For a long time I have been searching for the original steam trains that were imported into Thailand back in the 1890′s. As I have mentioned before, the first railway in Thailand ran from Paknam to Bangkok. As I live there I have been trying to find at least one of the four original engines. But, to no avail. Then someone wrote to me and said I should check out the Planetarium and Science Museum at Ekkamai. So, that is where I drove this afternoon. I found the above steam train around the back near the canteen. I won’t say it was in good working order, but it had a fresh layer of paint that showed someone cared. I was really excited when I first saw the train as I thought I had found the Paknam Train. But, although the distinctive chimney is the same, there were a few differences. Most notably this has a set of three wheels whereas the Paknam Train had only two.
According to the excellent book “The Railways of Thailand” by R. Ramer, this train was imported to be used on the eastern section of the Maeklong Railway between Bangkok and Samut Sakhon. This section was run by Thaichin Railway Co (TRC). The western section was operated by the Maeklong Railway Co. (MRC) and ran between Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram. It was manufactured by Krauss of Munchen, Germany in 1903 and had the working numbers of 5011-5012. The plate on the above black and white picture looks like 5011 and the one I saw this afternoon was definitely 5012. However, another smaller plate attached to the engine on this train said 5011. Even more confusing, is the identification MRC 2 which is clearly wrong as those trains are dated 1905. It looks like when it was restored parts from different trains were used. Though I believe my one is engine 5011 and it was manufactured in 1903. The Paknam Trains were made by the same company.
In addition to the steam train, there is also a well preserved railway carriage and a Bangkok Tram which I will talk about later. On the way out, I spotted a couple more engines behind the Planetarium. These are in a very neglected state and it is obvious that they have been dumped here with the intention to let them rust away. I had to search really hard for any identification numbers. There were no plates at all. However, I could just make out the outline of the number 738 on this train.
The above train is No. 709 and is in the same series as the one I saw this afternoon. They were imported from Japan and are dated 1935-36. They were used all over Thailand though mainly on the Kanchanaburi line to Nam Tok. There are only two of these left in good working order. They are used at the annual light and sound show during River Kwai Bridge Week. I photographed these recently in the Thonburi Railway sheds.
The second steam train is in a worse state. I was a bit puzzled at first but then realized that one side of the engine had been stripped away so that you could have a clearer look of the workings of the steam train. Obviously this one had once been an exhibit at this museum. Though very neglected now. Again, no plates but I could just work out the outline of the numbers which identified it as engine No 263.
This is a picture of engine No 260 waiting to leave Hua Lampong station in Bangkok. It is in the same series as the one I saw and was manufactured by Hanomag of Germany and is dated 1928-1929. Apparently, No. 261 is preserved at the train station in Nakhon Ratchasima. Others are spread around the country.
The Planetarium and Science Museum is easy to find. Take a Sky Train to Ekkamai and then walk north past the Eastern Bus Terminal and you will find it on your left opposite Major Cineplex. Entry to the grounds are free if you don’t want to visit the museum. Which incidentally is only 20 baht. I have marked it for you on the map at ThailandPhotoMap.com.
This is not the end of my quest to find the original steam trains in Thailand. They must (hopefully) be somewhere. I do have a few more clues of locations where they might be. I will be following these up soon and will report here at thai-blogs.com.
Update: We are discussing Steam Trains in Thailand (รถจักรไอน้ำ) at the ThailandQA.com forums.