A train ride from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok on The Death Railway in Thailand - then walking through Hellfire Pass.
the British tore up a 4km stretch of the railway line at Three Pagodas Pass on the Thai/Burma border and later the Thai destroyed the track as far south as Nam Tok. The 77km between there and Kanchanaburi was however left intact. There are three trains daily in each direction - most people board the trains at Khwae Wai Bridge station - the departure times as of March 2015 were 06:14, 10:42 and 16:32 and from Nam Tok at 05:20, 12:55 and 15:30. The journey should take 2 hours but in reality the train is nearly always late
departing and a lot more time is lost before arriving at Nam Tok.
The fare for foreigners at the time was 100 Baht (one way) - locals travel free. At weekends and holidays the trains do become very packed - often with people having to stand for the whole trip. Venders move up and down the train selling drinks and snacks.
The seats are quite uncomfortable and there is not a lot of leg room - and add to this much lurching and bumping due to the poor state of the track then some 3 hours is quite an experience!. The train
travels really slowly over the Kwai Bridge giving good views of the river - not only because of the state of track but also due to the number of tourists who are on the bridge watching it go past. Although this is a scenic and popular railway trip with great views it is also the past history which makes taking this trip worthwhile.
The route is through the Kwai Noi Valley with stops at several small stations on the way. After travelling through farming country the train reaches a 30m deep cutting known as Wang Sing
(Arrow Hill) and then a little further is the Wang Po Viaduct - a 30m long trestle bridge clinging to the hillside. After Wang Po Station their are good views as the train continues alongside the Kwai Noi River.
On arrival at Nam Tok station their are food and drink stalls and almost certainly someone will approach offering a taxi ride to Hellfire Pass - expect to pay around 1600 Baht which includes an hour's wait at Hellfire Pass, a short stop off at the Sai Yok Noi Waterfalls and then returning you to Kanchanaburi. Note:
these taxis are Songthaews i.e. pick up trucks which have bench seats at the back so a little bumpy to be in - however they do have air-conditioning i.e. the sides and back are open..
A little about Hellfire Pass in Thailand.
One of the most horrific sections of the railway to build was near Konyu which is around 18kms from Nam Tok - this involved constructing deep embankments, trestle bridges and cutting through solid rock. There were seven such cuttings over a 3.5km stretch the longest being at Konyu which was subsequently called "Hellfire Pass". This section in particular claimed many lives. Nearbye the trestle bridge at Hintok - known as "The Pack of Cards Bridge" because it was built using green wood and the
trestle collapsed three times. This is one of the worst sections and nearly everyone working on it died. Hellfire Pass has now been made into a memorial (mostly funded by the Australians) in order to commemorate all POWs and Asian forced labourers who died or suffered during the building of the Thailand-Burma railway.
There is a good and informative museum which opens 0900-1600 daily - this is free but donations are always welcome. Beside the museum there is a viewing area which over looks the valley and jungle. A walkway
including many steps (which are in some cases quite steep) lead from the museum down to the where the railway track was situated. A useful booklet available from the museum shows the walking route together with distances and estimated walking times. On reaching the track it is only a short distance to Hellfire Pass.