RIP: Battambang's Bamboo Train

Locally known as ‘Norrie’, the bamboo train emerged after the Cambodian Khmer Rouge disaster in the early 80s as an excellent alternative form of transport around Battambang as train traffic was virtually non-existent and road traffic had similarly disintegrated.

This was really it, old rusty tracks and a bamboo platform.

Basically a bamboo platform on train carriage wheels it turned out to be perfect for transporting cattle, livestock, people and more. At first it was man-powered using poles but later small engines were used instead.

Here come the wheels.
Another pair of wheels while my guide was watching.
Here comes the engine.
Engine about to aboard.

It was bound to happen that backpackers (and later tourists) would like to take a ride, so in 2005 I went to Battambang on an inspection trip for Khiri Travel and tried it out for myself, an amazing experience.

Somehow it hangs together and works!
My guide's motorcycle was part of the load.
And a decrepit mat for the guest of honor; yours truly.

My photographer friend Ray posted recently a nice description of my second trip with him and our friends we made a few years later:

This gives you some idea about the appalling state of the Cambodian railway tracks in those days.
Incoming traffic!
Off load everyone and everything, including the chicken.
The other drivers take away their norrie.
Lots of dragonflies observing the scene.
Once we were gone they continued their journey, all very friendly and civilized!
The other norrie drivers team.
A norrie 'station'.
Assistant driver in training!

However during the last few years there has been considerable amount of renovation of the railway tracks going on in order to reopen the old Bangkok - Aranyaprathet - Poipet - Battambang - Phnom Penh route. This was the end of the Norries…, until this year a new version was made available to the public which unfortunately is just a pale reflection of the original with new tracks on fresh cement and sleepers, as well as cushions provided for the tourists…

#Cambodia #bambootrain #norrie #Battambang #railway #train #tourism

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