Engineering marvels of colonial India- The Khost railway tunnel

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Came across an interesting post about the Khost railway tunnel near Quetta in Pakistan. A marvel of British engineering of that time, it was built to facilitate a rail line to Kandahar in Afghanistan. Apparently the British were afraid of possible Russian incursions into Imperial India and this line was to serve as a communication and supply link to the frontier. It also has a fortifications built into one end.

Lots of photos make the post even more interesting and the writer- Owais Mughal- informs us that

Work on tunnel was started from both ends but due to some surveying error the two tunnels did not meet in the center and the engineer in charge attempted suicide. In second attempt the error was corrected and both tunnels met in the center, however, it created a very distinguished turn and hump (crest) in the center of the tunnel.

Other interesting facts:

  • Built in 1891 it remains the longest tunnel in Pakistan at 3912 m (at least until the 8.6 km Lowari tunnel opens in 2008)
  • There is a system of reflecting sunlight using convex mirrors mounted on trolleys into the tunnel for workmen and this has been in use since inception and continues to be so.

Interestingly, according to a site that collects such information, there are over 80 railway tunnels over 10km in length in the world, none of them in India or Pakistan. The channel tunnel (Chunnel) is the second longest at 50,450m; the longest is a subsea tunnel in Japan 53,850m to be eclipsed in 2008 by a Swiss tunnel of about 57,000m lenght!

India will have a 10,960m long railway tunnel in once the Pir Panjal tunnel when the new Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramula Kashmir Railway is completed in 2009 accompanied by a 8.8km road tunnel across the Pir Panjal range at Rohtang Pass in Himachal.

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