Anglo-Siam's Logging railway around the years 1917-1918 in Regional Le May book 'An Asian Arcady'.

R.B. Law besides the wooden trucks used to carry teak logs. (Photo courtesy of Inchcape group files, deposited at London Metropolitan Archives)

Logging railway: Muang Pong forest station

In 1934, Mr. Kiet wattananikorn and his wife Malee moved from Wang Pratart Farm, Kamphaeng Phet to Muang Pong, to work for the Anglo-Siam Co. Ltd (ACL). During that time this company had E.D. Atkins as its General Manager in Bangkok. The forest manager at the ACL's headquarter in Lampang was Mr. H.E.M. Martin and the head of forest station at Muang Pong was Mr. E.G.S. Hartley. At that time ACL controlled three forests both side of Doi Phu Nang mountain range, namely Mae Chun Forest, Huai Dok Khem Forest and Mae Rong Kui Forest.

In the early stages of ACL operation, there were so many problems that the company almost decided to forfeit the concessions. The main reason was the lack of means to transport the logs out of these forests. The Mae Chun and the Mae Ing Rivers were not an option as they both flowed north into the Mekong River, which continued its journey to Cambodia and Vietnam. These countries were within France’s sphere of interest, therefore no agent of ACL was there.

Finally, ACL decided to take a risk by bringing in logging railways to transport logs from these forests to the Yom River. This logging railway became known as the first of its kind in northern Siam. Construction of this railway line began in June 1913 with R.B. Law as the engineer, and F.D. Spencer, the company’s head of the Pong forest station at the time, in charge of the overall superintendence of the operation. The railway ran northwestwards from the village of Muang Pong on the bank of the Mae Yom river to Ban Pin, another village on the other side of Doi Phu Nang mountain range, with a total length of 78.8 kilometers.

The first rails were laid along the bank of the Yom river and a slip-way was made so that logs on arrival could be rolled straight from the trucks into the water. On leaving the Yom river, the line had to climb for the first thirteen kilometers over a steep watershed. This consisted of a series of embankments, cuttings and wood bridges, with many sharp curves and steep gradients of up to one in sixteen, before it started to descend.

At ACL’s compound in the village of Muang Pong, repair shops and general workshops were erected. A total of seven locomotives (weighing seven tons and built by Hudswell Clarke) were overhauled and 131 timber trucks were built, the mountings being the only components that were imported.

The progress of laying the rails was very slow. Although the railway line was in operation from 1914, it took a further four years to lay the track to Ban Kiew Kaew. This was, about thirty-five kilometers northwest from Muang Pong and passed through the company’s Mae Chun concession area on the eastern side of Doi Phu Nang mountain range.

Laying of the rails from Ban Kiew Kaew southwards to Ban Pin on the western side of Doi Phu Nang, continued for seven more years to reach the end of the line at Ban Pin in 1925. Therefore when Mr. Kiet came to work in these forests for ACL, the logging railway had already been in full operation for more than eight years. [i]

After working at Muang Pong for two years, in 1936 Kiet was transferred to ACL forest station at Ngao, and later in 1938 was transferred again to ACL forest headquarter in Changwat Lampang. In 1940, when Mr. Hartley became forest manager, he moved the forest headquarter from Lampang to Amphoe Ngao, therefore Kiet had to move again to Ngao. All this time his wife, Malee, always accompanied him where ever he was posted.

[i] Prof. Kittichai Wattananikorn, British Teak Wallahs in Northern Thailand from 1876-1956 (White Lotus Press, 2018)

Map of the Anglo-Siam Company’s rail network, starting from Muang Pong to three of its forests, both sides of Doi Phu Nang mountain range.

The area beside the Mae Yom River which use to be the Anglo-Siam's compound in Muang Pong.

This building used to be Lampang headquarter office of the Anglo-Siam Co. Ltd. It is now one of the Government Irrigation Offices in the province.