The International Steam Pages


Burmese Hens' Teeth, 2007

If you look at the list of builders represented in the Burmese rice mills, you will find a number with but a single example. Logically these engines were sold second hand when they were no longer needed in their home country, a situation confirmed by some of their present owners. Among them are engines by T. Dryden (Preston England), Holman Brothers, Camborne, England and A. Siddall, Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, England. We turn them up occasionally as we travel, but in 2007 in the Shwebo area of Sagaing Division we turned up at least four on three successive days. The fact that we had spent nearly a week in the area on the previous trip meant that the mills concerned were among those which were the least accessible.

On the first of these days, we headed further and further north, the thin and broken tar gave way to dirt and eventually air and petrol filters succumbed. Yuehong is taking the opportunity to look for a bush:

We journeyed on, we even found an old working Ruston diesel in an oil mill. Our final village produced first a burned out mill and then one which had succumbed to modern technology - a gasifier. Stored at the back was a dust covered small engine.

Time was short, so I started to scrape in the usual places and finally I hit the G spot:

It was problem solved courtesy of ISSES stalwarts, it's from Alexander Shanks & Son Ltd, Dens Iron Works, Arbroath, Scotland, like one we have seen in Pangka sugar mill in Java. Back in the car and the last mill of the day is working. It doesn't look special....

But it is, the only time we have seen this builder's name before was on a duplex pump. Later research shows the company is still in business in Luton, England.

On the way back we visited the local car wash:

Next day, we hit the road again and as before the last mill of the day contained pure gold:

Little seems to be known about this builder, only one other of their engines is known to survive. This one works occasionally, alas we had no time hang on to wait for such an event. 

(NB I have had it suggested to me that this is in fact a Marshall. Checking with the repository, Marshall 18059 of 1890 was sold to Whitmore and Binyon.)

Next day, on our final morning in Shwebo, we had to abandon the taxi and take to a couple of motorbikes to reach a remote set of mills built to serve the adjacent railway station but now too far from the road to be much use. The first had an engine which might well qualify as another hen's tooth except we cannot identify it:

"Hanson Engine" rings no bells, we have seen similar where the name represents an agent.

Just down the road was more solid gold:

Next to the main mill was a disused micro mill with a small Ruston diesel. Back home, an internet search revealed that the company later traded as J & W Summers and went out of business in 1907 so this is yet another centenarian. It had last been used some 5 months earlier and the friendly owners would have done their best to fire it up for us. The only problem was that we had already booked buses on the next two legs of our journey and were very short of time overall. That's life, somehow we shall have to get back to Shwebo, not least because we found one or two more tasty but inactive engines from more common builders. 


These are the individual pages from the 2007 trip:

Read more about our travels in:


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk