Myanmar-Burma 2009

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Myanmar-Burma 2009

Postby railfilm » Sat Feb 13, 2010 1:44 am

Myanmar – Burma 2009

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Burma, since 1988 Myanmar

Population: ~50 million
Capitol: Naypyidaw
Largest City: Yangon/Rangoon
Railway lines: ~ 4000 km/1000 mm
Original Name: The Irrawaddy Valley State Railway opened in: 1877

Burma Mines Railway.
Opened in: 1911
Track: 50 miles on 2 feet gauge




Myanmar is in south-east Asia and is bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. In 2009 we visited the country to study its railways, with the focus on the Burma Mines Railway which is going to be privatized and has an uncertain future.

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The Burma Mines Railway is in the remote Shan State in the northeast part of the country, which is mostly closed to foreigners.
Myanmar, the former British colony of Burma, gained its independence in 1948. Until 1962 it was a democratic republic, but since then a military junta has governed the country.
The biggest city in the country is the harbour city of Rangoon, its name now being Yangon. Its population is around 5.5million. The town has a typical grid pattern street plan and covers the whole delta area of the Pazundaung Creek and the Yangon River. The city is still divided into different areas where different nationalities live. Before WWII more than half of the population in Rangoon was Indian and South Asian, while the remainder was a mixture of Burmese, Karens, Chinese and Anglo-Burmese. The whole city is built around the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Today the city occupies around 600 square kilometres.

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The city’s main station is in excellent condition and seems to be very busy. The local trains running on the circle line and other suburban services are provided at regular 15 minute intervals. The long-distance trains have two basic categories - the local long-distance trains with older vehicles, and the so-called Chinatrains, with better coaches and service. Because of the size the country, travel is quite time-consuming. In the Chinatrains, the Myanmar Railways also offer on-board sleeper and restaurant cars.

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The countryside of Myanmar is very interesting. The lower part of the country is extremely flat, with the height difference between Rangoon and Mandalay (almost 700km apart) being just 74m. However, after another 60km, Pyin Oo Lwyn is already 3,500feet in altitude and, at the Chinese border, the hills are over 5,000ft high. Here also is the second longest bridge in the world, the Gogteik viaduct. The state railways also still have several reversals as they climb up to the northern destinations.

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The Myanmar railways have no surviving connections to neighbouring rail networks; the only one (built during the Second World War) was the 412km-long Three Pagoda Pass line to Thailand, the famous Railway of Death, which was destroyed a short time after its launch and since that time has never been fully rebuilt.

The Burma Mines Railway was constructed between 1903 and 1911, and was made for the transportation of ore from the mines around Bawdwin to the State Railway. The connection was at Mampwe. Later the junction was relocated to Namyao.

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The line was about 50 miles (73km) long and located in the extremely hilly environment of Shan State. The State Railway reached Lashio in 1903 and to this line was connected the Burma Mines Railway. The construction work was supported by five Dick Kerr steam locomotives hauling four-wheel tippers.

Tiger Camp was reached in 1908 and new 0-6-0 North British locomotives took over the services. Namtu became the headquarters of the line with administration and workshop facilities. Although only two miles directly from Tiger Camp, Bawdwin itself is almost 200m higher, so the railway requires over 5 miles (7km) of track to climb up the hill over tortuous climbs and two reversals.

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In 1911 they built a smelter in Namtu, so there was already a reduced need to transport the ore to Mandalay, the former smelting location. In 1925 they replaced one reversal before Wallah Gorge with a double spiral, and that is now the highlight of the line. The trains turn almost twice to climb to Wallah Gorge.

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In its hundred year history, the Burma Mines Railway has owned 47 steam locomotives, 13 diesel locomotives, three rail trucks and several smaller motor coaches.

Since the beginning, the transportation of people was free of charge, and after the regular passenger service ended the transportation of passengers was still offered at their own risk.

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The direction of the ore transportation has changed in recent decades. Most of the customers are now in China and there is no rail connection in that direction. For that reason, the southern part of the line became obsolete and the jungle reclaimed its property, so the line between Namtu and Nashai is still there but out of operation, while the next part to Namyao is discarded. Regular services are now only between Namtu and Bawdwin on about a 20km-long line.

We spent one week on the line and recorded its current situation. We were able to use both steam locomotives #13 and #42, as well as both working rail trucks and several other vehicles.

The video contains our experiences in Rangoon and on the Burma Mines Railways.

Here is a short trailer from the video in German. The English version will be available from April 2010. (1 hour video screen DVD).

Orders for DVDs are welcome!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXz4WOnUvSU
Regards from Austria. Keep the trains running!
Eugen.
http://www.railfilm.net

Enjoy my videos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/railfilm#p/c/F2674BF4E3765682/0/MZXwJF6hpeU
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