The International Steam Pages

Cracking another BUM, Thailand 2009

We visited Thailand on our way back to base after a month in Burma which is described in detail in Rob and Yuehong in the Golden Land 2009, Part 2.

We were back in Bangkok in December 2010 and this time we did get inside the engine room - click here for that report.

When I first started researching stationary steam in Thailand back in 2005, we were told of a closed sawmill, with its steam engine still present, on the banks of the Chaophraya river in Bangkok. On our first visit we took a river boat and checked out the odd chimney but drew a complete blank. We needed more information otherwise, unlike the girls in Patpong who (allegedly) do the most amazing stunts, this would have to be put down as yet another Bangkok Urban Myth. Eventually we did get some directions, which necessarily were in the opposite direction to that which we had tried before and spent a morning checking things out:

We took one of Chaophraya Express boats - a bargain at THB 13 flat rate (unlike the tourist boat which is THB 150 albeit this is an all day ticket):

Somebody didn't bother to check the timetable properly and it turned out that the stop we needed was only used by rush hour all stations boats and we seriously overshot our target and had to retrace our steps, at least it gave us a couple of splendid runpasts... Actually the big chimney is for the wood dryer, our chimney is at the back almost invisible on the right.

The mill's offices were almost deserted, the one occupant spoke very little English but readily agreed to show us around. It was, in effect, an embryonic museum:

This machine was from White of Paisley, Scotland, at first sight the plate looked to be in Thai script!

This plate on the left is on the overhead gantry, that on the right on the machine above:

The main boiler is from Babcock and Wilcox, 1914:

However, our treasure trove was in a firmly padlocked engine room, we could see it through the cracks and no amount of persuasion could produce the key. Instead all we could manage was bending back a small piece of well positioned corrugated iron:

We have all the necessary contact information to gain entry next time, but that is a year away... 

Sorry, you don't recognise the object of our attention? It's a Paxman-Lentz Cross Compound Steam Engine - No 18842 - delivered to Bangkok for Denny, Mott and Dixon. See for more information, specifically for the only other known survivor albeit a tandem compound. The last confirmed sighting of this engine was from an ISSES member in 1990!

On our way back to base, we popped into our first discovered steam engine workshop in Chinatown. Alas it is now out of business. We were made every welcome by the 77 year old son of one of the two founders of the business. His father was a doctor who migrated from Guangzhou in China some 100 years ago, he persuaded the two more industrious of his four sons to train as engineers and set up the business just over 80 years ago. The first premises burned down and they relocated to the waterfront - at first they even had a small dock where they could work on steam boats. By the time we first visited in 2005, the business had greatly contracted and they had unsold engines and were only working on new boilers. Now much of the equipment has been sold off, there are half a dozen governors lying around and the only other trace of steam engines are parts from an unsold machine cut up when it failed to find a customer:

Rob and Yuehong  Dickinson