Thailand from the train

‘The mystery locomotive’

Spotted on Thai rail a long time ago – April 25th 1987 – a two axle shunter made by Ruston & Hornsby as type C I VPHL with the works number: 3511128 and grey-green livery. The engine stood on the yard in front of the workshop at the Mahachai station so probably it underwent some repairs or overhaul paid for by the owner because this locomotive was not listed on any SRT annual. The only way it could have come here was piggyback on a lorry. No way to haul it over rail because the so called Mae Khlong railway is a single line isle network and in itself divided again in two parts.
The first leg runs from the Wongwian Yai station in Bangkok to Samut Songkran on the river Tachin. The second one runs from Ban Laem tot Samut Songkhram on the Mekong River subsequently the station was named after. Mahachai is the name of a part of town where the Samut Songkran station is situated. The first measured 31.220 meter and the second 33.570 whereby the decimal distance the most extraordinary railway passage represented.
The local market as far as between the rails. It’s just a blow of the horn and the merchandisers lower their sunscreens in order to let the train pass. Cucumbers and other greens stay untouched by the steel wheels.
It’s a joy for any eye to be at front and see how train and trade come together and mingle with each other. For the traders this ritual only eight times a day. Unfortunate there’s only one train set available and if it breaks down or even beyond repair it means the end of the service.
For years the first talks were filling the air of shorten the line and closing the remaining part through the market, still it’s not done. Both lines are adding to the deficit and the SRT would be pleased getting rid of it but the government decides different. The train is poor men’s only mean going somewhere. Anyone with lust for a day out by train filled to the brim with locals; do take the tour, it’s tiresome but worthwhile more over when it is the first encounter. The condition of both lines in my opinion is so-so and this also applies for the trains certainly not the newest types are dispatched. It wobbles but on the other hand not all of us dream about high-speed trains.
However, the mystery loco remained an obscurity till today. No other places I have seen it working nor heard about but still it was there four days before I would celebrate my fortieth birthday. Only one question remains, twenty-five years later, is there anyone with knowledge about this machine and what happened afterwards? Is it still running on secret yard not discovered yet, the realm of private railway enterprises in the land of smiles is waiting to be put on the map others than in their own language. What’s the faith, besides meeting the man with the hammer who merciless adapted it into scrap?
A locomotives life but who cares because iron horses are none living things despite they hum and make all sorts of rattling noises. It’s the fact of ones seen and never out of mind since. It’s curiosity and nothing else or maybe locomotives are not as dead as thought about.

For more pictures – but also the two seen here – related to this story especially the market at Samut Songkhram; see the slide show posted on this site on March 6th 2011 under the name: The Mae Khlong pictorial.

This is what the driver sees leaving Samut Songkhram.


About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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