Maeklong Railway News 2003-2005

Also: Fate of the ex-Maeklong railroad stock
Also: More Maeklong railway stock
Also: Riding the Maeklong Railway
Also: Rail pier: Maeklong
Also: History of the Maeklong Railway

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.

(Photo: Nils)

Above: Maeklong Market

Closing down Maeklong Station! - translated and summarized from Matichon, June 9, 2005
10:30am, June 8, 2005 - There was meeting of the committee on the relocation of Maeklong Station to solve the traffic problem and the mess and danger from the market along the railway track at Samut Songkram Provincial Hall. The Mayor of Samut Songkram Municipality [Somkiat Saengwanit] and SRT Assistant Governor [Mr. Sayan Rohitarattana] has come up with the resolution that
1) The new Maeklong Terminal Station must be moved to a new place 2 km away before reaching the old terminal next to Lad Yai stop.
2) Preserve the Maeklong Terminal Station which is 107 years old.
3) SRT must improve the area along the railway tracks within Maeklong Municipality.
4) SRT must regulate the stalls along the railway tracks with the Maeklong Municipality.
It is a fortunate that they decided to preserve the old Maeklong Terminal Station instead of demolishing it because a termination sign can be posed on the single paper while preservation is very hard to do so.

Reaction to Mae Klong Station closure plans - June 15, 2005
Wisarut reports: I visited Mae Klong Station and told the railwaymen about the plan to close Mae Klong Station by Maeklong Municipality. They exclaimed that "that must be a dirty scheme of vested interests within Maeklong Municipality. They even dare to violate the decree of Princess Sirindhorn who asked Samut Songkram Provincial Hall to preserve the whole Mae Klong Line."

(Photo: Nils)

Above: Maeklong Market after the train has passed through.

Sunday train ride: Plans for the Mae Klong & understanding SRT anger - August 25, 2004
Wisarut reports: I visited the Architecture Department of KMITL (King Mongkut Institute of Technology - near NBIA) to make a photocopy of the OTP report about the plan for the Mae Klong railway track. There are two versions of the plan: The summary version for the cabinet and the complete version. I made a full photocopy of the summary version and partial photocopy of the complete one.
I got the information that after the full project is completed, Mahachai Station, Ban Laem Station and Mae Klong Station have to be moved to other places while the old ones will be abandoned or revived for those who want to make a short trip to Mahachai and Mae Klong.
From KMITL, I walked a long way to Hua Takhae Station (a station still inside KMITL campus but too far for students to walk so SRT has to set up Phra Jom Klao stop for KMITL student which is 850 meters from from Hua Takhae) to ride the train to Phetburi stop.
I asked the SRT officer how I could visit Makkasan Depot & Maintenance center. SRT officers said "You must get a permission only from the SRT Director!" It must be a lot of red tape to try to make contact with the SRT Director.
After SRT opened the double track from Hua Mark to Chachongsao, the riding quality improved since the new double track use concrete sleepers with steel fastenings produced by Italian Thai Development PCL. Furthermore, it uses 100 lb/yard type A welded rail (20 yard/bar)--the heaviest rail type available.
This 100 lb/yard type A must be used for modernizing Mae Klong Railway since Mae Klong Railway uses only 70lb/yard rail (Wongwainyai - Mahachai section) and 50 lb/yard (Ban Laem - Mae Klong section). The latest improvement of Mahachai section was done around 2002 while the earliest improvement of Mae Klong was done in the 1960's.
According to the proposed plan for Mae Klong Railway, the track must be 100 lb/yard with concrete sleepers. Furthermore, the electrification of the new Maeklong EMUs will be 1.5 kv DC power since the relatively short distance with frequent stops for commuters has restricted the application of 25 kv AC 3 phase power. Using electric locomotive is not a good deal for commuter systems. Only the intercity rails will have electric locos to pull the unpowered bogies.
When I ride the regular train No 286 (Chachoengsao - Bangkok), I could see the white signs that read "The space for the construction of Suvannabhumi Airport linking Phayathai - Suvannabhumi Airport" along the tracks.
However, this No 286 train also shows the strong prejudice of SRT railway workers toward both BTSC Skytrain and MRTA Subway--the train refuses to stop at Phyathai Stop while the train does stop at Ratchaprarob stop.
The prejudice against MRTA is quite understandable. Even today, SRT workers are still angry that MRTA has robbed them of the permanent way from Bangsue to Klongtan even though it was SRT that got the land from Bangsue to Klongtan (now, Ratchadaphisek, Thiam Ruam Mitr Road and RCA Road).
Furthermore, the Skytrain route is not going to Makkasan Railway Station and have an interchange as once planned. This has caused serious face losing to SRT as their supremacy has be challenged by BTS and MRTA. Not a surprisingly, SRT workers keep ranting against MRTA and BTS without making any improvement to their stations to serve both Subway and Skytrain.
Since the train did not stop at Phetburi, I have rode all the way to Hua Lamphong...

The plan for improving Mae Klong Railway - translated and summarized from Akharn and Thee Din Weekly, Vol.5, No. 249, February 28-March 5, 2004
The Traffic Policy Office has come up with a plan to connect Hua Lamphong with the Southern Railway (Pak Tho Station) via mae Klong Railway with total distance of 91.6 km. Mae Klong Railway has to be electrified and laided with double track. This will allow the Red Line commuter to be extended to Mae Klong and Pak Tho and cut down the distance of Southern Railway by 45 km.
There will be 3 services for this link
1) Standard Commuter Train
2) Express Commuter Train
3) Long Distance Train
There will be 3 section for this Railway:
1) Hua Lamphong - Mahachai -> 35.5 km with a bridge across Chao Phraya at Si Phraya
2) Mahachai - Mae Klong -> 35 km with a bridge across Tha Chin
3) Mae Klong - Pak Tho -> 21.1 km with a bridge across Mae Klong
The power line will be 25 KV Catenary.
The routes will be:
Section 1) Elevated Railway Line from Hua Lamphong to Talad Ploo (one end of Bangkok Southern Transportation Center) and there will be a new station between Talad Ploo and Chom Thong to be the center of the Bangkok Southern Transportation Center.
Section 2) The line will follow Mae Klong Railway until it reaches km 31 (between Ban Khom and Klong Chak) and the line will be elevated across Ekkachai Road and then go along Rama 2 Highway from km 26.8 to km 32.16 and turn left to go back to Mae Klong railway.
Section 3) The line will go along Mae Klong Railway to reach km 66 after passing Bang Kraboon Station to go parallel with Highway 325 and then go across Mae Klong at km 40.85 of Route 325 before going along Route 3093 to reach Pak Tho. The total budget for this project is 42.423 billion baht.
There will be 3 options for Mae Klong railway Improvement:
1) Hua Lamphong - Pak Tho -> 2006 - 2010
2) Hua Lamphong - Mahachai -> 2006 - 2010 and Mahachai - Pak Tho -> 2006 - 2010
3) Hua Lamphong - Mahachai -> 2006 - 2010, Mahachai - Mae Klong - > 2011 - 2015, and Mae Klong - Pak Tho -> 2016 - 2020

A trip on the Maeklong Commuter - August 2, 2003

Nils Rennenberg writes: As an old railway aficionado, I decided to make a trip with the "Maeklong Commuter" to Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram last weekend.

It was quite nice. Actually you don't go from Bangkok to Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram if you take the train, but the terminal stations of the first section are of course called Wong Wian Yai and Mahachai, then the line is disrupted because there's no railway bridge across the Mae Nam Tha Chin and you have to take a ferry boat to the other side of the river if you want to continue from Ban Laem station to Maeklong station, which, quite logically, is situated besides the Maeklong River in Samut Songkhram. And more often than not, the locals also like to refer to the two cities like that, Mahachai and Maeklong.
I thought maybe you want to post the station names and timetables on your site, as they are quite hard to come by:

Mahachai Line (18 stations)
Wong Wian Yai - Talat Phlu - Khlong Ton Sai - Chom (Jom) Thong - Wat Sai - Wat Sing(h) - Bang Bon - Kan Keha - Rang Sakae - Rang Pho - Sam Yaek - Phrom Daen [=border to Samut Sakhon Province?] - Thung Si Thong - Bang Nam Juet - Khok Khwai - Ban Khom - Khlong Chak (Jaak) - Mahachai

Maeklong Line (15 stations)
Ban Laem - Tha Chalom - Ban Chi Pha Khao - Khlong Nok Lek - Bang Sikhot - Bang Krajao - Ban Bor - Bang Thorat - Ban Ka Long - Ban Na Khwang - Ban Na Khok - Ket Muang [=Samut Songkhram city limits?] - Lat Yai - Bang Krabun - Maeklong

Note: these are the official station names taken from a timetable in Thai language; the trains don't necessarily stop everywhere, though, it seems.

Timetables (as of July 2003)

Maeklong - Ban Laem

Ban Laem - Maeklong

















Mahachai - Wong Wian Yai

Wong Wian Yai - Mahachai



































* denotes air-conditioned trains

One more remark: of course the times in my first timetable referred to departure from Maeklong and arrival at Ban Laem, and the other way round. The second one shows only departure times.

Dr. Volker Wangemann writes (September 1, 2003): For all the railway enthusiasts who are interested in that line I can give you the official station names with the exact kilometers.

BAN BO KM 10.72
LAD YAI KM 27.48

I don't 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 isn't 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 you'll find yourself in a quiet rural landscape mostly made up of khlongs and orchards. (Of course there's still the occasional factory or Western Outer Ring Road...) 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, I'd say.

The trains aren't 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 jams. Plus they are astonishingly punctual! Other than on the SRT main lines, they actually leave the stations on time. And as there's not so much traffic on these routes, they don't have to wait for oncoming trains very often, though of course there's 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 there... one stopover 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.

Here's a scan of the tickets from my Maeklong trip... Please note that I am NOT a woman; they seem to print it on all the tickets.

The two cities themselves are not really worth a visit, except in case you like fish (which I don't), 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 - well, let's say Nongkhai, are much more touristy.) Accordingly, the local people are very laid-back and friendly and don't hassle you at all. That's especially true for tuk-tuk and samlor drivers. No "hey you", "where you go", 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, "farang, farang." 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 "provincial" 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; don't know if something better is available there - 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.

More comments on the "Maeklong Commuter" - August 4, 2003

Ian Brooker writes: What a great article by Nils Rennenberg! The Maeklong branch has always fascinated me. When I arrived in Thailand in 1988 to work for SRT I kept on coming across references to the line, which were always separate from the main accounts of the railway. I used to ask about it, and I was told with absolute certainty that it had closed.

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 "Maeklong Commuter" - August 4, 2003

A reader writes: Thank you very much for your positive response and additional remarks about the Maeklong Railway. I especially liked the way you described how the market in Samut Songkhram "opens" and "closes" around the trains. And then you also reminded me of something..... you know, when I went to Wong Wian Yai a week before actually taking the train, just in order to check the timetable, the taxi driver insisted that the station was closed and the trains didn't run anymore! Having been there once before, I knew he couldn't be right, simply replied "Oh, yes?" and went there anyway. And of course the station was bustling with life; there was a board which stated that there were about 15 trains every day; and one of them was just arriving (on time!) from Mahachai......

Very strange, isn't it? Hundreds or even thousands of people use these trains every day, yet some people in Bangkok are convinced the line is dead (and has been for many years already)! It is indeed a very special railway, disconnected both in the middle and from the rest of the Thai railway network, and most people don't seem to know much about it - apart from the Thonburi commuter community. One final message to everyone: use the opportunity to take these trains now! They could REALLY disappear in the future, at least in the current (charming) form.

High-speed Mae Klong rail line map from 2000 - July 30, 2003
With high-speed railways in the news lately we thought we would remind our readers of this proposal we first reported in March, 2000. The Thai-language map (70 K) of the proposed high-speed Mae Klong rail line. We hope we live long enough to see it made a reality! Click here for more info on early ideas for this project (February, 2000).

A ride on the Maeklong Commuter - November 11, 2003
Nils writes: Wisarut posted this link in the forum. If you scroll down, you'll find a photo story about a trip on the Maeklong Commuter in 1998. My comment: "...this Japanese guy (Takashi Koto) also has a complete photo story of the Mahachai and Maeklong lines! Including the procedure where the train passes through the busy market in Samut Songkhram. And he writes a funny English..."
Want a sample? "Small red sheet is attached at the top left side on the front window. It describes Buddha. Maybe it is a prayer of safety. Shop masters often open the parasol near the railroad very much. And most people, both children and adults, often throw garbage to outside of the train through the window during run. Many stations keep clean but there are much garbage near the railroad. Garbage sometimes returns into the car from other window then we have to be careful."

Also: Fate of the ex-Maeklong railroad stock
Also: More Maeklong railway stock
Also: Riding the Maeklong Railway
Also: Rail pier: Maeklong
Also: History of the Maeklong Railway

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