A visit to Kanchanaburi (กาญจนบุรี) on the infamous Burma-Siam 'death railway', The Bridge Over The River Kwae is a must. Located outside Bangkok, the Bridge is 5km beyond Kanchanaburi, and has its own station at the southern end of the bridge, surrounded by cafes, shops and small museums. You can walk over the Bridge (trains permitting) or cross it by train when traveling between Kanchanaburi & Nam Tok.

The Bridge over the River Kwae was built during the Great Pacific War when Japan declared war on the United States of America and England, later became a part of World War II. On 16 September 1942, the Japanese army signed the contract with the Thai government to build this strategic railway from Thailand to Burma (now Myanmar). The railway started from Nongpladuk station about 5 kilometers from Banpong railway station, and it crossed the River Kwae Yai at Ban Thamakham in Muang district of Kanchanaburi province. The railway was laid northward passing through Kanchanaburi for about 4 km along the River Kwae Yai, and at the bridge it made a sharp curve going along with the River Kwae noi passing through the Thai-Burmese border at Three Pagodas Pass connecting the Burmese railway at Thanbyuzayat station. The total length of the railway was 415 km. The prisoners of war taken from Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries in the Pacific region were forced to build the railway. They were put on the train in the south and got off at Banpong station. They had to walk for 51 km to get to Kanchanaburi. The prisoners of war comprised British, Australian, Dutch soldiers as well as Malay, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Burmese, Javanese labourers totalling nearly two hundred thousand. The railway construction was very laborious and difficult as it had to go through thick jungles and high mountains, and dangerous animals were everywhere. The most difficult part was that they had to build the bridge over the River Kwae. The arduous task continued all days all nights amidst hunger and dangerous disease like malaria. The brutality of the war took over 100,000 lives of prisoners of war and labourers. Hence, the railway was called, "The Death Railway."

The Japanese army chose to build the bridge at Thamakham because the soil structure was solid and suitable. To speed up the work, the Japanese army built a temporary wooden bridge about 100 metres from the present one to transport construction materials. The present iron bridge spans were brought from Indonesia. The 300 metre bridge consisted of 11 iron spans and the other parts were made of wood. The total construction time was only 6 months, and the total distance was 415 km. The official opening date for the railway was 28 November 1943. The wooden bridge was later dismantled as it blocked the water way. During the war, the Bridge over the River Kwae was heavily bombarded by the allied planes. The spans 4-6 were damaged and unable to operate. Finally, Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945. After the war was over, the British government sold the railway and all railway-related materials to the Thai government at the price of 50 million baht. Later, the State Railway of Thailand repaired the bridge and replaced it with two iron spans and the 6 wooden parts were replaced by iron spans as well. The bridge has been in use up to the present time.


LocationThe Bridge Over The River Kwae
Located some 3 km north of Kanchanaburi
(down New Zealand Rd off Saeng Chuto)

We book a private tour, which took us to and fro including some other site seeing locations and it cost about THB3,000 for a car load.

Information correct as of February 2011.