Having been myself (RD) to Thailand this year just after the events
described below, I found the number of
'normal' tourists much reduced. Several factors are involved, there is a
recession in Europe, Thailand has had a bad press with its political
upheavals in the last year or two and (I think this is the most significant) the Thai Baht is significantly higher against major currencies
such that local prices are up 50% in international terms compared to four or four
five years ago. Bargain destination it is not - just look at the book prices
below! My own
report of a visit to the Death Railway is available.
However, the fact that there were to be three trains this year for the
King's Birthday in Thailand attracted a bumper crop of gricers. The
following report is distilled from the efforts of James Waite, Thomas
Kautzor, Hans Hufnagel, Peter Green and Fabrice Lanoue, in order to keep it
coherent, I have not indicated the source of information or pictures.
The two Pacifics 824 and 850 operated all three trains with Mikado 953 in steam
in reserve. On all three days around the King's Birthday the 3-coach royal train was on display at Hualamphong station. These creme-&-brown coaches are normally kept in their own shed next to Makkasan
Asia Books in Bangkok (see their website http://www.asiabooks.com)
- has stocks of two books from White Lotus which will be of interest: They
are available through the website or of course locally. (In Bangkok, find
the nearest branch to where you are staying and if they do not have them,
they will phone around to find one nearby. This is what I did from their
large shop on the second floor of the Paragon Mall, which is next to the
Siam interchange for the two Sky Train lines.
There is a full list of known
preserved steam locomotives in Thailand on this site. With the help of
various correspondents, I plan to upload pictures of as many as possible
please get in touch if you can help, I'll send you a list of 'wants', please
DO NOT email pictures as they are largely the more obscure steam
Saturday December 4th
This was the first time to my knowledge that a steam special had run east
for very many years (if at all), the destination was Chachoengsao where the
lines to Pattaya and Cambodia spilt. All literature I have seen refers to
"Chachoengsao" but the station sign below is rendered "Chacheongsao",
a not uncommon problem where Thai is rendered into Roman script.
The train is shown departing Makkasan Station, unfortunately, the smoke stopped shortly before. The new airport line and part of Makkasan Works are visible behind the train.
The train passing the airport spur road and the new elevated standard gauge line from the airport to the city centre - unfortunately without the electric airport train which came along only a few seconds
This is the special departing Chachoengsao at 16.45, fifteen minutes earlier than the crew had stated, in some of the last sunshine of the day.
I think that's the first photographer on the right in the second
Sunday December 5th
This was the actual birthday with the traditional Ayutthaya
This is Sunday's train leaving Hualamphong station - taken from the top floor of a staff welfare building at the end of the platform. They all seemed quite unfazed by having
the photographer join them as they were munching their way through their breakfast!
Leaving Bang Sue station. As the photographer states, this photo works much better in the summer when the sun is on the
Passing Rangsit station on its way north to Ayutthaya (the
line takes a distinct left turn after Bang Sue rendering the sun angle
This is the train back at Hualamphong in the evening
953 which spent the weekend standing in steam as spare engine at the north end of the station. In the event its services weren't required and it returned to the shed on Monday morning.
Monday December 6th
Steam trains to Nakhon Pathom are not that common, but like the
other lines, it's flat and rather unattractive, in this case, the sun angles
would have been challenging had it been other than cloudy all day.
The train on the big girder bridge over the river in
Bangkok, apparently running 'wrong line' but in fact the bridge is
bi-directional and this seems to be the favoured track.
Nakhon Chai Si after Taling Chan junction, now on the 'right' line:
Back at Hua Lamphong on Monday evening about to return light to the shed. This monk wasn't quite the chance sighting that the
picture might suggest as he was one of several monks waiting for the return of the train, cameras in hand - clearly the detached life they're supposed to lead doesn't preclude them from a little
East of Bangkok Miscellany
In the Sri Ratcha area, the elusive mattress factory where Robert Boer had seen several of the SRJ locos dumped back in the early
1990's was found thanks to his notes even though there have been a lot of changes to the road layout since
his visit. The factory, "Rainbow Mattresses" (in English) has closed though there were still people about. The guard said that there were no locos left and that at least one had gone "to Bangkok". He wouldn't
allow access to the inside of the premises but from the outside it was
clear indeed that there was nothing left
At the Siam Country Club, (see James'
report from 2008) the KS Wren loco and Hanomag Pacific 279 were still there as before (and the Wren looks even more weather beaten now than it did two years ago). The Krauss TRC loco is actually about half a mile or more away from the other locos on this very extensive site,
it's much better looked after.
North of Bangkok Miscellany
4-6-0 177 at Ban Phachi Junction north of Ayutthaya has had a recent repaint
and now looks very smart.
West of Bangkok Miscellany
The ex-Java 4-6-0 756 is preserved at an army base near
Ratchaburi, which is
actually the Army Engineering Museum. It's on the east side of the main line and main road entering the town from the north and just north of the big bridges for the railway and the road over the Maeklong river. To get there by road you have to leave the main road by a slip road on its western side which then passes under the main road and the railway before arriving at the loco which is preserved there with two old wooden
carriages just inside the main
gate and the museum is next to them.
The duty guard was very helpful and quite happy to allow photography.
The old Maeklong Railway in its two sections still operates as before with
railcars. The Bangkok terminus is in the south-west of the city near the
end of the relatively recently extended Sky Train (BTS).
Chatuchak museum - the "Railway Hall of Fame" at Chatuchak Park now has the following opening hours:
07.00-14.00 but it is closed on Mondays. The very pleasant owner of this
private museum has sent the 'never used' Japanese loco and two
bogie/trucks (for a yet to constructed coach) to
his private estate near Korat so it can be restored to operational
condition for eventual operation on a 4km line there. The
project is proceeding slowly right now as SRT/RSR has an overinflated view
of the value of rails which are beyond use on the main line. (This is
nothing new, they probably just can't be bothered...My personal opinion of
the current management of what was once a first class railway railway is
Asia Rice Mill - No change from previous
Still present near Bang Sue are the two TRC locos plus the old Frichs diesel no 601 (the big articulated one) stored at the diesel depot. It's still more or less intact though in urgent need of some
TLC. This is of the old Krauss (Munich) 2-4-0T at dusk.
Attempts to make ad hoc visits to Makkasan Works will not be
successful. However, peering over the perimeter wall revealed the usual residents: 0-6-0T 54, 0-6-0T 61, 4-6-0 165, 4-6-2 278, ex-RhB 2-8-0 336 and 2-6-0 733. The new Airport Rail Link City Line (local) service gives an excellent vantage point over the whole complex from the moving eastbound train between Ratchaprarop and Makkasan stations. The only steam loco
visible was a very rusty 0-4-2T standing next to the compound where the narrow gauge stock for the Queen Sirikit project is kept. This would most probably be TRC 0-4-2T 1 (Krauss 5011/1903).
At the "National Science Centre for
Education" at Ekkamai, there were the usual locos (TRC 0-4-2T 2 on display, 4-6-2 263 & 2-6-0 738 stored).
Finally, a useful Bangkok travel tip from James for those with an early
or late flight
One more thing - put in a plug for my friends at the Queen's Garden Resort Hotel on the On Nut Road, near the new airport! Despite it's grand name it's a small, family-run hotel. It's the third time I've stayed there and it just goes on getting better and better. It must have been built well before the airport and so have become an airport hotel by default. It's the only affordable hotel I've managed to find anywhere around there (£12 a night). Clean and comfortable, a refreshing lack of 5*-type amenities, good food served outside in the terrace/yard/car park (call it what you will) next to the klong looking over the historic Wat Lat Krabang on the opposite bank, friendly and helpful people and delightfully peaceful and quiet (other than the odd passing plane), quite a contrast with the big downtown places. Most importantly for the car-borne gricer they have on-site parking in the aforesaid yard and easy access to the expressway network, though finding your way there through the maze of airport roads may well tax your navigational skills! From the airport take the first
slip road off the airport spur, about 1km from the terminal and make for the On Nut Road. Once there (at a set of traffic lights) head east until you reach a sharp bend/kink in the road where it crosses a klong. Turn left into the small side road next to the 7/Eleven store just after the bridge and the hotel's at the end on the left, just before the foot- and scooter-bridge over the klong with the wat straight ahead of you.