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Thailland Travel Guide Blog

What is the history of the railways in Thailand


The first plans to build a railway in Thailand were made in the 1840s, but went nowhere. In 1856 the King received a gift from Queen Victoria: a model train (which still can be seen in the national museum in Bangkok). In the 1880s new projects were started, but never finalized. Only on April 11, 1893 was the first private railway from Bangkok to Samut Prakan officially opened.

In March 1892 a British company started construction of the Bangkok - Korat line but in September 1896 the contract was cancelled. Thailand continued construction under local management and with German engineers. On March 26th, 1897 the first leg from Bangkok to Ayutthaya was officially opened and counts as the 'birthday' of the State Railways of Thailand. When the track to Korat was finished the journey would take only 6 hours, while traveling on the road still took 5 days. It was a big step forward for Thailand's public transportation network and more tracks were planned and built.
In 1909 Thailand already had 49 trains running. Bangkok's main station Hua Lamphong was opened in 1916. In the 1920s the first diesel railcar commenced service on Thailand's tracks and the first sleeper cars were introduced. By that time a trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai took about 26 hours.

During World War II the Japanese occupying forces completed two major projects: the Thailand-Burma Railway and the track from Chumphon to Khao Fachi station. The later was totally dismantled by British soldiers after the war. A short time later the United States of America supported Thailand in the construction of new tracks and the connection from Bangkok all the way up to the Mekong River in Nong Khai.

In 1982 the last steam engines were retired and in the 1980s and 1990s some new track was laid to connect the Map Ta Phut and Laem Chabang seaports on the eastern coast.
In 2009 Thailand's railways were connected to Thanaleng in Laos.

Improved engines allowed the State Railways of Thailand in July 2015 to reduce the travel time on the Northern and Nothestern lines significantly. Nowadays train # 7 reaches Chiang Mai from Hua Lamphong in only 11 hours.

In May 2015 the transport minister signed an agreement with his Japanese counterpart for a feasibility study of a 700km long high-speed rail project connecting Bangkok and Chiang Mai.


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