A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about railway

Exploring Myanmar by Train

Myanmar Railway: tickets, experience, best routs

Being a big fan of railways and having a rule to travel by rail as much as possible I couldn't wait to come to Myanmar. And I wasn't disappointed.
large_IMG_3548.jpg
The Network
Rail Network in Myanmar is actually more developed that you would expect in a way it's as extensive as in Thailand, nothing comparing to Indian network of course. I guess this is a part of British heritage.
You can reach all the main cities that are visited by tourist and although infrequent and slow trains usually run on daily basis.

The tickets
This is by far my favorite part. You can't book them online (daa). You can't buy them for the following day (Yangon might be an exception). You have to show up at the station about 20 minutes before train departure, skip the main ticket window and just pop your head into the station office. Someone will invite you inside sit you down and write a ticket. You get a special ticket which looks as if it was for West End show, while everyone else gets a scribble on a small piece of cardboard. Foreigners pay in Kyat same prices as locals, first class normally twice cheaper than taking a bus and a second class is next to nothing.
large_IMG_3553.jpg

The Trains
The trains look like they were delivered by Her Majesty's Rail back in royal times and are still running. There are two classes, first and second. Second class is the picture above. Basically flat plastic benches, perfectly fine for a couple of hours. First class - you get individual seats which look more like barber's chairs with armrest and everything. Just like barber's chairs these spin left and right and can recline far back - sound comfortable right? Wrong! They'd be comfortable if any of them worked. 99% chances that all levers are broken, which in best case means the chair is stiff fixed, worst case it has a mind of its own and spins out of control every time when train rocks and those trains rock alright.
We decided to be brave and took a night train in first class from Bago to Mawlamine. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, when double dose of valium has worn off, and seeing everyone in the carriage spinning around as if they were on a carousel.
The night was horrific, but experience priceless!
large_IMG_3547.jpglarge_IMG_3643.jpg

Only when you experienced Burmese trains you start to fully appreciate comfort of Indian trains. And this says a lot...
The trains shake big time, you can properly appreciate the extend of rocking when you look through the passage that links two carriages as you see how they rock one against another.
The Accident
We were taking a ride from Pyin U Lwin to Kyaukme when we heard a loud bang like an explosion and the train got engulfed in ashes. After a second we realized that the train just derailed. The ashes were in fact concrete from the rail frame being sliced by wheels.
All the western folks jumped out in fascination while the Burmese hardly blinked an eye. They said not to worry this happens all the time...
And indeed no one including train guys worried. They got out a mega sized wrench which had two levers one to lift and lower and another one to shift it right or left. While two guys were spinning the wrench one was counting so they could spin it from both sides simultaneously. Within an hour we were back on tracks. More in this video.

About an hour before Kyaukme we reached the famous Gokteik Viaduct. As the train has to descent to reach the Viaduct it makes a few switchbacks so you see it from both right and left. The train slows down to about 5 km/h and crosses the Viaduct at a snail place, the views are breathtaking.

large_IMG_3556.jpglarge_IMG_3566.jpglarge_IMG_4056.jpglarge_IMG_4059.jpglarge_IMG_4065.jpg

Posted by dima.safr 06:43 Archived in Myanmar Tagged train burma railway backpacking video independent gokteik_viaduct myanmar_railway derailed Comments (1)

Darjeeling toy train

A steam journey trough peoples backyards.

large_IMG_0202.jpg

About the Train

According to Wikipedia:
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the "Toy Train", is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal, India. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 78 kilometres (48 mi) long. Its elevation level varies from about 100 metres (328 ft) at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling. Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services; however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India's highest railway station) are handled by the vintage British-built B Class steam locomotives. The railway, along with the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway, is listed as the Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site.

Practicalities

It's not practical...like at all...
And it doesn't go (as of 2015) to New Jalpaiguri. A landslide has destroyed a part of the track between New Jalpaiguri and Kurseong, and now the train only runs between Kurseong and Darjeeling.
Realistically you can't (wouldn't) take the to get to Darjeeling. Once you got on a jeep at New Jalpaiguri it's just to easy to keep going till Darjeeling without having to get off at Kurseong and hope that you'll be on time for the train.
The best thing (providing that the track hasn't been fixed) is to take the train down and catch a jeep from Kurseong.

large_IMG_0201.jpg

You have 2 options. To take a 3 hour round trip tourist train for 300 rs which is likely to be booked up, or to take an actual commuter train for 25 rs. The toy train is an actual train, run by Indian railway and a part of the IR reservation system.

large_IMG_0198.jpg
large_IMG_0205.jpg
And you though your job was tough...
large_IMG_0206.jpg

The train moves with a quarter of jeep's speed. When you build roads and railways through the hills you have to make the most of the flat the space. And this is the most beautiful thing about the toy railway. It actually runs through people back yards. The local's are so used to it, that they don't pay any attention and in a way it feels like you doing a bit of reality TV.
This video should give you a feel, never mind my Russian commentary.

large_IMG_0241.jpglarge_IMG_0239.jpglarge_90_IMG_0225.jpglarge_270_IMG_0222.jpglarge_IMG_0215.jpglarge_IMG_0253.jpg

Posted by dima.safr 10:31 Archived in India Tagged train railway darjeeling toy_train steam_train darjeeling_himalayan_railway Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]