Paknam Railway

The first railway in Thailand was a private line connecting Bangkok with Paknam at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River, a distance of 21 kms. Paknam at the time was the anchorage for sea-going ships that could not reach Bangkok. Work on the line was begun in 1887 and it was opened to traffic by the king on 11 April 1893. Besides the two terminals in Bangkok and Paknam it had ten intermediate stations (Saladaeng, Klong Toi, Ban Kruay, Phrakhanong, Bang Chak, Bang Na, Samrong, Chorakhe, Bang Nangkreng and Mahawongse.) The terminals had 40 metre long wooden roofs, covering two lines as well as the main buildings and offices. The manager was a European who had his office at Paknam.

The metre-gauge line was intended for both goods and passenger traffic, passenger trains consisting of four coaches plus a brake van and offering second and third class accommodation. The distance was covered in one hour and the line crossed the many klongs and other waterways on its route on wooden bridges, some of which were of mixed wood/iron construction. The line clearly met an existing need and within a few years it showed a handsome rate of return upon the capital invested.

When traffic volumes ultimately did develop to a higher level, after World War I, the Paknam railway was converted to electric traction. Streetcar-type railcars then became the predominant traffic vehicles, the light steam locomotives being disposed of. During World War II, the Paknam tram was damaged when its cables were cut at Bang Chak. But the tram still ran. A tram conductor would climb up on the roof to guide the trolley across the cut section, and would reconnect it to make the tram continue.

The line was nationalised after World War II and then finally closed in 1959. This brought to an end the history of Thailand first railway and first full-length electric railway.

Today there is little evidence left of the railway apart from a road called Old Railway Line Road (tanon tang rotfai sai gao). Paknam Station was near the present day City Hall. The line then ran up past the Navy Academy, turned left at the present site of the Erawan Museum, behind Imperial World Samrong, past the port, along Rama IV Road, past Lumphini Park and finishing opposite Hua Lamphong train station. It makes you wonder if this railway line was still operating today whether it would help solve some of the commuter problems facing people living south of Bangkok. The space used by the railway are now extra lanes for cars and trucks.

Main Source of information: ‘The Railways of Thailand’ by R. Ramer and published by White Lotus.

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