The International Steam Pages
Steam in Myanmar 1996 - 2007
This page links to the archive reports for steam operations in Burma (Myanmar).
I posted several illustrated reports of my own visits here in the last few years, the first of which contains basic information for those thinking of visiting, the latter contain updates. Steamy Burma Days 1996, Steamy Burma Days 1997, Steamy Burma Days 1999 and Steamy Burma Days 1999/2000.
In February 2005, I wrote that it seemed that the tour operators had extracted the last few dollars from their punters and Myanmar was no longer fashionable. In fact one group visited in late 2005 and then three more were down for the first two months of 2006, which will have completely ruined 'real steam' during that period. But of course it's a 'Catch 22' situation; without the tour groups, steam would probably wither away completely. On 30th December 2005, while again researching stationary steam in the rice mills, I was pleasantly surprised to see YD 972 on a freight train at Pyuntaza, the same locomotive I had seen in Insein Works (see below) nearly a year before. Regular visitors Manfred Schoeler and Heinrich Hubbert enjoyed an extended and relaxed stay here in January 2006 and found regular if not very frequent 'real' steam workings on the Yangon to Toungoo main line. As they said to me, it was like having their own private steam railway, but not every independent traveller would have their patience or the means to meet the cost of chasing these trains (full illustrated report including a current loco list added 9th March 2006). In passing during our February 2007 visit, we saw a smattering of steam on both the Bago - Mottama and Bago - Toungoo lines (26th February 2007). One preserved locomotive I do not recall being recorded is M class 157 at Mohnyin in the north of the country, also here is the chassis and tender of old YD 450 and an active Cowan's steam crane - click here for some pictures of this 'crossover steam power'. Certainly, I retired from this scene just before the branch trains died some years ago, extremely satisfied with my own portfolio of pictures and happy experiences. Manfred Schoeler was also back early in the year and I have his latest report (added 11th March 2007). Roderick Smith spotted one steam hauled stone train with YD 964 just outside Yangon in May 2007 (23rd May 2007) and Shane O'Neil saw several active steam locomotives in June 2007 (23rd July 2007).
I was in the country during January 2005 to research the stationary steam engines in the rice mills, but while staying in Bago early in the month I saw a couple of stone trains working between Zingyaik (south of Thaton on the line to Mottama) and Bago and on north towards Pyuntaza where the railway had suffered some damage in the 2004 monsoon. Locomotives involved were YC 626 and YD 962 and 970, other steam locomotives stored at Bago were YB 508/534, YC 629 and YD 964/974 (added 10th February 2005). I did, however, visit Insein works in Yangon where YD 972 was the only steam locomotive under repair. Where else in the world can you see a non-preserved main line steam locomotive under repair (Lahore, Cadem?):
Shawn Naylor (3rd February 2004) reported 7 serviceable steam locomotives at Bago, although some were in steam during his January visit, it was not clear what their residual duties were or which the two other depots with active steam might be. Hugh Ballantyne reports (11th March 2004) on a Railway Touring Company trip here. Manfred Schoeler reports from his March 2004 visit on what happens when there are no steam tours (1st April 2004).
Several tour groups were in the country in early 2003. It is confirmed that the two branch workings are no longer steam - totally railcar. The local train (85/86) Bago - Mottama is essentially dieselised too. I have now added reports from various visitors (further short report 9th April 2003) and Bernd Seiler's own report is now on his website (2nd March 2003), as always the images are superb.
Ameling Algra was in Bago in October 2002 and was told that steam no longer worked the Madauk and Nyaungkhashe trains. There are still a few stone trains on the Mottama line (YDs 970 and 974 were seen active), but I suspect the Bago - Mottama working has been dieselised. One tantalising rumour was of irregular steam 'on a teak plantation line some 30km north of Mandalay'.... (added 29th October 2002). Manfred Schoeler was here in November 2002. I believe his report explains the 'teak' operation... (4th December 2002) Takahide Yamamoto reports (6th January 2003) on his second visit to the Burma Mines Railway.
Bill Alborough told me that there was now a serviceable loco at Mawlamyine (Moulmein), probably YB 548 which was for charters to Thanbyuzayat, the western end of the Burma-Siam wartime railway, but no-one seems to have taken up the challenge. On-the-spot confirmation would be appreciated. (added 25th April 2001). No-one goes to Burma outside of the cool, dry season between November and March. So reports from Manfred Schoeler, Alexander Jesserer and Olaf GŁttler (11th January 2002) break a long silence. December is the best time for individuals to visit before the tour group season distorts normal operation. By late January 2002, there were three UK tour groups in the country and virtually all steam was tied up on charters although the Madauk and Nyaungkhashe branch trains were steam. YC 626 was going through Insein Works, with YD 974 about to enter. A surprise new arrival here was green As 4-6-4T 144 apparently from a part of the country (north?) not open to tourists. It will not have worked for many years and is an amazing survivor. There is a picture of As 143 on our new CD-ROM Tiger Steam. I have had so few reports from individual travellers that I have now added (5th June 2002) the full Enthusiast Holidays group report. If you are planning an independent trip, skip the plastic steam, there is a good overview of what locos are active and likely to be active.
There were a few individual visitors in December 2000/January 2001 - they found steam at work but not very much... (pictures added 10th February 2001). I am not the only independent traveller who has been here by any means, Bernd Seiler and Heinrich Hubbert provided a report which covered late 1998. Tim Murray's report also covers early 1999 and you can also see what John Raby got up to then (no more bath time shots I hope!). Hugh Ballantyne made a full report of his tour group in January 2000 (9th February 2000).
Some time ago, Manfred Schoeler put up his own page covering the country in mid-1997 (including a Burma Mines loco), Ray Schofield was there at the end of March 1997 and you can read his report, which includes a brief report from other visitors from earlier in the month. Looking back a long time, Heinrich Hubbert's report dates from January 1996 and inspired me to make my first visit.