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Brought gauge steam around Attock with 4 HG/S in steam!

7. - 12. April 2020

Pakistan: Brought gauge steam around Attock

We ran the first steam charter tour in Pakistan since 2007 with great success and media attention in November 2019. Due to our success we were asked by the heads of Pakistan Railways and the Minister of Railways, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, not to wait until November 2020 to return to Pakistan for steam.

Therefore we would like to give you the unique opportunity to see all operational 4 HG/S within 1 week, hauling freight trains on the most scenic sections around Attock: we will use the HG/S (this is the current plan) on the famous Indus bridge, and on the spectacular and very photogenic sections south of Attock up to Basal Junction. You may extend your steam trip adding a week at the Hunza valley where trees and flowers should be in full blossom during this time of the year!

Even in the good old days it was not a regular sight to have 3, or even 4  HG/S lined up at a station- here you can get it. We are pretty sure that this will be a fairly unique event due to the high logistical and financial efforts needed.
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No. of participants min 15, max. 36
Duration 6 - 8 days
Meals half board
Price from 3.390 €
Open for bookings Sold out.
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The itinerary:

7 April 2020, Tuesday:
Early morning arrival and meeting of all participants at Islamabad airport (our trip is based on Turkish Airlines arrival times). If you want to fly with other airlines (e.g. via Arabia) instead, you may need a separate transfer from the airport to the hotel (costs extra and will be arranged by us if necessary). Departure in Europe is always the day before.

Right after arriving in Islamabad we take our group bus to the railway depot in Rawalpindi, where we will photograph one of the HG/S (2-8-0) at various locations within the vast shed area. Our locomotive then moves forward to the Rawalpindi station where we will recreate some shunting action in the station area.

On the well-paved road we then motor to Attock City, a journey of about two and a half hours. We should see 3 HG/S under steam already, waiting for us. We start with pictures of all three HG/S at the shed, will move one engine to the turntable, and proceed with all 3 HG/S to the station area next. The major task this afternoon will be the shunting activities at the signal tower and the very photogenic semaphore gallery. Based on our experiences of the 2019-November tour, we have not scheduled any main line excursion and will focus on the shunting activities in the station area instead. We will forced to break our photo action from tiem to time to let regular passenger and freight trains pass, which will take more time than previously anticipated. The regular traffic with mainly 40+ years old diesel locomotives from the USA and Japan will provide additional photos. In the evening we will illuminate the 3 steam locomotives with our mobile light equipment for a night photo shoot.

We could convince the P.R. not to return to Rawalpindi every evening but to set up a temporary steam engine shed at Attock-City. Thus we have the locomotives and the entire staff on site. The group will most likely not stay overnight in Attock, because there are really only very bad hotels on the spot. We are still looking for suitable accommodation, but should find it in the Taxila area (30 km from Attock).
Meals: Dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila area.

8 April 2020, Wednesday:
This day will be dedicated to the spectacular bridges on the northern section of the "Main Line 2", also called "ML2", at Attock: the bridges span large river valleys, and consist only of the most necessary structures: bridge piers, a steel layer for the track, a railing - that's it. We aim to reach the one of the bridges (there are many) before sunrise. It always involves an early wake-up call, too, because sunrise will happen at a quarter to six, and photograph/film the passages of our HG/S charter freight train. Further south, more bridges follow, the most interesting section with 2 bridges and many tunnels will be covered in the afternoon.

Due to the mechanical status of the HG/S, we will always use a diesel locomotive to haul our charter train from one spot to the next. The HG/S will only perform the runpasts (unassisted). Unfortunately, the P.R.´s "general inspection is certainly not an inspection according to Western standards (and Pakistani standards in the Heydays of steam in the country). Once the locomotives have been disassembled and reassembled, they will be  properly painted - and that's it. Only 1 HG/S has been equipped with a new tube set so far, but we hope for more!

The single tracked line forces us to move to the next available station several times during the day to let the scheduled passenger services pass.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila area.

9 April 2020, Thursday:
Overnight our freight train was remarshalled and offers a new look now. Our itinerary for today renains the same, basically: we will start at sunrise, and move to our train to the next 2 stations, ceovering the most scenic section the line south of Attock. We will run over several spectacular bridges, pass through various tunnels and rock-cuttings. Most spots are easily accessible and offer good angles during the morning and the afternoon session. We will have an HG/S again.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila area.

10 April 2020, Friday:
In principle, this morning will be the same as yesterday: HG/S with freight train, early morning get up, sunrise at the bridges. But in the afternoon we will change the routine when 2 more HG/S will be supplied from Attock, with which we will stage new scenes at one of the intermediate stations: we have now 3 HG/S on the spot, and will use them for shunting and passing shots, plus and man&machine photography.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila area.

11 April 2020, Saturday:
This morning we motor to the small train station "Attock Khurd" which serves as a base for numerous crossings on the huge Indus river bridge. Our freight train will consist of classic brown freight cars plus a caboose. The HG/S faces to the east during our morning photo session on the bridge. We will stage numerous runpasts, allowing all participants to capture the various angles of the bridge. We have scheduled 5 hours for our activities at the bridge - that may sound a lot of time, but we also have to let the service trans pass and each break will already eat up 30 minutes of inactivity for our steam train. The bridge is certainly one of the outstanding photo location our tour!

At the end of our Attock Khurd adventure, we will take our train directly to Sulemanabad on the ML2. Here another HG/S is already waiting for us. The idea is now to have a double headed train from here to Basal Junction. Mentioning the "double heading" to the Pakistan Railways always leads to headaches on the railways adminitration site. Beside operational regulations, there are also restrictions on the axle load on the bridges: diesel + steam + steam will be too heavy... Therefore, we have made an alternative proposal to the P.R., that is being examined right now. If we get the permission for a double header, fine. If not, we will not stop at Sulemanabad and go to Basal Junction directly.

We are expecting a 3rd HG/S waiting for us at the station already, giving us the unique chance to photograph 3 HG/S lined up at a Pakistan Railways´ station. We have lots of semaphore signals, guard huts at the switches, and a fairly low usage of tracks there. Even in the regular steam days it was a rare sight to have 3 steam locomotives lined up like this in the warm afternoon light! With this extraordiniary scene we say good-bye to the HG/S and motor to Rawalpindi.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in Rawalpindi.

12 April 2020, Sunday:
Flights to Europe leave from Islamabad airport around 6am, we will shuttle all participants to their departures from the airport where the tour ends. Arrival at your European home airport is normally scheduled for today´s afternoon.

End of the tour.

Tour prices:

HG/S Special 4 - 12 April 2020, per person:
3.390 Euro in a shared double room
   300 Euro single room supplement

Our services:

  • 4 HG/S in service;
  • HG/S charter trains at Attock Khurd and south of Attock;
  • HG/S shunting at Attock City;
  • HG/S shunting at Rawalpindi;
  • Visit to the Rawalpindi railway depot;
  • All transfers according to program;
  • Accommodation in local hotels at Taxila (most likely) in rooms with en-suite facilities;
  • 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.

A visa is required to enter Pakistan. The easierst way is to apply for an "e-visa" online. If you want us to take care of your visa, we will charge you 120 €.

This trip will be billed 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 2019. We therefore expressly reserve the right to price adjustements due to international currency fluctuations and any unforeseen service alterations 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 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 15. February 2020 latest, we will run this trip with a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 35 participants.

General information:
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.

Our very successful trip in November 2019 showed once again that there is a difference between the public coverage at home and the reality on the spot. We were welcomed extremely friendly, everyone wanted to make a selfie with us, there were dozens of invitations for tea. We had one guy with us who told us before the trip that this was his last tour ever, because he did not expect to reach home alive again... the "evil" Muslims would have blown him up. At the end of the tour he said he would come back immediately for more HG/S and SG/S action!

Your tour guide has travelled the country intensively since the early 1990s and knows the local conditions very well. Also our local agency deserves the highest marks, because many things that might not have been possible in normal everyday life have been made possible.

Let us be clear regarding some issues: at the moment the decision makers at the railways HQ´s are very positive, because our charter trains ran smoothly, we hardly caused any delays of the regular trains, and the steam locomotives remained more or less intact in 2019. But when/if the focus of the administration is shifted back to other things, the support of the P.R. leaders can be gone pretty quickly.

The technical and mechanical condition of the steam locomotives, described with school grades, is just average to poor. The locomotives can move on their own power, some of them can also pull a load, but miracles are not to be expected. We will always have a diesel locomotive in front of the train that provides the traction between runpast locations. The HG/S will only work unassisted during runpasts, they are leaking and have problems with the vaccuum breaking. In the end everything works, and we were able to take nice pictures, but you can't expect to have perfectly working steam locomotives to Western standards.

The level of repair at the Moghalpura factory reflects the current status of their locomotives: lots of paint, but hardly any improvements in the mechanics and the inner values of the steam locomotives. After another German tour organizer did not fulfill his financial promises to the P.R. so far, we persuaded Pakistan Railways to finance and install at least one set of pipes themselves. The pipes have already been commisioned and will be installed in one of the next HG/S to be overhauled in winter 2019-20. We expect that this HG/S will perform much better than the locomotives that only received a paint job.

But all these problems are outweighed by the incredible commitment of the local railway workers: on our 2019 tour, we had days when the locomotive mechanics were working around on the locomotives at night so that we could have them back in action the next day. This work solves some issues - albeit only for a short time, because at the low level of maintenance on the locomotives only external faults are repaired to such an extent that they do not appear again for the next 12 hours. Afterwards the work starts again on the same issue...

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" feels for the visitors. Pakistan is not as safe as Switzerland, that's true, but in many areas it's not a war zone either. The German Federal Foreign Office indicates only those areas as unsafe where we will not go: neither the border area with Afghanistan, nor certain areas on the border with India, nor Karachi are on our itinerary! We are exclusively staying in the Punjab, the quietest region in Pakistan.

Should the security conditions deteriorate (according to the Foreign Office), 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 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 very limited and may not be possible at all, photography 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.

Temperatures & Technology:
We expect sunny days with temperatures around 20°C during the day and mild nights. Most important: you need sturdy shoes! The mobile network  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.

Most nationalities require a visa to enter the country. An "e-visa" application is available online. A passport valid for at least 6 months with at least 1 free page is needed! Please inquire at the embassy responsible for your nationality for details.

Welcome to Pakistan!