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Photo Tours &
Railfan Tours

Mongolia Tanago Railfan tours

Pakistan:
broad-gauge steam

17. - 24. November 2019

Pakistan: broad-gauge steam

2 HGS will be used on our steam charter trains around Attock City: on the huge Indus river bridge at Attock Khurd, as well as running on the spectacular section south of Attock on the route to Kundian with bridges, tunnels, and more bridges and tunnels. A total of 7 HGS special trains are booked with Pakistan Railways! We visit the repair shop in Lahore with CWD, SGS, and SPS locomotives, the Rawalpindi depot, take night shots, and charter a special train on the Changa Manga Forest Railway.

Our program is structured in 3 parts: if you only want to experience the HGS special trains, you can book a "short version" of our tour. The regular tour ends after the forest railway visit in Changa Manga.
In addition, you can book a touristic program in Lahore and Multan at any time, as soon as there are at least 2 participants per freely selectable date!

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No. of participants min 15, max. 36
Duration 6 - 8 days
Meals half board
Price from 2.695 €
Open for bookings Sold out.
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The itinerary:

17 November 2019, Sunday:
Early morning meeting of all participants at the airport of Islamabad (our trip is based on the arrival times of Turkish Airlines). If you want to fly with other airlines instead (e.g. via Arabia), you need a separate transfer from the airport to the hotel (costs extra and will be arranged by us if needed). Departure from Europe is always the day before the arrival at Islamabad.

Right after arriving in Islamabad we will motor to the railway depot at Rawalpindi, where we will take first pictures of both operational HGS (2-4-0) in steam. We have reserved 3 hours of photo action in the morning, afterwards the locomotives have to be prepared for our first charter train.

While Pakistan Railways actually believes in the quality of the HGS' "main inspection", it is more worried that a steam train could fail and block the track. We suggested the use of an auxiliary diesel locomotive, according to the practice in many other countries we will take a diesel locomotive hauling our train in-between runpasts, and uncouple the diesel locomotive for the photo- and film action. These kind of inspection is certainly not an inspection according to our standards. Once the locomotives have been disassembled and reassembled, they have been properly painted - and that's it. The locomotives have not seen new pipes or even a new boiler for over 30 years ...

This is certainly one reason why we can not offer such a trip too often: the condition of the two HGS's is satisfactory at the moment, but the future is uncertain. At least, the P.R. has been carrying out test runs with the HGS since mid-January.

Today's trip leads us with a freight train over the main line of the Pakistan Railways from Rawalpindi via Taxila to Attock City. Due to the bankruptcy of the railway a few years ago, and the subsequent collapse of passenger and freight traffic, the traffic level on the main line today is still significantly below that of the 1990s. So we have enough time to arrange photo stops on the main line as well.

We were able to convince the P.R. not to take the train back to Rawalpindi every evening, but to set up a temporary steam shed in Attock-City. So we have both locomotives and the whole staff on site. Only our group will return on the highway to Islamabad for the overnight stay, because there are no adequate accommodations on the spot.

Meals: Dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Islamabad.

18 November 2019, Monday:
This morning we take our charter train to the small station Attock Khurd, which serves us as a base for numerous crossings on the big Indus river bridge. Our freight train will consist of classic brown freight cars, in addition we will carry a caboose with us.

At the beginning the HGS points to the east for the morning photo session. We have estimated about 3 hours for the bridge, then we steam back south-east towards Attock City, all timings depend of course on the actual running times of the scheduled P.R. trains. Hardly any train runs punctually, so that we will adapt our timetable on the spot.

The afternoon program sees us steaming on the line south of Attocks: here British engineers of the Raj, the colonial rule, have already used modern "Chinese-style" railway construction methods: simply build a railway line with the ruler: crossing mountains with tunnels, and valleys with many bridges. So the railway line is really ingenious and we will be able to take the best photos here. The traffic level of regular trains on this section is low, our special train will consist this time of classic beige-green passenger cars without comfort.

Our priority is the photographing at the best photo positions within the first 25 kilometres of the track. It's not about driving as many kilometres as possible, but about optimally staging our charter train on the bridges and tunnels in this section. If you want to get an idea of the route in advance (called "Mainline 2" or "ML2" in Pakistan by the way), we recommend a search on Youtube. Under the search term "Attock railway" various films from Attock Khurd and from train journeys on the ML2 come into the selection. The mobile phone video "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2RdQAfX7rY" shows a journey from Jhand to Attock, especially in the second half of the video the spectacular tunnel and bridge section appears, which we will also ply with our steam trains!

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Islamabad.

19 November 2019, Tuesday:
Today will be dedicated to the spectacular bridges on the northern section of the ML2 near Attock: these bridges consist only of the most necessary: bridge piers, a concrete support for the track - that´s it. No railing, no super- or substructure. Already before sunrise we will reach the first bridge and photograph/film our special train (HGS with freight cars) from both sites. Further south, more bridges follow.
After we have "missed" the harsh light during the lunch break in Attock, we return to the section of this morning, but this time running a passenger train! In the evening we return to Attock and take night pictures there.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Islamabad.

20 November 2019, Wednesday:
We return to the ML2 south of Attocks, this time with 2 HGS. We start very early in the morning with sunrise shots at one of the big bridges. Our train set will be another freight train, again made of classic brown cars. We will travel the route twice in total: once in the morning, then we wait over lunch-time at an intermediate station, and then take pictures from the western side in the afternoon.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Islamabad.

21 November 2019, Thursday:
Before we say goodbye to the HGS we stage some classic scenes at Attock station this morning. Attock City station has a typical colonial flair in typical railroad environment: semaphore signals, a turntable, unspoilt British architecture.
Then we take the bus to Golra, about 15 km outside Rawalpindi, and visit the "Railway Museum" with a lot of railway artefacts and steam locomotives being presented there.
Around noon we change to the train and travel to Lahore in a regular train (currently the express train from Peshawar). The journey takes about five and a half hours.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Lahore.

November 22, 2019, Friday:
Those who were only interested in the HGS program will be driven to Lahore airport this morning. That's where the HGS program ends. We will be happy to arrange your flights. You will be arriving in Europe on the same day in the afternoon.

All other participants will visit the railway´s repair shop in Moghalpura in the morning. Formerly a steam Mecca, today specialized in diesel and car repair, but only a shadow of its former heyday. The steam locomotives based there are a Canadian built CWD (2-4-2), as well as one of the British inner cylinder locomotives of the series SGS (0-6-0) and SPS (4-4-0.

We do not want to raise false expectations: all steam locomotives in Lahore are in a bad to very bad condition - not necessarily on the outside, but the inner values are simply not good. Pakistan Railways is aware of this, but it lacks the resources and expertise to carry out a basic overhaul. A thorough check of the steam locomotives by one of our local experts unveiled that virtually all 3 steam locomotives can or shall not be steamed. There is a slight hope on the SGS, and we will work until the beginning of the journey to see it in steam, but we can't promise anything! The bureaucracy is complicated and as soon as we are close to an agreement, the P.R. changes responsibilities or contacts - and we have to start all over again.
Lahore is also blessed with a larger number of monument locomotives of all gauges, which we will also photograph.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Lahore.

23 November 2018, Saturday:
The narrow-gauge forest railway south of Lahore at Changa Manga runs excursion trains for tourists on 600mm gauge. During our visit we concentrate on the morning scenes at the small depot and have chartered a special train on some parts of the line. Then we return to Lahore and explore the metropolis on a city tour. The rest of the day you have free time at your own disposal.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Lahore.

24 November 2018, Sunday:
Shortly after midnight we motor to the airport, where the trip ends. We will be happy to arrange your flights. You will be arriving in Europe on the same day in the afternoon.

End of the tour.

Travel prices:

Exclusively the HGS program (17 - 22 November 2020), per person (on request we can arrange the necessary international flights to and from Pakistan):

With at least 28 participants:
2,695 Euro in half double room if booked by 15 March 2019
2,795 Euro in half double room for bookings from 16 March 2019
300 Euro single room supplement

With at least 22 participants:
2.980 Euro in half double room for booking until 15 March 2019
3,080 Euro in half double room for bookings from 16 March 2019
300 Euro single room supplement

With at least 15 participants:
3.490 Euro in half double room for booking until 15 March 2019
3,590 Euro in half double room for bookings from 16 March 2019
300 Euro single room supplement

Complete programme (17 - 24 November 2020), per person (on request we can arrange the necessary international flights to and from Pakistan):

With at least 28 participants:
3.235 Euro in half double room for booking until 15 March 2019
3,460 Euro in half double room for bookings from 16 March 2019
360 Euro single room supplement

With at least 22 participants:
3.650 Euro in half double room for booking until 15 March 2019
3,880 Euro in half double room for bookings from 16 March 2019
360 Euro single room supplement

With at least 15 participants:
3.990 Euro in half double room for booking until 15 March 2019
4,290 Euro in half double room for bookings from 16 March 2019 onwards
360 Euro single room supplement

Our services (depending on the booked program):

  • 7 HGS charter trains;
  • HGS shunting at Attock City;
  • Visit to the Rawalpindi railway depot;
  • Visit to the repair shop in Moghalpura (with CWD, SPS, SGS);
  • Visit of the former forest railway in Changa Manga;
  • Visit of the railway museum in Golra Sharif;
  • First Class train journey from Rawalpindi to Lahore Junction;
  • all transfers according to program;
  • 4 nights in a good tourist class hotel in Islamabad (double room, en-suite bathroom);
  • 3 nights in a good tourist class hotel in Lahore (double room, en-suite bathroom);
  • Meals according to itinerary;
  • Night shots wherever possible;
  • Visitor and photo permits, entrance and visit fees;
  • 1 bottle of water per participant per day;
  • Tanago information material;
  • Experienced Tanago tour guide (German and English speaking), plus local tour guide.

Tips, personal expenses, international flights, visa fees are not included in the tour price.

For German citizens, we are happy to arrange the visa at the Pakistani Embassy in Berlin. For this purpose we need the application documents by 31 August 2019, the processing time is about 3 weeks, the costs amount to 120 €.

This trip will be charged to us in foreign currencies. Since the exchange rate of foreign currencies to the Euro (our invoicing currency) has become very unpredictable, and we do not want to burden the travel price with fictitious currency reserves, the published price represents the exchange rate as of 1. December 2018. We therefore expressly reserve the right to price deviations due to international currency fluctuations and any unforeseen performance deviations of our partners.

If you are travelling alone, you can also book a "half" double room. We will do our best to allocate you another "half" double room booker. If this is not possible, we will charge you the single room supplement. If, contrary to expectations, we do not reach the minimum number of participants, the trip can still be carried out with a small group surcharge.

This trip is organised and hosted by Tanago. Please book by July 31, 2019 at the latest, we will run this trip with a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 35 participants.

Comments:

Pakistan is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating destinations in Asia. The country presents itself to the visitor in a completely different way than the clichés of numerous media reports might suggest. Pakistan has preserved its originality in many areas and offers a lot of authentic impressions.

Your tour guide has travelled the country intensively since the early 1990s and knows the local conditions very well. However, Pakistan is not a homogeneous country, there are many distortions between rich and poor, between urban and rural populations. All this obscures the view on the incredible hospitality of the people, and on the sympathy which the "average Pakistani" brings to the visitors.

Nevertheless, only the negative headlines dominate the news. Pakistan is not as safe as Switzerland, that's true, but in many areas it's not a war zone either. In its travel tips, the German Federal Foreign Office only warns of areas that we will definitely not visit on our trip: neither the border area with Afghanistan, nor certain areas on the border with India, nor Karachi. We are exclusively staying in the Punjab, the quietest region in Pakistan.

Basically we will follow the rules described by the German Foreign Office on its travel guide page to Pakistan. Should the security conditions according to the Foreign Office deteriorate, we will not run the trip and will refund all monies already paid for the land program. Cancellations of tickets and cancellations on your part will be processed in accordance with the applicable regulations of the service providers.

We will be travelling with a very low public profile, we will also be accompanied by local security forces. They will be particularly useful in "clearing" photo positions, as the locals' enthusiasm for steam locomotives and tourists sometimes resembles a crowd where reasonable pictures of train operations are not possible. Here the security people help us to get a clear view of our favourite photo objects...

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country and we expect from every traveller to accepts it: the alcohol supply is not always guaranteed, the photographing of women should be avoided, as should blasphemy against religion. Short trousers or skirts are also taboo.

Please note that the infrastructure of the country cannot be compared to Central Europe. Buses and road conditions are not the same as in Western Europe. Also the Pakistanis do not bother to violate any traffic rules. Even if you as a "Westerner" have a bonus with many Pakistanis, you should not rely on it in road traffic.

Due to the experiences in the country, and especially during the preparation of this trip, possible repetitions of the tour are rather unlikely. The window for special trips is open at the moment: there are still 2 operational HGS in Rawalpindi, the railway minister is positive about special trips - but all this can change at any time again and very quickly. If you have always wanted to visit the country, perhaps missed the heyday of steam at Khyber pass and Malakwal, then you should take the chance of this trip!

Temperatures & Technology:
In Pakistan it is winter time: despite mostly sunny days it is rarely warmer than 20°C, at night it can get very cool, although we don't expect any frost. In any case you need sturdy shoes! The mobile radio coverage is good, you need a world travel plug (adapter) for the international plug types C and D.

No vaccinations are required for Pakistan trips. The usual travel vaccinations against tetanus, polio, diphtheria and hepatitis A are recommended. Consult your doctor for more information.

Entry regulations:
Germans need a tourist visa, which has to be applied for at the embassy of Pakistan. A passport valid for at least 6 months with at least 1 free page is required! Members of other nationalities please inquire at the embassy responsible for them.

Credit:
to Nigel Tout and David Rodgers for allowing us to show their photographs of the regular steam operation of Pakistan Railways.

Welcome to Pakistan!
پاکستان میں خوش خوش آمدید