Chatuchak Park Rail Museum Closes

Iconic locomotive trains from a golden era have graced Thailand's Chatuchak Park for more than two decades. Splendid steam locomotives stood side by side with carriages that preserved a railway historian dreams going back to 1875. The Hall of Fame has stood proudly upon the northern section of the Chatuchak Park. The building is actually a massive old aircraft hangar that was restored to become home to some of Thailand's old and historic locomotives. Chatuchak Museum The land itself is owned by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) and the museum has been managed since 1990 by a Mr. Viryasir, now his son has taken over and managed the museum since 2004. The Railway Hall of Fame has never charged anyone to enter and look around its historic locomotives and carriages and any money raised has been made entirely from donations contributed by visitors or from local businessmen. There have been a number of fund raising events that have taken place to help raise funds for the museum. Some of the relics on display are of great historical value. The artefacts on show at the museum have graced Thailand's railway history right back to the day when rail travel revolutionized the way people would travel around the country. When the railway was introduced people would travel beyond the big cities of Bangkok and Pattaya for the first time in their lives. In happened in a time when Bangkok's roads were very much in a state or development and any quick link from city to city was fraught with hazards and poor road networks. Railways History Thailand It was in 1868 when the rail network began in Thailand. The reign of King Rama V ensured that Thailand would become a nation where rail travel was to become a revolutionary way to get around the country. It took several years for the rail network to construct and the first train service did not actually run until 1893. The rail link joined Bangkok to the outer district of Samut Prakarn. The Railway Hall of Fame has now fallen off the rails and has been forced to close down for good on Tuesday October 23, a sad day for railway enthusiasts everywhere. There is much concern and despair, not only among the railway buffs, but for transport historians who are desperate to know just who is going to keep the multitude of carriages and locomotive iron horses. The historic transport items will have to be moved at great cost to a new home but concern is growing as to where this new place is going to be. It was either by coincidence or design, that on the day the Railway Hall of Fame closed, it also happened to be the anniversary of King Rama V's death. The King may well have shifted uncomfortably in his grave, but not as actively as Sanpasiri Viriyasiri, the original founder and owner of the museum who died recently in September. Sanpasiri's son who has been managing the museum since 2004 spoke of his father's adoration of trains, locomotives, steam engines and anything connected to the railway since a very early age. The museum featured everything to do with the rail network in Thailand, right down to the old style benches that once adorned the platforms, several different classic coaches and steam engines. There is even a connection of Mr. Viriyasiri's heritage to the great King Rama V; Viriyasiri's grandfather was one of the king's aides and may have helped advice the king on how to best move forward with the rail legacy in Thailand. However, Mr. Viriyasiri did not want the museum called a "museum," he felt that the word consigned all the historic train stock and artefacts to a kind of historic tomb and therefore bestowed the name, Hall of Fame to the collection instead. Not only did Viriyasiri not like the museum tag, he was legally not allowed to use it. Thai law indicates that only agencies run by the state of Thailand are allowed to use the term. The Hall of Fame did not collect any money from visitors to the hangar and was only open at weekends. The management team at the Hall of Fame said that during the time of the museum's opening there had never been any maintenance or upgrades used on the historic locomotives on show. They stressed the trains on display were exactly as were used during the times when they were running during Thailand's heyday for train travel. The national treasures are now going to be placed in the hands of the State Railway of Thailand and Viriyasiri's is hoping that they will take care of them although he is said to be concerned. His biggest fear is the fate of two trains used for medical purposes that are made from golden teakwood; the carriages and engines were designed and engineered by Thai nationals.