Thailand from the train

42-1281

ʻThe decay of a railway pierʼ

A train jumped the track and it seems to become part of an almost daily occurrence. The latest severe derailing happened Saturday September 6th 2013 at Talat Phlu, the first station after Bangkok Wongwian Yai on the so called Mae Khlong Railways; two separate lines both round and about 30 kilometres long with no mutual connection neither the two have with the rest of the SRT network. Isle exploitation divided by two big rivers (Tha Chin / Mae Khlong) and in Bangkok ended at the Thon Buri side of town on the Somdet Phra Chao Taksin Road not far from what in the Thai language is called Wongwian Yai, a traffic circle.
Once the train continued through the Charoen Rat Road (street running) towards countries main river; the Chao Phraya (Khlong San Station). This section was closed in the early sixties and became the first victim of a steady increasing motorising, people and their wish having a private car despite the gridlocks and other hinder caused by the mass.
Mass Rapid Transit by that time was far from a magic word, the trams were still running but also not for long. Talking about trams; even a part of the Mae Khlong line from Khlong San till Wat Sai was electrified and tramcars provided a service in between the steam trains to and from Mahachai (Samut Sakhon).
However, anyone ever riding the line must be in awe like me why there were no mishaps in an earlier stage or were the media in a deep and sound sleep? The track conditions on both parts hardly can be described; for many years it have been a bouncing journey and wonders why not more trains left the track before they reach their destination. Worn-out till the last thread but on the other hand maybe the ultimate proof that it takes a long time before it becomes really dangerous on rail.
The first part of the Mae Khlong Railways is a very busy line with daily seventeen trains in both directions. The second part from Ban Laem till Samut Songkhram (Mae Khlong Station) has only four pair of trains, apparently less demand the further one lives from the capital plus the hinder of still a stiff walk to the ferry and next station to discover that your continuing train just have left and spending at least a wasted half hour in the heavy air of fish. The local industry is fully thriving on it. For any tourist a marvellous sight, for the daily commuter almost a nightmare.
However, no more wining about deteriorate railway structures it’s also their charm, a perfectly standstill in time. This line; that’s to say the first part and these days called Mae Khlong commuter, for long should have been electrified and updated to a real commuter double track line with trains every ten minutes instead of by the hour. The charm of a railway as it was mending for by the time of building.
Another charm is the real focus of this story, a small detail and only visible through time, the years wherein I visited the enterprise and took pictures of it. Ban Laem, the station on the other side of the River Tha Chin near Mahachai once possessed a railway pier include a track but I have never seen it in use. The picture on top was taken on March 29th 1986. The next picture (see bottom) was shot two years later exactly on May first 1988, Labour Day but for the pier no more working on the brink of collapsing. Eleven years later in 1999 only a few remains were left and even less another year later in 2000. 2013 shows a complete reconstruction of the spot with the track ending before the rim, an old obsolete goods wagon sets the demarcation. It’s another once upon a time story and her decay but for a hardly being used pier less dramatic. One could read it as a sign, an omen perhaps, but on the other side call it poetry, industrial archaeology, the way Mother Nature takes her course. The River Tha Chin has a tidal movement and piece by piece the parts of this pier were carried away towards the sea. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, never words were better spoken.

Ban Laem 01.05.1988

Ban Laem 01.05.1988

Ban Laem 11.02.1999

Ban Laem 11.02.1999

Ban Laem 13.03.2000

Ban Laem 13.03.2000

Ban Laem 05.09.2013

Ban Laem 05.09.2013

The dog days and no better way than hiding for the heat. Let sleeping dogs lie, nothing to worry about since the pier has gone.

The dog days and no better way than hiding for the heat. Let sleeping dogs lie, nothing to worry about since the pier has gone.

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About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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