Thailand from the train

‘The hey-days and the heritage’

Do Thai people have interest in heritage or showing compassion with their past?
Is there any real knowledge or do they just live by the day? Considered from a historical standpoint it’s understandable, urbanisation in this country is a young phenomena. For long most was rural and only developed to maintain the species; peasants living by the season. They knew how to saw and when to reap but nothing beyond, the harvest of their well being.
By far this is not a distinguished Western view; there is only one difference, the transition in the West started at another point. Who’s thinking about preservation if there’s hardly enough to eat, literary but also as a transferred meaning?
The foundation for a civilised society is food. In that perspective one should not wonder why some railway relicts lived and live a miserable life. Not out of disrespect but a very slowly developing conciseness and this for a certain number of people only. On the other hand lets be glad and enjoying what there is before rust takes its toll. A paintbrush once in a while works wonderfully. A heap of rust is always a depriving show though it tells more than any shinning object in an often sterile museum.
The poetry of railway; sometimes it’s a verse of joy but occasionally of decay. However, any preserved locomotive remains a dead object pleasing the eyes only, it tricker memories that’s to say if one is old enough remembering the hey-days. The younger ones do not have a clue and just tolerated it as a strange object or in the best scenario as a subject for education. After all what’s achieved today is due to the past and teaching history in a proper way (railway if possible) can provide solutions for the problems we face today. I know, it’s told many time before still I like to quote Hamlet: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. The thought about conservation is a good thought after all let them be bright and shine on plinth and not neglected as many of the locos present themselves today. The choice between preservation and demolition always has been a matter of money, the market dictates. There is not such a thing as a heaven for old locomotives, if the price of scrap is right the man with the hammer will be merciless. 
It’s certainly not all sorrow and misery on the preservation front. The next side will be a photo page with a few examples. Three pictures, three different stages of conservation (if you want to see them lager just click on them).
The sugar factory at Ko Kha (near Lampang) once there was a 750 mm network to bring in the cane. Just behind the main entrance they created a park with a few rolling relicts that serviced the past. First: engine Nº 1 a Baguley 0-4-2 with the works number 2010 from 1921. Secondly: engine Nº 7 a Vulcan Iron Works 2-4-2 with the works number 4657 from 1947. The pictures were respectively taken in May 1990, February 1992 and March 2008. The once motorized trolley makes the scene complete. Nº 6 and 8 both Vulcan’s were still stored in the open together with two Diema diesel loco’s in 2008.
Another enterprise was the Sri Racha timber mill with a 750 mm network too but this time to transport the logs. In 1989 engine Nº 12 a Henchel 0-6-0T with the works number 22401 – 1952 was still standing in the kerb of the road near the sawmill. After the mill was closed the firm opened a factory for mattresses somewhere inland and created the same sort of park in front of the building as at the Ko Kha premises. Nº 12 was moved to the new place together with the very dilapidated looking Nº 6 ‘Nong Koa’ a 0-6-0 OWT/T Orenstein & Koppel Nº 5335 from 1912. A third engine O & K too Nº 7 ‘Rayong’ works plate 11789 – 1928 was plinthed as well. In 1993 many more relicts and partly locomotives (steam and diesel) could be found on a dumpsite near the new factory. These days nothing left exempt Henchel Nº 14 plinthed in a park somewhere in Sri Racha town.
The last case in point is a grand old lady who ones belonged the Rhätische Bahn (Nº 118) a Swiss railroad company. Nº 340 a 2-8-2 made by SLM Winterthur under the number 2208 in 1919. After it was sold to Thailand it was one of a few who could say I have seen the Alps. Within living memory it’s an eye catcher on the Chiang Mai stations foreground. A few pictures before and after seeing the man with a paintbrush. Through the years rusty holes appeared wind and weather despite a mild climate pays the toll. The lady is mourning and not only about her own well being. A little loco for years on her side was lifted from the plinth and brought to main workshop in Bangkok in order to get revised in a run able condition something for what ever reason never was completed.
On a flatcar the rusty remains remain in silence. A whispering can be heard “please come back” but the lady obtained no hearing.

Picture top: ex Mae Khlong Nº 11 a 4-6-2 made by Henchel as number 22403 in 1952. In March 1993 on the side of road 323 at Kanchanaburi waiting to be moved into a private museum near the same spot.

Picture bottom: Nº 31 a 600 mm 0-4-0 made by Kyosan Kogo in Japan under the number 6070 in 1949. In 1987 still shining on the Chiang Mai stations forefront beside the ex Swiss steamer 340.


About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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