Thailand’s State Railway has announced seventeen second-hand passenger trains from Japan have been refurbished and will be put into service for tourism routes next month.
The 17 diesel carriages, donated by the Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido), arrived at Chon Buri’s Laem Chabang port on December 13, last year. The shipment cost SRT 42.5 million baht.
On September 6, SRT governor Nirut Maneephan took the media on a training test run consisting of three newly refurbished carriages.
The air-conditioned train left Bangkok’s Makkasan rolling stock maintenance and repair center and arrived at a railway station in the eastern province of Chachoengsao an hour later before returning to Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station.
The carriages, which were originally designed for Japan’s 1.067-metre gauge rail tracks, have been modified to work with Thailand’s one-metre gauge tracks, and their interiors and exteriors have been refurbished. The carriages’ bodies have also been repainted in their original white and lavender colours.
Mr. Nirut stated that the three renovated carriages will be available for day trips beginning next month and that the SRT will solicit public input on preferred tourism routes.
“I will ask the public to vote on tourism routes such as Bangkok to Pasak Jolasid Dam in Lop Buri, Bangkok to Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Bangkok to Nam Tok (Waterfall) station in Kanchanaburi,” Mr. Nirut said.
The interior of the passenger trains preserved
Regarding refurbishment, the SRT has done its best to keep as many of the original characteristics as possible, he said, except for the wheels, which must be converted to fit Thailand’s one-metre-gauge tracks.
“While the Japanese signs in the train’s interior have been preserved to maintain the train’s original feel, English translations have also been added.”
“Inside, there are Japanese-language posters introducing tourist attractions in Thailand,” Mr. Nirut explained.
According to him, train seats are arranged in pairs on each side of the aisle and can be manually rotated to allow passengers to sit face-to-face.
“At first, some questioned the value of the used carriages. “However, as it turns out, they are in good working order and function properly,” Mr. Nirut said.
“The refurbishment was done by technicians and cost about 200,000 baht per carriage, whereas new carriages cost between 80 and 100 million baht,” he explained.
“Even though the SRT had to pay 42.5 million baht for the shipment, the end result of the renovation was well worth all of the costs and efforts,” he said.
Free Passenger trains to last another 15 years
He stated that all 17 passenger train carriages had been used for approximately 35 years and could be used for at least another 15 years after refurbishment.
Adisorn Singhakarn, a senior engineer at the SRT’s maintenance and repair center, said the carriage donation highlighted the SRT’s long-standing friendship with Japanese railway operators.
“Previously, JR West gave Thailand the diesel and air-conditioned carriages.”
“In 1997, they donated 26 carriages.” Another batch of 28 was distributed in 1999, followed by another 40 in 2004 and 32 in 2010.
“All of them were converted into VIP carriages to cater to tourists,” Mr. Adisorn explained.
“However, the most recent batch of carriages have the most distinct characteristics expected of a Japanese train,” he said.
SRT Responds to Criticism
Deputy government spokeswoman Tipanan Sirichana said the government welcomed the carriages’ renovation, which was less expensive than purchasing new ones.
She added that the refurbished train would help promote tourism and revitalize the economy.
“Some criticized the government, dismissing the carriages as scrap metal. However, we believe the government’s decision was correct. Ms. Tipanan praised the high calibre of the technicians involved in the refurbishment.
The SRT’s decision to pay 42.5 million baht for the shipment of the donated carriages sparked debate on social media about their worth.
Some Facebook users questioned why Thailand had to pay such a high price for the used carriages. Many opponents of the plan referred to the carriages as “scrap metal.”
Fans and public members flocked to the stations and along the trail route to photograph the train.
According to the SRT, the remaining 14 carriages are expected to be refurbished by the end of next year.
The Kiha 183 series carriages were manufactured between 1981 and 1982 and decommissioned in 2017.
Before being donated to Thailand, the Kiha 183 series served as limited express trains in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture and coldest region. The carriages were specifically designed to withstand the harsh, snowy winters there.
The Kiha 183 series features a “slant nose” designed to keep snow out of the front of the train while it is moving and an elevated driver’s cab for better visibility during snowfall. The maximum speed of the Kiha 183 series is 110 kilometres per hour.
Eight of the 17 carriages have a seating capacity of 40 passengers each, while the remaining eight have a seating capacity of 68 passengers each. The final one has a seating capacity of 52 people.
Source: Bangkok Post
Keywords: first passenger trains, passenger trains in America, union pacific passenger trains