The International Steam Pages

Steam in Myanmar, January/February 2004

Hugh Ballantyne reports:

The Railway Touring Company made another visit this year commencing on 25th January 2004 and the tour used all four classes of steam locomotives. 

On 26th January 2004 2-6-4T ST 754 (now renumbered 774, but no plausible reason given) worked a charter from Yangon to Insein. This was followed by a workshops visit were YC 627 and YD 974 were undergoing heavy overhaul. We understand that 627 was in fact to receive the frames of YC 624 which were adjacent on the workshop floor. Steam crane 30TSC 9878 repairs were virtually complete, and outside 35TSC 9885 was awaiting entry. Also in the yard 4-6-4T As 144 remains in the lines of locos whose future is quite unknown. Another mystery was ST 759, which we were told had been used as a stationary boiler to power an electric generator. The story was that not enough steam could be maintained and the project had recently been abandoned. When asked why a much larger boiler from a YC or YD was not used the reply was that no one in the Ministry had told the workshops to do this and it was not for anyone in the workshops to advise or suggest what their superiors should do!

On 27th January 2004 Bago allocation was given as YB 534, YC 629 and YD’s 964, 969 & 973. Actually present were YB 508 nominally allocated to Pyuntaza and YC 626 which had arrived earlier off the Mottama line. The tour train, hauled by YD 970 departed at 09.46 and arrived at Kyaikhto at 15.30. The next day the same train continued to Mottama with the group crossing the River Salween to Moulmein. The construction of the substantial road/rail bridge over this wide river has made good progress during 2003 and it is expected to be completed by early 2005.

At Moulmein YB 548 remains ‘preserved’ with the frames of YD 966 nearby. Steam crane 35TSC 9887, in pristine condition, was also present. The current allocation here is five DD 92X diesels and DD 922 worked a charter train for the group on 29 January 2004. 

Back at Bago on 31 January 2004 YC 626, tender first, was seen at 06.30 getting ready to haul stone empties along the Mottama line. YB 534 with four coaches and a bogie van took the tour train northwards as far as Pyuntaza, the charter train being steam hauled through to Mandalay. At Pyuntaza, MacArthur D 1032 still stands inside the shed whilst outside YC 630 was under repair with its front bogie removed. From Pyuntaza YD 964 was used throughout to Mandalay, arriving the next day at 20.45. 

New track was traversed on 2 February 2004 when YC 629 hauled a charter from Mandalay around the south, east and north sides of the city, reversed at Oebo and then ran tender first for 22 kms to Mattaya. Here a huge crowd turned out to see the foreign visitors and a steam locomotive, the latter the first for over 25 years. YC 629 was used again the next day from Mandalay to Sedaw at the foot of the 1 in 25 zig-zags up the escarpment on the Lashio branch, giving way to DF 2027 for a rail journey to Pyin U Lwin.

On 4 February 2004 YD 964 reappeared to continue the railtour from Mandalay to Bagan and the final use of a YD locomotive was on 6 February 2004 when YD 969 (just ex works in December 2003) made the long journey from Bagan to Pyinmana, not helped by very slow driving methods employed, despite the engine being in good condition complete with brakes! 

Pyinmana shed contained YD’s 967 and 972, both serviceable, and YD 973 was stated to be out at work on sugar cane duties southwards down the main line.

The last train used by the tour was on the afternoon of 7 February 2004 when YB 534 went south from Bago down the main line to Yangon, giving a good run until severely checked a number of times on the approaches to Yangon.

Rob Dickinson