Steam over the Indus

Broad gauge steam in Pakistan: December 1st – 11th, 2021

Ancient Cities and the Himalaya 30.11. - 2.12. and 11. - 17.12.2021

Steam in Pakistan: Kotri Jn. HG/S 22216 and class mate 2275

The railways of Pakistan went through hard times. Not really recovered from bankruptcy, the competition on the road is stifling. It is only thanks to the scarcity of financial resources that an infrastructure has survived to this day that still largely dates back to colonial times. British semaphores, riveted steel lattice bridges, brick tunnel portals, station buildings, mechanical signal boxes, depots and even the tracks are classic relics of a railway era long gone elsewhere. This railway has not yet experienced a modernisation push, with the emphasis on the word "still". Pakistan has long since become the focus of China's geostrategic and power-political interests. China is planning to build a railway link from Urumqi (Wulumuqi) and Lhasa to the ports of Karachi. Similarly, China has declared Gwadar, in the far west of Pakistan, as its development zone. On June 6th, 2020, the modernisation of the main line Peshawar - (Attock) - Rawalpindi - Lahore - Multan - Karachi was announced, double-tracked, crossing-free and designed for 160 km/h. China wants this project; they want to secure access to the port on the Arabian Sea and thus the Indian Ocean. In a second phase, the parallel line will be modernised, and in a third phase, the connection to Quetta will be completely rebuilt. The main focus of our journey, Attock, is already affected in the first phase. If the Chinese had been able to implement their plans as intended, Attock would have been completely renewed as early as 2017. The calm before the storm ...

The railway facilities in Attock and all the lines leading to Attock are still completely British and allow wonderful photo opportunities with the imposing Indus Bridge, the mountains and tunnels. The railway facilities are very well maintained and kept in working order, thanks to the still numerous railway workers employed with the railways. Pakistan Railways still uses two-axle freight wagons, which are perfect for a photo goods train. The passenger coaches need a little touch to appear in the traditional livery, but that can be done.

We will be using two HG/S class 1'D h2 locomotives. These locomotives were widely used in Pakistan and could be found in front of both, freight and passenger trains. They spent their last years in shunting service, which is why some of them have survived.

Bedford-buses in Peshawar



As the trip has a waiting list even before publication, details can be omitted here. The detailed tour documents with the itinerary will be sent to the registered participants before the trip. The trip will start on 2nd of December in Rawalpindi, where participants will be picked up from the airport (Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Islamabad). We will continue to Peshawar by charter bus at 1pm. From December 3rd to 10th, we will enjoy an interesting programme of authentic special trains on historic infrastructure and on the narrow gauge line of Changa Manga before the return flight on December 11th from Lahore International Airport. Afterwards we offer a touristic trip, because Pakistan has much more to offer than just fantastic railways.




Flight to Islamabad


Morning arrival in Islamabad, airport pick up and transfer to Peshawar. It will take us about 3 hours to reach the five star Pearl Continental Hotel. In the afternoon we’ll explore the city. The tour of the city will include Peshawar Museum, which houses treasures of the Gandhara period. Proceed to Qissa Khawani bazaar, Mahabat Khan's mosque, Chowk Yadgar, and Balar Hisar Fort. Then to dinner and overnight at the hotel.


After breakfast, proceed for a half day excursion to Baab-e-Khyber (Jamrud) from where the historic Khyber Pass leads to Afghanistan. This visit requires a permit which will be obtained from the authorities but might be withdrawn with short notice. Back in Peshawar we’ll visit Gor Gathri Caravanserai, the Sethi Street with its old houses and Cunningham Clock Tower. Evening meeting with the railway group.


Railway program between Peshawar, Attock City, Basal and Rawalpindi. Our main base will be Attock City.


After breakfast, drive from Lahore to Islamabad, we’ll explore the centuries old city of Lahore with some highlights as the Fort (1566, World Heritage site) with the Alamgiri Gate, the famous Badshahi Mosque (1671), walled city with Delhi Gate, Wazir Khan Mosque (1634), thump of Jahangir and the Haveli (house) of Nau Nihal Singh (ca. 1835). Then we’ll head off to Islamabad, a 6 to 7 hours drive. En route, in Khewra we’ll stop for the famous Salt mines – the second largest salt mine in the world. We will have either a packed lunch or lunch in a local restaurant. We’ll proceed to Rawalpindi for our hotel (Pearl Continental).


In the morning transfer to the Islamabad International airport and flight to Gilgit. It will take one hour by air to Gilgit. Upon arrival we’ll drive to Karimabad along the Karakorum highway, en route stopover at Rakaposi view point for lunch with magnificent view of Rakaposhi Peak (7,788m). After lunch we’ll proceed to Karimabad where our hotel is. In the afternoon, we visit the local bazaar, then dinner in a local restaurant and in the evening we’ll head back to our hotel.


After breakfast we will visit Baltit Fort, then drive or walk to Altit Village and visit the above 900 years old Altit Fort. We will take lunch at a local restaurant, afternoon, proceed to Gulmit with en route stopover at Attabad Lake also known as Gojal Lake. Upon Arrival, transfer to the hotel. In the afternoon we’ll explore the village or just enjoy the views of Passu Cathedrals through the hotel windows.


After breakfast we will drive to Sost, the last town of Pakistan near the China Border; en route we will stop at the Batura Glacier view point from where we will have a magnificent view of the Batura Glacier and the Shishper Peak (7.611m). Further drive to Sost, visit the local Bazaar, lunch at Sost and drive back to Gulmit. On the way back, we will stop at the Glacier Breeze Restaurant for their famous apricot cake and have a coffee or tea in Passu. In the afternoon we’ll drive back to our hotel in Gulmit and on the way we’ll visit the Passu suspension bridge.


After breakfast in the hotel we will drive to Gilgit via the famous Karakoram Highway, en route we will stop at the Rakaposhi view point again for a cup of tea or lunch with the view to the Rakaposhi Peak (7,788m). After lunch we drive to Gilgit, sightseeing in Gilgit.


After breakfast transfer to Gilgit airport to fly to Islamabad. Upon arrival transfer to the hotel for some rest and proceed to visit the old City of Rawalpindi. We will walk through the colourful bazaar in Rawalpindi and visit the St. Paul`s Church Rawalpindi which was established in 1908 with the help of Church of Scotland. In the evening we’ll go back to hotel for dinner. Later, drive to Islamabad International airport, fly back to home. Later, drive to Islamabad International airport, fly back to home.


Return flight home

Pakistan: bridge over the mighty river Indus in Attock Khurd

Steam in Pakistan. railway bridge over the Indus

The focus of the trip lays around the small railway junction Attock City, until 1978 Campbellpur. The main line to Peshawar is on the list of the first new lines to be built, so we will put a special focus on the particularly photogenic section between Attock City and Jehangira and travel on this section in different light conditions.


Line description

All the lines we plan to use are still equipped with semaphores, which are also still in operation. Although the installations are well maintained, the same cannot always be said about the track. This is mostly with concrete sleepers, which often disappear in the ballast or are overgrown by grass, but sometimes still laid on wooden or old steel sleepers. The new type of construction with concrete blocks kept at a distance by a steel brace is rarely used on the sections we’re using.

Attock City

Steam in Pakistan: signal man in Attock city

The journey begins on the non-electrified, double-tracked main line from Rawalpindi to the northwest. This main line is the focus of modernisation efforts, but should not be a construction site by the time we start our journey. At present, semaphores and partly telegraph wires can still be admired.

The three lines converging on Attock still look almost exactly as they did around 1940. The new Indus Bridge was inaugurated in 1929, and that was good British workmanship, for it still stands today. The facilities are aged but well maintained and in good working order. The grass between the tracks is kept short by biological lawnmowers, the sliding parts of the points are lubricated with used oil and the rods for the points and signals still stretch across the entire station. On the north-south line Peshawar - Attock - Basal Jn. two mountain ranges and several photogenic riveted steel lattice bridges are crossed. The largest and most imposing bridge is the bridge over the Indus at Attock Khurd, newly built 1929, but the bridge over the tributary to the Indus via the Haro river is also impressive. The bridges over the tributaries of the Haro over the Nandana Kas and the partly dammed Shakadara also lead over scenic river valleys.

workdshop Mogalpura (Lahore)

Visit to the workshop in Lahore Mogalpura

The route profile is partly quite demanding. The highest point we cover is over 600 metres, the lowest below 300 metres above sea level. However, there are often flatter sections in agricultural surroundings with the typical small fields and villages.

Even though we will partly drive through deserted mountain landscapes: Pakistan is densely populated. This will allow motifs with people and local colour.


Ancient Cities and the Himalaya

Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, is strategically situated at the entrance of the Khyber Pass. Known as the oldest living city of Central Asia, Peshawar is a blend of many tribes, traditions, cultures and secrets. The city has seen countless invaders, conquerors and emperors. The inhabitants of this city – the legendary Pathans – are known as a daring and fearless race. Qissa Khawani (Story Tellers) bazaar is the original bazaar in the Old City where caravans from diverse geographic and cultural background traveling mostly from Russia and China into Persia would meet and exchange stories and brag about their exploits.

The old city was enclosed by sixteen gates. On the Eastern approach to the city lays the mighty Bala Hisar fort, built by Babar, the first of the Mughals. To the West is Jamrud Fort, still used as part of the defenses perimeter. In the heart of the city lies the Mahabat Khan mosque, built in 1680. The architect attempted to copy the mighty Badshahi Mosque of Lahore, and has six small minarets in between two huge minarets each towering 110 feet into the air.

Coca Cola in Pakistan


The famous Khyber Pass has been a silent witness to the countless number of invaders, pleasure seekers, and adventurers that have filtered through its narrow gateway over the centuries. The road winds through a tribal area, passing the Jamrud fort, and continues for 50 kms to Torkham, witnessing the stark and severe beauty of this passage hewn through great rocks. The pass ends at the Torkham Border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, passing the smugglers’ bazaar, Landi Kotal, which at a height of 3518 feet straddles the top of this historical passageway. The journey beyond Baab-e-Khyber is subject to permission from Government authorities.

Lahore is a 11 million city, after Karachi the second largest of Pakistan and the 26th largest in the world. It has an ancient history and changed rulers quite often over the millenniums. It’s the economical stronghold and cultural capital of the Punjub. Many impressive buildings outlasted the centuries and are open to the today’s visitor.

Lahore Badshahi mosque

The Khewra salt mines were said to be discovered by Alexander the Great in 320 BC, but there are reports which date back much further. In 1872 the British developed the mine and started modern mining. In 1930 they started to establish a mining railway system. The electric locos from that time are still in use these days. Since the late 1990ies tourism became important, and the mine sees now about a quarter million visitors each year. Khewra is also famous for its steep railway link to Malakwal, served by steam until the early 1990ies. In recent years the railway station was refurbished by a donor.

Lahore Badshahi Moschee

In the Himalayas we’ll follow the road to China, the famous Karakorum highway. The borders are disputed, but stable for several decades. The valleys are slightly populated while the mountains are majesty in themselves. Temperatures can drop well below zero, and in some nights below minus 20 degrees Centigrade. But the winter air can be fantastically clear with deep blue skies and white capped mountains. Due to whether limitations our planned flights might be cancelled and we need to travel some 600 km by our bus.

Lahore Badshahi Moschee

Lahore Badshahi Moschee

Small Print

Pakistan emerged from the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 and has been an Islamic Republic since 1956. The country has been marked by serious and long-lasting conflicts, such as the bloody population exchange right after its foundation, the conflict with India over Kashmir or the secession of East Pakistan in 1971 (today Bangladesh). Despite all the problems, the vast majority of Pakistanis are extremely hospitable. Visitors are always treated with the greatest interest and respect, ignorance of religious and social customs is readily forgiven, drinks and food are served even during Ramadan, so that the worldly traveller is almost embarrassed. On the one hand, it is difficult to refuse, but on the other hand, one knows that certain things are not proper in Islam. However, should one turn out not to be a guest but a proponent of imperial great power politics or a religious zealot, it turns into the opposite.

Street restaurant in Pakistan

On my visit in 2019, I found a peaceful and positively developing Pakistan. But that might have to do with the perspective from my visits in the 1990s. The Western visitor who has never travelled to countries like Nepal, India or Bangladesh might find the country very stressful. Medical care, environmental protection, education levels and transport are at a low level of development compared to Europe, America and most parts of Asia. And yet, when asked what my interlocutor was most concerned about, the answer kept coming back: global warming with all its consequences! Terrorism or epidemics such as malaria and polio, which almost only occurs here and in Afghanistan - in other words, things that the classic, little-travelled citizen of the Western hemisphere is most concerned about - were never mentioned. But in fact, here as in many other countries of the world, terrorism is almost negligible, whereas road traffic is the number one cause of unnatural death. For the common European, Pakistan's road traffic is a lively, honking, dangerous mess. People like to drive fast wherever conditions permit. However, the danger of getting hurt in traffic can be greatly minimised if one behaves prudently. In any case, we are hardly at risk in a coach, not only compared to a moped rider. Most people tend to greatly exaggerate risks anyway if they seem unknown to them. Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary in our travel area in December from our point of view. On the other hand, vaccinations against hepatitis A, polio, typhoid and sometimes cholera are often recommended. However, the transmission routes are almost exclusively contaminated food and drinking water. So you can protect yourself.

Pakistan Railways

You should make sure you have clean water and food, which means drinking water, not the water from the tap. Beer is also available in Pakistan, but it is difficult to obtain, may not be consumed in public and is only famous for its rarity, but definitely not for its taste. Nevertheless, we will always carry a supply of beer in a cooler. The can, however, costs around 4 Euros! The rarity value just has to be paid for. Pakistani cuisine offers many rice and vegetable dishes and is sometimes spicy. Vegetable (often lentils or peas) and meat curry dishes are just as popular as flat breads mostly made from wheat, the naan (baked with yeast), roti (without yeast) and especially chapati.

We will make sure on the trip that we do not have any problems with the food and have a cook with us who is familiar with tourists and who will look after our well-being.

Energy supply in Pakistan is difficult and depends very much on oil imports. There can be power cuts. However, the hotels have an emergency generator.

Semaphores in Attock City

The hotels are a chapter in themselves. Good hotels with western standards can usually only be found in tourist strongholds or in the big cities. But Attock is not a big city. The nearest really good hotels near Attock City are in Peshawar. The drive from Peshawar via the motorway to Attock City, however, takes about two hours, and it is even further to Rawalpindi. There are hotels in Attock City itself, but except for one, they can only be classified as unreasonable. Even the hotel we booked is not up to a three-star standard. Most of the rooms have no windows. However, there is a shower with hot water, which is considered a luxury there. The number of rooms is very limited, especially as far as single rooms are concerned. We therefore offer the possibility to book a hotel in Peshawar with top end standard. Daily transport will also be provided. The additional cost for accommodation in a five-star hotel in Peshawar including the necessary transport is 945 Euros.

Our hotel in Attock City:

Steam in Pakistan
Steam in Pakistan
Steam in Pakistan
Steam in Pakistan

Our charter bus will often follow our train, but road and rail are sometimes far apart, especially in the mountains. We therefore travel by train most of the time, using goods wagons as well. A ladder and benches are provided.

Pakistan Railways suffer from delays for all sorts of reasons beyond our control. We have to give priority to the regular trains. Due to the hopelessly outdated train reporting system, it can happen that we have to wait a long time in a station for the delayed train, and no one can say when it will arrive. So we have to expect longer waiting times for operational reasons. In addition, there are technical shortcomings. Our locomotives running on their last legs, and it is not foreseeable whether there will be enough time and resources to improve this situation so that we achieve a certain reliability of the locomotives. In addition, the braking system is vulnerable. It can take time to find a leak. Injectors, superheater elements, boiler tubes and flues, stuffing boxes, even the regulator stuffing box and other things can cause problems. We may have to cut the program to what is feasible on some days or wait for a replacement locomotive. So, as usual, nothing is promised except that we will do everything we can to get some nice shots each day and otherwise have a good time. Again for real understanding: for technical as well as operational or other reasons, it is possible that certain parts of the itinerary cannot be carried out or cannot be carried out as planned and desired and may be cancelled without compensation, i.e. without the possibility of refunding money or offering an adequate compensation option.

Bedford lorry

Charter buses (Coaster, 22 seats), planes, trains, accommodation etc. correspond to the standard of our host country and may differ significantly from Central European, Australian or North American expectations. We try to avoid long walks, but sometimes these are the only way to get to a viewpoint or a photo motif. The trip is especially tailored for photographers and videographers; achieving good photographic results takes precedence over an extensive breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast can be packed, lunch omitted if necessary or replaced with some nuts, bananas or oranges. Meal times are based on our trains. With the exception of drinking water, drinks are not included in the tour price.

Please note that the hotels, buses, trains, in fact everything we will encounter is not at all EU-compliant. That is why we are travelling there. We will be travelling to a country where environmental and accident protection are almost unknown. We should expressly point out the dangers that can arise from using and staying near the railways or in road traffic. Always use common sense when crossing roads and railway tracks. If you cannot find your way around dark roads at night, take a sufficiently powerful torch with you. Taking out foreign accident insurance and the always important foreign health insurance is recommended. Neither Pakistan Railways, the local tour operator nor FarRail Tours are liable in any case for accidents of any kind, damages, losses or inconveniences, additional costs etc., which may arise e.g. from necessary rebooking or delays of individual modes of transport.

Changa Manga Waldbahn

Changa Manga Forestry railway

We will hardly need the local currency (Pakistani rupee) on the trip. We advise against buying food from local traders and street restaurants (from our own painful experience). We will have enough food for the hungry among us.

Please also take winter clothing with you. It may well get below zero degrees at night. However, we can also experience well over 20 degrees plus in the afternoon, at least in Lahore and south of it. Only on rainy days does the temperature often not rise above 15 degrees.

loco crew of HG/S 2262 in Hyderabad 1991

We will have two security guards with us. Not because Pakistan is so dangerous, but because people in rural Pakistan are incredibly keen to be photographed and to take photographs themselves. The guards can then kindly compliment train photographers holding mobile phones in their hands out of our photo area. Wildly shouting "Hey - out of the picture" will trigger exactly the opposite of the desired reaction.

Our tour operator has a total of eight staff for our group, so that everything runs to our satisfaction and (almost) no wish remains unfulfilled. Of course, this has its price, but we want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable in a country that may be foreign to them.



Broad Gauge Steam and Semaphores 22 to 31 participants £3,450
01.12.2021 – 12.12.2021 Single room surcharge £515
Registration Deadline: 03.07.2021
Ancient Cities and the Himalaya 9 to 18 participants £1,990
30.11.2021 – 17.12.2021 3 to 8 participants £2,270
  Single room surcharge £340
Registration Deadline: 03.07.2021
Tour dates: 30.11. - 02.12. and 11.12. - 17.12.2021

The price includes:

Not included are:

Steam in Pakistan: HG/S 2257 in Hyderabad 1991


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