to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

11.Operational railway

Once the rails from the two directions met at Konkoita in Thailand in OCT 43, trains began pushing supplies and troops into the Burma Theater.

Unfortunately for the Japanese forces fighting desperately in Burma, the TBR never lived up to expectations. Futamatsu provides a description of the operations of the TBR from OCT 43 to JUN 45. He laments that the initial plan to deliver 3000 tons/day to the Burma Front were never met. At best, they could seemingly only manage 1000 tons/day and with the intermittent bombing that began in earnest in 1944 the eventual rate was down to about 200 tons/day. By comparison, the translator adds that per the report of Gen. Slim in Burma, the supplies the Indian-British troops there flowed in at 600 then 2800 and finally 4400 tons/day by rail via India.

In his post-war assessment, Charles Fisher rode a train the length of the TBR. He notes with disappointment that “never once at an average overall speed of more than about eight miles per hour.” [Pg96]

His overall assessment was that without a major upgrade, the TBR would never be a successful rail line in its own right.

Two anecdotes seem to be oft repeated if not independently verifiable. The first is that the initial train to run the course of the TBR from Ban Pong to Thanbyuzayat carried comfort women to the Burmese front. Second is that at least at Kanchanaburi and likely at Ban Pong, the two railway HQ points, and at the camp near the Hindat hot springs, there were ‘comfort stations’. Interestingly enough, Futamatsu mentions a ‘field hospital recuperative center’ at Hindat, but fails to include any mention of the ‘comfort station’.

The use of the TBR came to an abrupt halt on 24 JUN 45 when an RAF raid dropped the two center spans of the iron bridge and damaged the wooden structure as well.

The TBR had lived just over 600 days (17 OCT 43 – 24 JUN 45). It had taken 13-16 months to build (depending on what date one uses as the start date and had a life span of 20 months.

https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/burma-thailand-railway-and-hellfire-pass-1942-1943/events/building-hellfire-pass/burma-thailand-railway-operation

https://pows.jiaponline.org/search/label/Thai-Burma%20Death%20Railway

Locomotive C56-31 has its own side-story to the TBR saga as well as its own FB and WIKI pages: https://www.facebook.com/c5631locomotive/timeline

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C56_31

Nippon Sharyo manufactured in 1936. It was shipped to Thailand in 1942. It was one of 90 Japanese steam locomotives sent south to regions occupied by Japan. It was used in the opening ceremony for the Thai-Burma railway and was the first locomotive to officially run on the railway.

After the war it was used by the State Railway of Thailand and was due to be retired in 1977 when plans were made to return it to Japan by an association of Southern Army Field Railway Corps officials. In 1979, it was returned to Japan. Apparently, in Shizuoka at the Oigawa Railway, you can ride a sister engine, C-5633, manufactured by Mitsubishi also in 1936. 

It has been displayed at the Yūshūkan museum at Yasukuni Shrine since 1979, where there is a volunteer group dedicated to preserving it. The fact that it is displayed without references to the atrocities carried on the Thai-Burma railway has attracted criticism, particularly from people from Australia and the US.

It should be noted that Nippon Sharyo, the company that manufactured Engine C5631, still exists and is active in the U.S. During the war, Nippon Sharyo utilized American POW slave labor at two sites. The company was able to maintain production during the war due to POW slave labor: Nagoya POW Camp #2-B, Narumi; which remains an important manufacturing center for the company. Since 1896, Nippon Sharyo has been Japan’s leading railway rolling stock manufacturer. Today, in the United States, it supplies passenger cars to many US rail road companies. In 2008, the bankrupt Nippon Sharyo was acquired by JR Central to ensure the historic company’s survival.

OTHER C56-class rolling stock https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JNR_Class_C56

A number of Class C56 locomotives are preserved in Japan and other Asian countries.[2] C56 160 is maintained in operating condition by JR West for use on main line steam specials.[1]

SRT Locomotives # 714 & 744

Somewhat less renowed, SRT steam locomotive number 714 built in Japan, is now on display at Hua Lampong Station,Bangkok. It, too, ran on the TBR.

From https://railasia.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/thailand-from-the-train-23/ :

This steam engine in all her splendour and decay is a survivor together with nine others constructed by different locomotive makers between 1935-1936 for the JNR – Japanese National Railways as type 2-6-0 class C56. Building the notorious Thailand – Burma Railway the Japanese brought a number of these engines with them. After the defeat they were sold include a remained part of the Burma line to the SRT, incorporated and given the numbers: 701-746.

Many years after the happily ran on the SRT network on what was left of the TBR as far as  Nam Tok .

After their life span was finished and the SRT replaced steam by diesel two of them were kept in running condition (Nº 713 and 715) while others find their way as showcase most in or around a station.
744 is an exception. This steamer has its former JNR number stamped on the joints of some motion parts (rods) not all are the same and this could mean there was an exchange of parts from other locomotives. However on the 744 most stamped numbers read C56.53 so one can assume this is the original engine and not a mixed product from several other earlier scrapped engines. Numbers are deceptive especially running numbers, they are easily painted on the body or painted false in a later stadium and thus a puzzle remains for them who want to know the truth. Locomotive identity is a study on its own. The works number by all means is a starting point and if this can be found on any engine the first step is solved, however, still it doesn’t give 100% security.
Imagine you’re the owner of a railway company, proud of your steam engines and want them to run as long as possible, of course you take all the usable parts of the machines really outworn and use them for the other ones meaning there not the same as when they roll out of the factory.
The dept and consequences of numbering is a theme apart and for me in case of the 744 and other engines of this type not that important. What you see is what you get and by the way most visitors of the new resort will have no clue what so ever when they entering the grounds and be greeted by an old steam engine and coach.

Nippon Sharyo

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-C-xZIU_slt0/TjzF5Alg_kI/AAAAAAAAAec/H32dYRYg2DA/s320/Nippon+Sharyo+train.jpg
 All rights reserved by CTBarey

In the entrance hall of the Yushukan, the war museum on the property of the Yasukuni Shrine, locomotive C5631 greets visitors. You examine the black engine as you ride up the escalator to the main museum. The museum’s entrance hall envelopes its guests in a blinding white.

The C5631 was one of the engines used on the Thailand-Burma Death Railway. This particular engine is said to have been one that opened this infamous Railway, which was the subject of the Academy Award wining movie, Bridge on the River Kwai. The movie immortalized the Allied POWs who slaved to build the railway. PBS hosted a documentary in June 2008 that is truer to the facts of the awful history of building the railway.

Over 240,000 British, Dutch, Australian, Canadian, American, New Zealand, Amonen, Indian, and other civilian and military Allied POWs as well Southeast Asian forced laborers such as Burmese, Malaya, Indonesian (Romusha), Thai, and others participated in creating the railroad from the jungle and mountains. Probably 75 percent died in the process from abuse, malnutrition, disease, overwork, and accidents.

More than 600 American POWs slaved to build the Thailand-Burma Death Railway. They were mostly survivors of the USS Houston CA-30, sunk in the Battle of the Sunda Strait in February 1942, and an artillery battalion of the Texas National Guard (2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery) that was taken prisoner on Java after a brief battle in March 1942. Less than half survived the ordeal.

During the war, Nippon Sharyo utilized American POW slave labor at two sites. The largest was at Narumi, which remains an important manufacturing center for the company. Narumi was where Sgt. Sam Moody was tortured (he testified at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal) and one of the POW camps with the greatest number of convicted war criminals. 

Nippon Sharyo manufactured in 1936 the C5631 that now rests at the Yushukan. It was shipped to Thailand in 1942 and is said to have taken part in the opening ceremony of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway. After the war, it was used in Thailand until it was retired in 1977. Japanese veteran groups raised funds to return the locomotive to Japan in 1979, restore it, and place it on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine. Apparently, in Shizuoka at the Oigawa Railway, you can ride a sister engine, C-5633, manufactured by Mitsubishi also in 1936. 

Since 1896, Nippon Sharyo has been Japan’s leading railway rolling stock manufacturer. Today, in the United States, it supplies passenger cars to many US rail road companies. In 2008, the bankrupt Nippon Sharyo was acquired by JR Central to ensure the historic company’s survival.

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The railway from Nong Pladuck to Nam Tok has been renovated and acts primarily to carry tourists on day-trips. Most passengers ride the section from the Bridge to Nam Tok and back as part of their visit to the Bridge area. As Charles Fisher predicted, the route to Burma was never going to be commercially viable. Almost immediately post-war IJA POWs were used to destroy the rails in the Thai highlands beyond Hellfire Pass. It takes an expert eye to locate traces of the railway after 75 years.

There is some commercial activity on the line. About 42 km west of Nong Pladuk there is a rail to truck transfer station for containerized freight. It is reasonably active if far from over used.




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