in the 1960s, which saw bg steam out.

Children, relatives of the signalmen and drivers would drop by returning home from school to their homes in the Railway Colony. The lamp lighter would come into the box to gossip before attending the many semaphores for the night. By 17.00, the box was filled with the sound of roosting birds chirping as they settled in the ceiling. This was a good time to watch as a blood red sun sank behind the loco depot, but you had to evade flights of birds arriving to their roosts.

On 5th January 1995, the early evening shift had begun in the West Signal Box, in one corner was a large hookah and bubble which was brought out for shared use during lulls in traffic. 

Hookah time.

The crossovers at the West Box, as SGS 2471 heads for Gharibwal on 31st December 1994:

I saw Malakwal’s steam breakdown crane in use in January 1995. Built by Ransome & Rapier 1922 it was being shunted out of the depot yard as a fire was lit and then I saw it behind a SGS pounding towards Sargodha.

I first visited the East Box in 1989, I had met the signalman who was about to go on duty and he invited me in. The kids followed us and undeterred stood under the box yelling for me to take their photo, throwing ballast up in the air to catch attention! The signalman had just finished explaining all the levers and track diagram controlled by the box when he had a phone call to say the Station Master was on his way. I thought at first he was teasing me and then tensed up expecting trouble, instead the station master curled up on the cushion by one of the windows and asked about Australia and how the video worked.
The East Box controlled the mainline to Lala Musa and the freight yards, it only required one signalman to control the locomotive movements. A diversion was watching SGS 2505 on a permanent way train which had arrived from one of the branches as it shunted its train across the main line and propelled it into the yard. 

Rob Dickinson