The International Steam Pages
Steam in Thailand, 1997 - 2001
This page contains the older Thai reports.
Thailand stopped using working steam in the early 1980's, I had some wonderful rides in Haadyai (and I am not talking about the night life).
Robert Lee tells me that the Bangkok Nation of 13th April 2001 reported that the railway plans to start a steam operation between Bangkok and Ayutthaya on a regular basis. (Added 1st June 2001), but nothing seems to have become of it. Hans Hufnagel has sent a brief report (19th December 2002) on the usual November/December events here.
I was in Thailand briefly at the beginning of December 2000 (5th December 2000). On 1st December I found 824, 850 and 953 serviceable but cold at Thonburi shed. 950 and 962 were here 'preserved'. 713 and 715 were at Kanchanaburi for the annual 'Son et Lumiere', we saw 715 perform on 2nd December and the next day 713 was in steam to take its turn. The train consisted of 3 vans and an ordinary class coach, pulled across with much whistling while fireworks went off all around. 953 and 850 were turned out for the King's Birthday train to Ayutthaya on December 5th. Amazing value at 80B (return), don't take no for an answer if you are told 'no tickets left' as you can buy 'standee' tickets on the day or pay on the train. Hopeless for photography as usual, especially as the return left at 17.25 just before sunset. I rode part of the way back on the footplate always great fun at night.
Earlier on 8th December 1999, I stopped off to talk to officers of the State Railway (public relations and marketing). They confirmed that the annual Bangkok - Ayutthaya steam trains were continuing on 26th March, 23rd October and 5th December. Graham Belton (29th March 2005) confirms these dates are still valid and adds he had just returned from Thailand where he enjoyed 824 and 850 on the 26th March run from Bangkok Hua Lamphong to Ayutthaya. 824 and 850 were coupled tender to tender as usual. Tickets were available from SRT stations, he bought his from Don Muang on 16th March. There were 7 passenger coaches, well loaded, possibly sold out. 08:00 BKK-Ayutthaya(901), 17:25 Ayutthaya-BKK(902), cost Baht100 (Eur2).
The Kanchanaburi trains continued into 2000 Nick Lera saw 2-8-2 953 on the Kwai train on December 4th/5th 1999. It was a busy weekend as 2-6-0s 713 and 715 were at Kanchanaburi for the annual 'Son et Lumiere' and 4-6-2s 824 and 850 were working the King's birthday train to Ayutthaya. The Kwai train has now finished, although it was running at the end of April 2000, but Hans Hufnagel told me it was not running by early July 2000. (23rd July 2000).
In January 1999, the Death Railway excursion steam train with three authentic third class coaches was running on Saturdays and Sundays. Visitors found, in turn, one of Pacifics 824 and 850 and Mikado 953 on the service, 850 facing east, the others west, there are no turning facilities. The train left Kanachanaburi some time after 10.00 (there were as many times given as there are visitors), returning from Wang Pho some time after 14.00. I was here on January 24th/25th 1999, you can read my illustrated report, to which I have added the report of Heinrich Hubbert's second visit (2nd April 1999) and Nick Lera's pictures of the Japanese built C56 2-6-0s (23rd December 1999) and Heinrich Hubbert's pictures (4th February 2000).
Ray Schofield rode one of the trains celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Bangkok - Ayuthya line in March 1997. You can read his brief report.
It has always been difficult to get advance information but they usually run steam for the King's birthday on December 5th. I arranged my flights to Myanmar to let me explore Bangkok on December 4th and 5th 1997. An afternoon visit on the first day to Thonburi shed found 713 and 715 absent, apparently working shuttle trains the short distance between Kanchanaburi and the Kwai Bridge (November 26th to December 7th only), 953 spare and 824 and 850 being prepared for the traditional King's birthday special to Ayuthya and back.
On December 5th, my attempts at early morning photography were thwarted by 850 and 824 already being in the station by 08.00 for a 09.30 departure. The train was officially fully booked (140B return), but there was no problem boarding it and paying 80B for the single journey. The scenery north is, to say the least, uninspiring, and the locos were barely extended on their 10 coach train. However, although the train was shadowed by the canopy at Hualampong station, it was possible to take static shots at the various stops en route. The results were, very average, given the angle of the sun and the half built beams of the new mass transit railway for much of the route. The locos made no exhaust and ran like clockwork tender-to-tender, the highlight of my trip being a cab ride for the last section from Bang-Pa-In to Ayuthaya. In theory, the light should have been more favourable for the return afternoon trip, but I had to get back to the airport by regular service train for the next sector of my journey.
On December 8th 1999, I visited railway HQ in Bangkok, where I picked up a picture of this relatively recently (1997) restored loco at Makkasan - I believe this is destined for a folk museum project (associated with the Queen) north of Bangkok. The loco is a 600mm gauge Hudswell Clarke 0-6-2WT originally used on a forestry line.