Missed Connections • Songkhla’s Historical Train Station • รถไฟ สงขลา
The air is still wet and cool when the old man arrives. He comes here every day – to the abandoned train station in Songkhla, Thailand. He shuffles once around the building painted in antique yellow with reddish-brown trim. At the old train station’s platform – where the trains once arrived and departed – he stops. A chicken pecks amongst the rusted metal rails. There’s trash and weeds scattered all around. I watch him look out over the tracks. He almost appears to have abandoned his body for a few moments – then jerks back to life and completes his walk.
Mr. Viang Rodpon is the old man’s name. His story is perhaps a sad story, a tale of of abandonment. Or maybe it’s a train love story. Possibly, it’s neither. It’s not a story with a Beginning and an End. Instead, it might just be a blurry moment of time, an era passing through.
“It’s deep inside my soul. I see it in my mind but I can’t find the words.
The train was running before I was born. Songkhla’s station was built because all the goods arrived by sea not overland. Everything came by ship. Everything came by boat. At the harbor, the rails connected to the dock. There was an iron wharf, and the goods were loaded there onto the train. The rails connected the dock to the station.
I came here with my parents. They came here to work at the train station. I was 14 or 15. I knew steam trains. They were noisy, yes and blew lots of smoke. When the train was departing they blew the horn so everyone would know that the train had left. After the train departed I sold coffee. The train went ‘choo choo’.
The locomotive? It was black. Almost all black. There weren’t any other colors. Just black. At the front was the engine. In the back there was a big water tank. The train used a lot of water. Made lots of steam. We boiled the water. Oh – it was scorching hot. It always glowed red whenever it was opened. You couldn’t just open it because when the door swung open the heat roared out. You had to open it slowly. You had to add wood when the fire was low.then the train gave a signal before it arrived so we could get ready.
When I turned 21 my dad retired So I took over my dad’s job. I fixed the rails from Songkhla to Hat Yai so the train wouldn’t fall over.
I stood in the back. At the back of the train Where rails were damaged the train would shake. I would take notes. If we found a place that was warped. I’d give instructions to the workers. To fix the railroad ties before they broke. By this time, I’d already gotten married.
Back then people didn’t have cars. There were sellers in the evening. IN the morning there were a lot of students.
The most people came for festivals and the time that man was executed. He was executed on the beach. A lot of people came to see the execution. The cafe made good money.
We had one. She ran into the train. To commit suicide. I didn’t see her jump. We had to put the body in a sack.
The government said they’d stop the train in 2521. On the 1st of June. On the last day people came. Some people cursed. Some cried. Old people they’d used the train all their lives.
I saw people dig up the tracks and my heart bloomed because this is where I started life. 4 kids. Born here in the store. Raised here. These rails are like my fathers – like my – life. My father. My father is gone and I’m already 80 years old. Generations pass through. Its hard to express it. I would feel lost. It’s deep inside my soul.”