The Bridge over the River Kwai

A brief geographical history. There are in fact three rivers, the western Kwae Noi River and eastern Kwae Yai River join at Kanchanaburi to become the Maeklong River which flows into the Gulf of Thailand. The bridge over the River Kwai actually crosses the Kwae Yai River just north of this confluence, about 2 miles north of the centre of Kanchanaburi. The railway runs close to the eastern bank of the Kwae Noi River after crossing the bridge on its way to Burma. It is now only open as far as Nam Tok, about 35 miles north west of Kanchanaburi. The actual bridge had about a dozen arched girder spans on concrete piers. Two of the centre spans were destroyed in the bombing in 1944 and after the war they were replaced with the present angular sections. The land in this area is relatively flat with the occasional limestone outcrops. A lot of sugar cane is now growing in the area. As the line approaches Nam Tok it becomes quite hilly/rocky and it is here that the wooden trestle bridges are encountered. They are not built across the river but along the eastern bank where the limestone outcrops come right to the river's edge. As the train crosses these original trestle bridges at walking pace there is a sheer rock face with caves on one side and the river on the other side.

The Burma - Siam Railway

The following site includes pictures of two of the steam locomotives used in construction and operation of the Burma - Siam Railway and now preserved near the bridge.

Steam locomotives used

Back to Steam 2003 index page.


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