Railway Phnom Penh to Battambang, Cambodia

ROYAL CAMBODIAN RAILWAYS. The journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang is the last working route. A passenger train, operates only at weekends. A Czech made diesel locomotive, leaves the capital Saturday morning, arriving in Battambang 22 hours later in the dead of night, and returns on Sunday. Max speed is about 30kmh, often slower due to the track's terrible condition. Carriages are dilapidated, with holes in the floor and only spaces for windows. Passengers sit or sleep on hardwood bench seats, hammocks, or on the floor of cargo carriages. The drivers, controllers & guards add to their small monthly pay by charging for local passengers and cargo; from motor bikes and local produce to timber loaded aboard at the 30 stations along the route. This together with other trains and farm vehicles further slows the journey. In rural areas, the track is a lifeline, and used for local transport on 'bamboo trains' powered by belt-motors, or pushcarts. Boom towns, with a 'goldrush mentality' near the rapidly depleted rainforest, are a hive of activity, with logging as their resource, where children workers even gamble away their earnings on cardgames. In the city, the railway has a life of its own, where people live and work nearby or on the track itself. Market stalls, restaurants, chairs and tables, are removed only briefly, when the infrequent train passes!

all photographs copyright Nigel Dickinson 2007