Letters from Thailand - #11

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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Topics for this issue include:
  1. Updates about Bangkok Railway Station
  2. Steam Locomotives in Thailand
  3. The New Bang Sue Grand Station
  4. Riding the Red Line Trains
  5. Train Excursion to Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
  6. When is Father’s Day not Father’s Day?
  7. Win a Thailand Tourism Calendar 2022
  8. Interesting Tweets
  9. Bangkok Walking Maps - Part 8
This newsletter covers 29th November to 5th December 2021. My apologies again for it being sent out late. I am travelling so much, and have so many activities, that it is sometimes difficult to find the time to write.

Updates about Bangkok Railway Station
Bangkok Railway Station at Sunrise
Bangkok Railway Station at Sunrise
The countdown is on for the closing of Bangkok Railway Station, otherwise known as Hua Lamphong. The last trains are expected to leave the station between 22nd and 23rd December. From what I can work out, the last train to leave is the commuter train No. 71 at 10:05 a.m. on Thursday 23rd December. Everything after that will be leaving from Bang Sue Grand Station. I have already bought tickets for the first Chiang Mai sleeper train to leave from the new station on the evening of Thursday 23rd December. I am expecting there will be a lot of confusion and so I plan to go extra early. Of course, I will be posting my experience live on social media. I will give you an update here in a future newsletter.
Riding 3rd Class
Riding 3rd Class
So, what will happen to the old terminal station? Well, at the moment we still don’t know. But it is starting to look like they will allow 22 commuter trains to continue using Bangkok Railway Station. After all, the elevated Red Line from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong won’t be built for a few years yet. Maybe longer. They apparently have a number of problems with this. One of them being what happens when the elevated tracks pass Dusit Palace. For privacy reasons, the views will have to be blocked. One other thing, the SRT official that I spoke to, said that the special excursion trains, such as the steam locomotives, might also continue to start their journey from this station.
Steam Locomotives in Thailand
A steam locomotive leaves Bangkok Railway Station
A steam locomotive leaves Bangkok Railway Station
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) hasn’t used steam locomotives for regular commercial use since the early 1980’s. However, they have five that I know about that are still in good working order and are used during special occasions. They have two Pacific locomotives, two C56 locomotives and one Mikado locomotive
In normal times, the SRT organise six steam train trips every year. Tickets cost 299 Baht. You can buy at any station or online a month in advance. The trips alternate between Ayutthaya, Nakhon Pathom, and Chachoengsao. I will let you know as soon as I hear about the next one.
  1. 26th March (anniversary of the opening of the first public railway)
  2. 3rd June (Queen Suthida’s birthday)
  3. 28th July (King Rama X’s birthday)
  4. 12th August (Queen Sirikit’s birthday)
  5. 23rd October (King Rama V’s death anniversary)
  6. 5th December (King Rama IX’s birthday anniversary)
Pacific Steam Locomotive No. 824 (front) and No. 850 (back)
Pacific Steam Locomotive No. 824 (front) and No. 850 (back)
Last weekend, I was on the steam train trip to Ayutthaya that used two Pacific locomotives. Number 824 (imported in 1949) and Number 850 (imported in 1951). These were manufactured by the Japan Association of Railway Industry and there were originally 30 of them in Thailand, Numbers 821-850. They were designed with 4-6-2 wheel configuration. In 2012, they were completely restored and modified. They had a new boiler, electric generator, and genset air compressor fitted. 
C56 Steam Locomotives No. 713 (left) and No. 715 (right)
C56 Steam Locomotives No. 713 (left) and No. 715 (right)
A total of forty-six C56 steam locomotives with running numbers 701-746 were imported into Thailand during the Second World War. The locomotives were fitted with a 2-6-0 wheel configuration. They were built by train manufacturers in Japan. At that time, these steam locomotives were used by the Japanese army to transport labour and equipment for the construction of the Death Railway line from Nong Pla Duk station to Myanmar. After the end of the war, they were given to the SRT by the United Nations. They were then in service between 1946 and 1982. Two of them, Numbers 713 and 715 have been refurbished and take part in the Bridge on the River Kwai Festival. This year, that festival is from 17-26 December 2021.
The New Bang Sue Grand Station
Compared to Bangkok Railway Station, the new Bang Sue Grand Station is massive and has platforms on multiple levels. In all, there are 24 tracks going into this station and it can accommodate 40 trains at the same time. The station covers an area of 1,280 acres and is said to be the biggest station in South-East Asia. For the railway expansion that is now taking place in Thailand, including high-speed trains to Singapore and China, it does makes sense to have somewhere big enough for these new lines.
The top floor (3rd floor) is where the high speed trains will depart from in the future. They just need to finish building the tracks for this across the country! The three-airport rail link will also depart from here in the future. This line will connect Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-Tapao airports. The 2nd floor is for the inter-provincial trains and commuter trains. The ground floor has the ticketing offices. The car park is underground and below that is the MRT subway line.
Richard Barrow
Plan showing Bang Sue Grand Station. The long distance and Red Line commuter trains go from the 2nd floor. The high speed trains will go from the 3rd floor. There is also an MRT underground station here. Another future line will go to the three airports including U-Tapao. https://t.co/H5es38vKCq
Riding the Red Line Trains
The other weekend, I rode the new Red Line commuter train in Bangkok for the first time. There are two lines that operate out of Bang Sue Grand Station which have just opened. One to Taling Chan and the other to Rangsit. Most of the line is elevated as it leaves the city and so there are some great views. This also helps solve traffic problems at level crossings. Most of the line runs above the regular line down below. From what I understand, the ground level tracks will eventually be removed.
View from the Red Line train
View from the Red Line train
The two lines we have now are actually a small part of a much larger project. The most interesting is the Dark Red Line which will eventually run from Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus to Maha Chai in Samut Sakhon Province. The elevated tracks at the southern end stop just after Bang Sue. But eventually they will go all the way to an elevated station alongside MRT Hua Lamphong station and then across the river to Khlong San and onto Wongwian Yai where it will run along the present railway line all the way down to Samut Sakhon. The other line is the Light Red Line. This will eventually run from Salaya in Nakhon Pathom Province to Hua Mak in Bangkok. Both lines will intercept at Bang Sue Grand Station.
Map of Red Line commuter route
Map of Red Line commuter route
Train Excursion to Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
Sai Yok No Waterfall in Kanchanaburi province
Sai Yok No Waterfall in Kanchanaburi province
As you probably know by now, I love doing train trips. Particularly if it is going somewhere interesting. So, when I heard that the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) had restarted their weekend excursion trains, I quickly booked a seat on the first day trip for Sai Yok Noi Waterfall in Kanchanaburi province. These special day trip trains go every weekend and on public holidays. You can book them 30 days in advance at dticket.railway.co.th or at your local train station. The SRT hotline is 1690 and they speak excellent English and are very helpful. Cost is only 120 baht for the 3rd Class carriage with fan and 240 baht for the 2nd Class carriage with air-conditioning. I highly recommend going 3rd Class as you can open the windows and take pictures more easily. In 2nd Class, the windows are tinted and not always clean.
Bridhe on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi
Bridhe on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi
The special excursion trains are not like any other trains as they will not only stop along the way, but they will also wait for you. On the way we did two stops, and on the way back, we had just one stop. This gives variety and helps break up the journey. At each stop they gave us about 25-30 minutes to get out and explore. The first stop was in Nakhon Pathom. Here you can walk the short distance to see the giant stupa which is the largest in Thailand. There is also time to buy breakfast here at the market. The second stop was at the Bridge on the River Kwai. Here we got down to walk across the bridge and to take some photos.
The most scenic part of the railway in Kanchanaburi is when it goes along the river near Saphan Tham Krause station in Sai Yok district. It is very important to make sure you have a seat on the lefthandside of the train as those have the best views. When you come back, you will be on the righthandside like in the picture above, but you will still get the best view. Many of the people who were in 2nd Class came into our carriage for this stretch of the railway as their windows were a bit dirty. Another good tip for you is that the driver will open his cab at the front so you will get an unobstructed view of the track ahead. That is how I got the picture above on the return trip.
Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
Our final destination was Nam Tok station which is the end of the line on the Death Railway. Originally it went all the way to Burma. I don’t have time to write about this railway here, but it is well documented on the Internet. If you do go to Kanchanaburi on your own trip, I highly recommend that you go and visit the museum at Hellfire Pass. You do actually have time to go and see it on this trip as it is only 25 minutes away from Nam Tok station. You can rent a songtaew at the station to take you there or flag a bus down on the main road which will be cheaper. If you hire a songtaew, make sure he waits for you. Anyway, if the train arrives on time, you have three hours to visit the waterfall and eat lunch or go and do your own thing.
War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi
War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi
When we left the waterfall, we had a long five-hour journey back home. The first part was good because of the views along the river. And then, when we reached Kanchanaburi town, we were allowed to go down for 30 minutes which also helped break up the journey. I quickly walked to the nearby war cemetery to pay respects to the fallen soldiers. Nearly everyone else just went shopping for food in the nearby market. But I still had time to buy something to eat for the final leg back to Bangkok. It was a good day, but also a very long one.
Here are some direct links to where you can buy the tickets for 3rd Class and for 2nd Class. There is another train excursion to a beach just south of Hua Hin which I will probably go on next month. If you want to see more pictures of my trip, please visit my live photo blog on richardbarrow.com. My next train trip is the sleeper train to Chiang Mai and I will talk more about that train in a few weeks. I am also planning on doing a twenty-hour boat trip down south which I am really looking forward to. More information about that soon.
When is Father's Day not Father's Day?
Why is it when the Fine Arts Department organises free days for national museums and historical parks it is free for everyone regardless of nationality. But when the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation do it, they say “Thais only”? Really, Father’s Day is a special day for everyone regardless of race. However, if you have married a Thai woman and even have Thai children, you are often treated as a second-class citizen. On Father’s Day, their wife and children can go to the national park for free, but they must pay the usual inflated price. That really isn’t fair in my book.
Win an Amazing Thailand 2022 Calendar
Amazing Thailand 2020 Calendar
Amazing Thailand 2020 Calendar
COMPETITION
The competition prize this week for subscribers to my newsletter is the Amazing Thailand 2022 calendar. Ten lucky subscribers will win this desktop calendar.
To have a chance of winning a copy, all you have to do is send an email to competition@richardbarrow.com with the subject line ‘Win an Amazing Thailand 2022 Calendar’. In the body of the email, you just need to copy and paste this: “I would like to win a copy of ‘Amazing Thailand 2022 Calendar. I live in Thailand.” As I am paying to send these out myself, your address needs to be inside Thailand. Or it can be the address of a friend or a hotel if you are not here yet. The deadline is Saturday 18th December 2021. Good luck!
Interesting Tweets
Richard Barrow
Boat ride to/from Koh Kret every weekend in December

Option 1 Sathorn Pier - Koh Kret
⇨ Departing from Sathorn Pier 10.00hrs
⇦ Returning from Koh Kret 16.00hrs
🎟 Round-trip Ticket 180 Baht *
🎟 One-way Ticket 100 Baht

* Get a special price when booking in advance https://t.co/3kNBP7q0F3
Richard Barrow
Did you know, at MRT Sanam Chai there’s an interesting “underground museum” that has information about archaeological excavations in the area around where the station is location. Entry is free #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/dIt3B62IKW
Richard Barrow
This evening I was at the book launch at Chakrabongse Villas of ‘The King and the Consul’ by Simon Landy. The book is described as a British tragedy in old Siam. I love historical books and I’m looking forward to reading this one. It should be out in all good book shops soon. https://t.co/6zFTQOAHNi
Richard Barrow
Phimai Festival 2021 will be taking place this year from 22-26 December at Phimai Historical Park in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. There will be a light and sound show for 5 nights and also a food festival.

📍MAP: https://t.co/9OV0N2R9e8 #Thailand #ThaiFestival https://t.co/e1T1WkNS0t
Richard Barrow
The River Kwai Bridge Week Festival in Kanchanaburi has been postponed by a couple of weeks. It is now 17-26 December 2021. There will be a free light and sound show and a local fair #Thailand #ThaiTravelNews #ThaiFestival https://t.co/5ffwtZrF7t
Bangkok Walking Maps - Part 8
This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Bobe Market and Ratchaprasong. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week. Before I forget, in a future newsletter, I will be giving away FIVE print editions of all 15 Bangkok walking maps. These books are really difficult to find now.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
  4. Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
  5. Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
  6. Samsen Thewet
  7. Bang Rak and Silom
  8. Bobe Market and Ratchaprasong
SEE YOU NEXT TIME!
That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next time. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks!
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand