Visiting Thailand’s Death Railway and Hellfire Pass, built during World War II

Hellfire Pass
Hellfire Pass
The end of the Thailand-Burma Railway — Nam Tok rail station at Sai Yok Noi

Historical sites along the Thailand-Burma Railway line

In this article I’ll look at the most popular places to visit along Death Railway, and one that is not so popular.

Tham Krasae rail bridge — part of the Death Railway
River Kwai Bridge at Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi tropical weather and insects

The Kanchanaburi mountain region has a tropical weather environment. This means that it‘s a hot and sweaty place — and you should apply insect repellent — particularly near the jungle environment at Hellfire Pass. We found that the hottest part of the day was between 12:30pm and 4pm — and many locals were smarter than us, and stayed out of the sun during that part of the day.

Getting to Kanchanaburi by train

We caught the weekend excursion train, Excursion Train 909, to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok Railway Station, unofficially known as Hua Lamphong station.

Bangkok Railway Station
Bangkok Railway Station
The River Kwai Bridge rail station at Kanchanaburi
The end of the Death Railway line at Sai Yok District

Things to see when you’re in Kanchanaburi

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

There are two World War II grave sites in Kanchanaburi — both are operated by Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

The Chungkai War Cemetery

The other grave site operated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Kanchanaburi is the Chungkai War Cemetery. During the war, men who died at the hospital next door were buried at this cemetery and the War Graves Relocation Party decided that the facility was so well looked that the graves did not need to be moved to the newly created war cemetery that was being created closer to the town.

Chungkai War Cemetery
Chungkai War Cemetery
Chungkai War Cemetery

The Death Railway Museum and Research Centre

The Death Railway Museum and Research Centre was founded by Queensland man Rod Beattie in 2003 and is the best museum for credible information about the construction of the Thailand-Burma Railway line.

Death Railway Museum and Research Centre
Death Railway Museum and Research Centre
Death Railway Museum and Research Centre
Death Railway Museum and Research Centre, Kanchanaburi

The JEATH War Museum

The JEATH War Museum is located not far from River Kwai Bridge. This museum appears to have been created by locals from Kanchanaburi, with some help from the Japanese.

JEATH War Museum
JEATH War Museum
JEATH War Museum
JEATH War Museum
JEATH War Museum
JEATH War Museum
The remaining part of the River Kwai foot bridge at the JEATH War Museum

Steam trains near River Kwai Bridge’s train station

Two World War II steam trains and a Japanese ‘truck train’ that were used on the Thailand-Burma Railway line can be found about 300 metres south of the River Kwai Bridge.

Rail engines at Kanchanaburi

World War II places to visit in Kanchanaburi Province

76 kilometres northwest of the the city of Kanchanaburi is a section of the Thailand-Burma Railway line called the ‘Hellfire Pass.’

Hellfire Pass at Kanchanaburi
Map showing the location of Hellfire Pass, Kanchanaburi
The rail cutting at Hellfire Pass, Kanchanaburi
A video walk through of Hellfire Pass

Things to know about Hellfire Pass

Hellfire Pass is only accessible via the highway that travels northwest from the town of Kanchanaburi. We chose to hire a local driver to take us to Hellfire Pass. He only charged us $US45 for the day — and even waited for 7 hours while we walked along the track west of Hellfire Pass. (If you wish to book the driver, his name is Poi and his phone is: +66 89 913 3477. If he can’t help you, he’ll organise for someone to drive you around. He told my wife that he also picks up travellers in Bangkok and drives them out to Kanchanaburi).

The rail corridor along the Death Railway
A photo of prison of war Bill Haskell visiting Hellfire Pass in 2007 is at the interpretive centre. Credit: Dale Neill 11th Nov 2007
Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre
Viewing platform at the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre
Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre
The rail corridor at Hellfire Pass
The rail corridor at Hellfire Pass
The rail corridor at Hellfire Pass
Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop’s plaque at Hellfire Pass
Slightly north of Hellfire Pass
The memorial site at Hellfire Pass
The Broken Compressor Drill at Hellfire Pass
Hellfire Pass
Khwae Noi Valley Lookout
The Hellfire Pass Memorial Walking Trail
The Hellfire Pass Memorial Walking Trail
The Hellfire Pass Memorial Walking Trail

Photos of the Hellfire Pass Memorial Walking Trail

Khwae Noi Valley Lookout — Located on the former Thailand — Burma rail corridor
Hammer and Tap Cutting — Located on the former Thailand — Burma rail corridor
7 metre embankment — Located on the former Thailand — Burma rail corridor
Rail Bed — Located on the former Thailand — Burma rail corridor
Three Tier Bridge — Located on the former Thailand — Burma rail corridor
Hintok Cutting — Located on the former Thailand — Burma rail corridor
Hintok Cutting — Located on the former Thailand — Burma rail corridor
Hintok Road — the end of the Memorial Walk from Hellfire Pass
North of Hintok Road — the overgrown rail corridor
The Hellfire Pass Memorial Walking Trail
Market food stalls at Hellfire Pass

Hintok River Camp

Inside the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre I saw a reference to a prison of war camp at Hintok.

Small museum at Hintok River Camp
Small museum at Hintok River Camp
Hintok River Camp in 2022

Visiting world famous Tham Krasae rail bridge

While you’re in this area of the Thailand-Burma Railway line, stop by the icon Tham Krasae rail bridge.

Tham Krasae rail bridge
Tham Krasae rail bridge
The location of Tham Krasae Railway Bridge

Food and accommodation recommendation

On the drive back to Kanchanaburi, we stumbled upon the region’s best restaurant and cafe. It’s located about 10 minutes outside of Kanchanaburi. Keeree Mantra has excellent views, is modern and the rear cafe overlooks a well-lit farm. They serve excellent Thai and western meals.

Keeree Mantra, an amazing restaurant and cafe, at Kanchanaburi
River Kwai Bridge at Kanchanaburi
The River Kwai Bridge rail station at Kanchanaburi
The River Kwai Bridge rail station at Kanchanaburi
Travelling south on the ‘ordinary train’ on Thailand’s Death Railway
The southern end of the Thailand-Burma Railway line — Nong Pladuk railway station. Nong Pladuck Junction is where World War II prisoners of war and forced Asian labourers began building the Thailand-Burma Railway line. A foundation stone at the railway station reads: ‘Thai-Burma Railway Starting Station. Construction began at Nong Pladuk Station here September 1942.’ Trains from this railway station travel to Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi where they cross the ‘River Kwai Bridge.’
Travelling along Thailand’s Death Railway

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