Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

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History of the Burma -Thailand railway

A railway to Burma

In December 1941 the Pacific War began with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, and the invasion of Malaya. By mid-1942 Japanese forces were fighting the British in Burma, their ultimate aim being an offensive against India. To maintain their armies in Burma the Japanese needed a more secure supply route than the vulnerable sea-lanes between Singapore and Rangoon. They decided to construct a railway, 415 km long, through the jungle and mountain from Ban Pong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat in Burma.

 

Konyu Cutting Hellfire Pass

Konyu Cutting Hellfire Pass

Building the railway

To build the railway the Japanese assembled a multinational workforce of approximately 250,000 Asian labourers and over 60,000 Australian, British, Dutch and American Prisoners of War (POWs). Work on the line began in southern Burma in October 1942 while at the same time construction also started in Thailand. On 16 October 1943, the two ends of the Burma-Thailand railway were joined at Konikoita in Thailand.

Of the 60,000 Allied POWs who worked on the railway, 12,399 (20%) died. Between 70,000 and 90,000 civilian labourers are also believed to have died. The reasons for this appalling death toll were lack of proper food, totally inadequate medical facilities and, at times, the brutal treatment from guards and railway supervisors.

 

Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum

The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum is dedicated to those Australians and other Allied Prisoners of War and Asian labourers who suffered and died at Hellfire Pass and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region during WW2.

 

Hellfire Pass Peace Vessel

A symbol of peace at the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum

Hellfire Pass is located 250 metres from the entrance to the Museum and is accessed by either the “Concrete Stairway Path” or the “Bamboo Path”. The latter is the recommended path to Hellfire Pass. It not only gives the visitor the opportunity to walk into the cutting the same way that the POWs went to work, but visitors also walk through a grove of large bamboo and look down from the lookouts above the entrance to the cutting. This view provides the most memorable views of Hellfire Pass and an understanding how it derived its name and the sacrifice made by the men who made it.

 

Walking trail

The walking trail follows the alignment of the original Burma-Thailand railway from Hellfire Pass to beyond Compressor Cutting. Small shelters and interpretative panels have been provided at various locations and toilets are available at the Hintok Road stop.

If you would like to explore the railway track, there is a 4km walking trail. The trail begins at the Hellfire Pass Cutting and leads to Hammer & Tap Cutting, Hintok Cutting and Compressor Cutting. It takes about five hours to complete the round trip. Make sure you have comfortable shoes, drinking water and enough time to get back before dark.  Note that trains and buses back Kanchanaburi cease about 4pm.

 

Hellfire Pass walking trail map

Hellfire Pass walking trail map

 

Getting to the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum

The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum is located approximately 80 km north-west of Kanchanaburi on Highway 323.

Ride the Death Railway – There are no longer any trains running on this stretch of the line. The nearest railway station is at Nam Tok, where a Thai State Railway train can be taken for a trip over the famous Whampo Viaduct and across the Bridge over the River Kwai to Kanchanaburi, which is the nearest major town and tourist base.

Train schedule & prices

  • Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok:  5:57am, 10:50am and 4:19pm
  • Nam Tok to Kanchanaburi:  5.20am, 12.55pm and 3.15pm
  • Fare is 100 baht each way

Bus Service – A daily bus service (8203) from Kanchanaburi to Thong Pha Phum passes the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum.  Buses depart every 30 minutes with the last bus back at 4:00pm.

 

Visitor information

  • Opening time: Daily 9am–4pm
  • Price: Donation
  • Address: Highway 323, just north of kilometre-stone 64; 18km north of Nam Tok
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Updated: September 9, 2011 by admin

Comments

  1. I’ve been here two years ago and the railway to Burma is one of the most historical passageways to date.

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