Bangkok on rails

‘On the edge of the Chao Phraya River’

Beside designs for the stations of Phitsanulok, Phichit, Phichai, Uttaradit (the old one), Sawankhalok and the Hua Lamphong overall station roof, Karl Döhring designed another railway building in Bangkok, the Thonburi or Bangkok Noi one. Bombed during World War II while the Japanese made it a headquarters in leading there desperately wanted rail connection with Burma (today’s Myanmar). The famous or shall we say notorious Railway of Death.
In 1950 the structure was rebuild and short before the railway till this point was abandoned it underwent a cosmetic operation where after it shined again like a young lady. Today it’s completely surrounded by a newly build extension of the Sirirat Hospital on the former railway yard.
A rather strange sight, not the station building nor a hospital but the combination. The touchable past of a complete different enterprise when visiting the doctor and hopefully not have to stay. Many times I dwelled on the spot because this always has been the station in mind, needy situated on the water rim and actually only given access by ferry up and down a mighty river. Not that there were non roads connecting but from the city on the other side this required a long detour.
In later years it hardly had a function though it was still cutting the long way round trains had to make leaving the Hula Lamphong station in order to reach the Thonburi side of town.
A new station came to daylight just beside the locomotive depot a more or less monument as well while all the existing steam engines are kept here and maintained by a handful dedicated railway workers. The new station with only a few trains arriving and depart require a stiff walk if you take the ferry to the old pier. Maybe the romantic way of travelling, anyway all local trains (twice a day) running on the still existing Burma Railway leaving from here.
A complete forlorn facility without any taste but good enough for the locals and individual tourists on their way to Kanchanaburi. A station without a moral fibre and build out of what seems to be disposable materials. A stop or halt is a better naming although the line ends here and the locomotives have to reveres but only after visiting the depot for a refill or minor maintenance.
The old building before the last restoration was a dusty remembrance on the hey-days of travelling by rail. The ornaments and stylish decorations, so much more than the business like character of modern railway architectures. No, I am not an old cow complaining that her meadow turned grey, it’s the almost worn-out nature of things from the past kept in time the way they are making me happy. A strange habit maybe but the building told his story undisturbed by moving trains and passengers both in limited numbers. It always has been a real pleasure to come and go by train from here. No remorse and although the situation was far from sick the admission to the hospital took place. Another lingering at the past even so by the time the trains were still running. The designer was German, maybe it’s his background giving it a special touch.

Cranes instead of trains, in the background the silhouette of the station building.


About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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