The Thailand Railway Hall of Fame is a privately run railway museum displaying old locomotives and carriages that preserve the history and development of the railway in Thailand since the late 1800s.
Situated at the northern edge of Chatuchak Park, the Railway Hall of Fame is housed in a huge hangar on land that’s owned by the State Railway of Thailand.
The railway museum was established by Sanpasiri Viryasiri in 1990, his son Chulsiri Viryasiri is managing the museum now.
The museum is run on the condition that there are no entrance fees and income-generating activities. It survives solely on donations.
This is making upkeep of the museum extremely difficult. However this does not detract from the historical value of the relics on display. The exhibits are reminders of a significant development in Thailand when public transport took a quantum leap forward with the introduction of rail travel.
To get there, please see the map to the Thailand Railway Hall of Fame
Please see the latest update on this railway museum
The history of Thai railway
The development of rail infrastructure started in the reign of King Rama V (1868 – 1910). In 1887 – 1888 surveys were conducted by the British for a rail link to Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) in the north-east with a branch to Chiang Mai in the north. Construction started in 1891.
However the first train service in Thailand was from Bangkok to Samut Prakarn, the Paknam Line which started in 1893.
By 1894, Bangkok - Ayutthaya rail link was ready and in 1900 the north-eastern line to Korat commenced services. From Korat this line would branch out to Ubon Rachathani near the Laotian border.
The Thonburi – Petchaburi line started in 1903 and this would lay the groundwork for the southern line which links to Butterworth, Malaysia.
Exhibits in the Thailand Railway Hall of Fame
Here are some memorable photos from this railway museum.
A gift from a queen – Thailand’s first train
In 1853, Queen Victoria of Great Britain presented King Rama IV the first train for the kingdom. The model of this train is on display in the railway museum.
The actual version is in the National Museum. However during my two visits to the National Museum, I didn’t notice any train. Khun Chulsiri explained that owing to the lack of space, the train is still kept in crates. It’s not known what state of deterioration the train is in.
What a shame, as this train is such an invaluable historical relic.
Commemorating the first railway service in Thailand
On 11 March 1893, the Paknam line started its service between Hua Lampong station in Bangkok and Paknam in Samut Prakarn near the Chao Phraya estuary.
This service, run by a Belgian-Danish joint venture, provided a vital link between Bangkok and the ships at Paknam.
King Rama V who was responsible for establishing the railway services in Thailand took the first train to Paknam. This stone engraving commemorates that historic occasion.
Incredibly, this stone was discarded in the rubbish dump behind Hua Lampong station. Khun Chulsiri recovered it and preserved it in the museum.
Golden teak carriages
These two rail carriages made from golden teak were in service in the reign of King Rama V. One was used as an ambulance.
From 1950 – 1965 this steam engine, made by Kyosan Kogyo of Japan, was in service between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat).
Steam engines were soon replaced by diesel engines.
Thailand’s first tram-car
In the late 1800s, several Danish nationals served in the Thailand in both civilian and military capacities. One of them, a civil engineer Svend Aage Westenholz, came to Bangkok in 1885 and started a horse tram service.
Westenholz started an electric tramway service for the city in 1894. This is one of the first tram-cars in Bangkok preserved in the Railway Hall of Fame.
The tram-cars were in service until 1968! Here’s a photo of an old tram-car along Charoen Krung Road, courtesy of the Bangrak Museum.
On a stretch of Charoen Krung Road near Yaowaraj Chinatown the old tram tracks are still visible. I took this photo in January 2009.
For more on the Danish legacy in Bangkok, please see the August 08 issue of the Bangkok Travelbug.
Model train and railway
What railway museum would be complete without a model train running round a landscaped circuit? There’s one in the Railway Hall of Fame.
Status of the Thailand Railway Hall of Fame in October 2009
On 20 October 2009, the Bangkok Post reported that the State Railway of Thailand would be reclaiming the land on which the railway museum is located. The museum faces an uncertain future, as there are no alternative locations.
However, there was a reprieve on 24 October 2009. The National News Bureau of Thailand announced that the State Railway of Thailand would take over the management of the railway museum.
However in my conversation with Khun Chulsiri this arrangement isn’t confirmed. So the future of the railway museum still hangs in the balance.
A national railway museum?
Owing to the size of the exhibits, the museum is already at full capacity. There’s no more space for older equipment as they get decommissioned. These will most probably end up in the scrap yard.
It’s such a pity that this railway museum which preserves a historical landmark in public transport in Thailand should be languishing as a private museum struggling for its existence.
The Thailand Railway Hall of Fame should rightfully take its place as a national railway museum similar to museums in other countries where trains are a primary form of public transport.
Map to the Thailand Railway Hall of Fame
How to get there
To get there, take a skytrain to the Mor Chit station or the subway to the Chatuchak station. Both these stations are just next to the Chatuchak Park.
Cut across the park to get to Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road, turn right and keep on walking till you get to the railway museum on your right. The museum is near the car park at gate 2 of Chatuchak Park.
The Thailand Railway Hall of Fame is open on
Tuesdays – Fridays from 6:00 am – 12:00 noon
Saturdays and Sundays from 6:00 am – 2:00 pm
It’s closed on Mondays
Admission is free. You are welcome to make a donation.
This information is correct as at 7 November 2009.
Contact telephone: +66 81615 5776
Update 6 July 2011 - opening times
The museum will only be opened at weekends from 7:00 am - 2:00 pm. This is correct as at 6 July 2011. My thanks to Roger Pak, one of our readers, for the information. Please give a call before you go.
Latest update 19 June 2013 - museum closure
I spoke to Khun Chulsiri this afternoon and it is with sadness that I have to report that the Thailand Railway Hall of Fame has closed. I apologize to readers for not keeping track of this.
The railway museum was closed last year and reopened for the last time on 23 October 2012 on King Chulalongkorn Day to commemorate the death of the king who was the father of Thai railway.
According to Khun Chulsiri, another private railway museum has opened in Pak Chong, Korat, about 250 km from Bangkok.
The two black and white photos in the "History of Thai railway" section were taken from a photo exhibition at Hua Lampong station to mark 112 years of the State Railway of Thailand in September 2009.
All the photos of the Thailand Railway Hall of Fame are with the courtesy of Khun Chulsiri Viryasiri.
I wish to express my appreciation to Khun Chulsiri for kindly taking time to brief me on the exhibits.
His dedication to a cause, despite the lack of official support, is admirable.
To return to Bangkok Museums