Khewra Salt Mines Tramway

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Khewra Salt Mines

The existence of salt at Khewra, in the Jhelum District has been known about since the army of Alexander the Great crossed the Jhelum and Mianwali region during his Indian campaign in 326 BC and has been extracted here since at least the 13th Centuary AD. The British took control of the mines in 1849 and soon built a metalled road to the mines. In 1872 a Dr H Warth began the room and pillar method of extraction of the salt. By 1881 the mines, (also known as the 'Mayo Mines', in honour of Lord Mayo, who visited the mines as Viceroy of India), were operated by the 'Northern India Salt Revenue Department' [1] [2].

Railways

Salt was first sent from the mine by mainline railway after the opening of the Punjab Northern State Railway(PNSR) metre gauge(MG) line in 1876. By 1881 a line from Chalisa Junction was under construction to the Warthganj depot at the mouth of the gorge, where it had to cross the Jhelum River. This was not bridged permanently until 1886-87 although a temporary bridge wazs used until the snows melted each year when it had to be dismantled. When the bridge was not in place, the salt was ferried across the river in boats [1].

In 1886 the PNSR was merged with other railways to form the North-Western State Railway, later becoming the North Western Railway(NWR).The line was converted to broad gauge(BG) in Aug 1887 to connect the 'Khewra Salt Mines' to Chalisa Junction on the North Western Railway(NWR) network, which by that time was a fully BG. The extension to Dandot from Khewra, 2.1 miles(3.4km), was converted to BG in Aug 1889 and extended to Dandot, a total of 8.5 miles(13.6km) - these lines became the NWR 'Dandot Branch'[3].

See also Lala Musa - Mayo Salt Mine Railway - this being the alternative name for this railway

Tramways

  • Surface Tramway [1]. A 2ft/610mm narrow gauge(NG) was in use by 1879 when it was described as 'running to the Depot at Warthganj. In 1881-82 the records show that 1½ miles(2.4km) of track had been relaid and 50 new wagons obtained. By 1882-83 this tramway was rebuilt to eliminate a section with a 1 in 10 gradient that had been worked by an endless chain and animal power was then used. A diversion of 1,928 feet(590 metres) from the mine mouth to the pile bridge over Billiwalla Gorge to give a gradient of 1 in 35, and from the mine mouth inwards a gradient of 1 in 40. By 1886-87 the wooden piles of the Billiwalla Gorge were replaced with masonary piers
  • Underground Tramway[1]. A hand worked underground tramway in the mine was first recorded in 1881-82 but was probably in use when the surface tramway came into use in 1879'. A new underground line was built to emiminate a section with a gradient of 1 in 8 worked by an endless chain, this line was just over ½ mile(0.8km) by the end of 1885-86 and by 1886-87 had 22 loading points.

In 1897-98 the total length of both the surface and underground tramways was recorded as 1¼ miles(2km) with the line from the mine mouth of just over ½ mile(0.8km) and was 'constantly being added to'.

1917-18 was described in the records as one of 'transition from the old system of dealing with salt by manual labour to that of handling the trucks by means of compressed air and locomotive haulage'. This increased output threefold. Further developments occured and in 1934 electric overhead system was installed with electric locomotives.

The mines were taken over by the Government of Pakistan in 1947, the mines are still in operation.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of India and South Asia” compiled by Simon Darvill. Published by ‘The Industrial Railway Society’ 2013. ISBN 978 1 901556 82-7. Available at http://irsshop.co.uk/India. Reference: Entry PP17 page ....
  2. Wikipedia "Khewra Salt Mine"; Retrieved 25 Nov 2017
  3. “Administration Report on Railways 1918” page 108 (pdf116) ; Retrieved 24 Nov 2017