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Mongolia Tanago Railfan tours

Pakistan: broad-gauge steam

31 October - 12 November 2020

Pakistan: broad-gauge steam II

The classic Edwardian desgin SG/S and SP/S class steam locomotives of the Pakistan Railways are back! We will have 5 days of SG/S charters around their old stamping ground Malakwal and will also photograph the SP/S at Malakwal station.

2 HG/S 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. This is surely one of the most photographically rewarding section of Pakistan Railways! We visit the repair shop in Lahore Moghalpura, the Rawalpindi depot, take night shots, and charter a special train on the Changa Manga Forest Railway with its Fowler steam locomotives.

You may book the entire tour, or just the HG/S or just the SG/S parts of it. In addition, you can book a sightseeing program at Lahore and Multan at any time, as soon as there are at least 2 participants per freely selectable dates!

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No. of participants min 15, max. 35
Duration 6 - 13 days
Meals half board
Price from 2.980 €
Open for bookings Sold out.
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The itinerary:

31 october, 2020, 2aturday:
Early morning meeting of all participants at Islamabad airport (our trip is based on the arrival times of Turkish Airlines). 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.

Immediately after arrival in Islamabad we will take our group bus to the railway depot in Rawalpindi, where we will take the first pictures of the HGS (axle sequence 1D) stationed there under steam. Also HG/S 2264 may still be stationed at the depot, but cold (not refurbished). We have reserved 3 hours of photo action in the morning.

Afterwards we visit the small railway museum in Golra (steam and electric traction) before we meet the next HG/S under steam in Taxila. Hopefully the locomotive is already ready for departure with a freight train to Havelian at the platform. Havelian is located at the foot of the Himalayas, the locomotive on the turntable with the mountains in the background should make a nice motif.

Since Pakistan Railways believes in the quality of the "general inspection" of the HGS, but is actually concerned that a steam train could be left on the track, we suggested to the P.R. to use an auxiliary diesel locomotive. According to the practice in many other countries, we will use a diesel locomotive as a lead-in on the overpass lines, and uncouple the diesel locomotive for the sham approaches.

Even though the P.R. speaks of a "general inspection", this is certainly not a general inspection by our standards. The locomotives have been disassembled and reassembled once, properly painted - and that's it. The locomotives have not seen new pipes or even a new boiler for over 30 years ...

The traffic level on this branch line is rather low, but at least it's still a freight train pair! So we have enough time to arrange enough photo stops.

We were able to convince P.R. not to return to Rawalpindi by train every evening, but to set up a temporary steam bw in Attock City. So we have the locomotives and all the staff on site. The group will most likely not stay overnight in Attock, as there are really only very bad hotels on site. We are still looking for suitable accommodations, but we should be able to find them in the Taxila area (30 km from Attock).
Meals: Dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila area.

1 november 2020, sunday:
Today will be dedicated to the spectacular bridges and tunnels on the northern section of "Main Line 2", also called "ML2", near Attock: the bridges span large river valleys, and consist only of the most necessary: bridge piers, a steel support for the track, a railing - that's it. Underneath it goes then deeply down...

Already before sunrise we will reach the first bridge and photograph/film the passages of our special train (HG/S with freight wagons) on both sides. More bridges and tunnels will follow further south, the most interesting section with 2 bridges and many tunnels we will drive on in the morning and afternoon!
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila area.

2 november 2020, monday:
In the morning we are already at one of the big bridges south of Attocks before sunrise and will work on the best photo spots on this section until noon. Afterwards our diesel locomotive will pull the steam train back to Attock.

In Attock we will be able to simulate the shunting operation together with a second HG/S and take top pictures together with the old British signalling equipment. The regular service with mainly 40+ year old diesel locomotives from the USA and Japan will provide additional shots (but also for the other shunting break...).
A night photo session rounds off the day.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila room.

3 november 2020, tuesday:
This morning we drive to the small railway station Attock Khurd, which serves as our base for numerous crossings on the large Indus River Bridge. Our freight train will be made up of classic brown freight cars, in addition we will carry a freight train attendant car for the train chief. The HG/S will initially point to the east so that we can drive "the right way" for the morning photo session on the bridge in Attock Khurd. We have estimated about 3 hours for the bridge, after that we steam back southeast towards Attock City, all travel times are of course based on the current times of the scheduled trains. Hardly a train runs on time, so that we will adapt our schedule flexibly on the spot. In November 2019 we were finally on the road with our special train with +3 hours...

The afternoon program sees us steaming on the track south of Attocks: here British engineers have been building "Chinese" railroads since the times of the Raj, the colonial rule: just build a railroad line with a ruler drawn through the landscape: You cross mountains with tunnels, and valleys with many bridges. So the routing is really ingenious and we will be able to use the best photo motives extensively. Our priority is the intensive "working off" of the best photo positions within the first 25 kilometres of the track. It's not about driving as many kilometers as possible, but to put the bridges and tunnels in this section in the best possible light. If necessary, even several times.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila area.

4 november 2020, wednesday:
We repeat Monday's morning program: new bridges, new tunnels... We will not be able to work off all the possible photo points, this is the experience of the 2019 trip, in one, even in 2 days: Weather, oncoming trains, technical problems on the train, etc., require us to revisit this truly spectacular stretch of track.

Around noon, however, we get towed south, where the landscape becomes completely different: wide grassy areas and hardly any gradients determine the picture. All stations are of course still manned and are secured with form signals. Our photo freight train ends in the afternoon at Basal Junction station, where we will shunt until sunset. If everything works out, we will meet another HG/S here!
We leave our HG/S in the evening and take the bus to the hotel in Rawalpindi.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in the Taxila room.

5 november 2020, thursday :
Those who were only interested in the HG/S program will be driven to Islamabad airport tonight. There the HG/S program ends. We are happy to book your arrivals and departures for this trip, arrival in Europe on the same day during the afternoon.

All other participants will travel to Lahore by a regular express train of Pakistan Railways (vsl. 1st class sleeping car), the journey takes about 5 hours. After arrival the buses will take us directly to the hotel.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in a tourist class hotel in Lahore.

6 november 2020, friday:
Malicious tongues say that when we visited the Moghalpura Repair Plant in 2019, many workers would have been condemned to attend (and work) so that the plant would not be completely deserted and we would also get to see something. We didn't care, because the Aw is so colonially backward that there is really something to photograph and film at every corner. One of the highlights surely the steam hammers!

In the afternoon we go by bus to Wagah to the Indian border, where both sides have an impressive ceremony to take down the flag. On each side even better music has to be played, even louder roars have to be heard, and marching with even more grease than at the unloved neighbour opposite.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in a tourist class hotel in Lahore.

7 november 2020, saturday:
On the narrow-gauge forest railway in Changa Manga south of Lahore, there is nothing to see of the timber transport nowadays, the 600mm railway runs exclusively for tourists. During our visit we concentrate on the morning scenes in the small bw of the train and travel a part of the line with a special train. Especially for us, wooden wagons are loaded, we will experience at least 2 of the 3 active Fowler narrow gauge steam locomotives in operation!

Afterwards we have to drive across the country to Sargodha to spend the night there.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in a simple hotel in Sargodha.

Those who are interested exclusively in the SG/S and SP/S program will arrive at Lahore Airport this morning, take part in the Changa Manga program, and then drive with the group to Sargodha.

8 november, 2020, sunday:
The elegant inner cylinder locomotives of the SP/S (axle arrangement 2B) and SG/S (axle arrangement C) series were once the stars of the steam locomotive scene in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, almost all locomotives were scrapped or rotted for almost 20 years in the thicket of an abandoned industrial connection. If everything goes according to plan, and this has been discussed with the responsible persons of Pakistan Railways, we will have at least one SG/S for train services, possibly also one SP/S. But since the SP/S is the much worse of the two locomotives, and the Moghalpura repair shop is not sure whether it can be repaired at all, it would be possible to take pictures of it under steam, but possibly only as a stationary photo object. In any case, we will station both locomotives in Malakwal!

We start the day with grazing shots of the SG/S in front of a freight train at Malakwal station, then we take the main line towards Sargodha to Phularwan or Bhalwal. In the evening we plan a night photo session with both locomotives in Malakwal. 
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in a simple hotel in Sargodha.

9 november 2020, monday:
Today we will spend the whole day on the main line to Mandi Bahauddin east of Malakwal. The track is, as basically all open tracks from Malakwal, rather flat and straight in east-west direction. Nevertheless, it offers a lot of motives with mosques, canal bridges, and a lot of rural flair! We are on the road again with the SG/S and a newly assembled freight train.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in a simple hotel in Sargodha.

10 november 2020, tuesday:
In the good old days, when Malakwal was a major railway junction, the railway served a total of 5 destinations west of the city. Today only 1 of these destinations is left: to Pinda Khan. Today, our SG/S travels over the mighty Victoria Bridge to the present end point of the line. In the afternoon, we return to the Sargodha Railway again. In the evening, we arrange another night photo shoot in Malakwal.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in a simple hotel in Sargodha.

11 november 2020, wednesday:
The main line east meets "Main Line 1" at Lalamusa, i.e. the Peshawar - Rawalpindi - Lahore connection. We start again early before sunrise (as every day, by the way), and take the SG/S towards Lalamusa as long as there are still front lights. Then we get towed to Lalamusa, turn our locomotive there, and head west again in the afternoon. We celebrate the sunset and the end of the tour on one of the many canal bridges in the area.
In the evening we drive to Islamabad.
Meals: Breakfast (packed), dinner.
Overnight stay in a tourist class hotel in the greater Islamabad area.

12 november 2020, thursday:
In the night we take our bus to the airport, where the journey ends. We will be happy to book your arrivals and departures for this trip, arrival in Europe on the same day during the afternoon.

End of the tour.

Tour prices:

HG/S ititnerary only (31 October - 5 November 2020) per person:
2.980 Euro shared double room
  300 Euro single room supplement

SG/S ititnerary only (7 - 12 November 2020) per person:

3.850 Euro shared double room
   260 Euro single room supplement

Entire tour (31 October - 12 November 2020) per person:
5.990 Euro shared double room
   600 Euro single room supplement

Our services (depending on the booked program):

  • HG/S and SG/S charter trains;
  • SP/S at Malakwal (yet to be confirmed);
  • HG/S shunting at Attock City;
  • Visit to the Rawalpindi railway depot;
  • Visit to the repair shop in Moghalpura,
  • 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;
  • Accommodation in local tourist hotels (shared 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 Tour brochure;
  • 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.

Pakistan requires a visa to enter the country. The easiest way is to apply for an "e-visa" online. If you want Tanago to do this for your, we charge 120 € per application.

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 2019. 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, 2020 at the latest, we will run this trip with a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 35 participants.


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.

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

Welcome to Pakistan!
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