FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Across the Sittaung

Posted in Myanmar by folkestonejack on January 11, 2017

Our three stage journey on the line from Bago to Mottama began today, starting with the stretch to Mokpalin in neighbouring Mon State. It is highly appropriate that this line should see our steam photo-charter with YD964 as this is where the last real steam freights met their end in 2008.

Unfortunately, my notes and photographs can only offer a poor account of this leg as I was feeling quite sick by this point and my focus had switched to surviving the day!

YD964 emerges from the Sittaung bridge

YD964 emerges from the Sittaung bridge

The day started with a bus transfer from Bago to Waw, arriving a little after 8am. Our train continued from here to Abya and crossed the Sittaung river in early afternoon (1-1.15pm).

Today, there are two bridges crossing the river but the remains of a far older railway bridge are still visible further downstream. The original railway bridge, constructed in 1908, connected with the line from Bago at Abya. However, this bridge was blown up by allied forces in February 1942 in a failed attempt to hold back the Japanese advance to Rangoon. The episode is widely considered to be a disaster as it left more than half the forces stranded on the wrong side of the river. From a rail perspective, the result was to cut the line short, leaving passengers to cross the river by ferry until a new bridge was opened (at this point the stations on either side of the river were closed and the line cut shorter still, terminating at Nyaung Khashe).

The bridge our train crossed was a later replacement – a 716m steel truss bridge at Theinzayat constructed between 1957 and 1961. It carries a single railway track with lanes on either side for road traffic, but cannot support the weight of heavy trucks. Most road traffic now takes a new bridge (opened in 2008) located 4 miles down stream.

Our train continued on to a run through the market at Theinzayat (2.50pm) but the first attempt was not a glorious success, with locals running to the trackside as they heard the loco approach. I’m all for local colour, but when you can’t see the locomotive in the shot…

After a much welcomed repeat of the run through the market (3.30pm) and a few shots on the line beyond we continued on to Mokpalin, arriving just after 5pm.

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