Hua Lamphong turns 100 on Saturday

Hua Lamphong station will celebrate its 100th anniversary this Saturday. One of the country's busiest and best-known landmarks, it will soon be turned into a museum.

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Happy 100th birthday Hua Lamphong

PATTRAMON SUKPRASERT

Hua Lamphong station will celebrate its 100th anniversary this Saturday with various activities from 9am-6pm. Apart from showcasing State Railway of Thailand (SRT's) work over the past 100 years, the highlights include traditional Thai ensemble shows as well as a display of different types of train bogies.

The architecture of Hua Lamphong is clearly influenced by European train stations. The structure is divided into two main parts: the front building and the station hall. The first part was designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno, who worked for the Siamese government. The station hall, which had been finished earlier, is steel-structured with an arched roof, with the two ends decorated with stained-glass windows.

Over the years, the station has been constantly renovated – including a big repair after a shocking accident when a driverless locomotive rammed into the hall in 1986. Today, the waiting lounge is air-conditioned. The building has also been repainted to match the original colours.

In 1986, this train, left unattended by mechanics, hurtled driverless into Hua Lamphong Railway Station. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Thai trains, and the single track, have not seen much modernisation over the past century. Hua Lamphong saw fewer passengers in the decades when cars and buses offered more convenient long-distance transport – then came the boom of low-cost airlines. But then, train rides are cheap. In 2008, the government's free train policy (third-class only) helped boost the popularity of this mode of transportation, despite other drawbacks such as tardiness and unreliability. That year alone, the number of passengers in Hua Lamphong increased by over 350,000 from the previous year.

For the past 100 years, rural people have arrived at and departed from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong station. JIRAPORN KUHAKAN

As the city's main entry point, Hua Lamphong welcomes all kinds of travellers, and the area around the station has developed a unique charm. There are rundown buildings, dubious joints and cheap hotels, but also stylish stops aimed at foreigners and younger commuters.

As night falls, mysterious som tum and ya dong (herbal liquor) hawkers start to occupy the space in front of Hua Lamphong, MRT and the soi behind the station. Food and drinks are not the only selling points, since the female vendors and male customers can sometimes negotiate other services. This has gone on for at least a few decades. Once in a while, business disappears from the scene when the authorities actually carry out their duty.

The waiting area is a place for outgoing travellers to rest, but it is also a home to many homeless people. PAWAT LAOPAISARNTAKSIN

Hua Lamphong is a place of transit, but for many it's also a place to stay.

This century-old station has become a hub for the homeless. The area around Hua Lamphong may give off an unpleasant aura to those who pass through it, but for those who have no place to live, the station is where they feel safe.

At last year's celebration of Hua Lamphong's 99th anniversary, SRT governor Wutthichart Kalayanamitr announced that in 2019 the main Bangkok station will move to Bang Sue.

Hua Lamphong will only operate some short routes and will be transformed into a museum.

SRT's deputy governor Thanongsak Pongprasert updates us on this issue.

"Bang Sue is now under construction but it will probably be ready by the end of 2020. There are three contracts involved in this project, and the process might take some time," explained Thanongsak.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Online Editor of Learning & Education