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I would be particularly interested in seeing any more photographs of surviving remains. Andrew Grantham Surrey, UK. During the nineteenth century Britain was concerned that Russia might advance through Afghanistan towards India, threatening British rule in the subcontinent.
Britain saw defence of the North West Frontier, now part of Pakistan, as essential to the "Great Game" of politics played across the region by the two rivals. No action was taken until , when Britan decided to keep at least one route into Afghanistan open all year round to permit the rapid deployment of troops from Karachi to counter any threat to India.
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Orders were given that a railway should be built to Quetta, near the Afghan border, and this developed into a scheme to reach Kandahar. The Second Afghan war broke out between Britain and Afghanistan before work could begin. This gave a new urgency to the need for easier access to the frontier, and on 18 September the Viceroy's council decided to make do with a line through the Bolan pass usable only in fair weather.
Work began just three days later, and after four months the first km of the line was complete, opening from Ruk to Sibi in January On 27 March the Morning Post commented "after three and twenty years of apathy the necessity has been realised and now these railways are being constructed.
Beyond Sibi the terrain was more difficult. Reconnaissance parties had reached Kandahar by December , but Afghanistan was enemy country, making it difficult to find an optimal route for the line. It was realised it would not be possible to for the railway to reach Quetta before the conclusion of the war, and so the railway was given a lower priority. When a new cabinet under Gladstone was formed in April the planned Kandahar extension was put to one side.
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Persia would take control of the Afghan city of Herat subject to certain conditions, including permitting British soldiers to be stationed there. Article seven of the draft agreement stated that. If a railway or telegraph be constructed to Kandahar the Shah [of Persia] at the request of the Queen [Victoria] would facilitate its extension to Herat in all ways in his power and would contribute thereto from the surplus of the Herat revenues according to his ability.
At first the Persian foreign minister requested the removal of this article. He eventually agreed to its inclusion, but objected to the conditions regarding the assessment of the revenue of the city . In Russia began to build the Trans-Caspian railway . In Britain there was concern that Russia might seize Herat, and extend their new railway to the city. In response to this threat Britain restarted work on the railway to Afghanistan. To avoid alerting Russia to this work it was described as the "Harrai road improvement project", and camels were used for construction traffic instead of the more usual temporary railway lines.
This deception was abandoned when Russia occupied the city of Mary in , and the line was developed as the Sind Peshin State Railway. Over km long, the line reached Quetta in March , through barren mountains inhabited by armed tribesmen. The buffer stop lay 5 km beyond Chaman fort, and just m short of the Durand line, the Afghanistan-India border fixed by Sir Mortimer Durand in A supply depot was set up at Chaman, containing the rails, sleepers and bridge parts required to extend the line the remaining km to Kandahar in the event of a military emergency.
Across Afghanistan, the Russians stockpiled materias at Kushka to allow the rapid construction of a line to Herat. Amir Abdul Rehman, ruler of Afghanistan between and , banned railways and the telegraph from entering Afghanistan, in case they were used in any British or Russian invasion. Rehman commented "there will be a railway in Afghanistan when the Afghans are able to make it themselves" and said "as long as Afghanistan has not arms enough to fight against any great attacking power, it would be folly to allow railways to be laid throughout the country.
In Captain AC Yates wrote a booklet  setting out arguments in favour of building a railway to Seistan, rather than Kandahar, to allow the defence of Herat against Russia. Around there was discussion  regarding extending the Chaman line to Kandahar, and beyond to Herat and the Russian railhead at Kushka.
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In the event, the line was never extended across the border. It did however carry traffic from Afghanistan, with a daily ice-packed train bringing fresh fruit grown in Afghanistan to the cities of India until the s. A through railway link from Europe to India had long been contemplated, but the schemes raised concerns for the security of the subcontinent.
This raised the risk of Russian troops being able to occupy Kandahar and Quetta, outnumbering available Indian army forces. In a British study  looked at the implications of Russian railway construction in the light of the successful movement of troop on the Trans-Siberian line during Russia's war with Japan The Trans-Persia line faced political problems "in that it would cause alarm and suspicion in Afghanistan, as its rails lead direct to the Afghan Frontier, which may give rise to tribal excitements that may prove beyond the Amir's power to control.
The measures taken to restore confidence may involve us in complications with other European Powers. The study's author commented "No connection between this line and either Afghanistan or Northern Baluchistan should be permitted",. Russian railways now stretched from Orenburg to Tashkent and Samarkand. The bridging of the Oxus [Amu-Darya] is estimated to take four months to complete".
It was estimated that after reaching the Amu-Darya it would take the Russians 16 months to extend the railhead to Doshi. The report also considered that an extension of the Trans-Caspian railway from Kushka into Afghan territory would only be possible with consent or in war time. Rails were stacked at Kushka, and it was estimated that the line could be laid to the Helmud in 18 months. The author speculated that the German-backed Baghdad railway could be extended to the Afghan frontier, but handwritten annotations on the Public Record Office's copy of the booklet suggest officials thought this somewhat unlikely.
The author concluded that "The present attitude of the Amir concerning them [i. Thus the construction of these two lines [Trans-Caspian from Kushka, an extension from Samarkand] is probably only a matter of time. During the second Afghan war Sir Guilford Molesworth considered the possibility of constructing a metre gauge through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan. However, there was not yet a bridge across the River Indus, and constructing one would have been a major undertaking.
In a survey was carried out for a metre or narrower gauge line through the Khyber Pass to Landi Kotal. In the broad gauge North Western Railway was extended from Peshawar to Jamrud, and in work began on a metre gauge military railway along the Kabul River valley in the Mullagori hills. Parliament authorised the construction of this line as far as Torkham, and there was heated discussion about what course should be taken through the narrow Kabul River gorge.
There were two potential alignments. Commander-in-Chief Lord Kitchener supported a direct route westwards through the Loi Shilman valley, with a tunnel between Warsak and Smatsai. The tunnel was deemed to be too expensive, and so it was decided to take an easier alignment following the bend in the river to Palosi. The Afghans considered their territory to extend for some distance on the Indian side of the artificial border of the Durand line. Which ever route the railway took, it would extend about 56 km beyond British-controlled areas.
Construction work was held up by local tribes launching attacks on the works.