Railway stations and trains have fascinated me since childhood and this fascination appears to run historically in my family. In the 1890s, passers-by in the vicinity of one of Lahore Citys old portals known as Sheranwala Gate were apt to spot two small boys sprinting across the road, up the steep embankment near the Do Moria Pul, to the railway track that snaked its way to Rawalpindi and Peshawar. These two youngsters would place a small coin known as damri on the track and wait for the afternoon train to arrive. Eyes bright with excitement they would spot the smoke from the black steam engine from afar and then jump up and down with glee, as the locomotive and its carriages passed over the coin flattening and expanding it to a rupee sized thin disk. One of these small boys was my maternal grandfather, who claimed seven decades later that the coin trick was a way to pass the time, while their actual object was to stand perilously close to the tracks and experience the rush of adrenaline, as the black fire breathing behemoth, dragging its long line of humanity filled bogies, rushed past him on its way to the Lahore Station. Much later, my driver, who was my companion on long road journeys necessitated by professional commitments, would often stare at me with a bemused expression, when I would ask him to park the car at small rural railway stations with their single platform, hewed stone masonry, antique benches, the silent tea stall and the customary old banyan tree with long hanging roots. I would then walk along the platform and seat myself on one of the benches to await the arrival of the local passenger train, whose timings were often familiar to me. As the signal wires twanged, indicating that the train was nearing the station, I would lean forward in anticipation to savour an experience that paled even the most absorbing of television shows. From out of nowhere there would appear a small group of men wearing red tunics, red head cloths and metal armbands. The silent tea stall would suddenly sprout a figure, which seemed to engage in frenzied activity, rushing hither and thither within the confines of his kiosk-like structure. Two more figures would appear running and skid to a halt in front of the tea stall to pick up pairs of steel mesh basket-like contraptions, now full of small glasses brimming with steaming tea. They would then sprint to position themselves at both ends of the platform, without spilling a drop of their precious beverage. A fourth figure in a vest and dhoti would make his entry on stage, carrying a padded cloth bag in one hand. He would swap the news of the day with the tea stall owner and then continue up the platform to stand under the banyan tree, scratching first one leg and then the other. The last pair to make their grand entrance would be an old man carrying a leather 'thingy threaded in a metal wire loop and clad in what was once a blue shirt and trouser. This character would be followed regally by an individual wearing a white coat and trousers, a matching sola hat and a pair of rolled up green and red flags. By now, the smoke plume had assumed the shape of the locomotive drawing about six carriages and a guard van. As the train chugged into the station, the red clad group would disintegrate like a bomb and clamber up the bogies appearing a little while later loaded with steel trunks, bed rolls and other paraphernalia usually associated with train travel. The two strategically positioned tea stall vendors would race up and down the train rendering, what can best be termed as a fascinating chant that consisted of just two words, chai garam in at least a dozen different tunes and timbres. The character with the padded cloth bag would conjure up pairs of hard boiled eggs and tiny paper bags filled with salt and black pepper. He would stand under each window and launch himself into a refrain that went something like, Garam taazay aaaaandeeeeeyyy. While these commercial activities were in full swing, the carriages would disgorge groups of curious passengers of all shapes, gender and sizes, many of whom would saunter up to the tea stall to sample yellow coloured biscuits, popularly known by the name of 'cake russ. At the engine end of the train, the blue clad old man would hand over the steel loop with its leather wachamacallit to the engine driver and the 'sola hat would unfurl his green flag with a flourish designed to shame even the most accomplished of magicians. What appeared to be panic filled the hitherto loitering passengers as the guard blew his whistle and the locomotive spurted a cloud of steam accompanied by what can be termed as a plaintiff hoot emitted from a sore throat. More clouds of steam would erupt from the engine, as the line of carriages clanked out of the station leaving the platform in utter silence, telling me that it was time to get up and be on my way. The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.