to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

8d. Khao Poon cuttings

The first 50-60 kilometers in either direction of the TBR were built rather easily and quickly over flat, open terrain. Just west of the POW camp at Chung Kai, the engineers met their first real obstacle. At Khao Poon there were two limestone outcroppings blocking the path. British POWs, mainly officers, were trekked daily from Chung Kai to chip and chop their way through that stone. The approach to the first cutting also required a berm about 100 meters long and 10m high. They also built a few small bridge spans adjacent to the cuttings.

first cutting looking west
second cutting looking west
berm approaching first cutting

British POW John Coast recounts one of the few instances where the IJA Railway Engineer (Lt Teramuto) interacted directly with the prisoners inflicting beatings on them regularly.

likely Lt Teramuto and staff near first cutting looking east

Once past Khao Poon, the railway ran more or less parallel to the Kwae Noi River until it reached the next major obstacle at Wang Po.

bridge just west of second cutting

An Alternate Route:

I believe that it is generally accepted that the first 50+ Kms of the TR were built by Thai workers and that Allied POW involvement began at the ChungKai camp area. The major task of that largely British group was to hack through the two limestone barriers at Khao Poon. But I must ask if there may not have been an alternate route. In this modern day screenshot from GOOGLE EARTH, we can see that there is a road bridge across Mae Klong in the area of PakPraek. One reason IJA Engineer Futamatsu gives for routing the rails to Thamarkam before crossing the river was the perceived instability of the river bed in the immediate area of the Walled City of Kanchanaburi. But might they have crossed to the south bank at Pak Praek? As one can see on this screenshot, there is quite a large mountain immediately to the south of Rte #3429, but there is more than enough room to have laid rails along the south river bank. That mountain could also likely have provided trees for ties and stone for ballast. After looping over the top of that mountain, they then could have proceeded west — avoiding the Khoa Poon cuttings and crossed to the other side of the Kwai Noi at almost any point. With only one crossing of the Kwai Noi, they could have rejoined the TBR near Nong Ya after a journey of about 9.5 Kms (yellow line).

In all, this alternate route would have shortened the overall length of the TBR by over 10 Kms and seemingly simplified the construction by avoiding the Khao Poon cuttings. Of course, it would also have eliminated the bridge at Thamarkam and shifted it about 10 Km to the south.

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