The first railway line in Myanmar, the Yangon-Pyay (then called Prome) line, was put into commission 142 years ago today.
At the opening ceremony, the first train pulled by a steam locomotive No. A.O1 left Yangon Central Railway Station at 6 a.m. and headed to Insein Railway Station, carrying Commissioner Augustus Rivers Thompson and a number of distinguished guests. The train stopped at Kyeemyindaing and Thamine railway stations on the way.
On reaching the station at Insein, the commissioner inspected the nearby locomotive workshop before returning to central Yangon. The train arrived back in the Central Railway Station at 8 p.m. The opening of the railroad was a much-talked about event and was covered by newspapers of the time.
It took three years to build the Yangon-Pyay railway line and much of the construction was carried out by Indian laborers. Some parts of the 1,000-year-old city of Sri Ksetra outside modern Pyay were demolished to make way for the railroad.
The Yangon-Pyay railway line came into use 52 years after the world’s first which is located in England, and 24 years after India’s first railway line.
By building the railroad, the British could easily export Myanmar’s products to Europe, and it also gave them increased military might towards upper Myanmar which had not yet fallen under colonial rule at the time.