Sunday, 25 February 2018

Myanmar Mines Steam Railway

***Travel Permit Required***

newtrainPlease book at least two months in advance of travel.

For many years strictly off-limits to foreigners, The Myanmar Mines narrow-gauge Railway is the last accessible steam railway in Myanmar. Situated at Namtu in northern Shan State, this is a very exciting destination for railway enthusiasts. Visitors spend two days in the Namtu area including a trip to Bawdwin on one day with Kerr Stuart "Huxley" class 0-4-2T No. 13. You will be accommodated at the mining company's guest house, a fine old colonial building which was once the governor's house, with views overlooking the valley.

The railway is located in a remote area otherwise closed to foreigners. This is a difficult experience for us to arrange and the price does reflect this. However we feel that this unique experience is worth the time and expense.

Typical tours last 4 days, start from Mandalay or Yangon and run on demand between November and May.

The following is a sample itinerary, the actual may vary.

Day 1. Yangon / Mandalay – Namtu.

Starting from Mandalay we leave in the morning by private air-conditioned car, stopping for lunch along the way and arriving in Namtu in the evening. From Yangon flights operate to Lashio twice a week arriving mid-afternoon. A car will meet you at the airport for the approximately two hour drive to the Mines guesthouse.

Day 2. Namtu.

After breakfast visit the railway shed and workshop where the hulks of 14 and 16 (Kerr Stuart Tattoo class) and 34 and 40 (Kerr Stuart Huxley class) are located. You may spot more boilers and various other junk in nearby bushes. Many of these engines were derelict or dismantled but we believe there were potentially nine runners.

Observe engine No 13 starting up and later board a steam train to Wallah Gorge by 0-4-2T 13 (Kerr Stuart Huxley class, 2383/1914, normally attached to two locally made coaches. Heading on westwards from Namtu the line follows the valley for a further 2 km before turning abruptly into a side valley. From here the line climbs continuously to Bawdwin at a ruling gradient of 1 in 27, hugging the side of the valley for most of the distance. The line twists and turns continuously as it makes its way up the gorge with many spectacular views. Lopah, 8 km from Namtu, has a pretty station building, a loop and some sidings. 3.5 km further on the line reaches the spiral at Wallah Gorge in a very attractive setting overlooked by a small pagoda. On the north side of the line and at a much higher level the electrified line ends in a loop with two tipplers alongside the staithes. One km further along the line reaches Tiger Camp, the junction with the electrified mine lines at an altitude of about 800 meters. The line offers spectacular views, especially around Wallah Gorge. You will be able to make several stops for runpasts as you go up. The major feature of this part of the line is perhaps the full spiral where you can photograph and film to your satisfaction.

After lunch at Tiger camp (7 miles from, and 800 ft higher than Namtu) continue onwards and upwards to your ultimate destination, Bawdwin, a further 4 miles west and 500ft in elevation by railcar. The line onwards from Tiger Camp starts with a lengthy Z reverse high above Wallah Gorge and continues with many horseshoe bends.

From Bawdwin we can travel onward by bus to Marmion mine shaft and observe the mining. The electric winding gear for the shaft is of British origin and dates from 1925. Late afternoon we return to Tiger camp by railcar and then to Namtu by steam locomotive. Dinner and overnight at Namtu Mine guesthouse.

Day 3. Namtu - Nashai - Namyao – Lashio.

Have breakfast at the guesthouse then depart by diesel locomotive to Nashai (approx 30 km). Continue to Nanmyo where the Bagnall 2-6-2 No. 42 will be in steam to greet you. Between Namtu and Namyao the line runs mostly through undulating jungle terrain. About 3 km after Namtu it passes a ruined smelter and drops down a steep gradient into the valley of the Namtu River before crossing the river on a substantial girder bridge and entering Namtu yard. Two more of the Huxley class, No 34 and 40 are preserved here along with two of the smaller Tattoo class. The ruling gradient throughout from Namyao is 1 in 38. Observe the steam loco No. 42 in action shunting. *Note that we can also arrange an optional (extra charge) 3 km run (with run pasts) to the location of the original ‘mill’, destroyed during WWII. Later return by diesel locomotive back to Nashai level crossing where your car and driver will meet you and proceed to the Chinese-influenced trading town of Lashio, and your hotel.

Day 4. Lashio – Mandalay.

After breakfast at your hotel we take to the famous Lashio Road for the drive to Mandalay via the typical Shan country town of Hsipaw and the colonial hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo). Alternatively (if you don’t mind the early start!) you may take the train. The daily 32 down service departs at 1530 and arrives in Mandalay at 1950. Apart from the lovely scenery of the Shan hills the main highlight is the crossing of the famous Gokteik viaduct. This steel trestle structure is the oldest and longest railway bridge in Myanmar, constructed in 1901 by the Pennsylvania and Maryland steel company. At the time of construction this 2260 feet long, 320 feet high viaduct, built to cross the Myitnge River, was the second highest railway bridge in the world. In his bestselling book ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’, author Paul Theroux called the viaduct ‘a monster of silver geometry in all the ragged rock and jungle - its presence was bizarre’.

This itinerary can be extended to allow further overnight stays in Lashio, Hsipaw and Pyin Oo Lwin. Please see the ‘Destinations’ section of the website for more details of these towns.


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