When Hua Lamphong was the station for the privately run Paknam line, the railway workshops were mainly located close by, just across the canal. However, when work began on the current Bangkok Railway Station in 1910 all these workshops had to be relocated to Makkasan, which had been open as both a station and a smaller depot since 1897. This isn’t the location of the MRT stop with the same name, but a location 5 km northeast of the city centre. You actually pass right by the short platform on the line from Bangkok to Pattaya. (Small piece of rock trivia – Richard Barrow points out that the line close to here was where the front cover of The Clash album ‘Combat Rock’ was shot on their 1982 Far East tour).
Much of the Makkasan depot was bombed during the second world war, but a few buildings survive, and today it is the home of much of Bangkok and Thailand’s railway heritage. Some good news and some bad news here. The bad news is the the depot is not open to the public most of the time. The good news is that it sometimes opens for special holidays, and its also possible to get an invite if you visit the museum at Hua Lamphong station and buy the book about its history. A sort of pre emptive history test to ensure that you know all about Makkasan before you arrive!
As we were there at the weekend, most of the operational workshops were closed, but we were still able to see the preserved locomotives, some of the original buildings, and most fun of all to me, a graveyard of trains from the Royal Railway of Siam through to the present day. There is also an impressive silver shrine in the grounds of the depot that stands amongst amazing tall trees.
Richard and I could have spent an entire day here, but as we expanded our search for more stuff, the heavens opened and we had to retreat under cover, where we sat next to the locomotives eating lychees and chatting about railway issues and news until the storm passed over.
If you have an interest in Thai railway history this place would certainly be your Holy Grail!
My private tour was made possible by Richard Barrow and Dr Siriphong from the museum at Hua Lamphong. I’m very grateful to both of them.