Blast from the Past. Cant Station ignites Nostalgia. Whoever has seen good days of Railways would immediately connect with the place. Hustling bustling Platform, Hard to bargain Qolis, Small shops selling popular Digests, Dressed up Ticket Checkers and Chabri wallas are all part of the childhood memories. Yousfi sb farmate hein ke bachpan mein Train driveri ke samne saari afsari neech lagti thii. It still does. In a way.
Cant Station was earlier known as Frere Street Station. The construction of the station was completed in 1898. The total construction cost was Rs. 80,000. It was one end of the first section constructed between Karachi and Kotri. The stepping stone to the ambitious plan to connect the Port City to Major Indian cities and beyond. The military motives remained behind its extension to other areas. At that time cargo from Karachi harbor was shipped across India using steamers of ‘Indus Flotilla Company’. Steamers traveled upstream to Multan and the total journey took up to 40 days.The construction of Cant. Station was one of the first steps to reduce the lead time of shipments.
The Karachi Walla is grateful to Owais Mughal of Pakistaniat.com who has taken some pain to document some outstanding information on Railways in Sindh and beyond. Let me summarize some information here. In 1855 Scinde Railway Company was formed in London. In January 1856, a contract was signed between East India Company and Scinde Railway Company to build Karachi-Kotri Railway Line. Sir Bartle Frere, then Commissioner of Sindh laid the foundation stone on April 29, 1858. He also drove along John Brunton the Chief Engineer of Karachi-Kotri Railway Project, in a steam locomotive to Kiamari. John Brunton wrote following piece:
The natives of Scinde had never seen a locomotive engine, they had heard of them as dragging great loads on the lines by some hidden power they could not understand, therefore they feared them, supposing that they moved by some diabolical agency, they called them shaitan. When I got out my locomotive for trial the Karachi natives were astounded. I drove the engine myself of course at a slow speed – the natives thronging all round, I was fearful of some accident. At last I thought I should frighten them away, so I blew the engine steam whistle loudly. Instantly they all rushed back from the “Demon” falling over one another much to our amusement.
Would not it be great if Pakistan Railways put up a museum in Karachi documenting all these historical events in detail for academic and frivolous pursuits.