The International Steam Pages

The End of Main Line Steam in Burma, 2008

Thomas Kautzor writes (24th December 2008):

I took part in FarRail's Burma tour last month/earlier this month. At Namtu we had No. 13 working well and taking us all the way to Bawdwin (alas with the help of the Chinese diesel on the last section). It's good condition was due to the recently completed restoration paid for by FarRail. No. 42 was also in better condition than before due to some work on her, and we took her to Wallah Gorge and the old smelter.

On the metre gauge, following the end of steam operations in late April 2008, all the steam locos from Bago, Pyinmana, Mokepalin, Mottama and Moulmein have been regrouped at Pyuntaza, except for two, a total of 18 locos. This includes both recently-active and long-derelict ones. All have had their motions and fittings removed, and these are stored under lock at the shed, except for YC 629 ex-Bago and YD 967 ex-Mokepalin (painted in green), which are complete and ready to run tourist charters (if anybody can pay the extremely high prices). The two exceptions are ST 778 (blue) at Mokepalin, which could not be moved because the tracks in front of it had disappeared under the vegetation, and YB 534 ex-Bago, which was reported to Manfred Schoeller as having been sent to Pyinmana and plinthed at the new capital Naypidaw's railway station.

The locos at Pyuntaza include:
YD 446 (Mokepalin);
YB 508 (Bago), 516 (Mokepalin), 548 (Mawlamyine, w/o front bogie);
YC 626 (Mokepalin), 627 (Pyinmana), 629 (Bago, serviceable), 630 (Pyuntaza);
ST 768 (Mokepalin);
YD 962 (Mottama), 964 (Bago), 967 (Mokepalin, serviceable), 969 (Pyuntaza), 970 (Mottama), 972 (Mokepalin), 973 (Pyinmana), 974 (Bago);
D 1032 (Pyuntaza).

Apart from these, Pyuntaza shed only has an allocation of 2 diesel railcars (LRBE.15 & 60), with only LRBE.15 serviceable and used on the branch to Madauk, and a diesel break-down crane, away at Insein for repairs.

To which should be added serviceable steam crane 30 TSC 9884 (Cowans Sheldon) at Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo) Loco Shed (seen on Dec. 3rd), and another at Lashio shed, but there access was not granted. (No doubt others exist in the country, including the one I saw at Mohnyin in 2007, RD).

An individual request to visit Insein works was not agreed to by the Ministry, on the basis that everything was heavily overgrown with a large presence of snakes and other critters. At the now-disused MR HQs on Merchant Street, Yangon, all three plinthed locos (2-4-0T 01, 0-6-0T S3 and ST 764) are still present, with those outside heavily overgrown. M 351 is still plinthed at People's Park, in good condition, and the little narrow gauge BMC 0-4-2ST at Mahlwagon Diesel Locomotive Shed is also still present.

Rob Dickinson