The International Steam Pages

Steam in Cambodia and Myanmar, January 2000

Hugh Ballantyne reports: (The Cambodian section was organised by Florian Schmidt who has now organised several steam tours in Cambodia.)


This was new territory, Dorridge Travel Service Ltd. making the first visit by a UK tour operator.

The attraction was a charter mixed train on 15th January 2000 hauled by a SACM built (date uncertain) wood fired Pacific 231.501. The train ran from the capital Phnom Penh about 70kms south to a provincial town called Takeo. The engine went out chimney first and returned tender first as there are no turning facilities anywhere on the Cambodian system.

On 16th January a visit was made to the loco shed at Phnom Penh situated one km south of the station. It contained Pacifics 231.502, 231.504, 231.505, 231.508 and 231.509, Mikado 141.551 and a lovely Franco-Belge 1912 built 2-6-2 131.106. Also inside the shed was derelict 231.503 and likewise outside 231.507.


The main news is that the Bago-Yangon locals 13Up and 14Down reverted to diesel haulage in mid January 2000 on the orders of the Minister of Transport after a minor accident in which it was stated the steam loco was unable to stop in time. It has also been reported the same Minister has ordered all steam locos to be painted black and certainly the January 1999 return to service of ST754 in green livery now sees this engine in plain unlined black.

The loss of the Bago-Yangon locals enables the available steam loco to be re-directed to work an extra diagram on the Bago-Mottama line which means 85Up and 86Down is steam hauled every day rather than every other day. Turning seems to be something of a problem at Bago this year, so it cannot be ascertained much in advance which way the rostered engine will face.

There is also a rumour that the track on the Madauk branch is in such poor condition that steam power may soon be prohibited and the branch worked only by the light rail buses. Already the sugar mill branch at Pyinmana became banned to steam during 1999 and all trip workings to/from the mill are now diesel hauled.

Insein Works

On 17th January 2000:- YD962 for attention to accident damage, YD970 heavy repair and YD973 boiler being re-tubed. At Yangon Central station YC626 was in the yard, motion off awaiting delivery to Insein for repairs.


On 22nd January the only sugar cane working was YD967 going north to Kyidaunggan with empties at 13.55 running tender first. It was seen at Ywadaw on the return at 17.20, just after sunset.

On 23rd January at shed :- YB536 thought to be awaiting despatch to Insein for repair, YC629 serviceable and YD967 and 974 also serviceable. YD974 worked a charter mixed train to Minpyin and returned tender first later same evening.

On 24th January YC629 hauled a Dorridge Travel special down the main line to Toungoo where an engine change to YD972 took the train onto Pyuntaza.


At shed on 25th January YB532 motion off, YC623 position not clear and YC624 and 627 both serviceable. MacArthur 2-8-2 D1032 remains complete but unserviceable and OOU inside the shed. It is in a reasonably accessible position for photography. On 25th January YC627, in green livery, worked 181Up and 182 Down morning branch passenger to Madauk, running tender first on the outward journey. In the afternoon the Dorridge special continued on down the main line to Bago hauled by YD972.


On 26th January at shed:- YB533, YC630 and YD972 all serviceable. YC630, very smart in green livery was booked to work the Nyaungkhashe branch train but was suddenly stopped for minor repairs and YD972 substituted. The branch train left almost exactly on time at 11.02 but within a mile of the terminus the leading bogie of the penultimate box wagon in the consist derailed so trapping the train on the branch. YD972 took the front section of the train onto Nyaungkhashe station but the offending wagon was not removed and the line reopened until early next morning 27th January.

Bago-Mottama line

YB533 was rostered to work a charter mixed train to Mottama on 27th January. At Mokpalin YB534 was crossed working 86Down, Mottama to Bago local. The next day 28th January, YB533 returned to Bago with 86Down and YC622, with no brakes, hauled the salt train to Theinzayart. On shed the only engine was YD969 and later in the day the local from Bago, 85Up, was noted hauled by YB534. No stone trains were seen either day on the line and it seems all available spare steam power was required to cover for charter specials at this time.


On 29th January 2000 ST754 hauled a charter mixed train eastwards out of Central station bunker first 11kms up the main line to Toekyaunggalay were it ran round and then went smoke-box first down the branch some 13kms to Oakphosu situated south east of Yangon in the middle of nowhere. To reach this place the branch crosses an impressive Chinese built road/rail bridge over the River Yangon, which was opened in 1993. ST754 is now in unlined black livery, clean with raised brass insignia and numerals, thus reverting to the tradition of the pre Independence British operated Burma Railways. This 2-6-4T has been restored for charter work and has an auxiliary tender attached, also painted black, for additional oil and water supplies.


This extremely remote 2' gauge railway and mining complex tucked away in the jungle clad mountains of the Northern Shan States was visited by the Dorridge Group between 18-20th January 2000. The railway makes a change of gauge connection with the metre gauge Myanmar Railways at Namyao and then heads generally northwards through the jungle and mountains to Namtu, a distance of 32 miles on a ruling gradient of 1 in 36. The railway takes an undulating course through dense jungle and at the few clearings en route are small villages which have halts and crossing loops. On this section we were told the only goods traffic today is oil fuel delivered in railway tanks and transhipped at Namyao about three times a month. There is also a daily passenger train which comprises a splendid home made belt drive road lorry converted to rail use which hauls a primitive four wheel wooden trailer coach.

Namtu is the only town and main habitation in the area. The station is adjacent to the local market, whilst opposite are the railway workshops, loco shed and a display of four derelict steam locos, with many parts missing but all neatly painted black, well positioned and labelled.

The busiest section of the railway continues for another 7 miles climbing steeply on gradients up to 1 in 27 to Wallah Gorge, were there are extensive sidings and a huge discharge hopper building for dropping stone into railway wagons. Shortly afterwards the railway reaches Tiger Camp, one hundred feet above Wallah Gorge where the underground mine electric railway system emerges out of the mountain. The final section of nearly five miles continues up the valley on even steeper gradients of 1 in 25 to terminate at Bawdwin. The rails remain in situ for another half mile up to the Marmion Shaft, but this short length is now disused. There are four passenger trains each way on this section, the 'train' being of similar type to that used on the Namyao section.

There are two working steam locomotives left on the railway. On 19th January a superb little Kerr Stuart (2383/1914) 0-4-2T 13 worked a special from Namtu to Wallah Gorge. The next day it worked in the other direction from Namtu a short distance south to an old mill complex at which point the Kerr Stuart was replaced by one of the railway's 0-6-0 diesels for the journey to Namyao.

At Namyao Bagnall (2338/1927) 2-6-2 42 is kept for occasional shunting as required but it was put in steam for the visitors on 20th January and gave a good account of itself working trains up and down the yard sidings.

Rob Dickinson