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Reply To: Tangents and Train Trips


Thank you dear R³ (R-cubed) so if the value of R = zero, then you could be Triple R?

More than Kell or Quell, the name R³ fascinates me. What is the background to this name?

You wrote, “I have an ongoing poetic entendre infatuation with vehicles or vessels of conveyance of which trains are one. ” I have a fascination with trains too, but mostly the trains and travel style inherited by India-Pakistan — legacy of the British Raj, not the India-Pakistan style where passengers are packed like sardines.  I wrote a story about my life growing up in the Railway system of the late 50s early 60s. I’ll attach it as a PDF here. These days much is being written about “Taxilla”, the town that was our family’s weekend destination.

Ok, no PDF options here, so I’ll paste a few paragraphs from my railway journeys:


Over the years, I have travelled 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.

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.

Rawalpindi Train Station

Senior Officers 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.

My father ‘s  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.

                     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 a 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. 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 just 1/3rd mile down the road 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).  And the operation would be reversed for our return journey, that is, the saloon would be detached from the train at the  Rawalpindi Railway Station, pulled off the main railway lines, and installed along Westridge Road’s Railway Siding.

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 travelled 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 chickpeas (chanas), dried apricots from Afghanistan, other dried fruits and 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,  “ 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, graciously waved, and gladly sold us large baskets of plums, pears, apricots etc., (Rupee 1 for each basket) It’s almost impossible to describe the expression of joy that the fruit  exchange brought to their faces.

“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  and the steam engine, handled all the  logistics.  In less than an hour, our saloon would be detached from the goods train, moved away from the main lines, and installed safely on the railway siding at the Taxila Station.

All that which is on exhibit at the 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,  art and art pieces, relics of  the period that people cross continents to see and admire.