‘Death Railway’ to Kanchanaburi and Nam Tok

Two Trains a day from Bangkok

There are two departures a day to Nam Tok via Kanchanaburi from Bangkok’s Thonburi Tain Station, one at 07:50 and another at 13:55. The journey to Kanchanaburi takes around 3 hours and then a further 2 hours to Nam Tok which is the end of the line. For non-Thai passengers the fare is 100 THB for journeys anywhere on the line.

Why this is a Special Train Journey

There are a couple of things about this journey that qualify it for inclusion in our list of the Special Train Journeys. Firstly, the scenery, and secondly, the association with some very notorious cruelty by Japanese and Korean soldiers during World War II.

Journey of Two Parts

This is a train journey of two parts. The first part is from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. The journey involves passing through flat and lush land with the mountains of the North of Kanchanaburi and Myanmar in the distance. This section of the journey is a pleasant with some interesting temples, churches and picturesque farms to see on the way.

Wang Po viaduct on the Death Railway
Wang Po viaduct on the Death Railway

The scenery gets more dramatic after Kanchanaburi as the train slows down as it winds its way across bridges and through steep gorges. The most spectacular part of the journey is the Wang Po viaduct on the way upto Nam Tok train station. This is the most photographed part of the line.

History of the Railway Line

The history of the building of this line also adds significance to this train journey. About 80 km West of Bangkok, the train takes the route of the infamous Death Railway. This railway line was completed in 1943 by the Japanese Imperial Army using mostly forced labour and WWII prisoners of war. Many died in the construction: 12,621 British, Dutch, Australian and American soldiers; and a further 90,000 or so South East Asian labourers. The Japanese and Korean prisoner guards and engineers did not fare very well either with around 1 in 12 dying from disease, malnutrition and beatings from their officers.

The Original Japanese Railway Line

The original Japanese constructed line runs from Nong Pla Duk station (there is a memorial stone marking the beginning) some 415 km through to Thanbyuzayat which is a further 111 km inside what is now Myanmar. Only a 130 km section of the original railway is now in use. Beyond Nam Tok the terrain becomes more mountainous with some wide rivers to cross, and given that many of the bridges were destroyed during the war the Thai government decided not to attempt to re-open the full length of the railway to Myanmar and the train tracks were removed and used to build and repair track elsewhere in Thailand. Every few years there is some kind of plan to restore the final stretch of railway, most recently the Japanese government has (controversially for some) expressed interest in investing, but for the time being train enthusiasts will need to satisfy themselves with the journey as far as Nam Tok.

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