Posts Tagged ‘railway’

Everytrail to Pattaya

January 6, 2010

I made an Everytrail version of my railway journey from Bangkok to Pattaya on New Year’s Day.

You can view the trip at http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=458559. I also embedded a slide show on my Google Pages site at http://sites.google.com/site/thebkkphotographer/home/by-train-to-pattaya. It’s below the PicasaWeb slideshow.

I stopped using Everytrail because it does not import my pictures from Picasa Web Albums as it says it is doing. It links to them. That means as I delete old albums to make way for new ones my Everytrail trips lose their pictures.

EveryTrail Import Selected=

EveryTrail Import Selected Photos

I won’t delete this album from Picasa Web.

Everytrail has improved its user interface since I last used it. I think it is a great idea. I think it is hard for them to make money other than with Google ads. Maybe the business plan is for somebody to buy them.

EveryTrail Pattaya Trip

EveryTrail Pattaya Trip

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By Train to Pattaya

January 4, 2010

SRT LogoI woke up early on New Year’s Day morning. I had nothing to do and I remembered that there is one train a day from Bangkok to the beach resort of Pattaya (พัทยา). On the spur of the moment I decided to take a day trip to the seaside.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) posts timetables for most, but not all, of their services on the web. Here is the timetable for the Eastern Line.

Eastern Line Timetable

Eastern Line Timetable

Ordinary train #283 leaves Hua Lamphong Station at 6:55am (Monday to Friday only). But I did not need to take the Subway all the way to Hua Lamphong. The Eastern Line passes quite close to my apartment as it travels along Phetchaburi Road. It’s the corridor used by the new elevated Airport Express trains.

The train gets to Asoke Station at 7:22am. It was easy to take the Subway two stops to Phetchaburi Station and walk a short distance to the station. Note that the trains stop on the eastern side of Asok-Montri Road after they have crossed it.

In contrast with the modern Airport Express Station above Asoke is a tiny halt. There’s a simple concrete platform next to the single track and a hut for the level crossing operator. Even though Asok-Montri Road is a major thoroughfare the level crossing gate is a simple wheeled affair that the staff push across the road – dodging the cars and motorcycles that try to get by them.

I checked with the level crossing operator and he confirmed that the train to Pattaya was running on New Year’s Day. “Ka-pom!” – so I was fine.

Asoke Station

Asoke Station. The Airport Express line is on the right.

Thai trains “always” run behind schedule and my train was five minutes late even this short distance from its starting point. I do not know why SRT do not update their timetables to be closer to reality. I hoped that the train would be quiet on a holiday and so it was.

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

I had my choice of seats in a 10-carriage train drawn by a 1980s vintage Alstholm diesel locomotive. Unfortunately there were some men in the first carriage I chose who were already drunk on Chang beer – that at 7 o’clock in the morning. Maybe they’d been up all night partying. I quietly left them to their party and went to a quiet carriage.

Progress is slow through the eastern suburbs of Bangkok. It passes the newly built Airport Express depot. I saw some of their new rolling stock parked outside. It will be some months before they are in daily use.

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Like main ordinary trains this one was free for Thai people. Foreigners have to pay the normal fare. The fare to Pattaya was 33 Baht – about US$1. I paid the conductor and he gave me some small blue coupons as a ticket. By contrast the express bus costs 113 Baht (US$3.33).

I didn’t have any breakfast, but I didn’t have to worry. A group of vendors boarded the train at Khlong Tan Station. They had baskets of goodies for sale. I chose fried rice with a fried egg on top plus a bottle of water. That cost me 30 baht (less than  US$1).

My Breakfast on New Year's Day

The vendors walk up and down the train all the time shouting for customers. That can be annoying if you’re trying to sleep but it all adds to the local colour. I did wonder how they are organized and whom they have to pay to have the right to sell food on a particular train.

Many more passengers joined the train and by Hua Mark Station it was full. I shared my seats with a Thai family on their way to Chachoengsao.

Once we got outside the city the train speeded up and it got to Chachoengsao on time. For the rest of the journey I had a lot of space. I kept on switching seats in an attempt to photograph each station.

The carriages were second-hand Japan Railways stock. They used to be air-conditioned but the SRT disabled the units and installed fans. The doors and windows were open all the time.

Third Class Carriage Interior

Third Class Carriage Interior. Note the ceiling fans, the open windows and the unused air-conditioning

The SRT are upgrading the Eastern Line to double track. This is mainly to speed freight (goods) traffic to and from the port of Leam Chabang.

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

The train stopped at many small stations that are not listed on the English timetable. It was good to get out of Bangkok into the country again. Because everything was open my Nikon Coolpix P6000 kept its GPS connection for the whole journey. Thus all my pictures were geocoded by the camera. The train was slow enough that the positions were quite accurate.

Don Si Non Station

Don Si Non Station

The train fell behind schedule as it crossed from Chachoengsao Province into Chonburi Province but we arrived in Pattaya only 13 minutes late at 10:48am. That’s very good for the trip.

Most of the remaining passengers disembarked at Pattaya. The train continues to a place called Ban Plu Ta Luang. As I said, it is the only train of the day. It returns to Bangkok, passing through Pattaya at 14:21 (according to the timetable). That was too early for my day trip. I took the express bus back to Bangkok. In contrast to the 3:30 train ride the bus takes at most two hours and is often quicker than that.

Pattaya Station

Pattaya Station

That’s typical for developing countries where the train is slow but inexpensive. The Bangkok – Pattaya roads are so congested there is a great opportunity to upgrade the railways and provide a true alternative that gets many diesel buses and maybe some cars off the road.

I paused on the to take some photos. That was a mistake. Public transport in Pattaya relies on songtheaw. They are small pick-up trucks (mostly Isuzu DMax and Toyota Hilux Vigo) with two rows of seats under a metal canopy. (The Thai name means “two rows”). They take about 12 passengers at a squeeze. Only one songtheaw met the train and that quickly filled with passengers and departed.

The only songtheaw to town

The only songtheaw to town

I waited around but people shrugged when I asked if another songtheaw would come. I should have pushed my way aboard.

So I had to walk into town. The station is about one kilometre from the main road. Fortunately there was a local map on the wall of the station. I memorized the route and walked all the way to Sukhumvit Road. There I was able to get a songtheaw to Beach Road and the sea.

Fortunately it was not too hot and I found a “108 Shop” on the way to get some water. It was a lesson learned – I shouldn’t have hung around the station being a train-spotter and should have pushed my way onto the songtheaw.

I posted a selection of photos to Picasa Web Albums here with a slideshow at http://sites.google.com/site/thebkkphotographer/home/by-train-to-pattaya.

Here’s a map of the Thai railway network:

Thai Railway Network

Bangkok Airport Express Train

December 7, 2009

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has been running free trial trains on the new Suvarnabhumi Airport Link route between Makkasan Central Air Terminal (CAT) and Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok’s main international airport). The Bangkok Frugal Photographer likes free, so on Monday (a public holiday in lieu of the King’s Birthday on Saturday) I went down to Makkasan Station to try it.

Bangkok’s transport planners had the right idea. Makkasan Station is close to Phetchaburi Subway Station. Unfortunately the implementation is a bit awry – there are no signs at all in the Subway Station to direct passengers to the railway station. They’ll probably fix this when the service opens for full service.

The CAT is huge. It’s obviously designed for growth. It has separate areas for the Express train direct to the airport and the City Line train that stops at four stations en route.

There are check-in desks for flights so you can leave your luggage there and travel in comfort. None of them are operating yet. There were not any shops or restaurants open either. However some enterprising companies were promoting things like a condo development close to the station.

The State Railway of Thailand provided many people to guide the curious passengers to the free train service. It used a City Line train – presumably because they have more standing room.

The train was standing room only in both directions. They were departing about one every fifteen minutes and the non-stop run took the same time.

Everything was very smooth and the Siemens Desiro Electric Multiple Units accelerated quickly. The blue bench seats were not very comfortable: they seemed sized for small Thai posteriors. I expect the Express trains are more comfortable.

Here’s a Picasa Web album of some of the pictures I took today.

Bangkok Airport Express
State Railway of Thailand Train

The Traditional Thai Train

I did not have time to linger at the airport so I took a few pictures of service vehicles and then took a train back to Makkasan. Unfortunately Suvarnabhumi airport is not good for plane spotting.

As I was leaving the station some railway employees pushed wheeled gates across the main Asok-Din Daeng Road to allow a State Railway of Thailand train to pass. The Airport Express follows the old Eastern Line. The latter is a single track that has not been well maintained. It is such a contrast with the elevated Express trains above it.

See also http://sites.google.com/site/thebkkphotographer/home/bangkok-airport-express-train for a slide show.

Singapore to Bangkok by Train – FOOC

November 29, 2009

The BBC From Our Own Correspondent has a piece on traveling from Singapore by train. Actually two trains. The first from Singapore to the Thai border and the second from Sungai Kolok in Thailand to my favourite Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok.

I wrote about the FOOC program before here.

They must have renovated the Malayan Railway (KTMB: Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad) Station in Singapore. It’s described as art-deco. When I was there it was run-down – it made Hua Lamphong look great by comparison. (I guess it could be both – I should check.)

Durian Flavoured Popcorn

Durian Flavoured Popcorn

The discussion about durian flavoured popcorn that she took on the journey but never ate was amusing. Although the fresh fruit smells strong products made from it are generally mild. It’ll be an anticlimax when she opens the bag.

It's Durian Season

Durian Fruit - Strong Smell

I should take that trip one day.

Durian Flavoured Mooncake

Durian Mooncake - Slight Smell

 

Eastern & Oriental Express

November 25, 2009
Eastern & Oriental Express

Eastern & Oriental Express

When I visited Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station on Tuesday afternoon I was lucky to see the Eastern & Oriental Express preparing for departure.
The Green Carpet Treatment
This train was due to leave at 15:00 and travel overnight to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. The train looks absolutely splendid in its green, cream and gold colours. Such a contrast from the worn rolling stock the state-owned railway has to use.

I remembered Michael Willem’s advice here and under-exposed for the back light on the platform. It’s not as dramatic as his example, but I think it works photographically.

Each entrance was guarded by a uniformed security officer. I didn’t have the cheek to ask if I could take a look around the interior.

According to the E&O web site this is the last departure to Chiang Mai in 2009. The fares are eye-watering: US$1,400 for a “Pullman Superior / Single”, US$1,890 for a “State Cabin” and US$2,500 for the “Presidential Suite”. The site says that:

Prices are per person based on sharing accommodation and include: All table d’hôte meals on board, with complimentary tea and coffee in your compartment, and sightseeing tours.

Table d’hôte is a hi-so phrase for a fixed menu.

Since it is an overnight train passengers miss most of the scenery. The sun sets about 6:30pm at this time of the year. I don’t think the Bangkok Frugal Photographer will be taking this train any time soon.

According to the State Railway of Thailand web site here the regular train fares from Bangkok to Chiang Mai are: 593 Baht First Class, 281 Baht Second Class and 121 Baht Third Class. According to the online currency converter at Oanda.com thats US$17.91, 8.49 and 3.65 respectively. But you do have to bring your own food.

Note: there are supplements for sleeper accommodation in First and Second Class that I have not included here.

The SRT makes huge losses and safety is a challenge, but the difference is immense.

I wish I had waited to see how many passengers boarded the train.

Note that the SRT could not provide a posh engine for the journey. It was a regular 34 year old Alstholm ALS diesel locomotive.

Eastern & Oriental Express Locomotive

Bang Sue Junction

November 9, 2009

I made a brief visit to Bang Sue Junction Railway Station in Northern Bangkok this afternoon. I wanted to see if they’d cleared the derailed train from the accident on Sunday.

I could not see any sign of the accident. I very much doubt that the State Railway of Thailand “cleared the site of all arisings” so quickly. More likely the accident took place out of sight of the station.

Here’s a link to an album of photos of Bang Sue Junction. They are from 2008 but the station has not changed much. It’s a throwback to an older time.

Bang Sue Junction – Bangkok

I wanted to embed a slide show. Picasa Web allows this but WordPress.com does not. I am going to write another post to grumble about that.

BBC From Our Own Correspondent

November 9, 2009

BBC Logohttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/8346744.stm

I’ve listened to this program all my life – from the radio when I was a child in England to the internet today. Along with Alastair Cooke’s “Letter from America” FOOC encouraged my urge to travel and interest in things outside my immediate experience.

This short talk is about traveling by railway in Eastern Europe. Some of it is reminiscent of rail travel here in Thailand. But the correspondent who wrote:

… but there is no rushing a good train ride.

I think he hasn’t been on a Thai train recently! They’re famous for their slow progress.
[picapp src=”8/9/2/5/Chief_Ticket_Inspector_a366.jpg?adImageId=7252066&imageId=6607627″ width=”380″ height=”488″ /]

Another Thai Railway Accident

November 9, 2009

Bangkok Post


http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/27081/train-derails-srt-denies-sabotage

This is worrying: a train derailed to Bang Sue Junction yesterday. The SRT says it was because the station staff switched the points before the train had passed over them. They were in a hurry. That’s surprising: normally the Thai railway network operates slowly and trains have to wait for a long time for tracks to clear. Why the rush on a Sunday morning?

Bang Sue Derailment

Bang Sue Derailment

Bang Sue Junction is quite close to my home. I have taken many photos there.

Bang Sue Junction

As with the accident in October it seems that the State Railway of Thailand lacks modern safety systems like accurate train location and signal passed at danger (SPAD) detection. The technology will never make the human factor irrelevant but it can help.

Railway travel is still far safer than traveling by road but these accidents make me wonder. Note the Bangkok Post article does not say anything about casualties.

Thai Railway Accident

October 12, 2009

Train derails, 7 dead, near Hua Hin.

That was a very nasty railway accident where the whole train derailed and seven passengers were killed.

I was disappointed that Picapp did not have any pictures of the accident. It is very farang-oriented.

The wreckage has been cleared and the trains are running again on the Southern Line.

I visited Hua Lamphong Station on Saturday and photographed a similar GE (USA) locomotive soon to depart for Trang in the south.

Departing for the South

The Bangkok Post reported that the State Railway of Thailand will issue a statement on the cause of the accident today (Monday). I’m not going to comment until they do. Thai newspapers are not so discreet.

Thai Railway Museum

September 30, 2009

Railway Museum - Chatuchak Park
There is a small railway museum in Bangkok. It is in the north-west corner of Chatuchak Park. It’s a pleasant walk to get there through the park from Mo Chit Skytrain Station or Chatuchak Park Subway Station.

Unfortunately it was closed when I visited on Tuesday afternoon so I only took a few photos of the exterior.

There used to be a steam locomotive exhibited outside but it’s been gone for some time now. The interior houses a miscellany of engines, coaches and other artifacts.

According to the sign outside it also houses the Thai Railfan Club.