Written by Shirley T
Tuesday, 15 July 2008 05:47
Facts in history book were among the first knowledge fed to my mind about The Death Railway. The name says it all. The Death Railway - there were about 50% of 180,000 Asian laborers and 16% of 100,000 allied prisoners of war (POWs) died while constructing the railway link from Ban Pong to Thanbyuzayat during World War II.
The total original distance of the railway link was 415 km and 304 km were in Thailand and 111 km in Burma. Served mainly as Japanese occupation plan to access Burma and India, Thailand government agreed to allow Japanese to built the railway in Thailand with the condition that Thai government and Thai people would not participated in the railway project though some claimed that Thai government did form military alliance with Japanese in early 1942.
In June 1942, the construction of the railway was initiated concurrently from both end; Thailand and Burma. Upon completion, both railway links met at Kaeng Khoi Tha, about 18 km from Three Pagoda Pass in October 1943. The Death Railway took no more than 18 months to complete instead of the original estimation of three years.
Observed from geographically point of view, the railway link was built along a few rivers as they were reliable sources to provide drinking water to the laborers and allied prisoners of war that worked on the Death Railway project.
One of the most challenging and dangerous works was the construction of wooden viaduct by the cliff along the edge of River Kwai Noi near Tham Kra Sae. Railway track was built about 100 m height of three tiered wooden viaduct. This stretch of 400 m railway track only took 17 days to complete!
After the war, some link of the Death Railway was dismantled by British and 300 km of the railway track in Thailand was handed to Thai government in 1947. Due to costly maintenance, Thai government later decided to retain the original link only until Nam Tok or Waterfall (Nam means water, Tok means Fall in Thai).
Experience is the best teacher! If you travel to Kanchanburi or Gold City today (Kanchana means Gold, Buri means city in Thai), take a train ride from Tha Kilen to Nam Tok. Grab a window seat. If you wish to travel on the Bridge over River Kwai, hop on the same train from Bridge River Kwai station, right before the historic bridge. About 20 minutes after Tha Kilen station, the train will slow down along a wooden viaduct. If you are facing the train movement direction, on the left was a former prisoners of war (POWs) camp site by the river that had been converted to a beautiful resort whilst cliff will appear on the right window simultaneously. Catch a good view of train moving on wooden viaduct from the right window.
Then, go back to look on your left and there is a cave at Tham Kra Sae followed by a statue of reclining Buddha shortly after. After about half an hour ride, catch the view of a nunnery temple on mountain top through the right window.
Some tips for Death Railway train ride from Tha Kilen to Nam Tok:
* Cost of third class train ride is 50 Baht as of now. Upgrade to first class carriage will cost 150 Baht, which being given a special certificate cum ticket and is served with soft drink and snack with cold towel.
* Total length of time is roughly 1 hour 10 minutes.
* Total distance is approximately 70 km.
* Toilet is available on the train and it is free. Use only if you are desperate.
* Watch out of your head if you are putting your head out of the window!
1. Digger History
2. Burma Railway Wikipedia
Learn more about The Death Railway - visit Death Railway Museum opposite Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
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