Faisalabad’s horse tram – a long-lost symbol of history

Train went out of service in the 1980s because it required extensive repair

Ghulam Dustgeer July 08, 2019

FAISALABAD: While modern modes of transportation gradually became popular in the Western world throughout the 19th century, people in the Indian subcontinent -- especially those belonging to lower socioeconomic backgrounds – still relied on traditional modes of transportation by using horses, donkeys and camels.

At the time, a famous social activist named Ganga Ram – an engineer by profession – came up with a novel idea to make life easy for the people of his village. He introduced a unique travelling facility called the Ghoda Train (horse-pulled tram service) in Jaranwala – a tehsil in Faisalabad district.

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The horse tram – which comprised two simple trollies pulled on a narrow rail track by two horses – connected the Buchiana Railway station to the village of Gangapur. Even after gaining independence from the British, the horse train remained in use for decades. The train went out of service in the 1980s because it required extensive repair.


According to the locals of the area, Ganga Ram started the tram service per the desire of his son-in-law and gifted it to his daughter on her marriage so that the couple could travel from Buchiana Railway Station to Gangapur as there was no other mode of transportation available to connect the village with the station at that time. As a result, people had to travel a distance of more than three kilometres on foot to reach the station.

Historians say that the work on the train began in 1898 while it became fully functional in 1903.  The tram could accommodate fifteen people.

A three-kilometre long iron track was laid down for the train along with wooden planks so that the horses would not face difficulty in pulling the vehicle.

The horse tram served as a historical symbol for Pakistan. Unfortunately, however, it was largely ignored and no efforts were made to preserve it.

Upon a visit to the Gangapur Village, The Express Tribune team found the tram’s platform in a dilapidated condition, while broken horse trams could also be seen lying nearby. Similarly, the horse stables were found completely deserted.

According to the locals, in 2010, the late district coordination officer of Faisalabad Iqbal Wahla took interest in the revival of this historic facility and worked on resuming the service. After running for a few months, however, the service was suspended because Wahla was transferred to another city.

The revival of the horse tram

Speaking with The Express Tribune, a resident of the village, Rana Asmat Ali, said that the villagers want the revival of the historic horse tram, adding that the three-kilometre-long train track which passes through green fields to reach Buchiana Train Station can offer great amusement value to visitors. People can take the train for recreational purposes along with their family members and immerse themselves in history.

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Recalling the time when the train became operational in 2010, another villager named Rana Riyasat said that people were very excited and they started using the facility regularly as it only cost them a few rupees.

Siddique, a 50-year-old villager, said that he used to travel via the train in the past because it was very different from modern modes of transportation.

“I liked that because there was no traffic noise or air pollution caused by the vehicle, yet passengers used to reach their destination on time,” he recalled. “People used the service to commute between the two villages.”

Speaking about the suspension of the historical service, District Social Welfare Officer Khalid Bashir said that his department lacks funds because of which the train could not be repaired and the service couldn’t be resumed. He added that special grants have to be procured for such projects which takes a lot of time and effort. Salman Ghani, a deputy commissioner who was posted to the village prior to the general elections of 2019 attempted to refurbish the train but the shortage of funds brought all progress to a complete halt.

Khalid Bashir explained that the former deputy commissioner, Noorul Ameen Mengal, established an entity in the name of Lyallpur Heritage Foundation (LHF) at a government level for the rehabilitation of historical heritage sites and buildings in Faisalabad, which is currently working on several projects.

When approached, chairman Lyallpur Heritage Foundation (LHF) and current Deputy Commissioner Faisalabad, Saifullah Dogar did not comment on the revival of the historical tram.

Bazla, in charge at the Lyallpur Heritage Foundation (LHF) said that she had devised feasibility for the restoration of the horse tram two years ago, which will incur a total expenditure of about Rs8 million. The project will also require services from the railway department.

“The issue has been discussed in a meeting with the deputy commissioner, but the matter has failed to proceed because of the shortage of funds,” she shared.


Published in The Express Tribune, July 08th, 2019.


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