Hua Lamphong is 105 years old this year. When it was constructed, it was a monument standing for modernisation, innovation, extravagance, and connectivity. The station was the pride of a nation, just like railway stations in Europe. The early 1900s was the nationalistic era when railroad stations should similarly impress passengers the way airports and High-Speed train stations are built today.
Strikingly, one often finds the most impressive architecture at historical central railway stations. You get thrown back in time when walking through the facilities or when you leave a city on a train trip out of them. For me, I would arrive with the night train from Chiang Mai and wake up to the great sounds of Bangkok.
Hua Lamphongs last dance
It is time to visit now. Mainly because the station will cease operations by the end of December; according to Bangkok Post, it stands on prime real estate, so the question is how long the building will last? This station is the last song of the concert but quietly sings along.
It is said that King Rama V, on a trip to Germany in 1907, was very impressed by Frankfurt Train Station. So he commissioned the construction of Hua Lamphong. Initially, some stories say the king had been a bit sceptic of railways since foreign powers could use them with the purpose of colonisation of Siam.
In 1916, Hua Lamphong was designed by Italian duo Mario Tamagno and Annibale Rigotti. The station is of Italian Neo-Renaissance style. A defining feature of the station is the half dome front. It is held up inside by a vaulted iron roof. The curved roof with stained glass is iconic.
I took a walk through the station yesterday and felt a moment of grief. Many people appear to do the same. Time is running out for Hua Lamphong, and suddenly, we all start to recognise the value and remember our train journeys from there. The suggestion to turn the station into a museum instead of commercial development will hardly be realised because of a substantial amount of debt that needs to be paid.
In the not too distant future, Thailand will be connected to China and Singapore through High-Speed Rail. The section between Vientiane in Laos and Kunming in China will open already this December.
According to some Thai news sources, Hua Lamphong will not close. It will just not handle most of the train traffic. Strictly local traffic. I guess we will have to wait and see.