Turntable tales Nº 2

‘A stroll on the yard’

A heap of sleepers are needy piled up just were the track to the maintenance spot – a real depot is a big word for the Chiang Mai situation – mingled with the yard.
It is certainly not what you can expect around other cities. Small locomotives running back and forwards on an endless row of tracks while shunting the cars. The sound of metal against metal is floating in the air. As a little boy I was dedicated to such scenes. Riding on my small bike to the station on a Sunday’s morning, when I was young, in the Netherlands steam still run. The hissing of resting iron horses halfway the shed and turntable in anticipation of what’s next: haul a train to an unknown destination. ‘Oh boy’, had that kid a dream.
It must have been a while ago since Chiang Mai saw the last steam engine running and the German build ‘apparatus’ joyful did the job. Turning the engines so their noses pointed in the right direction. 1922, I wonder how ‘the thing’ was shipped, I guess in parts, and were there still any German engineers around to put the pieces together? In 1917 Thailand declared war on Germany – even a battalion was send to the battle fields – and all workers with that nationality building the Northern line were arrested and could no longer proceed with their jobs. There’s a remarkable story about one of them and certainly will be told later. Emile Eisenhofer, his ashes are entombed on a special spot near the entrance of the khun Tan tunnel not far from here.
The yard is completely silent, nothing moves. When I close my eyes I still see a total dilapidated crane on wheels loading logs on a flat car. The jungle deprived of precious trees and we have to face the consequences. Mother Nature knows what to grow though we turn a blind eye for our own benefit. Anyway, there’s no more transshipment of wood any longer, smuggled from Burma as the speculation and rumors went. The silent scene awakes; a diesel electric locomotive blows the horn and slowly pulls the train away from the platform. Beyond the road crossing at the end of the yard, it starts to move faster. A roaring engine fills the air with desire; a train is on its way.

Loading logs on the yard

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About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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