In the three preceding weeks we’ve visited the bridge over the River Kwae, the Chungkai War Cemetery, and the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.  This is the final installment on my trip to Kanchanaburi and the part that impacted me more than any other.  The Death Railway Museum brings the entire experience together both visually and intellectually.  Its here where you can learn the “where, what and why” of the Siam - Burma Railway and at the same time view displays and artifacts that help you visualize what it must have been like for the POWs over 50 years ago..

Death Railway Museum

The Death Railway Museum is directly to the side of the front of the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.  You can easily walk from one to the other in just a minute or two.  The building is big and modern and well marked.

Normally photographs inside the museum are forbidden.  Mr. Rod Beattie the owner, curator, and research director of the museum generously offered to allow me to photograph the interior and exhibits.  You can’t write enough to describe Mr. Rob Beattie.  He has dedicated his life to pursing the history and preservation of everything concerning the Death Railway.  He’s the caretaker of the cemeteries run by the Commonwealth, helps identify remains, and runs this museum and research center.  He’s constantly in the field uncovering new artifacts and has located and marked all the work camps along the course of the railway.  The care and attention to detail he’s put into this museum is amazing, especially when you consider it is for the most part, the work of a single man.

I wasn’t carrying the equipment I’d normally use to “properly” photograph the interior of a museum so we won’t pretend these images are even decent.  I had a 20mm f1.8 lens I carry for use in dim temples and I turned the ISO to 1600-3200 and hand-held, did the best I could.  I didn’t want to miss this opportunity and hopefully I’ll be invited back to properly photograph this interesting place.

Death Railway Museum Souvenir store/entrance

As you walk in the staff is very polite and helpful.  They had been told I was coming and were prepared.  The gift shop at the entrance holds many interesting items.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

As you walk from the entrance area into the museum you pass under a trestle.  Looking up you can see what the track looked like from underneath giving you a feel for what the men working on the railway must have seen from their working positions.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

All throughout the museum are backlit and colorful graphic representations telling the story of the Death Railway.  I’m only going to post one or two of these images so you can see what great quality they are, because there are other ‘tourist’ sites out there who would love to copy and use Mr. Beattie’s research.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

This display shows what it was like inside the box cars transporting POWs from other POW camps in SEA to the Death Railway work camps.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Something that strikes you early if you’re paying attention is that this isn’t a Japanese bashing endeavor.  The entire museum is dedicated to sharing the actual reality as it was lived, both bad and good, and I think it does an excellent job.  The Japanese are shown to be fair when warranted, and ruthless when earned.  War is never pretty and it must be extremely difficult for Mr. Beattie to be so fair-minded considering nearly 2800 of his countrymen died along the railway.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

This piece of art depicts the malnourished and starving POWs helping a fellow prisoner.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

This image gives you a feel for the spaciousness of a display room.  Many graphic information displays along the walls, artwork in the center, appropriate lighting, and cool air conditioning allow you to take your time and learn as you move through the exhibits.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Another view showing a railway tie with the spikes used to secure the tracks.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Set into a wall are very detailed scale models of the work camps.  There was very little light and I apologize for the poor capture.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

A scale model of the bridge with the working truck and trailer used to haul materials.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

A closer look at the spikes.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

One of the many information display walls.  You can read these displays for hours.  It’s that interesting!

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Railroad spikes recovered from along the course of the railway.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

You can’t tell from this view, but this is a model of the railway and timeline from beginning to end.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Each railway spike represents 500 deaths.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

This large display room is on the second floor.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

The actual typewriter used to record along the railway.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Pieces of a marker laid together in their original form.  This is part of the cross from Padre Babb’s diary.  The letters and numbers identify the Australian soldier whose grave had been marked with this cross.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Another view of the second floor display area.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

Another view.

Death Railway Museum Exhibit

More information walls.  The large iron arch is an artifact from the Azon bomb dropped by the Americans.  The Azon was the first guided bomb.  It was first used on the long railway bridge at Pynmana Burma on 27th December, 1944.

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The information wall which displays the cross shown above.

As you complete your tour through the museum it ends at the second floor in a very nice and modern snack area with  huge windows overlooking the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

I had to be careful not to show too much, or give too much information.  I wouldn’t want your curiosity for seeing the museum to be satisfied by what you see in this column.  I’ve barely touched on the information and visuals you’ll experience when you visit the Death Railway Museum.  I cannot convey to you how much of an experience this is.  When visiting Kanchanaburi you must give the Death Railway Museum the highest priority on your “must visit” list.