The International Steam Pages

Once upon a time, long ago,
Work Stained and Weary
The Oil Burners of Pakistan's Metre Gauge, February 1985

Wilson Lythgoe has been circulating friends with some steam pictures taken some time back and with his permission and encouragement they are reproduced on these pages and will be added to from time to time. Click here for the index.

The Pakistan metre gauge system was based at Mirpur Khas at the end of the 42 mile broad gauge branch from Hyderabad (This itself had been regauged from metre - this system being part of the original Jodhpur Railway. RD). From here there was a 77 mile main line to the Indian border at Khokhropar, an 80 mile line north to the broad gauge at Nawabshah and a 104 mile loop line. The loop line started at Jamrao Junction, 5 miles from Mirpur Khas, and headed south before swinging north and finishing at Pithoro Junction, itself only 22 miles from Mirpur Khas on the line to Khokhropar.

No suitable accommodation was available at Mirpur Khas so each day I took the dawn train, hauled by an XA class Pacific, from Hyderabad out to Mirpur Khas. CRJ at the time said: "Mirpur Khas was suffering from an extreme shortage of power, particularly of 2-8-2s; only three of these appeared to be available for line service. In consequence, the 4-6-0s were working trains over all the lines and the service parted further and further from the timetable as each day progressed, trains leaving as locomotives from arrivals became available." This meant it was risky to journey too far from Mirpur Khas in case I missed the last train back to Hyderabad!

The sun is still at at a low angle as YD 734 gets underway from Mirpur Khas with the first train of the day: MG2 to Khokhropar. 734 was one of the more modern engines on the system: one of a batch of 25 2-8-2s built in 1952 by Nippon Sharyo for the East Pakistan Railways. A number were later transferred to West Pakistan and the Mirpur Khas system.

I joined train MG22 for the run north to Nawabshah. Five hours later, at journey's end, train engine SP 127 receives some attention from the hammer. 127 was a 4-6-0 built in 1914 by Hannoversche Maschinenbau. From Nawabshah I caught a broad gauge train back to Hyderabad.

The next morning YD 732, another of the 1952 batch, shunts at Mirpur Khas.

YD 734 was again on MG2 this time seen leaving Jamrao Junction.

An hour later and the day's timekeeping delays had started. Heading south onto the loop-line, for an anticlockwise circuit, SP 127 has only travelled the 5 miles to Jamrao and is already over an hour late. The red paint on the first coach means the train was carrying mail and that section was reserved for postal workers.

Still at Jamrao and YD 521 waits to cross M 63. The YD is Mirpur Khas bound while the M is heading out to Pithoro before commencing a clockwise circuit of the loop-line. 521 was a 1932 product of the Ajmer Works in Central India whilst the M was a North British built in 1913.

My best metre gauge shots were the low sun, early morning ones. This time SP 138, a Kerr Stuart product from 1921, waits to join its train at Mirpur Khas.

Two YDs at Mirpur Khas. On the left is 519, from the Vulcan Foundry in 1929, and today's rostered engine for MG4: the second train of the day to head out on the main line. YD 732 is again the yard shunt.

I travelled as far as Pithoro behind 519. It then headed further east while I waited for another train to take me back to Mirpur Khas.

The line from Mirpur Khas to the Indian border was eventually regauged to broad. The remaining metre gauge lines soldiered on, with services becoming less and less frequent, and were last reported in the CRJ in 2006: "The latest timetable on 15 April 2006 shows that trains run Mirpur Khas - Jhudo - Pithoro (the loop line) every Thursday and Mirpur Khas - Nawabshah on the 1st and 15th of the month; days of the return workings are not known. So, metre gauge steam survives, just."

The final word though comes from Rob Dickinson's International Steam website: "........and when Aya Kakuma and Chris Jeffery visited Mirpur Khas on 1 March 2007 they found that all metre gauge services remain suspended, with little or no hope of a revival."

Builders and year built have been sourced from Indian Locomotives Parts 2 & 4 by Hugh Hughes. 

This system is also covered in a report of my own visit - "Pecawi", Sind, Pakistan, 1992.

Rob Dickinson