Welcome to June Chromacomers, and it's back to a familiar theme, albeit with a new twist perhaps. Following the popularity of the Hua Lamphong train station post many months ago now, I have returned this month to the railway theme. I'll try and avoid all the obviously crap 'back on the right tracks' kind of puns and just get right into it.
One might be forgiven for thinking that I am something of a rail nerd, a train buff or 'anorak' of sorts, this actually isn't the case and the various train related locations have occurred more through happenstance than anything else. That's not to say that I don't enjoy the up close and personal experience of being around these Thai trains though, it's interesting enough. Once was the time in developed countries in the West when you could easily find lots of places to wander right up, and reach out to touch locomotives with the smell of diesel right in your face. Of course, nowadays what with masses of health and safety legislation, terrorist threats and a more CCTV Orwellian sense of state, the days of just randomly wandering around train lines and sidings and checking out locos and rolling stock are long gone. Add to that the railway specific police and heavy fines and the picture is clear.
Thailand is still one of those countries where much of the above either doesn't apply, or if it does, it rarely comes to the fore. The whole country is littered with places where observers and trains can get close....as in dangerously close even whilst moving. There are whole markets and restaurants where people literally move tables and chairs out of the way for a few seconds to let a train through before instantly resuming where they left off. This blog is never really about the whole of Thailand though, it's about Bangkok. So, this month I am going to choose one (and only one of many such 'close to trains') places in Bangkok where you can sneak about and have a looksie.
First up, public safety announcement, this month's post involves you making your own risk assessment and deciding what's right for you. I say this as technically, the State Railway of Thailand authority certainly does very much have its own trespassing laws, and therein lies the rub. As a foreigner, you will stick out like a sore thumb in a railway trespass scenario whereby the thirty Thais on various forms of transport whizzing all around you won't get so much as a head turn. But, be very clear about something....that doesn't mean that an over zealous security guard (there are some like that in Thailand you know, despite what people say) or policeman, or railway official won't be blowing whistles at you and asking you to leave though. So, all of this post today is very much under the heading of 'at your own risk'.
If you make your way to Bang Sue station (you cannot Romanise Thai so take your best bet at pronunciation, but the last word does not rhyme with any sound in English and is not to be said as the woman's name 'Sue' would be in English. Instead it sort of rhymes with 'lure' or 'pure' as a very rough starting point for non Thai speakers). You can access it easily and directly from the underground MRT station right there of the same name. I am including a map this month, on the map if you head north from the station all the way along 'Rotfai 1 Alley' (a long walk in Bangkok heat but there are motorcycle taxis servicing either end so an easy fix) quite far down until you see a large and dirtyish looking river on your left hand side, you will be almost opposite a railway (level) crossing on the right. If you can pull it off, you need to cross the tracks over there (security guard may or may not be there and may or may not care) and somehow either access the huge hangar there where they work on a lot of the Thai locomotives OR don't be sneaky but simply smile and move in a polite and respectful manner and hope that the guards wave you through, happy for both parties to hide behind the language barrier. This is a rare example in Bangkok of when looking like a clueless tourist is actually probably a good thing that might work to your benefit! Once inside there, there are lots of great train shots for you and not many farangs make it down that way at all. If that is a no go and you fail to gain entry, it's not a completely lost trip as if you just keep heading north in that direction, there's a huge and very well known 'railway graveyard' of cool looking, moribund rolling stock and old trains down there. It can also briefly be seen from the main expressway heading North near Morchit if your car is in the correct lane. This whole area is just the other side of the very well known and loved 'Suan Rotfai' railway park. There are lots of shots on the net of that graveyard sidings area and I am not including any here today (great for sunsets and sunrises as backdrops to the abandoned old trains though) but rather simply pointing out that this destination is a 'two for one' deal or at least something with a plan B as a backup.
On the map here, the graveyard is actually slightly further north (up) on the map than where I've place the text but it's generally correct. So, if you are up for the challenge and feeling confident and wily enough, check it out. One final word... If you happen to have a tripod as a guard against stray dogs, it might not be a bad idea. Rolleiflex in the mix here again for this post, I think it was a 3.5e Xenotar with Delta 400 film.