Burma Railway

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Burma Railway
[[Image:|150px| ]]
System timeline
1896 Burma Railway Company formed to work existing state lines
1928 Nationalisation
1937 Separation of Burma from India
1948 Union of Burma created
Constituent companies / lines
1896 Irrawaddy Valley State Railway
1896 Sittang Valley State Railway
1896 Mu Valley State Railway
1923-1927 Madaya Light Railway
Key locations
Headquarters Rangoon
Workshops Insein
Major Stations Mandalay, Pegu, Prome, Toungoo
Successor system / organisation
1928 Burma Railways
1989 Myanmar Railways
System mileage
Metre gauge 1340 miles (1905)
2049 miles (1943)
Associated auxiliary force
How to interpret this infobox

Formed as a private company, in 1896 Burma Railway (BR) took over the three metre gauge(MG) railways operating in Burma under a guarantee provided by the Government of India.


Following the merger of the Irrawaddy Valley State Railway, the Sittang Valley State Railway and the Mu Valley State Railway to form BR, construction continued on various projects until 1924 when the extent of line exceeded 1800 miles. From 1906, BR was managed by Walter Home who repeated his previous success at the helm of the Jodhpur-Bikaner Railway, another metre gauge line. [1] [2]

In 1928, BR was dissolved and the railways in Burma were brought once again under direct government control, being renamed Burma Railways. In 1937, Burma was split from India and political control passed to the newly-formed Burma Office.

The infamous Thailand-Burma Railway, constructed between 1942-1943 by Allied POWs under the direction of their Japanese captors, is at present outside of the scope of this article.

Railways in Burma in 1900
Burma Railway Map 1909

Neighbouring countries Railway Link Proposals

  • Assam-Burma Connection Railway Project. A series of proposals from 1892 onwards to link India and Burma by rail; eventually all were dropped.
  • Burma-Yunnan Railway Project. A project to connect the Burma Railway network to the China’s south-western Yunnan province. Construction started in 1938 and was abandoned in the early 1940’s

Extensions to Burma Railway

Connection Line to Burma Railway

  • Burma Mines Railway. Opened 1907, private NG railway to transport locally mined silver; connecting to Lashio branch of BR; independent until after 1947

Railways aquired by BR

Madaya Light Railway. Unassisted private company, 1912; Purchased by Government of India(GoI) 1923, passed to BR; closed 1927

Coal Supplies

From 1891 coal for the BR was partly supplied from the Kebwet Mine, the coal was carried by the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company(IFC) . By 1923 23,000 tons of coal had been extracted and carried by IFC. The coal was of inferior quality and supply ceased in January 1905. See separate page for further information


Refer to FIBIS Fact File #4: “Research sources for Indian Railways, 1845-1947” - available from the Fibis shop. This Fact File contains invaluable advice on 'Researching ancestors in the UK records of Indian Railways' with particular reference to the India Office Records (IOR) held at the British Library

An on-line search of the IOR records relating to this railway [3] gives many references. The most important being:-

  • L/AG/46/7 “Records of the Burma Railways Company, 1896-1921”
  • L/AG/46/28 “Records of the India Office relating to the Burma Railways Company 1897-1927”

Personnel Records

  • L/AG/46/7/17-18 “Records of the Burma Railways Company, which includes lists of employees, 1898-1921”
  • L/F/10/250 "Records of service: Officers employed by the Burma Railways Co Ltd. Half-yearly Staff lists 1922-1928"

This railway was a State Railways and the following IOR records relating to Staff employment are held :-

  • L/F/8/1-20 "Appointments to State Railways made in the UK 1855-1946"
  • Z/L/F/8/1-2 "Index to Appointments to State Railways made in the UK 1855-1946"

The following staff from the Public Works Department are listed in the 1905 Civil List as being posted to Burma State Railway:-


  1. " Administration Report on the Railways in India – corrected up to 31st March 1918"; Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta; page 171-4 Retrieved 30 Apr 2016
  2. Wikipedia "History of Rail Transport in Burma" Retrieved 30 Apr 2016
  3. British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue; Retrieved 18 Jan 2016
  4. Google Books " India List and India Office List, 1905" page 430 (pdf page 393 ) Retrieved on 29 May 2016
  5. Google Books " India List and India Office List, 1905" page 548 (pdf page 511 Retrieved on 29 May 2016
  6. Google Books " India List and India Office List, 1905" page 600 (pdf page 563) Retrieved on 22 May 2016
  7. Google Books " India List and India Office List, 1905" page 454 (pdf page 417) Retrieved on 29 May 2016
  8. India Civil List 1890, page 41
  9. The Locomotive Magazine and Railway Carriage and Wagon Review "Indian locomotive superintendents of the nineties", Volume 31, Number 393, 15 May 1925, page 133+ plate; Retrieved 26 Jul 2016
  10. Grace's Guide "Cornelius Edward Cardew" Retrieved on 26 Jul 2016
  11. Google Books "India Office List 1905" page 420,pdf page 457 Retrieved on 26 Jul 2016
  12. Google Books " India List and India Office List, 1905" pages 451-452 (pdf pages 414-415) Retrieved on 29 May 2016
  13. Google Books "India List and India Office List, 1905" page 569 (pdf page 532) Retrieved on 29 May 2016
  14. Google Books " India List and India Office List, 1905" page 517 (pdf page 480 Retrieved on 29 May 2016
  15. Google Books " India List and India Office List, 1905" page 601 (pdf page 564) Retrieved on 29 May 2016