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The Lahore Railway Station was inaugurated in 1862

The grand Lahore Railway Station, also known as Lahore Junction, was inaugurated in 1862. Since its inception, it has remained a hub of activity and during the Eid season it becomes even livelier, with thousands of travellers flocking there, eager to go home for the holidays.

A historical monument… Over time, the Station has become more than a railway junction – it is in fact a historical monument of great significance. It witnessed the arrival of joyful immigrants as well as great tragedy during Partition. Decades after Independence, the Samjhota Express, the peace train to India, also leaves its platforms. Certain aspects of the Station – the antiquated steam engine at the entrance, the scurrying coolies dressed in saffron uniforms and the green flag that signals each train’s departure – make it seem as though the Station is suspended in time.

All aboard the train

All aboard the train

Waiting by the platform… For all its architectural magnificence, the Station has no formal waiting areas. Most passengers find a spot along the platform and camp out on the floor until the train arrives (and it is usually late). The rush at the Station, particularly during Eid, is a blessing for the owners of the stop-and-shop canteens that sell refreshments including tea, samosas and full-fledged meals. For people looking for fast food, there is a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut. There is also a decent choice of newsstands and booksellers along the platform.

Coolies in saffron uniforms

Coolies in saffron uniforms

Around the station… Landa and Naulakha bazaars are located near the station. The former is a treasure trove for shoppers and the latter is a good place to buy mouth-watering nihari or naan channay. Looking for more choice? Gawalmandi and Fort Road Food Street are a stone’s throw away; and while they are popular all year round, they are particularly busy during the Eid holidays. Also in proximity are Brandreth and McLeod Roads, which are known for shops’ that sell everything from tyres to cars.

In a nutshell… Despite the general decline of railways in the country, Lahore Railway Station remains a keystone in Pakistan’s railway network. This heritage building of cultural importance warrants a visit, if not for travelling, then at least to be admired.

– Maheen Hassan

First published in the Real Estate section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on October 13, 2013.