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Railfan Tours

Mongolia Tanago Railfan tours

broad-gauge steam

16. - 24. November 2019

Pakistan: broad-gauge steam

Pakistan broad gauge steam

Almost unnoticed by the public, committed Pakistan Railways engineers and locomotive drivers have in recent years transferred the few remaining broad-gauge steam locomotives (gauge 1,676 mm) to Rawalpindi (HGS series) and Lahore (CWD, SPS, SGS).

2 operational HGS will now be used for us on 3 days on the scenically spectacular routes around Attock with freight trains. Then we drive to Lahore and let the CWD and SGS move out. 

Finally we visit the former forest railway in Changa Manga (ok, that's narrow gauge now...) 

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No. of participants max. 36
Duration 8 days
Meals half board
Price from 3.235 €
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 golf), you need a separate transfer from the airport to the hotel (costs extra and will be arranged by us if needed). 
Departure in Europe is always the day before.

Right after arriving in Islamabad we will take our group bus to the railway depot in Rawalpindi, where we will take the first pictures of a HGS (axle arrangement 1D) under steam. We have reserved 3 hours of photo action in the morning, afterwards the locomotive has to be prepared for our first special train.

Since the Pakistan Railways actually believes in the quality of the "main inspection" of the two HGSs, but is not really worried that a steam train could remain on the track, we suggested to the P.R. the use of an auxiliary diesel locomotive. According to the practice in many other countries we will drive with a diesel locomotive as a leader on the transfer lines and uncouple the diesel locomotive for the sham journeys in each case.

Even if the P.R. speaks of a "general inspection", this 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't offer such a trip too often anymore: the condition of the two HGS is satisfactory at the moment - but the tendency is rather downward ...

November 18, 2019, Monday:
We will have another freight train with classic brown freight cars running around Attock. At the beginning the HGS is pointing east, so that we can drive "the right way around" for the morning photo session on the bridge in Attock Khurd. 
The afternoon program sees us steaming on the route south of Attocks: British engineers were already building "Chinese" railways here during the times of Raj, the colonial rule: simply build a railway line with a ruler running through the landscape: One crosses mountains with tunnels, and valleys with many bridges. So the route is really ingenious and we will be able to take the best photos extensively. The traffic of regular trains on this section is even lower than yesterday, and should a planned train really get in the way, we can always be pushed or pulled by our diesel locomotive into the next station.
Our priority is the intensive "processing" of the best photo positions within the first 25 kilometres of the route. It's not about driving as many kilometers as possible, but about optimally staging the bridges and tunnels in this section. If necessary, also several times.
In order to make the best possible use of light and distance, we will not take the train back to Attock, but take the bus to the hotel after sunset.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Islamabad.

November 19, 2019, Tuesday:
There is no steam train today, Pakistan Railways would like to use the time to solve any problems with yesterday's locomotive and prepare well for tomorrow's photo trains. If the locomotive is in good condition, we will add another steam engine to our program at short notice! 
Alternatively, we will use the time for a round trip through Rawalpindi and Islamabad, followed by regular scheduled train photos on the busiest section of the P.R. between Rawalpindi and Lahore.
If you are interested we will also visit the "Railway Museum" in Golra Sharif ... Here are some exhibits, the term "museum" is perhaps a little exaggerated. 
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Islamabad.

20 November 2019, Wednesday:
We return again to the branch line in direction Kundian south of Attocks, this time with 2 HGS. We start very early in the morning with sunrise bridge shots. 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 for the highlight at an intermediate station, and then take pictures from the western side in the afternoon.
Also today we return to our hotel by bus.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Islamabad.

21 November 2019, Thursday:
Even if the rail traffic in the country had to accept some years ago by the bankruptcy of the railways sensitive restrictions, meanwhile again a third of the original long-distance trains operates (many local traffic connections towards remain probably forever cancelled). 

We use one of the morning express train departures to Lahore Junction, the journey takes about 5 hours.

Arrived in Lahore, we visit the repair shop in Moghalpura. Formerly a steam mecca, today specialized in diesel and car repair, but only a shadow of its former heyday. The steam locomotives stationed there are interesting for us: we can expect a CWD (1D1), as well as one of the inner cylinder locomotives of the SGS (axle arrangement C) and SPS (2B) series.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Lahore.

November 22, 2019, Friday:
We don't want to raise false expectations: all steam locomotives in Lahore are in a bad to very bad condition - not necessarily outwardly, but the inner values are simply suboptimal. Pakistan Railways is aware of this, but it simply lacks the resources and expertise to carry out a basic HU. Currently (November 2018) we can move the CWD and SGS within Lahore, but we can't string a train on the main line. The SPS is in even worse condition, it would be a miracle to see it outside the repair shop.

Nevertheless, we are working on this miracle and are looking with the P.R. for ways to give all three steam icons a worthy appearance. The bureaucracy is complicated and as soon as we are close to an agreement, we change responsibilities or contact persons - and we have to start all over again. Our plan is to enable local operation of the 3 steam locomotives outside the main lines. The Pakistan Railways is not generally averse to our ideas, but would like to send the steam locomotives with only 1-2 cars on the route. This is not quite our idea, so we have to drink more tea with the responsible people!

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:
This morning we visit the narrow-gauge forest railway south of Lahore in Changa Manga. Nowadays there is nothing more to see from the wood transport, the 600mm railway runs exclusively for tourists. We concentrate on the morning scenes in the small train station and take a special train on part of the route. Then we return to Lahore and explore the metropolis on a city tour.
Meals: Breakfast, dinner.
Overnight stay in a good hotel in Lahore.

24 November 2018, Sunday:
In the night we drive with our bus to the airport, where the journey ends. We will be happy to add your arrivals and departures to this trip, arriving in Europe the same day during the afternoon.

End of the tour.

Travel prices:

Regular shore program, 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 28 February 2019
3.460 Euro in half double room for bookings from 1 March 2019
  360 Euro single room supplement

With at least 22 participants:
3.650 Euro in half double room for booking until 28 February 2019
3.880 Euro in half double room for bookings from 1 March 2019
  360 Euro single room supplement

With at least 15 participants:
3.990 Euro in half double room for booking until 28 February 2019
4.290 Euro in half double room for bookings from 1 March 2019 onwards
  360 Euro single room supplement

Spouses and partners are welcome guests on our trips - we are currently working on a bonus program.  

Pakistan is a beautiful travel destination, especially in the Himalayas and Kharakorum.
We are currently preparing a touristic follow-up tour after the trip.
Our local agency will also be happy to put together an individual pre- or post-trip programme on request!

Our services:

  • 3 HGS-covered photo trains;
  • Steam application of CWD and SGS in Lahore;
  • Visit to the Rawalpindi railway depot;
  • Visit to the repair shop in Moghalpura;
  • Visit of the former forest railway in Changa Manga;
  • First Class train ride from Rawalpindi to Lahore Junction;
  • all transfers according to program;
  • 4 nights in a good tourist class hotel in Islamabad (double room, shower/WC);
  • 3 nights in a good tourist class hotel in Lahore (double room, shower/WC);
  • Catering 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; 
  • Expert and 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 apply for a 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 in foreign currencies. Since the exchange rate of foreign currencies to the Euro (our invoice 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 1.12.2018. 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 31 July 2019 at the latest, we will carry out this trip with a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 36 participants.

Pakistan is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and versatile 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 our special off-ramp trains will offer a wealth of authentic and varied impressions.

But when you talk to railway friends about Pakistan, that's usually the way the conversation goes: 
Is there anything still driving at the Khyberpass? 
Gibt´s still have broad gauge steam at all? 
Is it safe in the country? 
Depends on it.

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 differences between religions, between rich and poor, between urban and rural populations. All this obscures the view of the incredible hospitality of the people and the sympathy that the "average Pakistani" has for the Germans.   
Nevertheless, only the negative headlines dominate the news. Pakistan is not as safe as Switzerland, but in many areas it is also not a war zone. In its travel tips, the Federal Foreign Office warns only of areas that we do not visit on our trip: neither the border area with Afghanistan, nor certain areas on the border with India, nor the Moloch Karachi. We are only travelling 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, all information can be found here. Please read these travel instructions carefully, with your booking you declare that you have read, understood and accepted them. Should the security conditions according to the Foreign Office deteriorate, we will not carry out 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 on this trip 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 each travel participant, that he accepts this also without reservation: the alcohol supply is not always guaranteed, the photographing of women should be omitted, just like blasphemy opposite the 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 standard in Western Europe. Also the Pakistanis do not know any pain thresholds when crossing any traffic rules. So be extremely careful in public places.  
Temperatures & Technology:
In Pakistan it is winter: despite mostly sunny days it is rarely warmer than 20°C, at night it can get very cool, although we do not expect frost. You definitely need sturdy shoes!  
The mobile radio coverage is good, however, we drive with our special train also areas away from any localities, where with limited or no reception must be reckoned. In the big cities the coverage is excellent. For Pakistan 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. In your privately carried first-aid kit belong the personally needed and medically prescribed medications. Also pack medications that help with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea (typical travel diseases) and alleviate discomfort. 
Read the health information about the country on the homepage of the Tropical Institute.
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.

Welcome to Pakistan!
پاکستان میں خوش خوش آمدید