Bangkok Tram Accounts from Famous Writers

By Nai Hon Huay, Ajin Panjaphan, Sornsan Phaengsapha, Yutthisathian, and Thepchoo Thubthong

There is a great deal of material here, but do not let that stop you. Here are some shortcuts to the most fascinating info.
Cost of living in 1941-1942
Cost of living in 1946
The Japanese arrive in Bangkok
Allied bombing of Bangkok & bombing of power plants
The Great Flood of 1942 (with tram-boat collisions)
Tram drivers' strike (with old-time strike busters!)
The Thai people sue for libel
Bangkok Triad War!

Return to the Bangkok Tramways main page

What it cost...
Winyoo Angkhanarak (former Permanent Secetary, Minister of Interior from October 1, 1977 - June 6, 1980) mentioned that during the time he was studying at Thammasart University (circa 1937-40), Bangkok Tram tickets were 3 copper satang - enough to cover 3 rides from Suan Mali to Thammasart University.

Nai Hon Huay
AKA Slipachai Charnchaloem - famous radio news anchor with an Isan accent from Ubon Ratchathanee and founder of Radio 909 from Kor Ror Por Kalong
Circa 1946

Line routes
Just after WWII, everything was still in short supply even though the tram lines services were restored after heavy damage from Allied air raids. The fares were: 20 satang flat rate (then 1 US cent - paid in form of a thick tin 20 satang coin) for the 2nd class trams ticket and 50 satang (then 2.5 US cents - half a nickel - paid in a wrinkled 50 satang banknote - defaced from a 10 baht note printed in Java) for the 1st class from the City Pillar to Thanon Tok (Lukmuang Line), City Circle, Bangrak-Pratunam-Yotse-Silom (Pratunam Line opened during the 30's), Hua Lamphong line and and Bang Krabue to Wireless Road (extended from Hua Lamphong to Wireless Road near Cadet Preparation Academy [then the Wireless Signal Company of Royal Thai Navy] during the 1930's and later on to Klong Toei during the early 1950's - parallel to Paknam Railway which was electrified during the 30's). Samsen Line went from Wireless Road to Saladaeng, Sam Yan, Hua Lamphong to Yaowarat Road, Wang Boorapha, Ban Moh, and turning right along Koo Muang Doem Canal (the 1st City Moat dug in 1771) to Sanam Luang and then go along Sam Sen Road to Kiao Khai Ka pier in Bang Krabue.

Prices of things circa 1946

ax 70 baht (up from 1 baht before the WWII)
a cup of black coffee 50 satang
a cup of milk coffee 1 baht
dish of rice with curry 1 baht
cup of confectionery (khanom thuay talai - a sweet dessert made of coconut milk, sugar, and sticky rice flour) 25 satang
bowl of rice noodles 1 baht
ball of Salapao (stuffed Mun Thou made of wheat flour) 5 baht
bowl of wheat noodle soup
sold only at Hoy Tian Lao (one of the most famous Chinese restaurants at Sua Pa Road in Yaowarat Area - now defunct), thanks to wheat flour smuggled from Singapore
10 baht
4-page local newspaper 50 satang
8-page for a weekly local tabloid 50 satang
pork chop (bake pork rib) at Silom Phattakarn (Silom Restaurant) - very tasty though expensive 10 baht
bull tongue stew at Silom Phattakarn (Silom Restaurant) - very tasty though expensive 10 baht

Newspaper and book distributors were along the tram lines. Eastern end is at Bang Kapi commune (now Sukhumvit area) near Ratprasong intersection, and Pratunam Flea Market. Victory Monument was then too far away and remote. Northern end was at Bang Krabue. The city circle was at Thewet Market, Yod Phimarn Market, Chaloemkrung, and Thieves Market. Southern end was at Thanon Tok. Thonburi end was at Wong Wian Lek (not far from Wong Wian Yai), Ban Khaek Intersection, Phrannok (near Sirirat Hospital).

On November 8, 1947, Trams at Saladaeng were parked longer than usual and it found out that there was a coup'd etat, so the traffic near the Ministry of Interior and Defense was stopped until the Army kicked Rear Admiral Thawan and his cabinet out. At that time the area beyond Lumphini and Wireless Road was a paddy field. Rama IV Road used to have a canal (Thanon Rong Canal) connecting Phadung Krungkasem (the third City moat dug during King Mongkut's reign around 1857) to Phra Khanong, but the during the 60's the traffic got so bad that the canal, Paknam railways, and tram had to be closed for good to make way for cars.

Ajin Panjaphan

Ajin Panjaphan a famous writer who founded Fah Muang Thai weekly magazine (now defunct). In the early 1940s he was a freshman engineering student at Chula. However, WWII turned his life upside down--wanted to be with his friends at Memorial Bridge, play music, write novels as the way to escape the stress of the War that had no end in sight. Eventually, he decided to drop out of Chulalongkorn University and study at Thammasart Open University. He then went South to work as a miner for 4-5 years after graduation from Thammasart.

December 8, 1941
Atsadang Line is considered the shortest Tram line in the world, running from Atsadang Pier (near Rachinee Royal Seminary - the first girl's school in Thailand) along the Khoo Muang Doem Canal (the 1st City Moat) to the Triangle Shop connecting Samsen line at the foot of Charoenrat Bridge in Ban Moh area.

Cost of living late 1941-early 1942

tickets at Chaloem Buri Cinema 10 satang (then 5 US cents) for 1st class
6 satang for 2nd class
tickets at Chaloemkrung Cinema 24 satang (US 12 cents)
2 duck eggs 3 satang (1 Phai for the old men alive long enough to see Phai copper coins)
daily allowance for a boy in the 10 grade 5 satang
daily allowance for a boy in the 11th or 12th grade 15 satang
month salary of a clerk at the Royal Irrigation Dept. who graduated from secondary school 20 baht
monthly rent for a townhouse in front of Rachinee Royal Seminary 11 baht
ice coffee with fresh cow milk at Ui Lee Coffee shop (the most famous coffee shop in Bangkok - now defunct - but the recipe is still alive in form of Old-style coffee) 6 satang
black ice coffee 5 satang
glass of black ice coffee from a coffee stall 2 satang
ice coffee with milk 4 satang
ice cocoa (ovaltine) 6 satang
monthly salary for Privates (Royal Thai Army or Police) 11.75-12 baht
monthly salary for a janitor at a district office 14 baht
monthly rental of a wooden house 15 baht
2nd Lt. (Royal Thai Army or Police) 80 baht
private servant 30 baht
rental for a single block townhouse in Nakhon Pathom 4 baht a month
monthly salary for head of a Muang District 150 baht
monthly salary for a man with a Bachelor's Degree 80 baht
monthly salary for a doctor 120 baht
meal for a family (a husband, a wife, and 2 children) 50 satang
Phatthai with an egg 6 satang
10-year-old girl plus her younger sibling sold by her mother to become beggars 35 baht
short time with a prostitute 75 satang
1 rai of land around Phra Khanong 8 baht
a pair of Asahi rubber shoes 75 satang
a pair of Sakura rubber shoes 1.25 baht
a pair of combat boots 1.75 baht
a bowl for noodles 5 satang
rice with green curry and half a boiled egg 6 satang
a full egg 6 satang
carton of Red Lion cigarettes (20 pieces) 8 satang
carton of Red Bull cigarettes (10 pieces) 10 satang
carton of Tricastle and Abdullah cigarettes 12 satang
canned cigarettes (50 pieces) 50 satang
book of matches (50 matches) 1 satang
factory-made Youth Army uniform (pants and shirt) 7 baht
tailor-made Youth Army uniform 15 baht
glass of ice water 1 satang
public toilet fee at Memorial Bridge 1 satang

During the 1942 flood

a pair of shoes made of rubber tires 35 satang
a durian 100 baht
a prostitute at Soi Sub 10-20 baht
a prostitute at Chaloemkrung 25 baht
monthly salary for worker at Bangkok Dock 50 baht

The Japanese Arrive
Everyday at 5:00 am, tram workers (usually young men from Isan) came to clear the tram tracks with shovels and eaters (a construction instrument with a sharp head on one side and flat head on the other side for breaking stone and cleaning the narrow tracks). At that time the tram sign was a red triangular pedant with a single white star with five arms at the center.

Mr. Ajin came from Nakhon Pathom. He lived with his aunt and siblings in a rental block near Rachinee Girls' School. Mr. Ajin and his friends witnessed the Imperial Japanese Marines marching down Ratchadamnoen Avenue. After the invasion, black markets became a reality. Ration coupons and death sentences could not effectively stop the black marketeers.

Early in 1942, the ticket for Youth Army was a bronze one-satang coin ("Yuwachon Taharn"--a predecessor of Territorial Defence units. Territorial Defence unit is a Thai version of ROTC. If you see high school students wearing olive berets and geen olive uniforms with combat boots, they are Territorial Defence units. Many high school students study in the Territorial Defence course to dodge the military draft). For that amount one could ride from Ban Moh to Sam Yan via Pahurat, Ratchawongse, Songwat, Talad Kao (old market), Sam Yak Ton Pradoo [Note: Sam Yaek Ton Pradoo, got its official name as "Moh Mee Intersection" because Moh Mee Dispensary used to be at that intersection for many years.], Wat Sam Jin (now Wat Trai Mitr-Golden Buddha Image Temple), Hua Lamphong, and Saphan Luang. At that time, the Imperial Japanese seized Triam Udomsuksa High School (my old alta mater). At that time, the study building of this school still had roofs made of padan leaves, bamboo mat walls, and Phayathai Road still had Chamchuri trees along the road up to Victory Monument. The flood increased the price of rice from 12 baht for a 100 kg to 16 baht for 100 kg. After that, the price of rice shot up to 32-40 baht for 100 kg.

Bombs Fall
On June 5, 1944 (Visakhapooja Day) at 11:00 am near the Memorial Bridge. Mr. Ajin an his friend saw Allied bombers flying in circles. They saw white smoke coming off the bomber wings. At first, they thought that the bomber was hit by anti-aircraft guns. The bomber circled and flew away and a few seconds later. It's purpose was to mark the target area with smoke for the rest of the fleet. Then a fleet of B29 bombers poured iron eggs (bombs) aiming to destroy the Memorial Bridge and Wat Liab Power Plant. However, they hit buildings around Tha Tian and Ban Moh area instead! The power line for the tram (a pair of copper wires about the size of a thumb) were cut by the shrapnel. The buildings around Ban Moh intersection turned to debris, obstructing the tram services from Bang Lamphoo to Hua Lamphong via Ban Moh. However, the tram lines from Pahurat, Ratchawongse pier, Song Wat area, Sam Yaek (Ton pradoo - Angsana tree), and Hua Lamphong still functioned. The bombs destroyed a Japanese hospital in Ban Moh and corpses were scattered around the area. Mr. Ajin survived the bombardment even though a bomb dropped ten meters away from him. After that day, schools and universities in Bangkok were closed and moved out of Bangkok for safety and the workers from Wat Liab Power Plant came to reconnect the torn copper wires and repair the tracks a few days later.

B29's arrived again on April 14, 1945 and plunged Bangkok into darkness since Wat Liab and Samsen Power Plant were destroyed, tap water cut off, no light from light bulbs, roads turned dark after sunset, and trams not running. It took 4-5 years to get everything back to the normal.

Odds and ends
The 2nd class tram tickets from Ban Moh Intersection (electronic and jewelry section of Bangkok not far from Wang Boorapha and Memorial Bridge) to Sam Yan was 1 copper stang (about 0.5 US cent). During the 30's there were an extension of the tramway from Yot Se to Patunam and via Sam Yan and Sala Daeng (Yot Se area is near Kasatsuek Bridge (Rama I Road) and Patunam terminal is near the Patunam pier of Nai Lert White Boat Service which ran from Patunam to Minburi and Nonchok). At that time, there was only a boat trip a day along Saen Saeb canal since it took a day or two to reach Minburi and Nonchok (then a separate province until the Great Depression forced Minburi Province to merge with Bangkok).

Sornsan Phaengsapha

Sornsan Phaengsapha was a Chulalongkorn University architect student. He designed patrol boats for the Mekhong Operation Unit of Royal Thai Navy which worked much better than the PT boats from the US Armed Forces. He is also a writer as well, and below recalls the Bangkok Tramway lines of the 1920's to 1930's.

Bangkok tram services ran from 05:30 to 23:30. Tram drivers on the last rounds (around 23:00) would drive very fast. However, the last round of feeder lines such as the Ratchawongse line would be at 18:30 since the last round of boat services would be around that time. The Ratchawongse area was a place to have fun for those who had money to burn at first-class Chinese restaurants like Hoy Tian Lao (AKA Yard Fah Restaurant).

The tram officers were generally people of good hearts .... volunteering to help people who lived along the tracks .... asking adults to give seats for students, sending drunkards from bars back home, helping the setup of funeral rites without asking .... When inspectors came, the tram workers had to listen the criticism ... and act according to regulations to ensure that they would receive wages without being fined.

There were 11 tramway lines (Paknam and Mae Klong Railway not included) during the 1920's and the 1930's:

1) Bangsue - Bang Krabue (AKA Bangsue line)
A line with a single tram starting from a rest hut at Bang Krabue Intersection (Rachinee Bon Girls School), passing Boonrawd Brewery, the 4th Calvary Battalion - Royal Guard (the toughest Calvary Unit in Thailand - no hoodlum dare mess with the tough calvarymen from that battalion) and Kiakkai Intersection. The line turned right at Kiakai Intersection to go along Taharn Road and pass military units (e.g. the 3rd Cavalry Battalion - Royal Guard, RTAF Engineer Dept., Anti-Aircraft Division (then the 2nd Artillery Battalion), RTA Ordinance Dept., RTA Signal Dept. before turning left after crossing Premparchakorn canal (a canal dug during the early reign of King Chulalongkorn from Phadung Krungkasem outer city moat in front of Wat Mongkutkasat to Bang Sai district of Ayutthaya) at Saphan Daeng. After that, the line turned left and went along Techawanit Road (a road parallel with Premprachakorn Canal) and passed RTA Ordinance Dept., RTAF Engineering Workshop, Wat Saphan Soong, Tao Poon area, Siam Cement PCL (a heavy industry giant founded by King Vajiravut on December 8, 1913) before ending up at Bang Sue Railway Junction.

During Boworndej Revolt in the mid-October 1933, Bangsue-Bang Krabue tram was temporarily halted for security reasons since the government moved the troops from the units around Dusit area to fight against Boworndej units from Isan, Saraburi, and Ayutthaya in the rainy and muddy paddy fields in Bang Khen area. The line ceased services around 1962-65 and BMTA bus No. 3 (Km11. SRT Community - Klongsarn) and No.5 (Tao Poon - Chakkrawat Temple) took its place.

2) Samsen-Sathon (AKA Samsen line)
A 3-car tram running from Kiaw Khai Kah pier (AKA Red Boat Pier of Mae Nam Motorboat Co.Ltd.), turning right at Bang Krabue intersection to go along the western section of Samsen Road to Sophon Bridge, Vajira Hospital, Sang Hee Intersection, Vasukree Royal Pier, Seesao Thewet Intersection (then Seesao Baiporn Intersection), Thewet area, Bangkhunphrom Palace, Aksornniti Press (a publishing house printing law textbooks, novels, tram and bus tickets), Wisutkasat area, Bang Lamphoo area Badman Store (later the Dept. of PR and later on the lottery stalls), Saphan Siaw (a tram bridge next to Saphan Phanphiphob Leela), Rachinee Road at the back of the War Office (Ministry of Defense), Saphan Changrongsee (a bridge for elephants heading to the Ministry of Interior and Giant Swing constructed in 1910 at the place used to be the Royal Ricemill), Wat Ratpradittharam before going across the Khoo Muang Doem canal to Ban Moh area at Saphan Hok. Ban Moh is the area famous for trading in diamonds and electronic items. After passing Ban Moh, the line headed to Pahurat area (Little India - famous for textile and garment trading), Saphan Han (one of the most famous flee markets in the City Center), Mahachai Road, northern section of Yaowarat Road (Chinatown), Samyaek Ton Pradoo (Bangkok Tramway HQ)--interchange station with Bangkholaem line, southern section of Rama IV Road, Hua Lamphong Station, Saphan Lueang (Jarumuang Intersection), Sam Yarn (Chula U. Campus), King Chulalongkorn Hospital, Queen Saowapha Institute (Red Cross HQ), Saladaeng (Lumbhinee Park), and ending up at Sathon Intersection which Wireless Road intersects with Sathon Road.

There were two depots at Bang Krabue near Kiaw Khai Kah Pier (the Pier for Maenam Motorboat Co.Ltd -> the Red Boat to Nonthaburi) and Saphan Lueang (the bridge between Hua Lamphong and Sam Yan which was later on moved to the place near the office of Anglo-American Tobacco Co.LTd. before the nationalization to create Tobacco Monopoly). Tram tickets for this line can be used for riding the Red Boat to Nonthaburi and the tickets of Maenam Motorboat can be used for riding the tram to Pakklong Talad. The ticket from Bang Krabue to Sathon was 6 Stang (2nd Class) and 10 Stang (for 1st Class).

3) Atsadang Feeder line
A single tram for those merchants at Pakklong Talad flea market and those girls studying at Sunanthalai Royal Seminary (now Rachinee Girls School). The line was probably the shortest tram line in the world. It cost the riders 1 copper stang but the passengers usually used tickets from the Bangkrabue line to go along this line. The line was abandoned around 1934-37 since the Bangkok Map of 1937 (now in a very dilapidated condition at the National Archives) does not show this line at all.

4) Ratchawongse Feeder line
A single tram for those who want to ride the ocean ships at Ratchawongse Pier (one of the most important piers in the days before Klong Toei port) and those who want to have good meals at the Chinese restaurants around Ratchawongse Road. The last tram of this feeder line would run at 18:30 so as to make an extra space for those who want to hang around that area for dinner and parties at the restaurants. There was no luggage movement to/from the ocean ships after sunset. This line was abandoned in 1934, and Siam Electricity Co.Ltd. decided to run a blue bus from the Golden Mountain to Ratchawonse Pier as a substitute. However, WWII eliminated this feeder bus of Siam Electricity Co.Ltd due to the lack of spare parts since at that time the rubber tire for a bus alone cost the company 10,000 baht [US$4,000 in the official rate and US$400 at the black market rate]. Only Nai Lert Bus (white buses) and Bangkok Municipal Buses (green buses with an elephant seal) could afford such luxuries. Medicines such as Quinine and Ateppine (for Malaria) and NB-639 (for Syphilis) were priced out of range for virtually everybody. Only those with good connections with black marketers could obtain such necessaries. Now, BMTA bus No. 204 (Huay Kwang - Ratchawongse Pier) runs this route.

5) Sukhothai Feeder Line
A single tram for those who live along Samsen canal who want to go to Vajira hospital. The line ran from Wat Kwid (Wat Prasart Bunyawart) pier to the end of Sukhothai Rad. After that, it turned left to go along Sukhothai Road at the Vajira Hospital side of the road. The line met Samsen line at Vajira Intersection. It was constructed around 1913 (the first years of Vajira Hospital) which one can see on the map from the National Archives, ceased service around 1933-34.

6) City Pillar - Thanon Tok Pier
A three-car tram which was the oldest and the longest line of all. Originally a horse-drawn line with 4 pairs of horses. The left and right pair for normal use and the other central two pairs for going uphill at bridges. The service started on May 22, 1887 from City Pillar to Bangkok Dock Co.Ltd. (the oldest modern dockyard founded in 1865--still in service for Marine Police and Royal Thai Navy but as a state enterprise which was nationalized in 1939 for military use). The line expanded to Thanon Tok pier in 1888. It become the talk-of-the-town after being used by Royal Siamese Army for moving military personnel to quell triads fighting for territory at the ricemill in Yannawa. The details of the traid suppression in 1889 has been recorded by Prince Damrongrajanuphab (Prince Damrong for short) in his memoir "Nithan Borankhadee" (written in 1942 and first published as memorial book for the cremation of Prince Damrong in May 1944 after he passed away from heart failure on December 1, 1943). [More on the Triad Wars] The horse-drawn tram did not work very well even though the company had received Royal approval to construct seven tram lines in Bangkok.

The line ran from City Pillar to behind the Ministry of Defense and then along Koo Muang Doem to go across Chang Rongsee Bridge to the Ministry of Interior to go along Bumrung Muang road to Giant Swing, and then turned right at Seekak Sao Chingcha to go along Fuang Nakhon Road to New Road at Seekak Phrayasri Intersection. After that, the line went along New Road to Chaloemkrung Royal Theater (founded in 1933--the air-conditioned cinema/theater), Werng Nakhonkhasem (Thieves Market), Wang Boorapha Palace (the palace of Prince Bhanurangsri and the Bhanubongse family founded in 1876, became Bahnuthat Girls School from 1928 to 1941, sold to a land developer and then demolished to solve heritage disputes in 1952 -> and become a trade center ever since). The line also passed Saphan Hun, Suapah, Wat Leng Nei Yee (Wat Mungkorn Kamalawat), Phraya Sombutphaisal Building (9-storey building), Sam Yaek Ton Pradoo (Bangkok Tramway HQ), Nailert Ice Manufacturing at Saphan Lek Larng, Si Phraya, Bangkok GPO, Oriental Hotel, Bangkok Dock Co.Ltd, Wat Don Cemetery before ending up at Thanontok pier (Red Boat Pier for Maenam Motorboat Co.Ltd. to Phra Padaeng). At Thanon Tok, there is a U-turn. It took several minutes to move the locomotive back to the front, moving the trolley backward, and make the seats face toward the City Pillar. BMTA bus No. 1 now takes this route.

7) Hua Lamphong
The redline (line 1-6 for yellow lines) with 3-car tram starting from Banglamphoo near Banglamphoo Intersection (then Banglamphoo Pratoomai), turning right at Wat Bowornniwetwiharn to Tanao Road (now an entertainment road in City Center beside Phra Athit Road), Khok Wua intersection (Old cattle barn-> Tanao Rd. intersecting with Ratchadamnoen Avenue) to Bumrung Muang Rd. near Chaopho Sua Shrine. After that, turning left to go along the Southern section of Bumrung Muang Rd. to Yotseh via Suan Mali, Saphan Dam Intersection (AKA Maen Sri Intersection - another office of Bangkok Tramway-> with a depot and a maintenance center). After reaching Yot Seh, the line went along Krung Kasem Road (a road parallel to Krung Kasem canal - an outer city moat from Thewet to Si Phraya) before ending up at Hua Lamphong. BMTA bus No. 53 (Ring line Thewet - Hua Lamphong - Bang Lamphoo) has filled the slot.

8) City Circle
A single-car tram line which was also the last red line to survive until October 1, 1968, the end of the tram service. The line ran from Banglamphoo to go along Phrasumen Road, Prachathippatai Intersection, Wat Trithossathep, Phan Fah Intersection, Wat Ratchanadda, Mahachai Road, Samyod Gate, Wang Boorapha, Saphan Han Gate, Wat Bophitphimuk, Memorial Bridge (old GPO--demolished to make a way for Phrapokklao Bridge in 1984), Chakphet Road, Pakklong Talad flee Market, Chakkraphongse House (house of Prince Chakkarabongse--a favorite son of King Chulalongkorn until he married a Russian lady), Wat Po, Tha Tian pier (a pier to Wat Arun, and the main pier of Siam Motorboat Co.Ltd. -> Red boat -> to Phra Padaeng and Pathumthanee), Tha Ratchaworadit Royal Pier, turning right to go along Na Phralan Road at Tha Chang Pier (HQ of Chaophraya Express Boat). After that, it turned left at Nah Phralan intersection to go along Phrachan Road to Tha Phrachan (ferry pier to Bangkok Noy Railway Station - AKA Terminal of the Southern Railway until Rama VI Bridge become a reality on Jan 1, 1926), turning left at Phrachan Intersection to pass Thammasart University, and National Museum before turning left at the National Theater. After that, it turned right at the mouth of Ko Muang Doem canal (inner city moat) via Wat Phrakaeo Wangnah (now the School of Arts). After that, to went along Phra Athit Road (a new entertainment center for Thammasart people and other college kids) to Pass Ban Phra Athit (belonged to Chaophraya Woraphongsephiphat [AKA Momratchawongse Yen Issarasena--grandchild of Kromphratchawangboworn Mahasenanurak--duputy king during the reign of King Rama II] who was the owner of Bang Buathong Railway) before ending up at bang Lamphoo via Phrasumen fort , and Wat Sangwet. The riders of this line needed to pay twice--once at Banglamphoo and the other at Pakklong Talad Intersectin-Atsadang Road.

9) Yotse line
A single-car tram line which was constructed during the late 1920's and early 1930's and went from Yotse to go across Kasatsuek Bridge to Ratprasong Intersection via Rama I Road, Bunthathong Intersection, National Stadium (then Hor Wang (Winsor Palace) of Crown Prince Vajirunnahit and office of Prince Mahidol), Sapathum Palace (palace of Queen Sawangwatthana, Prince Mahidol and Princess Mother before becoming Princess Mother Foundation office), Wat Pathumwanaram (meditation center in downtown BKK), World Trade Center (then Phatchabun Palace) before turning left along Ratchadamri Road to Nai Lert pier at Pratoonam near Chaloem Lok Bridge. After that, you could ride Nai Lert White boat to go along Saensaeb canal to Nongchok via Klong Tan, Hua Mark, Bang Kapi, Saphan Soong, and Minburi. Nai Lert boat also went along Praweturirom canal to Paed Riw (Chachoengsao) via Ladkrabang after branching out of Saensaeb canal at Phrakhanong. Nai Lert White boat tickets could be used to ride the tram to Bang Rak or Yotse and the tram ticket could be used to ride Nai Lert White boat to Phrakhanong or Bang Kapi.

10) Silom line
A single-car tram that went from Nai Lert Pier to go along Ratchadamri Road and Silom Road to meet Bangkholaem line at Bangrak Intersection. The line also went parallel to Silom canal which had a long line of Angsana and Asok trees. Silom canal was gone for good with the expansion of Silom Road (AKA Windmill Road - for the western windmill not far for the road during the reign of King Mongkut). During the blooming time of Angsana trees, the yellow petals of Angsana flowers made the tram track look very beautiful.

11) Dusit line
A three-car tram that went from Wat Thewaratkunchorn to Seesao Thewet Intersection before turning left to Uthong intersection. Then turning right to go along Ratchaseema Road at Suan Kulab Palace. After that, the line turned left to go along Sri Ayuthaya Road at Karn Ruan Intersection. After that, it passed the 1th Infantry Division (Royal Guard), Wang Parutsakawan (Palace for Prince Chakkraphongse--later the Government House after the 1932 revolution until Phisanulok House replaced it in 1939), Suan Misakawan Intersection (Supreme Commander HQ), and Wat Benjamabophit (AKA Marble Temple) before turning right along Rama V Rd. to Prince Abhakorn Palace (now Rajamongkhol Institute, Chumporn Khetudomsak Campus) via Royal Turf Club. After that, it went along Phitsanulok Rd. to Nang Leng Intersection and turned right along Nakhonsawan Road to Worachak Intersection. After that, the line went along Worachak Road to Suan Mali and S.A.B. Intersection (Societe Anonym de Belge watch shop - now Xin Xia Yit Pao Press), Saphan Dam Intersection, Wat Sam Pluem (Chakkawatrachawat temple), before ending up at Wat Liab power plant (now the HQ of MEA).

First Allied Bombing
On Jan 9, 1942 from 2:00 am to 3:00 am - the first Allied bombs hit Bangkok at B.L. Hua. Drugstore, Wat Tuek intersection, Yaowarat, and Yotse - not hitting Hua Lamphong at all. After the sunrise, many Bangkokians rode trams to see the effects of the bombs.

1942 Flood (photo from the collection of Ric Francis)
Great Flood of 1942
There was a boat service (White Boat) along Saen Saeb canal run by Nai Lert (Lert Setthaputra) from Patunam to Nongchok via Minburi and Paed Riw (Chachoengsao) via Prawet Burirom canal. At that time the Sukhumvit area was full of rice and paddy fields with buffaloes. Trams passed the Patunam Pier ... During the 1942 flood, the floods soaked the motors and tram drivers and workers had to push them back to the depot near the City Pillar. The floodwaters near Bang Krabue depot reached to chest level. Cars and boats had head-on collisions during the flood since cars drove on the left while boats when on the right. [Boats used American driving rules--right-hand driving--to head north while cars used British driving rules--left-hand driving--to head South.] After the flood, algae caused the tram wheels to slip off the tracks.

Bombing the Power Plants
On April 14, 1945 at 1430, a fleet of Allied bombers (30-40 bombers) turned Wat Liab Power plant and Samsen Power plant into rubble. It was beyond repair--no running water, no electricity, the trams could not run and Bangkok was in the dark. The government decided to get power from 540-HP engines of HTMS Matchanu and Wirunchambung submarines to feed Lakmuang-Thanon Tok. However, the DC power burnt the motors when the trams reached Bangkok Dock Co.Ltd. (the place where 2 submarines were generating electricity to feed trams) while the trams ran out of power if trams were near the terminals since DC power could not reach far enough. It took a lot of labor to put the rolling stocks back to the depot.

[Note: After the bombardment of Wat Liab Power Plant on April 14, 1945, Siam Electricity Co.Ltd. managed to return to service within three to four months since there were a few parts of the power pant spared from Allied bombs. However, Samsen Power Plant (belonging to Public Works Dept., Ministry of Interior) had to take six years to become active again since almost all parts of the power plant were destroyed. Both plants could not wait until they received the new generators and boilers from the US, so they had to build everything from scratch. During that time (1945-1951), the blackouts and brownouts were very common since Wat Liab had to distribute power for both Bangkok and Thonburi. Bangkok got the power one day and Thonburi would get it the next.]

AKA Yot Wachirasathian - recorded in 1971 and revised in 1977

When I was 60 plus 2 months (October 1, 1968), the trams were NO MORE! No one who was born after that day would have any idea about the trams except when they saw them in the photographs or sitting on an old tram. My dad told me that trams were initially horse-drawn from City Pillar to Thanon Tok via Sam yak Tone Pradoo (in front of Chaloemburi Cinema). It was in 1894 that the trams were electrified. Trams were the cheapest mass transit available (compared to rickshaws and rental chariots). Trams were safe but slow every time they parked at the red pedant signs with a white star to pick more passengers or waited to let the tram from other directions go first. Trams were so popular that all walks of life rode them. The back of the tram was for the 2nd class while the front of the tram was for the 1st class. The first class tram (with covered pillows stuffed with coconut fiber) tickets were 10 satang (a nickel) and the 2nd class (wooden seats) were 6 satang (3 cent or 2 Phai for those who still remembered Phai-Sorot copper coins).

Initial Lines
The lines which owned by the Danes were City Pillar - Thanon Tok and Bang Krabue - Saladaeng (later on extended to Klong Toei). Trams were smooth since they did not drive on dirt roads with potholes. If your tickets still had money left, you could interchange the lines if you wanted. If you rode a tram from Sam Yak to Nang Lerng (near Royal Tuft Club and Thewakam Bridge that goes across Premprachakron canal), you would drop down to S.A.B. Intersection or Saphan Lek Intersection and then ride the City Circle line to Nang Lerng without paying more.

Bangkok Tramways Company
Bangkok Tramways Co.Ltd. merged with Electricity Co.Ltd. (Samsen Power Plant) in 1900 which owned Samsen Line In 1901, Siam Electricity Co.Ltd. took over Bangkok Tramways Co.Ltd. and built Wat Liab Power Plant. Thanon Tok line went from City Pillar to Thanon Tok line via Bumrung Muang, the whole Fuang Nakhon Rd., and went along the New Road to Thanon Tok depot. Samsen line went from Kiao Khai Kah pier (a pier for a boat to Nonthaburi) in Bang Krabue to Saladaeng (initially ended at Hua Lamphong Railway Station but later extended to Saladaeng and Klong Toei) via Samsen Rd., Chakkrabongse Rd., Khoo Muang Doem (the 1st City Moat dug in 1771), Rachinee Rd., Ubonrat bridge, Ban Moh, Phra Phithak, Phahurat (Bangkok Little India), Saphan Han, Rob Krung canal (the 2nd city moat), Saphan Phanubongse Bridge (Wang Boorapha), Yaowarat Road (Bangkok Chinatown), Sam Yak Tone Pradoo, Charonesawat bridge, Hua Lamphong and ended up at Saladaeng. Rolling stock of both lines were painted in yellow and the head office was a 2-floor building at Sam Yak Tone Pradoo.

Siamese Tramway Company
Siamese Tramway Co. Ltd. owned by Prince Narathip was founded on October 1, 1905 and King Chulalongkorn went to the the inauguration ceremony. Trams from Siamese Tramways Co.Ltd. were painted in red--thus called red lines. There were two major lines: City circle near Wat Liab Power plant and Hua Lamhong line that went across an iron bridge to Wat Bophitphimuk to Chakkrawat Rd., Yaowarat intersection, Charoen Krung Intersection, Worachak Intersection, Maen Sri Intersection (Saphan Dum), Golden Mountain, Nakhonsawan Rd., Nanglerng, Phadung Krungkasem canal (the 3rd City Moat dug in 1857) and then ended up at Thewet. The fares were collected by distance which was fair to the passengers and the company. Sometimes when the trams went off of the tracks, the workers and the passengers had to use their own strength to put the rolling stock back on the tracks.

The tram companies were officially merged into a single company in 1926 and the electric company was changed to Siamese Electricity Co.Ltd. to Siamese Electricity Corporation Co.Ltd. on May 5, 1927 after Thai businessmen become major shareholders. The trams were used by fire Department but not so good as they expected since it cannot cover every section of the city. [For more details on the companies involved, see Tramway-related Companies]

Labor Trouble
There was a labor strike in January 1924 by Bangkok Tramways workers. Initially, Mr. Thiang (a Thai worker) was sacked by Mr. Hui (a Chinese foreman from Hainan) without reason and the Dane managers believed what Foreman Hui said. Therefore, nine friends of Nai Thiang tried to appeal to Mr. J. Knutson (Bangkok Tramways CEO -a Dane CEO who could speak Thai as fluently as a Thai) but to no avail. Even worse, Mr. Knutsen believed what Mr. Hui said. Furthermore, Mr. Hui said "Sir, you should NOT take care of Thai workers since they were just like a bunch of dogs--running back to our company after hearing the knocking of coconut shells with dog food. Therefore, you can get Thai workers as much as you want to replace those who got a pink slip."

Such an insult caused almost Thai workers to strike. Those who worked as strike brakers (either as volunteers or by bribery) were beaten bloody with metal-headed clubs by striking workers. Mr. Knutson and managers were worried since the concession said the government would nationalize the trams if the company could not run the service for more than 24 hours. The Chinese and the Dane managers had to run the tram services until the government of King Vajiravut could mediate the labor dispute. The results was that Mr. Hui was sacked while Mr. Thiang went back to work and Mr. J. Knutson had to take care of Thai workers' welfare much better than in the past and even get a Thai doctor who graduated from Germany to take care of sick workers (Luang Suriyaphongse-Wisutthiphaet). There was also a free loan for workers - they didn't have to pay the 5-10% market rate.

Libel Against All Thais
The leader of this strike was Thawat Ritthidet. He became the talk-of-the-town when he and Bangkok Tram workers sued Mr. Hui for libel since Mr. Hui insulted the Thai people in general--with Luang Srisurangwaramat as a lawyer. However, the court dropped the case since the petition Thawat presented required 12 million Siamese people to sign it. Thawat Ritthidet became notorious when he attempted to sue King Prajadhipok in 1933-34. However, the case was eventually dropped since the 1932 constitution (and every Thai constitution) states that the "King is a venerable head of state, and nobody can violate HM and nobody can bring HM and the Royal Family to court."

Thawat Ritthidet became a member of the People Party since he was a labor activist. He also tried to help rickshaw workers (usually illiterate Chinese) to get more power to bargain. Even though the rickshaw drivers won three times, their lives still were in misery until the demise of rickshaws in 1954 by the proclamation on January 1, 1953 which states that the government would no longer extend licenses to rickshaw drivers.

Trams at Phra Padaeng
After electrifying the Bangkok tram, Herrn (Mr.) Prune (a German businessman) asked for the concession for the public boat from Thanon Tok to Phrapradaeng and Thai Tianm to Nonthaburi and Pathumthanee. King Chulalongkorn granted the concession to Herrn Prune who founded Siam Motorboat (red boats). The red boats could not go along Lad Luang canal - a shortcut canal dug during the reign of King Rama II (circa 1815) - since the boats were too big and Phrapradaeng had no electricity at all. So, the steam-engine tram with a track similar to the railway track along Lad Luang canal from the canal end near Wat Prot Kate to downtown Phrapradaeng and Phrapradaeng pier was the answer. It seems to me that the Phra Padaeng tram died after Siam Motorboat Co.Ltd. was out of business.

Thepchoo Thubthong

Lopburi Tram
After many parts of Bangkok Tram were removed, the removed trams were reinstalled in Lopburi. Actually, Lopburi was to have a tram system since the day the leader (Field Marshall Plaek Phiboonsonggram) wanted to rebuild Lopburi as a new model city in 1938, but the leader need to wait until they removed the Lak Muang-Thanontok line to install in Lopburi in 1955.

The Lopburi tram ran from Tha Hin Flea Market to the gate of King Ananda Mahidol Army Hospital via Phra Karn Shrine. The fare rates were as follows:

2nd class
Tha Hin Flea Market - Phra Karn Shrine : 25 satang
Phra Karn Shrine - Sra Kaeo: 25 satang
Sra Kaeo - King Ananda Mahidol Army Hospital: 25 satang
Tha Hin - King Ananda Mahidol Army Hospital: 75 satang
(then 1 US$ = 20 baht)

1st class
Tha Hin Flea Market - Phra Karn Shrine : 50 satang
Phra Karn Shrine - Sra Kaeo: 50 satang
Sra Kaeo - King Ananda Mahidol Army Hospital: 50 satang
Tha Hin - King Ananda Mahidol Army Hospital: 1.50 baht

Initially, the Lopburi tram was cheered by the local people. However, the enthusiasm died down very quickly since the local buses were much faster and passengers did not need to wait long. Lopburi tram died after nearly five years after the inception due to heavy loss.

Trams assist in triad battle in Chinatown
[Note: the trams below are not electrified, but were pulled by horses.] Prince Damrong (a younger half-brother of King Chulalongkorn and the right-hand man of the king) recorded that in 1889 the Royal Siamese Army used Lakmuang Thanon Tok tram to move an Army battalion to suppress a riot between two rival Chinese triads at the New Road near Wat Yannawa. The two Chinese triads were Tang Kong Xi (Techiew) and Siew Li Kue (Fujian). The two triads removed the galvanized roofs from local folks to build barricades to fight on June 19, 1889. On June 20, 1889, there was shooting--20 triad members were killed and more than 100 wounded. Police could not suppress the triads since there were thousands of members. Therefore, the police needed to call the army in to bail them out on June 21, 1889. The army seized all the trams and drove them to Thanon Tok to move the infantry battalion to deal with triads. The Danish managers of Bangkok Tramway Co.Ltd. were willing to let the Army seize the tram since the company was fed up with the triads itself. A company of Marines and Sailors rode river boats from Navy HQ to Thanon Tok so as to encircle the triads.

After the fighting ended, 10 triad members were killed and 20 were wounded. 800 members and 8 bosses surrendered. Army and Navy officers tied the pigtails of those triads into groups of triads--100 triads for each group--to create public humiliation. Many people living along the New Road--Siamese, Westerners, Chinese, Indian, and Islamic people--blessed such a quick and bold action of the Royal Siamese Armed Forces to suppress the triads. Trams moved up and down between the War Office and Yanna all day and night of June 21, 1889.

More: The days when I was young by Uncle Yai Naphayon

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