There are more steam trains left in Bangkok than one would imagine, you just have to know where to look. If you too are passionate about these magnificent pieces of Thai history you would take the time to check behind every wall, inside every old building and under every bridge of Bangkok, just as I did. So far I have spotted five different locations in Bangkok and two outside where these massive machines are still standing in perfect condition, still going around for some special memorial trips and of course for the occasional movie shoot in period dramas.
Makkasan Train Depot
Makkasan Depot is my favourite spot to find hidden trains in Bangkok, but also the most frustrating since access to the train depot is not allowed unless you go through a lot of official paperwork. Makkasan Train Station itself is an old, small but still active station dating from the beginning of 20th century and almost frozen in time. What is more interesting is the gigantic land located behind. For many years, several large steam engines were left here to rust in the open and, despite being fairly easy to spot from the expressway when driving from Suvarnabhumi Airport, very few people paid them any attention. Makkasan is home to a huge series of abandoned warehouses where trains used to be parked and maintained. The entire area is now due to be wiped out and sold to some development project. Luckily, at least eight trains have been rescued and refurbished as new; I just don't know where their next destination will be. Unfortunately, as access to the area is strictly prohibited all I could shoot was this beautiful Mitsubishi 1936 rusted machine.
Thonburi Train Station
The second best place to admire steam trains in Bangkok is at Thonburi Station, well hidden below a bridge near the famous Royal Barges Museum. At least four active machines are preciously pampered under a warehouse roof and a couple more outside in a less fortunate condition. Access to the Thonburi Depot is free but it might feel a bit odd as there is no real 'entrance' or anyone to ask for permission. So I just stepped in and walked around the greasy platforms full of odd looking tools and oil containers and nobody paid attention to me. Thonburi is an active train depot so you will walk along mechanics and technicians accomplishing their real job and not some fancy shiny museum. It feels very real – I could almost hear the steam whistles! The known engines parked here are a Hitachi from 1935, three Nippon Sharyo engines from 1935, 1949 and another from 1950, a Kisha Seizo 1936 and a Hitachi from 1950.
Rod Fai ParkRod Fai Park or 'Railway Park' is located just behind the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market and used to be the golf course of the Railway Club. This huge 150 acre beautiful, green park is very popular during the weekend and families love to come here to ride bicycles and play on the beautifully manicured lawn. Only one large Mitsubishi 1950 in a decent condition is kept here, just next to the car parking and very easy to spot.
- Opening Hours: 5 am – 9 pm
- Location: Kamphaeng Phet 3 Rd (behind Chatuchak Weekend Market)
- MRT: Chatuchak Park
- BTS: Mo Chit
Hua Lamphong Train Station
Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s main train station, is permanently buzzing with activity and diesel trains slowly coming in and out. The only steam engine left at Hua Lamphong Station is not really hidden but can be easily missed unless you know where to look, at the end of the leftmost platform number 25. The old architecture of the station itself is worth a visit. The engine in display is a Hitachi built in 1935.
Hall of Railway Heritage Museum
The Hall of Railway Heritage Museum or 'Train Museum' may have a fancy name but is in fact rather disappointing, with just two tiny steam trains: a Kyosan Kogyo 1949 and another from 1959, and a couple of old diesel engines. The place seems to be used more often by students for their special events than by train lovers. Furthermore the museum is due to close in the near future so if you really want to see it you better check until we have confirmation. Anyway, it is probably not worth the trip but as it's not far from the large steam train of Rod Fai Park mentioned above, combining a visit to both trains in one trip is easy – just keep your expectations low.
The Thai Film Museum in Nakhon Pathom
The Thai Film Museum in Nakhon Pathom keeps one superb Mitsubishi 1936 steam train as part of the exhibit. Trains were, and still are, often featured in movies and if you look closely at the photo you will spot a bronze statue of Buster Keaton sitting on the wheel, recreating the scene from 'The General' in 1927 just as it was in this silent movie. Travelling 40 km from Bangkok city centre for just a train might seem a bit much, but the museum is well worth a visit and two other steam engines are parked at the Jesada Classic Car Museum located nearby.
Jesada Technik Museum
Jesada Technik Museum in Nakhon Pathom is better known for its classic car collection than for its two trains. Located 50 km from Bangkok, Jesada is a privately owned museum displaying hundreds old fun cars and bikes, none of which are really expensive but definitely the best car collection around Bangkok. What most people miss is the two beautifully restored steam trains parked a kilometre before the museum. One is a reconstructed Hanomag (Hannover-Linden) from 1928 which used to be in a very bad condition and the second is a Krauss (Munich) 1903. Both machines were previously kept at the Ekkamai Science Museum on Sukhumvit Road.
- Opening Hours: 9 am to 5 pm except Monday
- Location: 100 Moo 2 Ngio Rai, Nakorn Chaisri, Nakorn Pathom 73120