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Death Railway

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Made famous by the film "'the bridge over the River Kwai ", the Death Railway (offically known as the Bruma Railway) and often called the Thailand-Burma Railway, is a 258 mile railway between Bangkok in Thailand and Rangoon in Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar) The railway was built by Japan during World War II, to support its forces in the Burma campaign.

The section of the railway that was made famous by the film is known as Bridge 277. The bridge does not actually cross the River Kwai but a river called Mae Klong when the railway was being built. That section of river was later renamed to Khwae Yai. The reference to the River Kai comes from the valley in which the railway runs (Khwae Noi). There was also two bridges built, the first made with wood and shortly after, the second out of concrete.

Burma was invaded by the Japanese in 1942 and took control of the country from the British. Following the invasion, the only supply route available to the Japanese was by sea. Another route was required and the Japanese elected for a Railway connecting Ban Pong in Thailand with Thanbyuzayat in Burma. This would mean the railway would have to pass through the Three Pagodas Pass. In June of 1942 work commenced on the railway at either end and the 2 sections finally met up near to the Three Pagodas Pass on the 17th October 1943. After repeated bombings by the Allies, the railway became usuable in June 1945 and remained out of use until after the end of WW2.

Forced labour was used in its construction. About 180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Of these, around 90,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. The dead POWs included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans and a smaller number of Canadians.

The railway still operates along the 130-km Ban Pong–Namtok section by the Thai State Railway.

Visiting the Death Railway
Visitors have a number of options as to how to get to the Death Railway. The most common is to take one of the tours available from any tour agent in Thailand. The tours often include a visit to the Tiger Temple and Elephant trekking. Another option is to do the route by Train.
A selection of tour websites are given here.

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