About Kwai River Bridge
The Kwai River Bridge was part of the meter-gauge railway constructed by the Japanese during World War Two. It is famously known as the setting for the a 1957 World War Two epic Bridge over the River Kwai.
Kwai River Bridge history
The railway ran for 250 miles from Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma and is now known as the Death Railway. It was built using POWs and Asian slave laborers who were kept in awful conditions.
The work started in October 1942 and was completed in a year. It was meant to transport cargo daily close to India, to back up the planned Japanese attack on India. Bombed in 1944 by the Allies, sections of the bridge were destroyed and are now displayed in the War Museum.
The Death Railway earned its name from the sheer number of lives lost during its construction, including that of railway bridge number 277 in June 1943, allowing the track to cross what is today known as the Khwae Noi River, and which has become recognised worldwide as the Bridge on the River Kwai. Estimates vary but, of more than 60,000 prisoners of war enslaved on the Death Railway, almost 13,000 are believed to have died, in addition to as many as 90,000 southeast Asian civilian forced labourers.
Kwai River Bridge today
Nowadays, the bridge can be crossed on foot or with a small tourist train that runs back and forth. A light and sound show takes place each year on 28 November, to commemorate the bombing.
The Bridge on the River Kwai escaped planned bombing, and remains in place in Kanchanaburi as a tourist attraction and functioning railway bridge over which trains pass daily. The majority of its smaller components are originals, while a few are post-war replacements. Although the Death Railway has never again reached the Myanmar border, a shorter stretch was reopened by Thailand’s railway authorities between 1949 and 1958, and trains on this modern-day line cross the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai.
The remains of some 7,000 POW labourers who sacrificed their lives in the railway construction lie in the nearby Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. Another 2,000 are laid to rest at the Chungkai Cemetery.
Getting to Kwai River Bridge
The bridge is located near Kanchanaburi which is 129 kilometres North-West of Bangkok and is best reached by road, along the National Highway which runs north from the capital. There are bus and train services from Bangkok.
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From the sumptuous Temple of the Reclining Buddha to the iconic Kwai River Bridge, explore the riches of Thailand's history through our guide to the 10 best historic Thai landmarks and monuments.