One might ask why somebody catches an interest in such a strange topic as railways in Myanmar. My interest in railways started when I “inherited” my father’s Märklin model railway at the age of around six. Initially just a toy I started to become interested in the “real” railways and their history when I got additional space in my parent’s house basement to build a larger scale model railway not only being a toy but rather following the standards of the real railway. Coming from the southwestern part of Germany I focused only on the history of railways in the province of “Baden-Württemberg”. But as so often the model railway never was finished; but when I had finished my studies and moved out, the model railway had to be removed to make space for a sauna. My first own apartment had about twice the size of the “model railway room” and thus my interest in railways was replaced by travelling to Southeast Asia after I had made several internships in Singapore throughout my studies. Myanmar soon became my favorite place without realizing that a railway even existed there. In December 2007 I visited Bago and Mr. Han, the receptionist of the hotel where I stayed, asked me whether I wanted to make a temple tour with him on the following day. I agreed and the next morning I found myself on the back of a motorcycle driving from temple to temple in Bago. It was just a few months after the terrible cyclone Nargis had hit the country and I was the only tourist in the city. So I asked my guide Mr. Han about tourist numbers and his business. “Not many tourists this year, but still enough as I’m specialized in railway tours” was his answer which brought me to the question why somebody would come to Myanmar for railways. "Well, Bago is the last place where they have steam locomotives running!”. The 21st century is already seven years old and there is still a non-heritage railway with steam operations? “I want to see it!” was my reply. So we skipped the remaining temples and headed towards Bago shed. And there she was: steam locomotive YC 629 gleaming in the sun and waiting for departure. I was infected immediately with the “railway virus” again and spent the upcoming days with Mr. Han and chasing steam trains on the back of his motorcycle. Steam operations ceased a few months later, but soon I discovered the “Namtu Mines Railway” and further trips to Myanmar fully dedicated to the railways followed.
Figure 1: That's how it started. Chasing a steam train near Mokepalin with Mr. Han sitting on the motorbike and waiting for me.