The International Steam Pages

Temples of Steam, 2005 - Introduction

Temples of Steam DVDs
10 DVDs with more than 100 working stationary steam engines in Burma

Rob and Yuehong in Burma, 2005 - 10

This page contains links to our 2005 visit to Burma to research stationary steam engines in the country's rice mills. Summary technical information is available on a separate introductory page

Visitors to Burma (Myanmar) cannot fail to notice the golden stupas (pagodas) that litter the landscape. While the graceful feminine lines of the stupas are universally acknowledged, the less obvious and more phallic symbols, the chimneys of the 'temples of steam' are almost as ubiquitous. 

I was told about the rice mills more than 5 years ago by John Raby. It was a natural extension of my interest in Java's sugar mills to pay an extended visit to research just what was left and this I was able to do with my partner Yuehong in January 2005. We returned in January 2006 and that trip report contains the background information and a summary of our findings in technical terms.

Travelling in Burma requires flexibility, this is typical Mon state transport:

In Irrawaddy Division, boats outnumber road vehicles by at least 100 to 1 and often we had to abandon our car to reach the mills:

The rice arrives the same way, a second mill (non-operational on this day but seen operating earlier) is in the background.

You never know whether the next mill on the list down the cart track or up the creek will be working or what will turn up in it. On one eminently forgettable day it was seven standard Marshall engines in a row (but at least they were all working). Again, all too often it is yet another disgustingly dirty and badly lit standard 1900s Tangye engine but at least once a day there will be a wonderful surprise... 

Who made this, I can only speculate (probably Tangye or a related company), but it was certainly a long, long time ago:

One "Ruston, Proctor, Lincoln, England" carries the number 16424 and hence must date from the late 19th century, this one appears to be of the same era: 

Compound engines were always the exception, I do not know who made this one. We also saw a Marshall 'cross compound' twin engine at work  Dream on you armchair travellers!

Burma doesn't have to be a hardship posting, waiting for the occasional ferry can be very relaxing.

Guide Han with metal brush and data folder and Yuehong try to relax after another successful visit. If Han looks a little apprehensive, it's not surprising. Only later we found out that he couldn't swim!

These are the individual pages from the 2005 trip:

  • Temples of Steam - Mon State

  • Kawkapun Rice Mill - Appropriate technology taken to its limits. The account includes a mill diagram / flow chart of the milling process.

  • Dakhondaing Rice Mill - A classic mill, unspoiled by progress. The account includes a description of the basic milling process as well as gratuitous insults to armchair enthusiasts.... 

Read more about our travels, follow the links in Rob and Yuehong in Burma, 2005 - 10.

The manufacturers, other technical notes and acknowledgements etc which were once given here has been updated and moved to the 2006 report.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson