Phnom Penh – Poi Pet

Wednesday morning one week ago I finally continued my journey. This was exactly 2 months after I arrived the first time in Phnom Penh by train from Kampot, but happened rather by chance. The northern line between Phnom Penh and Poi Pet was just back in operation a few months ago, after it was 45 years out of service. But unfortunately in the beginning of October a train derailed and suddenly the day after a three months maintenance was announced by the railway company…just after 4 months of operation. Surprise. Surprise. Just at the beginning of the year the railway operation were resumed, but unfortunately only with one weekly service so far until end of February. Hence, I skipped my stop in Battambang as I didn’t want to stay there for one week, just because, if I could finish the visit in 1 day. Recently it was also announced that the railway will be directly continued to Thailand beginning with March this year. As the railway was out of service for such a long time, the rolling stock is even older. The carriages are 50 years old and were built in Uerdingen, and are still originally equipped with windows, buffer and bearings (supplied by FAG), whereas the cargo carriage was built in France in 1953. In the latter a diesel engine is running for electricity supply. This is needed mainly for the Air Conditioning but also for the CCTV, as each carriage is equipped with 4 outside cameras which were on display at one TV screen inside the carriage. Hence, you always see what happens outside. Surprisingly the train had no emergency brake, but therefore some storage compartments on top of the train. There were only two carriages this day in operation but I think there were at least 5 railway employees, excluding the train driver, which were operating the train. It felt more like a private tourist train, rather than a public transport. So you can clearly see the missing 45 years of operational experiences. The people along the track were always surprised and happy to see the train approaching. A lot of them were taking videos or photos. When the train crosses the villages it was always taking the horn for the whole time. It was annoying, not only for the passengers but also for the people there, but it was necessary. As the people are not yet conditioned to the train. We had an almost accident as one young woman tried to cross the tracks with her scooter, for sure not looking left or right, no driver is doing that, they don’t give a fuck what happened around them, they’re just driving, this was always my impression. So and after 45 years no suddenly a train is using it’s tracks. She just could jump off here scooter, whereas her mother with the baby, already was of the scooter before. Additionally, the cattle didn’t got used to the train and is sometimes eating next to the tracks. When the train is arriving they’re running…along the tracks and also suddenly cross the tracks. Once they run through the yard of a small farm where 4 children were watching the train and sadly hit one small boy, but as far as I could see, he immediately stood up afterwards. The train only stopped at the major towns of Pursat, Battambang, Sisophon. If you want to get on or off in between you had to flag down the train, which one man did. In the end the train was 1 hour ahead of schedule, and we left also the intermediate stops ahead of them. I think this was the first time I ever encountered that a train was leaving on purpose ahead of the timetable.

Ready for departure
Manufactured 50 years ago…
…with some single parts even older…and still working
The bearings from the French cargo carriage
These new DMUs just arrived this month and are intended to operate the airport line
Flat land just outside of Phnom Penh
The trench next to the track is supposed to be for heavy rain
One of the two police officers who secured the train ride obviously also enjoyed it
Mount Aoral in the far seen today from the north
A man just run and jumped onto the train at an intermediate station, as the train not fully stopped
In Pursat there still exists the water supply for the steam locomotives
There is always a small hall for the goods next to the railway station, but none of them was in use
At some railway crossings are employees from the railway company but most of them are without any barrier or humans
Most of the passengers got out in Battambang
The timetables, this one in Battambang, are always adapting to the current situation. So no need to print one.
There was even a construction railway in the Battambang station
The benches could be easily switched over, so either you’ve space for four persons or everyone is just sitting in the direction of drive…and this simple technology, was already used 50 years ago
Approaching the Thai border
Not all cables were that high today, some low hanging were cutted by the train
Finally arrived in Poi Pet at late afternoon
The renovated train station is already prepared for the immigration procedure during cross border traffic
My train ticket

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