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Welcome to my first (but very definitely not the last) blog of 2023. New Years day was a quiet one here at Bigland Towers, although we popped out for drinks with friends ‘early doors’ on New Years eve we were back at home well before the year rolled on and had a quiet night counting down to midnight. Just the two of us, plus ‘Bernie’, a miniature cockapoo dog that we’re looking after for friends whilst they’re away on holiday.

New year’s day was in very much the same vein although Dawn couldn’t keep herself out of the kitchen despite having spent much of Christmas down in Surrey cooking for her family. I can’t complain as Dee prepared a fantastic Flemish beef stew and roast vegetables which made a fantastically tasty start to the year. In the meantime, I’ve begun to plan my Far-Eastern adventure in earnest which has involved a lot of research into seeing what’s changed since I was last out there in 2017. Well, Covid’s had a huge impact obviously and some places still have restrictions that we (perhaps foolishly) gave up on in 2021, but it’s the logistics of travel that have changed too as (for example) Malaysia’s redeveloped a lot of its rail network and Thailand is following suit. A few days before I arrive in Bangkok their massive new multi-level station at Bang Sue (now renamed Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal) will start receiving long-distance rail services instead of the old Hualamphong station. The full changeover isn’t expected to happen for several years but first services will run on the 19th February after a delay of several years.

Researching the changes meant I spent a lot of time digging through archive photos on my Zenfolio website only to realise that some pictures are missing. This is due to the fact I’d originally used the free hosting site ‘Photopic’. Sadly, the people who bought photopic off its creator were financial and business incompetents who pulled the plug on it in 2010. These idiots had no idea what a rich historical resource that contained millions of pictures from 10s of 1000s of worldwide contributors they were trashing. Many people lost entire collections. I didn’t as I only used it as a shop window. I’d kept the originals on hard-drives, but it took me several years to migrate my old pictures to my new Zenfolio website. Unfortunately, when I first went digital in 2004 I made a cardinal error. Rather than keeping one archive I divided it up into different folders (railways, travel etc.) which made it much harder to keep track of individual pictures. Some folders got filed away and never saw the light of day for years. In 2010 I learned from my mistake and kept a yearly folder containing everything I’d taken that year – no matter what the subject.

I found one ‘lost’ folder today which contains some of those missing pictures. They’re from Malaysia in 2009 and one of them is today’s picture as it reflects the changes I’ll be seeing in that country’s rail transport. The only thing in this picture that I believe still exists today are the two coaches.

Here’s the ‘international train’ that ran between Butterworth in Malaysia and Bangkok in Thailand. This view was taken at Butterworth (the station for Penang Island) on the 9th February 2009. The two sleeper coaches belong to the State Railways of Thailand whilst the engine is Malaysian. Well – sort of! It was one of 39 ex-Indian Railways Class YDM4s that were leased to KTMB for many years to cover a motive power shortage. Surplus to requirements in their home country due to the conversion of the meter-gauge network to broad gauge some pitched up here.

The coaches would be hauled by the KTMB loco from Butterworth to the border station of Padang Besar where there would be a customs check)and a loco change. An SRT loco would then take the coaches and passengers forward to Hat Yai where they’d be attached to the rear of an overnight sleeper train to Bangkok which would arrive in the Thai Capital the next morning. It was a fantastic (and cheap) way to travel between the two countries as well as a superb way to enjoy the scenery.

Nowadays you get an electric train from Butterworth to Padange Besar. After a wait you catch an SRT day train to Hat Yai where you join a sleeper service to the capital. I’ll be doing this trip in February so I’ll key you know what it’s like now.

If you want to see more of my old pictures of Malaysian railways check out these galleries.

1992 – 2009

2011 (includes Thailand)

2012 (includes Thailand)

2015 (includes Thailand)

2017 (includes Thailand and Indonesia)

One thing I’ve promised myself is that whilst I’m away these next few months I’ll rationalise these galleries by country and separate out the railways, travel and other transport images. It’s one of those classic ‘when I get around to it’ jobs that never seem to happen! In the meantime, expect a lot of new pictures and blogs from that neck of the woods over the next couple of months – starting very soon…

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