Friday, March 16, 2012

All aboard

The renovated and plinthed 1910 steam locomotive outside the railway station
A little birdie tells me that a renovated steam engine will be leaving the Phnom Penh railway station on Sunday morning at 9am for a sold-out, and kept very quiet, special charter with a 130 fare-paying passengers on the refurbished southern line towards Takeo. The same engine, French-built in 1939, did a few tourist trips and charters back in 2004 and has had a recent overhaul and steam testing and is once again ready to roll. This will be big news for steam enthusiasts around the globe, people like Mike Pass, who will travel anywhere to see their beloved steam engines in action. Or in bits. Mike has confirmed that another 12 steam locomotives are still in existence in Cambodia, in varying degrees of neglect or otherwise, as I saw for myself back in May 2008 and which a walk along the loco sheds revealed. Inside the locked sheds, lie the best preserved of the steam engines, outside the sheds stand the rusting hulks of the engines well past their sell-by date. And don't forget the renovated engine that stands outside the main station, another French model built in 1910. It's enough for me to get my anorak and train-spotting handbook out of the closet. If I had a closet.
One of the steam locomotives that have seen better days, outside the rail sheds in Phnom Penh

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