The Japanese used 60,000 prisoners of war and some 200,000 forced labor workers to build the railway. They worked very long hours in extremely hard conditions in order to finish the construction work quickly.
Over 16,000 prisoners of war and 90,000 forced labor workers died of hunger, sickness and torcher while working on the railway construction.
Some history: on December 8th, 1941 the Japanese army invaded Thailand through Ao Manao Bay, a beautiful bay located in Prachaub Khirikhan province, a short distance from the wonderful royal holiday town of Hua Hin.
In 1942 the Japanese army invaded Burma via Thailand. Burma was a British Colony at the time. The only way the Japanese could send supplies and ammunition to their soldiers in Burma was by sea via Rangoon port, however, the Allies bombed the Japanese ships and caused them great damage. As a result, the Japanese decided to build a railway connecting Bangkok and Rangoon, a distance of approx. 415 Km. They started the work on the Burma – Thailand railway on June 1942. This railway has later been given the name – The Death Railway Thailand.
The Japanese planned to connect Ban Pong, (Rachaburi province), Thailand and Thanbyuzayat, Burma. The construction work begun at both places at the same time, at the end of June, 1942. On October 1943 the two parties joined together at The Three Pagodas Pass.
The Japanese brought 60,000 prisoners of war, (mostly Australians, British and Dutch), and 200,000 forced labor workers from nearby countries to build the railway. Most of the work was manually done in horrible conditions – hunger, disease, exhaustion and torcher. As a result of these inhuman conditions over 100,000 workers died while building the railway!
There are a few memorial sites in Kanchanaburi province to commemorate the horrors of World War II – cemeteries, museums, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Hellfire Pass, etc., about which other articles have been published on this web site.
The Bridge on the River Kwai: as I have been asked by a few tourists if the bridge is part of the famous Death Train – the answer is yes – the bridge is part of The Death Train.
Generally speaking, the story of The Bridge on the River Kwai, is a mixure of some imagination, a bit of history and passion for tourism combined with creative Thai thinking, (till the movie came out there was a bridge and a river but there was no bridge on the river Kway )….
You can read these historic “facts” and amusing story in my article about The Bridge on the River Kwai.
After the war the railway were in a pretty bad condition and could not be used. During the 50’s some parts of the railway were rebuilt – at the beginning the part from the town of Kanchanaburi to Nong Pladuk, (Rachaburi Province), has been renewed and later on, the railway was completed all the way to the town of Wang Po. Sometime after that, the part going to the town of Nam Tok was renewed, (near the Sai Yok Noi Waterfalls), which is where the railway currently ends.
Taking a ride on the train is in my opinion, one of the best attractions offered by Kanchanaburi province and it should certainly not be missed!
The train ride: as I wrote, riding the train from the town of Kanchanaburi north is not to be missed when visiting the area. The train goes along the river and the pretty wild nature scenery is remarkable. Travelling from the train station at Kanchanaburi all the way to Nam Tok takes approx. two hours each way so you should consider at least 4 hours for your visit.
TipTop-Travel tours: for TipTop-Travel tourists, TipTop have chosen a breathtaking part of the railway, after checking the way and consulting with the train workers. This part between 2 stations is only 30 min. each way so you can enjoy the ride while taking a one day tour.
This allows you to combine The Death Railway with other attractions such as bathing with elephants, visiting caves and waterfalls and even dining at a great restaurant located in one of the lovely local towns, which serves western food, all to have you enjoy a wonderful adventure.
TipTop-Travel book a VIP seat in advance on the train in order to assure TipTop-Travel tourists are sited, (sometimes other cars are crowded and no seats are available). In addition, there are coffee and drinks on the TipTop-Travel VIP car. At the end of the ride the railway grants every passenger a certificate showing they have taken The Death Railway Thailand.
Next to one of the stops on the way, you can find Tham Krasae Cave, were you can visit and take a walk along the railway and see the bridge and pretty view from the station.
Again, I highly recommend a tour of the Death Railway to those travelling independently as well.
Important Note: Riding the Death Railway is included in TipTop-Travel best quality Kanchanaburi tour programs.
As always, here is a short video of The Death Railway Thailand – Enjoy!!