The International Steam Pages

Steam in South East Asia, 2008

James Waite reports on his flying visit to south-east Asia - 3 countries in 7 days...

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Wednesday 26 March

Arrived at Bangkok mid-morning, unfortunately too late for the morning steam run to Ayutthaya. Hired a car and set off for Sri Racha to look for the ex-Sri Racha Timber Co. locos, arriving there early afternoon. Met up with a group of tuk-tuk drivers who knew two locos in the town well. These are Henschel 0-6-0T (works no. 22402/1952) preserved at a park close to the town centre and what looks like an OK 0-6-0 tender loco on the waterfront close by which may be the site of the old timber works

This is the Henschel, formerly 14:

This is the OK (11789/1928) which was previously reported preserved at the works (later mattress factory) at Chumphon..

None of them knew the whereabouts of the mattress factory at Chompon mentioned in the notes on your page as the possible site of more of these locos. Set off to try to find this without success. Moved on to the Siam Country Club whose turning is well signposted off route 7 northeast of Pattaya. Found the ex-Sri Racha Kerr Stuart 0-4-0ST (works no. 2387/1915) and the Hanomag Pacific 279 (works no.10659/1929) which are by the main road to the old part of the club roughly 1km away from the road junction – just past what looks like an old DC3 which is visible from some distance away. The Pacific is preserved with a train of three SRT coaches in the old red and cream livery.

Got to Hua Lamphong station about 19.45 after a long journey and was only just in time to see the returning steam special arrive less than a minute later. Met up with John Baker here who negotiated a trip on the footplate of 824 for us for the light engine run to Thonburi shed. The locos set off immediately after the departure of the 21.00 train northwards, stopped at Bang Sue for about 10 minutes to let a northbound service train pass and arrived at Thonburi about 22.20. A brilliant evening! We celebrated with a beer and a fry-up at a market stall at Thonburi before going our separate ways. Got back to the hotel about 12.30, in good time for a 04.00 rise for the flight to Phnom Penh!

Thursday 27 March

Flew to Phnom Penh with a lady from Cheltenham returning from holiday to work with the Red Cross at Phnom Penh who was a good source of info about the city. Arrived at Phnom Penh airport and got to the engine shed about 9.30. Pacific 231.501 looked great standing outside in the sunshine cleaned and polished up like a new pin. The railway had really done us proud. The main part of the shed contained the following, all of which appeared to be under repair or awaiting repair:-

Alsthom 1200hp Bo-Bo hood unit BB1005 
Alsthom 1200hp Bo-Bo twin-cab with cab numbered BB1055
The chassis of another Alsthom 1200hp Bo-Bo also numbered BB1055
CKD 4w Bde411
CKD Bo-Bo BB1011
CKD Bo-Bo BB1013 
Railcar ZZ AFF 803

Also in the shed were the two Chinese Bo-Bo’s no’s BB1060 and BB1061, both built in 2004. The manager explained to us that they had never been used as they would derail on the rough track. They also have couplers which are incompatible with the Cambodian couplers.

There are eight steam locos in the northern part of the shed used as a store. They are:-


2-8-2 141.551

2-6-2 131.103
2-6-2 131.106

The pictures show 231.501, 141.551/231.502 and 131.103

The store also contains what looks like a Wickham inspection car and a French 4w diesel. 

Outside were Pacifics 231.506 and 231.509, both pretty derelict, railcar ZZ AFF 802, French 4w diesel Bde406 and CKD 4w diesel Bde410. The latter pushed 231.501 back into the shed while we were there and was the only loco we saw move. 

We moved on to the station to see plinthed 131.106, another 2-6-2 like the one in the store and then on to the city centre for a little sightseeing. Cooled off with some Angkor beers in the comfort of the wicker chairs at the Club Cambodge. This place on the riverfront must be pretty well unchanged from colonial days. Moved on to the Foreign Correspondents Club next door for lunch – excellent food and more friendly people though it’s undergone a makeover recently and has lost some of its old-world charm. Back to the airport early afternoon for the flight to Hanoi. 

This visit was great fun – really friendly people at the engine shed who seemed very glad that we were taking an interest in their railway despite its obviously dilapidated condition. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for them. Contact with the railway before the trip had not been easy – after several false starts we eventually made contact through First Travel Cambodia (email who were most helpful. They didn’t seem at all phased by what was needed for a successful gricing trip.

Huge queues at immigration at Hanoi airport. The Vietnamese would do well to copy the Cambodians’ excellent e-visa system. Surprised to drive into town behind a shiny new Bentley. The hotel restaurant had turned into a branch of the KFC. Not what we were expecting so walked round the corner to a pavement café for a stirfry. Another excellent meal – the first of many in Vietnam. They’re obviously a nation of foodies…

Friday 28 March

We’d arranged a visit to Hanoi Ga shed through Bernd’s local tour agent. They seemed determined that we shouldn’t have the visit but we persevered and got there in the end. There are 5 2-8-2’s here, 141-159 in a shed hemmed in by heavy engineering machinery, 141-189 dumped outside minus its tender and 141-190, 141-189 and 141-108 in a roofed-over shelter with wire mesh sides. In the afternoon travelled on to Yen Bai (on the Kunming line, about mid-way to the Chinese border) to meet up with Bernd’s group. En route we were told that the 2-8-2 which should have operated a charter from Yen Bai the following day had failed a boiler test and the train would be worked by “a smaller” loco instead. When we got to Yen Bai shed it transpired that this was 2-6-2T 131-402 which was not steamable but which would be towed behind a diesel and a number of wagons with rubber tyres, belts etc. burning in its firebox to make smoke. Met up with the group who reached Yen Bai mid-evening. Bernd was not happy at the news about 131-402. The loco which was supposed to have failed its test was 141-159 which we’d seen at the shed at Hanoi earlier in the day but from its condition it was hard to see how any test, or anything else, could have been done to it for a long time. Not a good hotel – the food was stone cold and the disco/karaoke’s (two of them) on the top floor must have been audible the far side of town. The local tour manager had given us his room number for use in case of need but failed to respond when the karaoke became overpowering. Eventually I went up and turned it down myself. This is 141-165 and 141-190 at Hanoi Ga depot:

Saturday 29 March

The loco looked surprisingly good at its various runpasts, especially at the market with the dogmeat stall….Travelled on to Thai Nguyen arriving early evening. Nice quiet hotel – thankfully no karaoke!

Sunday 30 and Monday 31 March

Two days at the steelworks. On the standard gauge GJ’s 1037 and 1042 were in steam both days. 1035 was at the depot looking serviceable with 1034 which looked out of use. At the repair shop 1032 was inside under repair and 1045 was outside looking serviceable. 2-6-2T 131-436 was at the back of the narrow gauge shed (next to the repair shop) complete but we were told it had not been used since 2003. 

Most of the track in the steelworks is mixed gauge – with the exception of the blast furnace and slagheap lines which are standard gauge only. The only metre gauge loco we saw in action was a D4H (= the Soviet TU7 diesel hydraulic). There were at least 3 standard gauge TU7-type locos – they looked quite quaint being a 750mm gauge design! We had free access to pretty well all the steelworks and had a spectacular night session at the slagheap. On the 31st we had a charter run for a couple of km on one of the lines out from the works hauled by GJ1037 – an interesting train with metre gauge wagons and a standard gauge flat car with a sliding coupler mechanism to adapt to the metre gauge wagons. 

The steelworks is on the edge of town close to Lu Xaa station. There’s excellent food on offer at the Phuong Dung restaurant – turn left onto the main street outside the steelworks gate and the restaurant’s up a side alley on the right after 200 or 300 metres.

These pictures were all taken at Thai Nguyen on 30th March and are 'real':

Monday 1 April.

A charter train for about 24kms with GJ1042 from Lu Xaa to Pho Yen, about one third of the distance to Hanoi on the mixed gauge line. This time all the stock was standard gauge. The little loco performed faultlessly. It must be a long time since it had been on such a long outing. We arranged another impromptu shed visit at Hanoi Ga after which I set off for home.

Rob Dickinson