Transit history notes: Seizing the Maeklong Railway - September 29, 2005
Transit history notes: According to the data from National Archives, the Supreme Commander Headquarters applied Article 12 of the Martial Law Act of BE 2457 (AD 1914) to seize control of Maeklong Railway Co.Ltd., electricity generation, and tram services of the Thai Electricity Corporation on January 26, 1942 (a day after the war declaration). Supreme Commander Headquarters told the Minister of Interior to send officers from Samsen Power Plant to take control of Thai Electricity Corporation.
Supreme Commander also asked Royal Railway Dept. to send officers to make a supervision on the government control of Maeklong Railway and report the conditions and current status of Maeklong line--two sets of trams on the railway tracks, some steam locomotives, passenger bogeys, and other types of bogeys. Even though the company could install the power line for the tram from Klong Sarn to Bang Bon (Wat Singh - Bang Bon, approved by Prince Boriphat in 1931), the actual implementation could reach Wat Singh.
Supreme Commander Headquarters also asked the Royal Power Plant (AKA Samsen Power Plant) to send the head of engineers to take control of Wat Laib Power Plant and tram services. Most workers in TEC were Thai people (Chinese workers became the majority in the maintenance section which was directed by a Chinese engineer graduated from Belgium).
Even though the concession of Thachin section expired on November 23, 1942, the government at that time refused to pay any single penny as the compensation to Maeklong Railway even though the company asked the government to purchase Thachin section at the price of 1,020,000 baht.
The talk about the compensation dragged on until the concession of the Mae Klong Section expired on August 14, 1945.
On May 16, 1945, the Supreme Commander Headquarters allowed a raise in the tram ticket price from 6 satang/3km to 10 satang/2.5km.
The Army Headquarters (replaced Supreme Commander Headquarters in August 1945) terminated the controls imposed by Martial Law on Thai Electricity Corporation on October 25, 1945 and Maeklong Railway on November 2, 1945 (the peace declaration was on August 16, 1945). After that, the government at time paid 2,000,000 baht to purchase all sections of the Maeklong Railway, even though the company estimated the price of the railway line to be 4,000,000 baht in 1945.
Closing down Maeklong Station!
- translated and summarized from
Matichon, June 9, 2005
Above: Maeklong Market after the train has passed through.
Sunday train ride: Plans for the
Mae Klong & understanding SRT anger - August
The plan for improving
Mae Klong Railway - translated and summarized
from Akharn and Thee Din Weekly, Vol.5, No. 249, February 28-March
trip on the Maeklong Commuter - August 2, 2003
Mahachai Line (18 stations)
Maeklong Line (15 stations)
Note: these are the official station names taken from a timetable in Thai language; the trains donÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t necessarily stop everywhere, though, it seems.
I donÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t think these schedules will change very often. In order to find out for sure, you would have to go to one of the stations and have a look at one of the big timetables or try to get a printout in Thai language from a friendly SRT employee.
Both sections are approximately 30 km in length, as already mentioned somewhere in your tramway articles, and serviced by Diesel Railcars, with the ride taking about 1 hour and costing 10 Baht in each case. Ticket booths in the terminal stations open about half an hour before the trains depart, or tickets can be bought right on the train. The ferry in Samut Sakhon costs a whopping 2 Baht. Well, if that isnÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t a trip for Cheap Charlies!
Soon after you leave Wong Wian Yai, the high building density (partly very close to the tracks; even more so near Maeklong station, where the final 500 m of the line run right through a busy market and the stalls are within 10 cm of the rumbling cars!) quickly decreases, and youÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ll find yourself in a quiet rural landscape mostly made up of khlongs and orchards. (Of course thereÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½s still the occasional factory or Western Outer Ring RoadÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½..) In the section behind Samut Sakhon the landscape is of course much more open, with all those fields and saltworks - not really that beautiful, but the view still being nicer than the one from the nearby motorway, IÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½d say.
The trains arenÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t all that slow. They accelerate to a maximum of about 45 to 50 kph after all, and at most stations they stop for just about 10 seconds. And there are no traffic jamsÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½. Plus they are astonishingly punctual! Other than on the SRT main lines, they actually leave the stations on time. And as thereÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½s not so much traffic on these routes, they donÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t have to wait for oncoming trains very often, though of course thereÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½s only a single track. Certainly an old and worn-out (though charming) system, but still a practical (and cheap) alternative to road traffic for many people from the southwestern suburbs.
The only inconvenient and somewhat silly thing is that the timetables of the two sections are not synchronized. Most of the trains reach Mahachai and Ban Laem at about the same time (or five minutes earlier, or ten minutes later) the second train leaves on the other side of the Tha Chin River, meaning you cannot get a direct connection, but have to wait for 45 minutes, 1 hour or even more. Of course you could spend some time in Samut Sakhon (probably eating noodle soup or buying something from the shops near the station), but it's not utterly interesting thereÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½.. one ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½stopoverÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ should be enough for most people in any case, so on the way back you might consider taking one of the busses that leave frequently from the main road down to the pier at Mahachai, which I did.
The two cities themselves are not really worth a visit, except in case you like fish (which I donÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t), then maybe Samut Sakhon is good for you. But as far as I am concerned, the most pleasant thing is that in both towns, you feel like being far away from Bangkok (note: I like Bangkok very much, too!), partly due to the quiet pace of life there, partly because no foreigner ever seems to go there! (Many supposedly remote places, like Kanchanaburi, OK, maybe not a very good example ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ well, letÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½s say Nongkhai, are much more touristy.) Accordingly, the local people are very laid-back and friendly and donÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t hassle you at all. ThatÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½s especially true for tuk-tuk and samlor drivers. No ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½hey youÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½, ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½where you goÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½, they just leave you alone. In general, people rather seem to regard you with a sense of curiosity: What the heck is that Westerner doing here? Heads turn around and children might stare or point at you, and you hear people whisper, ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½farang, farangÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ Just as if you were in some Isaan village. Well, of course you could also go to Chachoengsao - also by train! - , for that matter. Close to Bangkok, but with a ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½provincialÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ flair, unlike Samut Prakan or Pathum Thani provinces (though the capital of the latter is a very small and sleepy town on the right bank of the Chao Phraya, by the way).
I saw only one other farang during the whole trip. I stayed in Samut Songkhram for the night (in a shabby 150 Baht hotel, which had friendly employees, though; donÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½t know if something better is available there ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½ at least not in the town center, for lack of tourists).
Plus I met some nice people during this journey.
It started with the taxi driver who brought me to Wong Wian Yai, a smart
guy from Loei who had taught himself to speak English and was quite good
at it (though I have to say my Thai was still a bit better). Had a funny
and very entertaining talk with him all the way. Then in Samut Songkhram
I came across a very nice middle-aged lady when I bought some clothes
from her shop inside the market. And on the way back to Bangkok, I met
a young couple who handed me their printed timetable after watching how
I took notes of the station names! Needless to say they were curious as
to what I did in Thailand and, more specific, in that train, and they
accompanied me all the way to Ban Laem, on the ferry and on the final
leg by bus to Sai Tai Mai.
After a few months of this, I decided to go for a look myself by car. When I got to Samut Songkhram I found the station, but it was pretty clear that the railway was indeed closed as the station was surrounded by a market. I was about to leave when I heard the whistle of a train, and the market parted to see a DMU work its way in straight through the middle. The market closed up again behind the train!
Many years later, in fact about two years ago, I got my ride on the branch. At Wong Wien Yai I was told that it was impossible to get a ticket or train to Samut Songkhram, and it would be better to take a bus (true!). I persevered and got my ticket, and took the train anyway. I confirm what Nils says - the two timetables do not coincide. It is better to spend your time in Samut Sakhon than cross and wait as there is nothing the other side apart from a noodle stall!
The line on the Samut Songkhram side is in very bad repair, and the DMUs look clapped out to me - not surprising given the isolation of this branch.
However, I would say both Samuts are worth visiting. I found them both incredibly vibrant - possibly it was market day and I was lucky. The river crossing is also fascinating, with kites and terns fishing around you. I know Thailand pretty well, and as Nils says, you have to go a long long way to see places as unspoilt as these. Make the most of it - its pretty clear that SRT would love to close the line or convert it to a modern route, and all the charm will be lost.
A wonderful but grueling day trip!
Still more comments on the ÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½Maeklong CommuterÃƒÆ’¯Ãƒâ€š¿Ãƒâ€š½
- August 4, 2003
ride on the Maeklong Commuter
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