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State Railway of Thailand

Name of the state-owned rail operator in Thailand, which was founded in 1890 as the Royal State Railways of Siam. The construction of the first route, now part of the Northern Line, was started in 1891 and completed on 23 May 1892, and linked Bangkok with Ayutthaya. On 19 June 1903, the second track was completed, that connected Bangkok with Phetchaburi and which is today part of the Southern Line. Currently the railway network consist of circa 4,000 kilometres of track, which are operated from the capital's Hua Lampong Train Station (fig.), which is the main terminus of most routes, not counting some minor suburban end stations, such as the Thonburi Train Station in Bangkok Noi (fig.), which in 2003 was moved a few block to the West, in order to allow expansion of the Siriraj Hospital, the Wong Wian Yai Train Station, which connects Thonburi with Samut Songkhram over the Mae Khlong-Mahachai Railway, etc. Though the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) serves an estimated 50 million passengers per year and despite large government budgets, it consistently operates at a loss. Most of its equipment is outdated and poorly maintained, and it is publicly known to be rather inefficient. In December 2013, a rail trip with the State Railway of Thailand governor on board, to show off the safety of the reopened northern track, following major repairs after a spate of derailments, became a huge embarrassment when the train carrying the SRT chief derailed in Lamphun. Besides this, trains are in Thailand –as in other parts of Southeast Asia– perceived to be a means of transportation for the poor, hence many people will avoid travelling by rail. On a positive note, Railway of Thailand has a large amount of assets, including real estate and land, some of which has over time been transformed into public parks, such as Chatuchak Park (fig.), of which one part is named Railway Park, while near these parks is the Train Museum (fig.), in Thai known as Thai Ho Kian Phum Rot Fai, also referred to as Train Museum, Thailand Railway Hall of Fame, Hall of Railway Heritage, and Rail Museum Bangkok, while tucked behind the former Thonburi Train Station (fig.), in the former rail yard, is the Thonburi Locomotive House, and on a plot of land near the Makkasan area also some decommissioned locomotives can be found. Unlike the Bangkok Metro (fig.) and the Bangkok Mass Transit System (fig.), the Bangkok Airport Link (fig.), which started service in mid-2010, is also operated by the State Railway of Thailand. Many of the old steam locomotives, such the Mikado 2-8-2 Steam Engine No. 943 (fig.), once used by he State Railway Of Thailand, have been preserved and are on display at locations throughout the country, often at provincial train stations, while some are actually still operative today, such as the Pacific Steam Engines No. 824 (fig.) and No. 850 (fig.), which are used for nostalgic rides and on special occasions (fig.). The network has one 1,352.15 meter long railway tunnel, which is located in Khun Tahn, along the Northern Line that currently connects Bangkok with Chiang Mai (map - fig.). Large parts of Thailand's railway network, especially branch lines, still consist of a single track. In order to avoid collision and enable the safe working of single track railways, trains traveling on them make use of a single track railway token system. Although on many lines the State Railway of Thailand uses electrical token instruments, on some lines it still makes use of a physical token, i.e. an object in the form of a small tablet, ball or key, which the train driver is required to collect, either from the hands of the station master or from a pole along the side of the track (fig.), before being allowed to enter onto a particular section of single track. The token is placed in a pouch attached to a large —often pear-shaped— loop or ring, which allows for the easy and quick handing over of the token to the driver of an arriving or departing train. The token, which clearly bears the name or number of the section it belongs to, thus travels with the train to the other end of the single track and can therefore not be handed over before physically arriving at the destination, after which it can —and only then— be passed on to any train waiting to travel in the opposite direction and hence avoiding the possibility of two trains traveling simultaneously on the same track in opposite directions. In case of operating consecutive trains on a single track that depart in the same direction within a designated time interval, the token is only shown to the driver of the first train without that he takes possession of it, whilst the token is then given along only to the driver of the last train. Often seen along Thailand's rail tracks are white circular traffic signs with in black the Thai letter (wo waen - fig.). These are so-called whistle boards or whistle posts, i.e. signs indicating a location where a locomotive engineer is required to sound the horn or whistle, e.g. at unguarded level crossings. The letter ว derives from the word wiht (หวีด), which means to whistle. In Thai, the State Railway of Thailand is known as kahn rot fai haeng prathet thai (การรถไฟแห่งประเทศไทย), on trains usually abbreviated as r. f. th. (ร.ฟ.ท.), and its logo consists of a royal crown over a winged train wheel from which at the sides kanok-like flames emerge (fig.). See also POSTAGE STAMPS (1), (2), (3) and (4), THEMATIC STREET LIGHT (1) and (2), and WATCH VIDEO (1) and (2).