<< Previous Next >>

The Death Railway

The Death Railway
Photo Information
Copyright: William Swan (billyboy51) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 19 W: 0 N: 34] (238)
Genre: Places
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2009-06-19
Categories: Architecture
Camera: Canon EOS400D
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2009-06-24 17:54
Viewed: 1608
Points: 12
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
In 1942, Japanese forces invaded Burma from Thailand and seized it from British control. To maintain their forces in Burma, the Japanese had to bring supplies and troops to Burma by sea, through the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea. This route was vulnerable to attack by Allied submarines, and a different means of transport was needed. The obvious alternative was a railway. The Japanese started the project in June 1942.

They intended to connect Ban Pong with Thanbyuzayat, through the Three Pagodas Pass. Construction started at the Thai end on 22 June 1942 and in Burma at roughly the same time. Most of the construction materials for the line, including tracks and sleepers, were brought from dismantled branches of the Federated Malay States Railway network and from the Netherlands East Indies.

On 17 October 1943, the two sections of the line met about 18 km south of the Three Pagodas Pass at Konkuita (Kaeng Khoi Tha), Sangkhla Buri district, Kanchanaburi Province). Most of the POWs were then transferred to Japan. Those left to maintain the line still suffered from the appalling living conditions as well as Allied air raids.

The most famous portion of the railway is probably Bridge 277 over the Khwae Yai River.The river was originally known as the Mae Klong and was renamed Khwae Yai in 1960. On 2 April 1945, AZON bomber crews from the U.S. 458th Heavy Bombardment Group destroyed Bridge 277. After the war, two squarish central sections were made in Japan to repair the bridge, and were donated to Thailand.

After the war the railway was in too poor a state to be used for the civil Thai railway system, and needed heavy reconstruction.

Since the 1990s there have been plans to rebuild the complete railway, but these plans have not yet come to fruition.

The living and working conditions on the railway were horrific. The estimated total number of civilian labourers and POWs who died during construction is about 160,000. About 25% of the POW workers died because of overwork, malnutrition, and diseases like cholera, malaria, and dysentery. The death rate of the Asian civilian workers was even higher; the number who died is over 150,000 people. The Railway line was 415kms in length and approx 200,000 workers civilian and servicemen were made to build it by the Japanese - they say that for ever sleeper laid represents the death of someone put to work building it.

The graves of the people who died a brutal death were transferred from camp burial grounds and solitary sites along the railway to three war cemeteries after the war, except for Americans, who were repatriated. The main POW cemetery is in the city of Kanchanaburi, where 6,982 POWs are buried, mostly British, Australian, Dutch and Canadians. A smaller cemetery a bit farther outside city is Chung Kai with 1,750 graves. At Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar there are 3,617 burials of POWs {3,149 Commonwealth and 621 Dutch} who died on the northern part of the line, to Nieke. The three cemeteries are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Of 902 US POws from the 131st Field Artillery Regiment and survivors of the USS Houston were sent to work on the Railway of whom 133 died.

Brocklee has marked this note useful
Only registered TrekLens members may rate photo notes.
Add Critique [Critiquing Guidelines] 
Only registered TrekLens members may write critiques.
You must be logged in to start a discussion.

Critiques [Translate]

great pov and detail! i like the descriptive photographer notes as well! nice work on all counts!

  • Great 
  • jackal Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 790 W: 26 N: 808] (9654)
  • [2009-06-24 20:03]

Hi William,
the PoV is spot-on and great detail in the bridge structure

HI William..I agree...great point of view and perspective..nice work,


  • Great 
  • AndroK Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor [C: 2110 W: 41 N: 0] (15189)
  • [2009-06-25 0:01]

Hi William...
Beautiful shot with great details...
Beautiful perspective...

  • Great 
  • rychem Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 736 W: 13 N: 634] (21244)
  • [2009-06-25 0:17]

very interesting bridge construction, excellent perspective, I like the depth and sharp details

  • Great 
  • Mitch Gold Star Critiquer [C: 240 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2009-07-14 15:02]

I love this one Bill,

It takes me straight to the film "Bridge over the River Kwai"

The lone walker way off in the distance adds a real sense of scale and perspective.
Nice crisp details and colours too with no hint of over sharpening or saturation.
Good mellow tones throughout the shot.

Well done


Calibration Check