Posted by: rob | August 8, 2007

The Bamboo Railway of Battambang

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We’ve caught many different forms of transport of the last few months, and seen many varieties of train, but the bamboo train of Battambang in Cambodia must rate as the most unusual.

Called a Norry or Lorry by locals, the “train” is a small wooden platform that sits atop hand machined axles running over an old damaged railway line. The contraption is powered by a motorcycle engine that spins a rubber wheel against the line. The railway line is the country’s main train route but it is in far too bad condition to be used for regular trains. There is one ‘”real” train each week, but it moves only at walking speed as anything faster is deemed dangerous.

A short video Kim filmed can be seen here and below.


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Finding the railway is easy as it follows a direct line between cities. Joining up with it about 25km from Battambang, we rode on the train for about 10km. It’s not cheap for foreigners who turn up, we paid $4 each which is a lot of money in these parts. Amazingly, it runs at up to 50km/hour. The ride is noisy and bumpy but highly exhilarating and not altogether uncomfortable. Our moto driver came along with us, complete with his motorcycle, and told us that it can carry up to two tonnes of freight.

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As there is only one line, the obvious question is what happens when you meet an oncoming train? The answer is just as obvious – one train must be disassembled to allow the other to pass. We came upon a train travelling in the opposite direction that was full of freshly harvested rice and a staring match lasted two or three minutes before it was determined that they had to pull off the track to allow us to pass.

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The scenery along the way is stunning. Apart from the rice paddies, banana trees, and water buffalo, you pass many locals using it as a footpath between villages. Eventually we arrived at what can only be described as a bamboo train station, complete with refreshments and an open air waiting room.

We had a fantastic time on the bamboo railway. If only London had a few of these!

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Responses

  1. I love all the photos depicting movement on this page, really good!

  2. Kim, your arm is looking a bit hairy :o)


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