Quest for the Paknam Steam Train

For about ten years now, I have been on a quest to find the Paknam Steam Trains. These are part of the first railway that ran between Bangkok and the mouth of the Chao Phraya River at Paknam. Work on the private line started in 1887. It was then formally opened by King Rama V on 11th April 1893. There were 12 stations including the two terminals. In Bangkok, the station was near present day Hualamphong Station. In Paknam, the terminus was by the market. The trains pulled four carriages which were made up of 2nd and 3rd class seating. It took the steam train about one hour to reach Paknam which is amazingly fast compared to these days. After World War I, the line was changed to electric trams. It was then nationalized after World War II and finally closed in 1959.

There were four locomotives on the Paknam line. All of them were made by Krauss & Co. of Munich in Germany. Numbers 1 and 2 were 0-4-0Ts (dated 1892), Number 3 was a 2-4-0T (dated 1896) and Number 4 a 2-4-0T (dated 1908). These latter trains were similar to the locomotives used on the Maeklong Railway. One of these engines can be seen at the Planetarium and Science Museum at Ekkamai. I have been trying to find the Paknam Steam Trains for a long time and now thanks to Robert from Chiang Mai I have located one of them. The pictures here are of Locomotive No. 4 which had the nickname “Samrong”. The engine is in surprisingly good working order. At least it has a good paint job. It is doubtful it can actually run. Robert gave me the tip that he found it in a sugar cane factory in Wang Khapi in Uttaradit Province. Apparently the factory bought it to transport sugar cane from their factory to the main railway line. It was a seven hour drive north of Paknam but I was determined to drive up there to see the steam train for myself.

I spent the night in Phitsanulok and then drove up to Wang Khapi in the morning. I didn’t know the exact location but it wasn’t long before I spotted the large trucks full of sugar cane and then the tall chimneys billowing smoke at the factory. As I drove past the factory gates I spotted the train. I was so happy it was still there and still in good condition. As it was inside the gates I had to ask permission to take a closer look. The guys on security told me to go up to the office to speak to the manager about taking pictures. I then told them that I would like to take a picture of the steam train. They kept asking why. Thais can never understand the strange obsessions of foreigners. Anyway, after I said that I had driven up specially from Samut Prakan to find this train they let me go and take some pictures. It turns out that no-one at the factory knew of the history of this engine. They seemed interested when I told them that this engine used to run on the first railway line in Thailand over 100 years ago.

I am really happy that I have now seen one of the Paknam Steam Trains. I am also delighted to see that it is in excellent condition and being well looked after. So, that is one down and three to go. I wonder where the remaining locomotives can be. And will they also be in good condition? If you are interested in trains then I recommend the excellent book “The Railways of Thailand” by R. Ramer. It is published by White Lotus. If anyone thinks they know where the Paknam trains might be, then please contact me. I will be posting more of my steam train pictures here at in the near future.

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