Rawalpindi; Unforgettable Train Journeys

By Shaheda Rizvi, Canada

Editor’s Note: Shaheda Rizvi lives in Montreal, Canada. This nostalgic article is about the time when she lived in Westridge, Rawalpindi way back in 1954-58.

Over the years, I have traveled long distances and also short distances, high-speed (TGV) and also not so high-speed. Some train journeys were made for pleasure and some for work, some to meet friends and relatives and some to bid them adieu, but my Pindi train journeys transcend them all.

However, writing my  most cherished train journeys, the ones taken in Pindi, has been infinitely more difficult than I ever imagined. My problem is not that I don’t remember much. On the contrary,  there is so much to write and compartmentalize and then all of it gets so mired and mixed that I don’t know where to begin and where to end. Childhood perceptions can be tricky, especially where speed, looks and reputation of trains go, and so I have settled with a piece on “Goods Trains” (also known as “Freight Trains”).

A posting at the Rawalpindi Offices of Pakistan Western Railways (PWR) was a Railway officer’s  dream. Among many other perks, the posting guaranteed a Railway Saloon, also known as “home on wheels” for travelling all parts of the country, wherever railway lines and steam engines could go.

Pic of Rawalpindi Railway Station - Rawalpindi; Unforgettable Train Journeys

Senior Divisional Managers, General Managers and Directors were allocated air-conditioned saloon cars with bedrooms (at least two), two bathrooms, a dining area complete with china crockery and cutlery, which converted to a drawing-room, during the day. Beyond the bathrooms were two sleeping alcoves, one for the onboard-cook and the other for chaprasi,  their private toilets, and a kitchen fully equipped with old cast iron cooking stoves and oven – legacy of the British Raj. Some senior officers shared their Saloons. How well I remember the heat that the stoves generated even during simple chapatti-making chores.

My father was a junior officer in the Railways of late 1950s, but because his job involved tracking signals, and railway lines under scorching sun, sometimes in a trolley, his particular job came with two small private saloons, one for the narrow-gauge and one for broad-gauge, both for my father’s exclusive  use. The smaller saloons were not air-conditioned, and immensely uncomfortable to travel during hot summer months, but autumn and winter guaranteed, unconditionally, some heavenly travels.

Rawalpindi; Unforgettable Train Journeys - Rawalpindi Trolley

The broad-gauge saloon for my father’s tours and our weekend or holiday trips was Saloon Number 245, size of a large studio apartment with bathroom, attendants’ sleeping alcoves and another tiny toilet, and a kitchen. Besides the dedicated Saloons, PWR, also provided a parking spot, known as a railway siding, which was about 1/3rd of a mile from our front gate, near the Power Station.

Rawalpindi; Unforgettable Train Journeys - House No. 125, Westridge Road, Rawalpindi

How immensely unbelievable it sounds today, but then it was pretty much routine. To board our saloon, and head out of Pindi towards Peshawar, while stopping at various small and large railway stations, required that we walk out through the front gate of our house on Westridge Road, board our saloon, which stood at its special railway siding along the road. Soon a steam engine would arrive, attach itself to the saloon, and then pull us out of the siding onto the main railway lines, leading to the Rawalpindi Railway Station. There it would attach the saloon to either a fully packed passenger train or a goods train (freight train).

The reason that our saloon was attached to a freight train, was that our saloon was not large enough to become part of a fast passenger train, like “Tezgam” or “Khyber Mail” – attaching it to those two trains, upset the balance and hence the speed. (at least this is the explanation given to us).  And, if the other passenger trains could not accommodate another car, freight train was our inevitable choice, and that was more often than not.

Being the only passenger car amongst 20 goods cars was a little daunting for a child’s ego, and I generally avoided telling my friends at school about our weekend visits and holidays around the railway country side.

“Freight train freight train goin’ so fast
Freight train freight train goin’ so fast
Please don’t tell what train I’m on
So they won’t know where I’ve gone.”

Rawalpindi; Unforgettable Train Journeys - A train with steam engine

Our railway journeys took us through rich wheat fields, villages, flowing rivers, dark tunnels and  bridges. Sweet and gentle villagers herding their goats, tending their livestock, using water wheels to irrigate their land and perhaps fetch water for personal consumption. Such were some of the sights that played peek-a-boo, as our train traveled from Rawalpindi to Nowshera and Peshawar on the western tracks.

Weekends and holidays from September through March, involved train journeys through cosy villages infused with sweet scent of toasted green chanas; dried apricots that overflowed push carts (rehri) and took over the oily smoky scent of our freight train. Pleasant scenes and sad scenes all came and went like a kaleidoscope in motion. There were sad and sorrowful times of flooded mud-huts, with villagers and livestock swimming together, as if to say that we are coming to the same oasis for rest and rescue—Young boys and girls waving at the train, wondering whether the engine driver and the few passengers (us) were part of a rescue mission.

At the train station, the conductor and the engine driver exchanged personal and non-personal information with local vendors and service providers; documents and goods exchanged hands; sometimes in the dark of the night, and sometimes during the early morning hours, or mid-day as our train moved along familiar railway stations.  There was much love and generosity in the hearts of these villagers. While loading their harvests, they smiled, waved, graciously and gladly sold us large baskets of plums, pears, apricots etc. (Rupee 1 for each basket) and the joy which that exchange brought to their faces, is something that is impossible to describe.

“Taxila Junction”  was always  one place that our saloon rested. While my father worked, inspected and discussed freight trains signals and procedures, we toured the museum and its various sites. Another advantage of being the only passenger saloon on a goods train was that we did not have to pack up and get off at our destination. The engine driver, a guard, with a lantern (green side to go and red side to stop) and the steam engine took care of all the logistics. In less than an hour, our saloon would be detached from the goods train, moved out of the main lines, and installed safely on the railway siding at the Taxila Railway Station.

Rawalpindi; Unforgettable Train Journeys - A Buddha relic at Taxila Museum

All that is on Taxila Musuem’s website is still fresh and alive in my memory bank–we saw the immensely rich gold-pieces, the iron tools, Buddha statues, spoons, plates, nails, keys, and art pieces, relics of  the period that people cross continents to see and admire.  What is pleasing to observe is that the grounds are as lovely as I imagined, and as can be seen in our 1956-photograph in the rose garden at Taxila Museum.

Rawalpindi; Unforgettable Train Journeys - Rose garden at Taxila Museum, 1956

“I’d say we often in many ways, begin as blind beings, from whatever cause, and like the evolution of humans ——–through experiences that open our eyes… like Bluebeard’s current wife comes wide awake, like Argos with the thousands of eyes, some of which stay awake while others sleep, in tandem.  ”  Dr. C. P.  Estes

Related Pages:
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi 
Photos of Rawalpindi 
Rawalpindi Memorabilia
Nostalgic Memories of Rawalpindi

Editor’s Note: 
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  1. Maqsood A. Khan says:

    I felt proud to be a railway man when I read about your experience in the Pakistan Railways. Rawalpindi was the first division I was posted as an ATO with Kohat and Bannu Sections to supervise – It is past 40 years some time in 1976 – I traveled a lot in the Narrow Gauge Small saloons; and that small ERB / ERC ( Small four wheeled saloon car) fit for slow trains – So goods / freight trains were the option left. I lived in Westridge, when I was posted as DTO. Your writing just inspired me to be a proud Railway Man which I always am.

    With Regards,

  2. Bhinder Pal Singh says:

    I have traveled a lot on trains in India. Every station had it own specialty.
    Khurchan at Khurja or Peda at Mathura. Agra had the best Petha and Chikki at Lonavala. And who can forget Amroods at Allahabad? The Puri Aaaloo at those stalls were yummy (at least at that age). The cutlets and omelette toast at refreshment rooms served by uniformed waiters were a treat. Another permanent fixture at every station was a book stall run by A.H. Wheeler & Co (if my memory serves me right).

    As a banker once I was posted at a remote place. While there I found a novel use for railway stations. I used to visit on days off so that I could see people who were traveling the train from my home town.

    My best regards and good wishes.

  3. Professor Farooq Ellahi says:

    The whole description enables us to fly to the golden past where peace and calmness were profound whereas paper money was not found in profuse form. Please keep it up as your description consoles specific age group readers.

  4. Yash Pal Sethi, India says:

    Very exhaustive and interesting account of Rawalpindi journey by railway saloon. Before the Partition the journey by train was very strenuous specially in summer as there were few Mail trains. Our journey normally used to be from Rawalpindi to Lahore or from Rawalpindi to Malakwal via Lala Musa.

  5. Brig (R) Khalil ur Rehman says:

    Dear Madam,
    It was always a fascinating experience to travel by train all my life. I landed in Rawalpindi as 2nd Lt in 1968. In the first five years I traveled to Karachi 5 times from Rawalpindi by Tezgam. Dark green color AC Coupe made in Germany was always a luxury to travel long distance.
    In April 1971, I was posted to East Pakistan. In Dec 71 we were taken to Brailly, as Prisoners of War, by Indian Army by train. The journey started from Khulna and for next three days and nights we continuously traveled. Food served by Indian Army en-route was only fried balls made of wheat flour. The Indian Army confiscated all the rations we were carrying as emergency rations.
    Even in 1971 India had highly developed Railways. It consisted of North, South, West, East and Central Railways. The trains were controlled by GHQ Dehli, and at times they ran for 10 to 12 hours at a stretch. I was maintaining a diary of all the stations we crossed en route.
    The Indian Railway is today 2nd largest network in the world. Sadly we have destroyed our Railway which was equally at par with Indian Railway at the time of Partition, the downfall of our Railway started in 80s. The last nail in the coffin was drilled by three Generals who purchased 67 Chinese engines. Chinese have a big role in destruction of industry by exporting sub-standard products. I say this having intimate experience in Defence Ministry and purchased a large number of military hardware.
    Later, in life I traveled in Europe and a journey from Paris to London was a huge opportunity to see how rail had modernize in the 20th Century.
    It is really sad to see our Railway in ruins. PPP govt did not add one engine to Pak Railways in it’s 5 years tenure. PPP again purchased 75 engines from china, 14 reached Pakistan last month, 4 are out of order. It is sad and very sad. I am really sorry to bring all this to your kind notice. Please pray we have a better system in the near future.
    With best wishes for you and Rafique Khan Sahib.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Brig Khalil ur Rehman,

      Thanks for your comments and adding so much data around the role of past governments and generals in destroying the railways.

      In recalling the good old times, or romancing the past, does not insulate one from the present pain, but provides a link to that which can be achieved again, and perhaps rekindle hopes for those who are now lost in Railway Slums that dot Karachi’s railway tracks all around the country.

      New York Times: Slums crowd the train lines that snake through the city, pushing up against the tracks. Migrants have been coming here for decades, seeking economic opportunity or, more recently, fleeing Taliban violence. A short walk from Karachi’s main train station lies Railway Colony Gate No. 10: a cluster of rough shacks, pressed against a slope, bordered by a stagnant pool of black, putrid sewage.

      (These are also homes to the now unemployed, destitute railway workers–I just happened to be part of a different era and missed Railway Colony Gate No. 10 )

      On Freight Trains, New York Times wrote: “Haq (Zia-ul-Haq) diverted train freight business to the National Logistics Cell, a military-run road haulage company that cornered the market for transporting wheat and other commodities.

      With freight gone, the railway was doomed,” said Salman Rashid, a travel writer who has specialized in the train network.

      Almost on schedule, the Awami Express panted into the grand old station at Lahore. A Hollywood movie starring Ava Gardner was shot here in 1955; today the yard is cluttered with empty freight vans.

      freight business — the lifeblood of any train service — has crumbled. The last time the rail system turned a profit was in 1974.”

    • Major (R) Nadeem Ahmad says:

      One of the good legacies of British rule were(is) the railways. How we have managed to destroy it ? What a pity. Being in the army and otherwise also I have traveled long distances on Pak railways. Again pity the nation that have destroyed it just for a few pennies.
      Just a thought, “Can we use good old steam engines running on coal due to energy crisis?”

  6. Major (R) Nadeem Ahmad says:

    I, being from the Army have many experiences from traveling in trains to out of the way places. Train journeys are my favourite till today. Specially loved travelling on special Army trains. Unfortunately these trains will never be back. The laid back approach, the courtesy, the carriages etc. We are the lucky ones who have seen those days.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Major Nadeem Ahmad,

      Thanks for your comments. Could you elaborate on special Army trains–what were they? Saloons? Private coaches? Special AC coaches?

      • Major (R) Nadeem Ahmad says:

        They are special trains transporting troops or equipment. We did not have ACs at most First Class sleepers (called these days.) Travelling as a group with all the facilities like Mess, personal servants, brother officers, troops, etc is unforgettable. The biggest thing was you were in command.
        It is a long saga will Insha Allah love to follow later. Hope can do so.

  7. Muhammad Asif Allahdiya says:

    Madam Shaheda Rizvi,
    I am thankful to you for pouring your memories on to a paper and making it a part of history. These first hand account of events, places, society and culture are indeed a treasure find for the readers. For our generation and for the generations to come, such writings are a good source of studying our heritage as well as a window in time through which we get to see our selves. Unlike the West where a great effort has been put to preserve their heritage and legacy, our part of the world makes negligible effort for any such thing.
    My prayers and well wishes to you.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Muhammad Asif Allahdiya,

      So many thanks for your kind comments. I agree that there is very little attention, if at all, of preserving the past, of caring for the old, and thus promoting a sense of pride for one’s heritage. What can be done, though?

  8. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd) says:

    Dear Madam, again an excellent write up. Made me remember all my train travelling both of childhood and later. But the best which I always cherish is travel by Bolan Mail from Karachi to Quetta which I did many a times. I wish if you can write some thing on this too.

    Thanks again for taking me back in the time tunnel and giving a wonderful time of remembrance of train travel. Best Regards.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Lt. Col Masood Alam,

      Thank you so much for your kind comments. Unfortunately, we did not travel that route, although I imagined taking the Bolan Mail to get to the Quetta mountains.

  9. Aziz Abbas Zaidi says:

    Railway is indeed a failed romance of past in which Kaidos are none other than the Railway employees and their Managers. All type of Governments have a lions share in it to devour Pakistan Railway bit by bit; by filling it with Parchi Bharti in the name of Service to their loyal workers. Thus Political forces are more responsible for the destruction of Pakistan Railway, PIA, GTS (Govt Transport Service, which has been eaten up and digested by Inefficient Govts, its employees and Managers) Police, WAPDA, Sui Gas Companies and all other public service departments as they have caused permanent and irreversible losses by injecting unsuitable, inefficient and dishonest employees (Gulloo Butt Style).

    The real beneficiaries are not the travellers and customers or the innocent citizen (Voter) but few greedy and selfish (Rising Sun worshippers) so called political workers who obey their Masters for every wrong thing even at the expense of Public Services and Public Property. It has become our habit to blame the system. This very system although given by Colonial Masters, served people efficiently without discrimination till 70s. It is “Handlers” of System who have destroyed it.

    For those who think above narration is based on negative thinking and frustration and everything is “Sub Achha”, please continue doing whatever you are doing and take maximum benefit of the Sunshine and make as much as possible. Do not bother if few innocent heads roll and few families “Khandaans” are ruined or even Pakistan is damaged in the process.

    And for those who think these are the facts, do something within your powers to alter it. Not like a Member of the Pakistan Railway Advisory Board who travelled by train to know the first hand knowledge of Railway functioning yet everybody knew that a VIP is on board and train went on time with Railway staff at its best performance.

    • Dr. Arif Qureshi, USA says:

      Salaamz Abbas Bhai
      Your observations are indeed true and most of us find ourselves helpless .But there is no denying these horrid facts and there is a tremendous burden on us do whatever in our power to correct the wrong.

      There are more than a few in position of power who are honest to the core. These are no less than angels on the earth in these times. They do the work honesty and efficiently.

      May there be in qismet of our beautiful homeland rulers and those in power who do not cheat, steal, destroy and think of public welfare as a sacred duty and remember that this life is going to end soon and there is no saving from ultimate justice.
      Thanks again and at least we can hope !


  10. Dear Madam,
    It is really very exhaustive & arresting account of the Railway and its journey during your young age when the Pakistan Railway had already added a lot of improvements in its operations. During 1940s and before the journey on train, which I witnessed was a bit not that comfortable but it was sure a joy ride.

    Even at present when we have more comfortable and faster means of travel; nothing like travelling by trains. The rhythmic sounds of the steel wheels on the rails sounds like a travelling melody in the ears.

    Your beautiful write up has surely triggered my memories of the sweet past when travel by railway was so expeditious and joyful for the youngsters except for the time when a small atom of the coal rushing out of the engine’s chimney suddenly entered into your eyes when peeping out of the windows.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Rafique Khan Sahib,

      Thank you so much for your kind comments. Rafique Sahib, actually, It’s your various writings that triggered the piece on “Unforgettable Train Journeys”. “Goods Trains” are what captured my memory bank at the moment, but there are others more engaging perhaps, ready to unfold.

      One very painful tale is that of Burgers and Pizzas being sold at railway stations. In my days, each railway station possessed a unique character, identified by its special cuisine, or fruits. For example some stations near Kohat sold the most gorgeous plums, and the next one sold the best pears. My favourite one, though, were the “Chapli Kababs” at Mardan railway station. When the saloon rested at Mardan station, our onboard cook had a free day. He would purchase various kababs and naans for our meals. We loved him.

      You wrote: “when a small atom of the coal rushing out of the engine’s chimney suddenly entered into your eyes when peeping out of the windows.” I remember that so well. As a matter of fact, we youngsters were scolded by the engine driver for hanging our heads out. Being that our saloon was immediately behind the steam engine, the likely hood of damage to our eyes, head, nose, ears was much greater. Did we listen to him? I don’t think so…we carried on..

      Prayers and Duaz to you, Rafique Sahib.

      • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

        Dear Madam,
        Thank you again for your nice observations. As a matter of fact I had travelled a lot during the pre Partition days by railway. It was then and of course it is now also very joyful journey to go by train. It has got its own peculiar joy, and pleasure. My elder brother-in-law was a Station Master in G.I.P railway with his last posting in Bhopal. We used to visit my sister and consequently saw Wardha, Harda, Itarsi, Mathura Hoshangabad, Betul, Nagpur, Bombay, & Poona etc. Every railway station had its peculiar menu in local variety of food especially the sweetmeats. I would never forget the taste of food served in the Compartment by the “Refreshment Room’s” management by their Bearers in white uniforms.

        You might be living in the Westridge, Rawalpindi in the Railway Colony with very spacious bungalows. The area then was very posh, quiet and scenic with greenery occupied by the high gentry. The only rare visitors were vendors with steel boxes containing bakery products etc.

        With blessings.

        • Shaheda Rizvi says:

          Dear Rafique Khan Sahib,

          I have been thinking about co-authoring with you on train journeys and train stations of India/Pakistan. I have read quite a few books on trains and train journeys through India, yet none cover the British Saloon System, inherited by Indo-Pak. While India has converted, modified, and created a new opulent style in Railway Travels—the Maharaja Express (Sorry, Maharaja Express – you are not for me) for example, but Pakistan has lost it all. Please think about it and let me know if it’s something you’d consider. If not, that’s OK too.

          Westridge Cantonment section: A piece of heaven on earth—— A country setting with urban comforts. There were so many fruit trees that kept us nourished during the summer months that two official gardeners could not handle the yield. At one count, there were 12 grape fruit trees, each a different variety of grape fruit, many plum bushes, loquats (2), pomegranate (2) Mango (1), Grapes (unmanageably large vineyard), banana groves (countless) and Jamun (2).

          Recently, while planting and caring for a few fruit trees, I reflected for hours on those who cared for the Westridge-earth, planting, cleaning, fertilizing and tending to its needs. Did they know that a day would come that these gardens would be theirs no more? I am referring to the original owners, planters and feeders of the land, not the Railways.

          You wrote: “Westridge, Rawalpindi in the Railway Colony with very spacious bungalows. The area then was very posh, quiet and scenic with greenery occupied by the high gentry. The only rare visitors were vendors with steel boxes containing bakery products etc.” Yes, absolutely right, only two tin-trunk vendors–pastries (best ever) and fabric-and-everything-else vendor. Question: Was there an unwritten law to keep vendors out of the area? Burglaries: unheard of, but I do have an anecdotal story on burglaries–very interesting.

          One Railway Officer (un-named) with a young wife and no kids, had by all appearances a pretty comfortable life, and his way of honouring his wife was by gifting her with gems and gold jewelry, which she wore on a daily basis. One day, while walking to the Railway Hospital from her house (a distance of 1 mile or less), she was pulled over by two thugs. The thugs beat up the two servants who were the chaperone, and asked her to relieve herself of all her possessions, immediately. She gave away her purse, her gold bangles (many) her gold necklace and ear-rings, after that they ran away, and she went off to the hospital. This happened between 12 – 1 PM, and there was not a single vehicle or a human being on Westridge Road. That was the only burglary ever reported or heard of. The young wife did not give up her jewels, though. Her husband soon got her a few more pieces.

          Well, sorry to ramble on. My prayers and good wishes to you and your family.

          • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

            Dear Madam,
            You have just taken me by about 70-80 years back to peep into my far away past, when I used to enjoy the rail journeys when being a very young boy. I may point out that during the earlier period also the PWR which was then NWR, was not considered to be a good class railway and was nick named as NAKAMI WAHEYAT RAILWAY (NWR).
            Do believe me Madam, that during the pre-Partition days the upper class coaches in GIP Railway had tinted glass windows and were fully dust proof and sound proof with four or more ceiling fans as per the size. There used to be some lose furniture like easy chairs also lying therein. The catering services used to be top class being a very big attraction while travelling by GIP Railway. The speed of the GIP was almost double than NWR.
            The NWR of pre-Partition days was of course by far better in all respects like correct arrival/ departures time, catering services, hygiene and courtesy. The TTs were very polite but firm in the performance, and would not show any leniency to ticketless passengers. The uniform both black and white were neat and clean. Only one porter in red shirts would carry almost all the luggage of the individual passenger including the Holdall, trunks, tiffin carriers, umbrellas and “Lottaas” etc, using his head, shoulders, arm-pits and hands loaded at the same time. The Traffic staff like Guards and TTs were mostly the Anglo Indians who would not talk much. They used to live in the Westridge area.
            I had travelled in the GIP and BB & CI Rilways. Both were top class quality and much better than NWR in so many aspects. While travelling in India, one used to pass through so many landscapes like mountains with their long tunnels, thick jungles and plain fields. Before entering the tunnels the engine used to blow a long whistle and lights were on. We used to be so terrified. Soon the ordeal was over when the train came out of the tunnels. En route we used to see the Trolleys of the staff checking the rails, off loaded from the rails to allow the train to pass using the green flag and waving their hands to the trains as a courtesy. The trolleys were pushed manually by two men running on the rails barefoot. There used to be one big Umbrella fitted on the trolley also.
            I think my reply is getting too long and before it gets boring I must thank you for triggering my sweet memories. I may provide you with more raw material for your next episode in this regards in due course of time. Kindly ask for my EMAIL address from Col. Rashid Cheema (Editor) in case you may like to contact me.
            Thanking you again Madam and with Blessings

  11. Afzal Cheema says:

    What a fascinating description!! My father also served in railway and I used to travel with him frequently. Your article reminded me of good old days when steam engine dragged trains and who can forget the mesmerizing whistle of engine?

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Afzal Cheema,

      Thank you for your kind words. Steam Engines in any shape or form appeared so dignified, so full of pride, I think. Although they needed so much attention, the fireman to constantly feed the coals, then at various stations they were serviced, water boilers filled, and then they would give a long drawn out whistle, before starting off with a “CHUGH CHUGH CHUGH”.

      One question: Being that your father was in railways too, have you read or come across a book on Pakistan’s Saloons? There were so many that were far better than ours, and I wish someone would write about them, and present it to the Golra Museum. A Childrens’ story so as to preserve and honour those who once served.

  12. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    Dear Shaheda Sahiba,
    A great narration, you made us look back to our own first journey by train especially on steam operated engines. Many thanks for sharing.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Maj Khalid Saeed Shah,

      So many thanks for your kind words. Steam engines seemed so grand and dignified in all that they did whether they flew as they did with Tez-Gam or dragged like a slow freight train.

  13. Abdul Rauf Abbasi says:

    Good one. Keep sharing & writing such precious articles.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Abdul Rauf Abbasi,
      Many thanks for your kind words. No matter how different the present scene is from the time I lived there, I feel there is an easing of angst in sharing that which Pindi once was.

  14. Niaz Ahmad Khan says:

    A beautiful write up Shaheda sahiba. It is so saddening to compare today’s Railways with that of its golden past. One is shocked to note that we remain way behind our eastern neighbor in preserving (not to speak of improving upon) our common legacy.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Niaz Ahmad Khan,
      Thank you for your kind words. You are echoing my feelings in expressing your sadness over Railway’s grand past, and also no match to our eastern neighbour. Societies transition from one stage of development to another, some slowly, some by grand leaps, some experience cycles of depression but soon work their way out BUT our Pakistan appears to be sliding downhill without any relief. Very sad.

  15. Zahir Khan says:

    It was an awesme journey going through your article. Felt like I was riding on the train. My father Late Mr. Mohammad Khan was a Member of the Pakistan Railway Advisory Board in the early 60s. He would always travel by train to aattend the board meetings in Lahore to apprise himself of the state of affairs of the railways. It was a treat to accompany him on these trips. Once the guard knew an advisory member was onboard there were no unscheduled stops. It was usually the Subak Raftar Railcar. It used to travel faster than it does nowadays. What progress.
    By the way, they made a new railway museum at the Golra Railway Station which I visited along with my kids sometime back. They have recreated some of the saloons you have mentioned and show the waiting rooms with those humungous arm chairs and served by waiters in white uniforms and crisp turbans of those days. Sadly, corruption by the last several regimes hasn’t left much to write home about the Railways.
    My daughter being an avid photographer insisted on visiting the Lahore Railway Station last year. I counted more than 150 train bogeys parked there rusting and out of commission. On the other hand international fast junk food chains have opened their outlets selling burgers, chicken and pizzas.
    Sorry to sadden you with ground realities. Reading your writeups is a very long and sad trip down memory remembering the way we were and where are headed. Maybe one of these days things will turn around for the better.
    Keep writing please. Warm regards,

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Zahir Khan,

      Thank you for your insightful comments. “Once the guard knew an advisory member was onboard there were no unscheduled stops.” True, that was a pretty common conduct even towards junior officers.

      You wrote: “By the way, they made a new railway museum at the Golra Railway Station which I visited along with my kids sometime back. They have recreated some of the saloons you have mentioned and show the waiting rooms ..” Just looked them up, a good website too. Well, housing these saloons in a museum does not provide insulation from lack of service and maintenance, but at least a piece of history has been preserved.

      So glad to hear that your daughter is an avid photographer and took pictures of the Lahore Railway Station. Pindi Railway station appears to be in good condition too.

      Surprisingly, one of the most painful story is that of Burgers and Pizzas being sold at railway stations. We have lost our history entirely. In my days, each station had a character and was known by the specialty of its food stalls. What comes to mind are the “Chapli Kabab” at Mardan railway station. When the saloon rested at Mardan railway station, our on-board cook had a free day. He would purchase various Kababs and Naans for our meals. We loved him.

      Prayers and Duaz to you too.

  16. Maj Gen (Retd) Parvez Akmal says:

    Respected Madam,
    Asslamo ‘Alaikum,

    A beautiful article with an intimate touch for all lovers of rail journey. I enjoyed travelling by rail till late 1970’s; no more. Euro Rail is our favorite now. As for home sweet home, in 2009, on way back home from my daughter’s in laws in Multan, I tried it again, against their advice. Some five hour delay besides, I was bitten by bugs whole night and kept awake thinking, ‘aren’t our Railway managers bugs too’? Would we ever have our good old Railway and that superb officer class again, the likes of your father?

    Prayers and regards.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Maj Gen Parvez Akmal,

      Thanks for your comments. Those Pindi Railway Times are only in my mind, I believe. And I am certain there are even better tales from those who traveled via larger saloons, although, I have not read any. A friend who traveled via a second class passenger car had this to say: “OOOF! Toilets!! What toilets?? You need a strong stomach to walk by them, not USE them!”

  17. Tariq Masud says:

    Azam Gill has very aptly summed up quality of your writing as “Lyrical Prose”. The flow of the language is like a tune. Thank you Shaheda Rizvi.
    Alas! Railways in our country are no longer the same as you remember them.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Tariq Masud,

      Thank you for your most generous comments, and Azam Gill is more than generous too.
      I had to stop and read all the other valuable comments and gathered that all that is left of Railways is a faded glory. Rusty passenger saloons, dust, bugs, dirt– a friend who traveled via a second class passenger car had this to say: “OOOF! Toilets!! What toilets?? You need a strong stomach to walk by them, not USE them!”

  18. Dr. Arif Qureshi, USA says:

    Salaamz Shaheda sahiba
    Thanks again for taking us back to those good old days with priceless memories. Most of us who lived in Pindi area around those times can relive some of the events you so nicely describe (paint?).
    Jazak Allah and duaaz.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Dr. Arif Qureshi,

      Salaamz and duaaz to you as well. Thanks for your comments. Actually from most of the comments, I gather, that these are just memories now. Railway cars are rusting, tracks and signals have been wiped away while bugs, dust and dirt have taken over a lot that was once comfortable.

      Reflecting Jazak Allah and duaaz right back to you.

  19. Lt Col (R) Muhammad Arshad Meer says:

    Good one. Keep contributing. I remember even in late 70s travelling in ACC used to be a luxury.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Lt Col Muhammad Arshad Meer,
      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, AC Travel, although limited, was available to all Railway officers and that is what they used in summers, but winters, spring and autumn, nothing could replace the privacy of a “home on wheels” ….

  20. Azam Gill, France says:

    Thank you, Shaheda Rizvi, for another fine piece of evocative, lyrical prose.

    You jolly well know where to begin, where to end, and how to communicate your childhood perceptions with exemplary clarity.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Azam Gill,
      SO many thanks for your beautiful words of appreciation. I am humbled, and I find joy in recalling my stories for those who feel and appreciate the place that birthed these stories.

      • Azam Gill, France says:

        Something to add after reading all the other comments: apart from the “chai garam chai” walas running along the platform, what fascinated me most was the “andae, garam andae” walas selling boiled eggs. Needless to say, our parents prohibited it, and taking pity on our eyes filled with longing, brought boiled eggs for the journey.

        Didn’t change anything.

        Still wanted THOSE boiled eggs, but our parents so drilled the fear of vendors’ boiled eggs as a possible health hazard, that never in my life while I was in Pakistan, even as an adult, as an Army officer, did I dare to eat a vendor’s boiled egg!!

  21. Dear Madam,
    As usual a very nostalgic article from your pen about Rawalpindi of old days.

    • Shaheda Rizvi says:

      Dear Editor,
      I am becoming convinced that nostalgia is a calling to become completely engaged with one’s roots, one’s childhood symbols, without any apparent reward—On the other hand, maybe not? For me, there is tremendous joy in polishing that particular space in mind, embracing the regrets, burying the unexpressed gratitude, and wishing for a chance to undo the wrong. Additionally, there is a subconscious desire to break away from the modern day “uprootedness”.
      That’s what this forum means to me—And, you’ve made it possible for so many uprooted souls around the globe. A heart full of thanks and heartfelt prayers blowing your way

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