The Death Railway beyond The Bridge over the River Kwai

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Last year, October 14th I got a plan to visit Kanchanaburi. I made a decision to go there by train. I have rarely to travel by train, except electric train in Bangkok. I could remember well once I have traveled by train when I worked in a company long times ago. I went to Chaing Mai, a province in Northern Thailand. It was a sleeping train. The company booked  a second class ticket for me. I had not any idea what the second class was. I learnt from that trip. The second class of sleeping train…I had to the sleep on the upper bed on the train. Of course, it was exciting but not impressed me to do it again.

2015-08-10_09-35-31_965Electric Train in Bangkok, BTS

By the way, this traveling was different. It is a legend of the railway since the World War II. I was exciting to track the line of history. I checked the timetable of the first train to Kanchanaburi. It departs in the morning at 7.50 am. I got up very early at 05.00 am and arrived at the Thonburi Station at 07.15 am. I was a bit late because I made an appointment at 7.00 am. Anyway I stood there and had much time to look around the Thonburi Station.

P_20170419_185319Thon Buri Station

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P_20170419_185404.jpgThonburi Station Timetables

IMG_3347Thonburi Railway Station, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson 

IMG_3348Thonburi Railway Station, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson 

The Thonburi Station once it was on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. It was on the corner of the Khlong Bangkok Noi and the Chao Phraya River. Now it was moved to the other side of the Arun Ammarindra Bridge, a bridge over the Khong Bagkok Noi. It lines on the west side of the Khlong Bangkok Noi. There is a wholesale agriculture market and food shops in front of the station which is called Sala Nam Ron.

P_20170419_181906The merging point of the Khong Bangkok Noi and the Chao Phraya River

2016-03-25_11-23-22_964Arun Ammarindra Bridge

P_20170419_184534Arun Ammarindra Bridge

IMG_3345Wholesale Agriculture Market, “Sala Nam Ron” and Thonburi Railway Station, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson 

P_20170419_185237Food Stalls in front of the Thonburi Station

P_20170419_184948Wholesale Agriculture Market, “Sala Nam Ron” in front of the Thonburi Station

P_20170419_185514Wholesale Agriculture Market, “Sala Nam Ron” in front of the Thonburi Station

P_20170419_185611Wholesale Agriculture Market, “Sala Nam Ron” in front of the Thonburi Station

The Thonburi Staion, originally known as Bangkok Noi Railway Station. It was a terminal of southern network of the State Railway of Thailand since 1903-1999. It was an important strategic site of the Imperial Japanese Army in WWII. It used to be the Imperial Japanese Army base for supplying military  equipment to construct Thai – Burmese Railway. Though it was severely damaged from the allied bombing many times since December 1944 – March 1945. The station was reconstructed in 1950 and just been a station while the main terminal is Bangkok Railway Terminal or the local named Hua Lamphong Station. In 1999, the Siriraj Hospital had got a plan to expand the service area of the hospital and The State Railway of Thailand gave the area of the Thonburi Station to the hospital. Then the station was moved to the other side of the Arun Amarindra Bridge. It is far from the old station about 900 meters since 2003.

P_20170419_180628The old Thonburi Station, it was renovated to be the Siriraj  Bhimuk Sathan Museum. 

P_20170419_180728The Locomotive in front of the Siriraj Bhimuk Sathan Museum

P_20170419_180831The Locomotive in front of the Siriraj Bhimuk Sathan Museum

P_20170419_181715The Siriraj Bhimuk Sathan Museum and Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital

P_20170419_182034The Locomotive, The Siriraj Bhimuk Sathan Museum and Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital

When I arrived at the station I bought the 2 tickets but the railway officer told me that I had to show my ID card. I was surprised why I had to show my ID card when I bought the tickets. Suddenly he told me that Thai people must show ID card and get free ticket. Oh Yeah!!! How I missed it!  The foreigner has to pay for 100 BHT for Thonburi – Nam Tok Station. It is not expensive.

P_20170419_185058The Thonburi Station

IMG_3349The Locomotive at Thonburi Station, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson  

death railwayThe Map of Thonburi – Nam Tok Railway, Thank you for the data base from OpenSreetMap

There were many passengers at the station when it was nearly departure time of the train which would go to Nam Tok Station . Finally it came and sure it was weekend so there were many tourists both Thai and foreigners. After I took a seat on the train…it was an old commuter without the air-conditioner. Anyway it was not worse because I wanted to track the history of the Death Railway.

While I took a seat on the commuter and looked around I saw the passengers both Thais and foreigners were full every seats. The most Thais passengers had some packs of food, desserts, snack and fruits. Yeah! It was a supplying train like the purpose of Imperial Japanese Army. Enjoyed! There are many kinds of foods sell on the train along the way by the local sellers. I did not try anything on the train but my trip buddy done.

IMG_3358Atmosphere on the train, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson

IMG_3364Atmosphere on the train, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson

IMG_3369Atmosphere on the train, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson

I did not noticed that the train departed on time or not because I was exciting when it arrived at the platform. Who cares when you travel with someone who likes the same. However the train went away from Bangkok. I looked at the view through the window of the train along the way, it was green that made me fresh. A nice green field in mid October, it is the end of rainy season. I did not know how long time we spent on the train because I had to do a little bit of my job. It was an urgently on that time and I could do it. When I finished my job, I just noticed that the train stopped at the Nakhon Pathom Station for long time. I guessed that it was longer than 30 minutes. I could not be in silent so I asked the railway officer why we stopped there for long time. He told me that the railway officers must change the tracks because the railway is a single track. Yes, it a single track railway in Thailand. By the way, we will have a dual track soon.  Don’t miss I track the history line!

IMG_3356Starts up signals, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson

P_20161015_095442View from the window of the train

Not far from Nakhon Pathom Station, we arrived at Nong Pla Duk Junction. It is a railway station in the Ban Pong District, Ratchaburi Province. This station is the beginning of the Death Railway. It is far from Thonburi Station 64 kilometers. It is a junction of Southern Line and Suphan Buri Line.

The death railway was constructed under the purposed of supplying the military equipment of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was the network project to link the Southeast Asian and South Asian to become one. This line was started at Nong Pla Duk Junction and will end up in Thanbuzayat, Burma. The forced labor about 180,000 were from Southeast Asian, Javanese (Indonesia), Malayan Tamil (India), Burmese, Chinese, Thai and about 60,000 allied prisoners of war, British, Australia, American, Dutch. They were died during the construction about 100,000 of Tamil and 12,621 allied prisoners of war, British 6,904, Australian 1,802, Dutch 2,782, American 133.

maxresdefaultJEATH Museum, Kanchanaburi, Thank you for cover photo by Mr. Diedrich Saathoff  on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi0hbX4RYwA

The distance from Ban Pong Junction to Thanbuzayat, Burma was about 415 kilometers. The project was drafted pass over the rivers, the cliff, the Tanao Si Mountains (Tenasserim Mountains). Tanao Si Mountains is the range in the Western Thailand where is an abundance rainforest in Kanchanaburi. This forest were plenty of the mosquitoes which are the carriers of Malaria. The labors were died from malaria, malnutrition and injured. A wonderful film from the 1960”s was made to tell the story of this bridge. It was a tremendous film, which portrayed the cruelties of World War II. It was a part of history where, hopefully, lessons were learned about the devastation of war.

From the Nong Pla Duk Junction, the most passengers took a nap for a while.

P_20161015_102137copyThe most passengers took a nap on the Death Railway …it was not a sleeping train! 

P_20161015_100914Green View along the way was very fresh so took a nap was a good choice!

Suddenly my travel mate said he saw the mountains! Yes, I was not surprised because I have always visited Kanchanaburi. We arrived at Kanchanaburi Station. The most passengers both Thais and foreigners got off this station.

Kanchanaburi Station, Thank you for the photo by Mr. Håkan Larsson

There is a World War II Cemetery not far from Kachanaburi Station. The local named it Don Rak. We did not visit the cemetery. We went ahead to Nam Tok Station.

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2015-07-26_08-54-44_387Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Don Rak

I met a nice old lady from Kanchanaburi Station. I asked her how to go to Muang Sing Histiorical Park. She did not know. Though I asked the railway officer. He said he neither did not know. Yeah! I know I must get off at Tha Kilen Station. I asked them because I made a decision to visit the archaeological site or not. This proves that we must study how to go everywhere before traveling.  I am a geographer and a cartographer. Don’t miss it.

P_20161015_113309A nice old lady

Then the first attractive site on our trip was coming. The Bridge over the River Kwai which I have talked to on the above. It is the legend of the Death Railway. It is a bridge that crossed over the Khwae Yai River. The original bridge was constructed with wooden structure. It was finished in February 1943, after 5 months the concrete structure was finished in June 1943. It is the bridge 277.  It was meant to be attacked with the use of the first-ever example of a precision-guided munition in American service, the VB-1 Azon MCLOS-guided 1,000 lb ordnance on 23 January 1945 but bad weather scrubbed the mission.

It was destroyed by bombing in February 13rd 1945 by the Royal Air Force. It was repaired by the allied prisoners of war and was back in operation as a wooden bridge.  In 3rd April 1945 it was attacked again by  Liberator bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces. It was repaired again and back it functional in the end of May. A second raid by the R.A.F. on 24 June put the railway out of commission for the rest of the war. After the Japanese surrender, the British Army removed 3.9 kilometers of track on the Thai-Burma border. A survey of the track had shown that its poor construction would not support commercial traffic. The track was sold to the State Railway of Thailand and the 130 km Ban Pong – Nam Tok section relaid and is in use today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma_Railway

P_20160812_091440The Bridge over the River Kwai from the east side of Khwae Yai River

P_20160812_091211The bridge on the east side of Khwae Yai River

P_20170402_143024The bridge on the east side of Khwae Yai River

 

 

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P_20170402_150156This seal shows this metal structure was was made in Japan since 1948.

P_20170402_143844On the middle of the Bridge over the River Kwai

P_20170402_144227The south view of the Khwae Yai River from The Bridge over the River Kwai

P_20170402_144129The north view of the Khwae Yai River from The Bridge over the River Kwai

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P_20170402_145009The bridge on the west side of Khwae Yai River while the tourist commuter was going back to Bangkok.

P_20170402_144606The bridge from the west side of Khwae Yai River

P_20170402_145056The bridge from the west side of Khwae Yai River

When the train past over the Kwae Yai River it went ahead on the track that along the riverside of the Khwae Noi River. We, the passengers who were a tourists were impressive with the topographic and the greenery view of the mountains and the river. Finally we found the exciting view of the Tham Krasae Viaduct. It is a narrow line on the cliff and the river is down from it. The train must slowly drive on this track. We were exciting to see the head of the commuter and the end of the commuter from the curve of this cliff. It is one of the most attractive point on this trip. It is the Tham Krasae Station.

P_20161015_122521The various crops along the track , orange, sugar cane, manioc

P_20161015_122632The various crops along the track , orange, sugar cane, manioc

P_20161015_122614The various crops along the track , orange, sugar cane, manioc

P_20161015_124914Floating Resort on the Khwae Noi River, Tham Krasae Station, Sai Yok District

P_20161015_125052Floating Resort on the Khwae Noi River, Tham Krasae Station, Sai Yok District

P_20161015_125148Floating Resort on the Khwae Noi River, Tham Krasae Station, Sai Yok District

P_20161015_125118Tham Krasae Viaduct, the most exciting spot on the Trip Thonburi – Nam Tok 

P_20161015_125130Tham Krasae Viaduct, the most exciting spot on the Trip Thonburi – Nam Tok 

P_20161015_125139Tham Krasae Viaduct, the most exciting spot on the Trip Thonburi – Nam Tok 

P_20161015_125201Tham Krasae Viaduct, the steepest of the line between the mountains and the river

This point is the most exciting spot on the Trip Thonburi – Nam Tok. We could hear the the bridge’s noise!

P_20161015_125226Tham Krasae Viaduct, the steepest of the line between the mountains and the river it is the most exciting spot on the Trip Thonburi – Nam Tok.

P_20161015_125231Tham Krasae Viaduct, the steepest of the line between the mountains and the river it is the most exciting spot on the Trip Thonburi – Nam Tok.

P_20161015_125252The Khwae Noi River viewed from the train

We past this point and relieved with the view of the Khwae Noi River and green forest and the mountains. The water was not clear because of the rain.

P_20161015_131109The Khwae Noi  River became a red brick color in the rainy season.

From Tham Krasae Station, the train tracked on the cliff but I could see only green forest on the mountains and the Khwae Noi River down in the valley.

P_20161015_131046The Khwae Noi River is in the valley which is abundance with bamboo forest.

P_20161015_131026The Khwae Noi River is in the valley which is abundance with bamboo forest.

It just a short time I notices there are the crop farm that signed we would arrive at Nam Tok Station soon.

P_20161015_132029These crops was signed that we would arrive at Nam Tok Station soon.

P_20161015_132300These crops was signed that we would arrive at Nam Tok Station soon.

Take a look at the green field and green mountains is so nice! It is my favorite scene.

P_20161015_133036The crops farms punctuated with bamboo forest.

P_20161015_132714We were still tracked in the mountains.

Then we arrived at Nam Tok Station. I did not know how long time we spent on the train. As I said why I must care I was not hurry.   The only one thing I had to care that I was very hungry and wanted to go to the toilet.

P_20161015_135502My first meal for this trip…full…

This Thai- Burmese Railway was constructed  to the Hellfire Pass where is far from Nam Tok Station about 21 kms. up to the north. It was not completely constructed. Nam Tok Station is the end of in use line nowadays. Anyway the Hellfire Pass is the memorial museum of WWII is located in Sai Yok District. This museum is included of indoor and outdoor exhibitions by Australian Foundation. Please see more details from the link below. The local named Chong Khao Khat.

http://hellfire-pass.commemoration.gov.au/remembering-the-railway/hellfire-pass-memorial-museum.php

I was enjoyed this trip so much. It was an exciting trip because my phone could not access the wifi. Our lives were free without internet!

Everyone!!! Who gets a plan to visits Thailand and requires a traveling plans, please send text to me on Contact.  I will give you a traveling plan and a free copy of Tout Thai Hi-Way Map 77 Provinces!!!

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16 thoughts on “The Death Railway beyond The Bridge over the River Kwai

  1. A fantastic post. I would love to do what you did. When I read the accounts of the suffering by the prisoners that built the railway it makes me weep, but I have to experience riding on their rails. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the film from 1960’s “The Bridge over the River Khwai” was made to tell the story of this bridge. However it was a film which was criticized that might be not true story.

      Like

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