Thailand from the train

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Nakhon Lampang
Portrait of a station and town

The turntable revisited and tale revised; Nakhon Lampang and the station are always worth a visit. A new ornamental monument has been erected, a rooster, a sign of pottery and other china from the kilns of neighbouring activity. It’s a local landmark among others on the platform like the almost one to one scale horse and carriage another familiar sight in this city along the Northern Line 642 rail kilometres from Bangkok and 109 from Chiang Mai, the last and definitive stop. 
A warm welcome greets you in all seasons of an ordinary life, especially at the station.  Have a look at the people and the way they behave or more precise waiting in anticipation. There are not many trains running up and down the Northern line.
Time got lost in dream, a melancholic animation with a certain deathlike sphere in the vein of ‘waiting for Godot’ the playwright of Samuel Beckett.
“Bonjour, tristesse, the train will arrive for sure.”
The whole scene immediately changes when the ‘king of steel wheels’ arrives in conversation with the station bell and horn. Suddenly everything is throwing into commotion; the scent of making money awakes. The taxi drivers full alert on the look for costumers. Any unprepared traveler is like a prey and literary lured into their otherwise patently waiting cars.
When the flow dried up the eagerness is gone as well and it’s only up to them if they are willing to depart. It’s not that far to the centre of town but the climate is not inviting for a walk unless you take the sweat for granted. The sweltering heat, a merciless sun, her burning that turns a pale skin into a lovely Negro look. For a holiday maker no offence otherwise the folks at home won’t believe she or he’s been away at all. There’s not much to see unless the favorite is wandering around along the endless shops brimful with bric-à-brac, street after street the same composition but for a keen eye and interested in architecture there’s an exception; shopping houses mainly occupied by Chinese entrepreneurs and erected in Sino-Portuguese style mingled with other colonial influences.
Above all Lampang is the town of horse and carriage; listen to spruce sound of horseshoes fading away in the distance, passing the clock tower, an archaic monument mimicked as façade of an important appearance. It also functions as a gate, like the ones on many other places kept in memory on times one had to defend themselves behind walls against them who came to loot. A long time ago but here still sharp in memory.
The times of migration from an agricultural society to well developed city life is something that even midway the last century still was not in full swing. Krung Thep – in the West better known as Bangkok – in those days already a city though not the monster called mega metropolis the only one so far in this country. Meanwhile other cities emerged, for sure, but they still live in a village like pace apart from the mobility of the people. See for yourself and leave the railway for a moment behind.

However, a real rail buff is less served with a city tour. The station ground is the final destination. Not beyond the square where an old member of the workforce survived the man with the hammer and shines on plinth. That’s to say if someone, somewhere within the administration is prepared to keep it shining. In many other places this is absolutely not the case. Chiang Mai for long gave a chafing example how a ‘Swiss engine’ was slowly falling apart, a monument of deterioration and warning sign for the rest of the railway presumable in the same state. Recently a man with a brush came by for a cosmetic overhaul and even welded some rusty holes in the driver cabin. Back to Lampang’s momentum and monument: steam locomotive 728 shows him selves at the station square as a robust reminisces of the past. A wood burner with a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement built in 1936 by Nippon Sharyo under works number 414. It’s a former machine of the JNR – Japanese National Railways Nº C56.36.
Forty six engines of this type were imported during the days of World War II and after regauging (1067 into 1000 mm) and fitted with vacuum brake equipment, put in service. Quit a few survived the slaughter and found their way like this one did; two others were kept in a run able condition for special occasions.
Numerous times I passed the premise with a night train to Bangkok or coming from. On other times I liked to be forlorn in what can be described as a silent railway decoration were hardly anything moves until the first of a number night trains from Chiang Mai arrive. It’s just the pleasure of being there with nothing in mind and these days even as a Farang (white foreigner) your not any longer examined as a curiosum. A real loco spotter would be bored immediately; the one in love with another form of poetry will stick around, this station is worth his salt.

Steam locomotive 728 on the station square

Steam locomotive 728 on the station square

The station building in Northern Lanna style and colonial influences

The station building in Northern Lanna style and colonial influences

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About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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