Thousands of Allied Prisoners of War (PoW) and Asian labourers worked on the Death Railway under the imperial Japanese army in order to construct part of the 415 km long Burma-Thailand railway.
Most of these men were Australians, Dutch and British and they had been working steadily southwards from Thanbyuzayat (Burma) to link with other PoW on the Thai side of the railway.
This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British
Both the wooden and the adjacent steel bridge were were built by the Japanese, using prisoner of war (POW) labour, which spanned the Mae Klong river (renamed Kwa Yai river in 1960).
Construction work started in October 1942. A year later the rail laying was completed. The wooden trestle bridge was completed in February 1943, and the steel bridge in April 1943
About 60,000 men consisting of Indian, Burmese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese and Thai labourers as well as prisoners of war took part in the construction work.
The black iron bridge was brought from Java by the Japanese to Tamarkan in 1942.
Both bridges were subjected to numerous attacks by Allied aircraft during the period December 1944 to June 1945.. The curved spans of the bridge are the original sections. A daily train is still following the historical route from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok railway station.
Japanese army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills. All the heavy work was done manually either by hand or by elephants as earth moving equipment was not available.
The railway line originally ran within 50 meters of the Three Pagodas Pass which marks nowadays the border to Burma. However after the war the entire railway was removed and sold as it was deemed unsafe and politically undesirable.
The prisoners lived in squalor with a near starvation diet. They were subjected to captor brutality and thus thousands perished. The men worked from dawn until after dark and often had to trudge many kilometres through the jungle to return to base camp where Allied doctors tended the injured and diseased but many died.
After the war the dead were collectively reburied in the War Cemeteries and will remain forever witness to a brutal and tragic ordeal.