FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The Pyuntaza triangle

Posted in Myanmar, Pyuntaza by folkestonejack on January 9, 2017

The triangle at Pyuntaza had been re-instated prior to our visit, allowing us to turn the loco for a chimney first run back to Bago. After taking on water from a local pond, using a water pump, the loco ran light engine around the triangle and was backed onto the stock.

We joined the train for the return leg, departing from Pyuntaza at 3.15pm. Our steady progress back down the line towards Bago took us through Daik-u (3.55pm) and Shenlayse (4.20pm) before stopping around 5pm for a couple of runpasts in open countryside just before Paungdawthi. The second shot required us to cross a railway bridge that required a little concentration – the long planks laid over the sleepers were loose, worn away or missing altogether. For added excitement some of the gaps between sleepers were quite large. As you might have guessed this is never my favourite part, but the possibility of a good photograph usually triumphs over my irrational fears!

YC629 approaches a bridge between Daik-u and Paungdawthi

YC629 approaches a bridge between Daik-u and Paungdawthi

After re-boarding our train we made it into Paungdawthi itself (5pm), then on to Kadok (5.26pm) where we crossed with an express, before finally clambering out at the level crossing at Maing Ton (5.50pm) to return to our buses. In the process we got to try out the concrete lane we saw being laid earlier in the day!

On our arrival in Bago we headed to the upmarket Royal Taste restaurant for a tasty spread that included some impressive looking crayfish, though we didn’t quite know what to make of the proud claim that they only use London sunflower oil! The highlight turned out to be a dessert of coconut milk with green rice (perhaps bamboo rice) that didn’t look much at all but won the doubters round and gained a seal of almost universal approval. A good way to end a successful first day of our metre gauge steam adventure.

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A look inside Pyuntaza depot

Posted in Myanmar, Pyuntaza by folkestonejack on January 9, 2017

On our arrival at Pyuntaza we took the opportunity to explore the shed, grab some lunch and enjoy a refreshing beer.

YD962 stored in Pyuntaza shed

YD962 stored in Pyuntaza shed

The depot is currently home to nine stored locomotives and an assortment of extra tenders (including a rather forlorn tender for YD967, one of our three locomotives, which is clearly using a different tender for the charter trip). Besides the steam collection there was an eclectic mix of railcars, tank wagons and a lone carriage.

The most interesting sight in the shed was the rather battered D class 2-8-2 “MacArthur” loco 1032. It was one of 57 locos of this type sent from India to Burma in the aftermath of the Second World War. However, all is not as it seems and the stamps/plates suggest this survivor is probably a hybrid of D1032 and D1043.

ex-Japanese diesel railcar RBE2504 at Pyuntaza

ex-Japanese diesel railcar RBE2504 at Pyuntaza

Amongst the collections of red and cream railcars was RBE2504, a rather lovely Japanese railcar that was transferred to Myanmar Railways following the closure of the de-electrified stretches of the Mikawa Line (Aichi Prefecture) in 2004. Having originally seen use on the Moulmein-Ye Railway, the railcar now works the line between Pyuntaza and Madauk.

Steam locomotives stored in the shed: D1032, YC630, YD962, YD969, YD972 and YD973.
Steam locomotives stored outside: YB508, YD446 and YD974.
Railcars outside: LBRE7, LBRE50, LBRE60 and RBE2504.

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Steam to Pyuntaza

Posted in Bago, Myanmar, Pyuntaza by folkestonejack on January 9, 2017

The tour started in earnest today with a re-creation of a steam hauled passenger train over the main line from Bago to Pyuntaza. Our loco for this journey was YC629, one of ten 4-6-2 heavy passenger locos of this class built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1947 for the metre gauge railways of Burma. As a loco regularly assigned to trains on this stretch in the era of real steam it looked wonderfully authentic.

Our loco for the day - YC629

Our loco for the day – YC629

The appeal of running charters on the network here was easy to see when we took a little wander down the tracks at Bago. The signal boxes and semaphore signals all hark back to the colonial era and give the railway incredible character. Everything surrounding this infrastructure was also remarkably photogenic, even down to the pig that had been tethered to the buffer stops!

Nevertheless, the window for photographing the system as it stands today is narrowing – a contract to upgrade the signalling across the country has been signed and work is already underway.

Our steam passenger, hauled by YC629, at Kadok

Our steam passenger, hauled by YC629, at Kadok

Everywhere we stopped today we were met by friendly, though sometimes bemused, faces as the normality of life was disrupted by our steam charter. More often than not we were the subject of curiosity rather than our splendid loco, which may help to explain why the locals are sometimes looking in the ‘wrong’ direction in the photos we took!

To begin with we were following the tour in our buses, stopping either at photospots identified in advance of the trip or on the fly when a bit of local colour presented itself. Just such an opportunity arose early on when we spotted a 12 man road gang armed with spades smoothing freshly laid concrete on the Yangon-Mandalay Highway. Sadly, by the time our train appeared the work was finished and the road gang had already moved on to their next job…

The Yangon-Mandalay Highway undergoing road-widening works at Maing Ton as YC629 passes through

The Yangon-Mandalay Highway undergoing road-widening works at Maing Ton as YC629 passes through

The day was saved by a group of local women who kindly volunteered to step into the foreground for us and by one of our number who took on the role of traffic policeman – stopping lorries and motorbikes well short of the level crossing to keep the scene clear. The hidden effort that goes into some shots!

Around 10am our train reached Kadok and was pushed back into a siding to allow the express to overtake. In the meantime we had plenty of time to kill, but also plenty of local colour to photograph. Most memorably this included ox and cart trains that looked as though they belonged a century or two back.

The first part of the ox and cart train at Kadok

The first part of the ox and cart train at Kadok

Once the express to Mandalay had passed (at 10.48am) we had the opportunity to stage a false departure for our train and try some shots around the level crossing before continuing on to Pyuntaza by bus (arriving at 12 o’clock).

Although we have only a morning of photography in the bag I can already say that it really is rather magical to see steam restored to the metre gauge railways of Burma.

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