The International Steam Pages
Steam in Myanmar, January 1999
Tim Murray reports:
Yangon - Bago - Mottama
A new terminal is currently under construction at Yangon Airport. This has led to an increase in stone trains. Steam hauled stone trains departed Bago for Yangon on 01/01/99 and 05/01/99. They were both booked to depart at 18.30 and almost left on time. The empty trains returned overnight.
On 02/01/99 YC622 was seen on a north bound steam hauled stone train from Taungzun quarry between Mokpalin and Waw where it crossed YC630 on the Nyaungkashe passenger. On 03/01/99 two northbound steam hauled stone trains were noted YD974 from Yinnyein quarry and YD962 from Zingyaik quarry. Both were looped at Thaton for some hours before following each other overnight to Bago. Photography at the quarries is forbidden.
On 04/01/99 YD974 worked the Nyaungkashe branch. Nyaungkashe is accessible by vehicles with reasonable ground clearance, do not attempt if wet. From the Abya station turn off, go along the main road towards the Sittoung Bridge until about a quarter of a mile. A slightly sunken track goes off to the right. It soon crosses the main line and then runs some distance from the branch for about two miles then does a sharp right heading for the trees where Nyaungkashe station nestles nicely in the trees. Very photogenic. One other bonus is a shady pub/shops selling the formidable ABC stout and Skol 7% lager, which helped pass the time until the train, departs. Worth the effort. The train can be photographed at Nyaungkashe and is slow on the branch that it can be caught and photographed approaching Abya station.
On 08/01/99 YC622 worked a Mottama to Theinzyat salt train arriving at Theinzyat in the early hours. These trains unloaded by hand and are booked to stand at Theinzyat for two days with loco attached. The loco crew passes the time collecting wood in order to relight the loco prior to its return. The same day the busy YD974 worked another stone train from Taungzun quarry. This train took six hours between leaving Mokpalin and leaving Theinzyat due to crossing trains and watering! Without doubt the section between Zingyaik and Thaton is the most scenic of the scenic of the steam worked lines in Myanmar particularly the bridge at Yinnyein and the approach to Yinnyein station from the south with a hill and stupas as a background. Hninpole and Donwon stations are easily accessible by road.
05/01/99 the only steam loco present here was M class 364, which was plinthed where ST 761 used to stand. 364 is cosmetically restored complete with gold chimney and dome. The station controller said that no steam locos were booked for cane trains to Kongyi or Zeyawadi mills at this time. The next day a diesel was noted on the long wait for fulls at Swa.
06/01/99 saw YB536 depart Pyinmanaa at 11.30 chimney first on empties to Thawatti dropping wagons at Pyiwin and Ela on route. At 15.00 536 was heading back to Pyinmanaa with fulls. Pyinmanaa shed saw YD 961 in steam and YD 970 in light repair. YB 508's boiler was reported as a failure and had gone. All locos this year were facing chimney first south. As at Toungoo ST 754 previously plinthed was 'off its perch'. A possibly mischievous rumour was circulating that the two missing STs were in Insein works for restoration in order to work tourist trains on the Yangon suburban lines.
YC630 was transferred from Bago to Pyuntaza to cover YC627 for boiler washout and worked the branch on 06/01/99 and 07/01/99 chimney first ex Pyintaza making a nice change from the usual tender first working especially on the early morning turn with a lovely sunrise shot possible. In the aftermath of the very bad flooding at Maduak in 1997 new water defence work now surrounds the station with a new squatter camp outside which spoils or improves photography depending on your taste. The branch train now boasts three covered coaches.