Black Bridge - Phrae
An iconic structure, a story behind it, a dirt road...yeah I'm in!
Black bridge or in Thai สะพานดำ pronounced Saphan Dam and the official name is Train bridge of Mae Lu สะพานรถไฟแม่หลู้ pronounced Saphan Rot Fai Mae Lu. The original bridge with its two remaining pillars, were bombed during the second world war by the Japanese. The bridge was rebuilt by Yokogawa Bridge Works of Tokyo, Japan in B.E. 2491 (1948). Yokogawa bridge works was founded in Osaka, Japan in 1907. The company is now known as Yokogawa Bridge Corp and is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. Yokogawa Bridge Corp has been at the forefront of Japanese civil engineering for many decades now and is responsible for such bridges as the Yokohama Bay Bridge.
The bridge has an effective span of 58 metres, a 15 ton axle load and is made of steel. The bridge is currently still in operation with a service running between Chiang Mai and Nakhon Sawan daily. Unfortunately, we didn't witness the train passing as Thai train timetables are a total mystery unto themselves. The bridge runs over The Huai Mae Ta river and is positioned between Den Chai train station and the Ban Pin train station.
The bridge is not too difficult to get to from route 11. If heading north you turn off to the right and continue downhill into a valley. The first section is pretty steep but the road is of a good standard. Once you are in the valley it is a small ride to the dirt road entry where you will drive through some local farms. The dirt road is not too bad but any lowered car would not make it; we made it in a Yaris.
You will have to park near the entrance to a farmers house. Then go left of the small wooden hut and head towards the bridge. There is a trail that runs at the edge of the farmers land so please use this and do not walk through his land without permission. It is only 100metres from here and you will come to the track.
There is a great story behind the destruction of the original bridge and the consequences. The original bridge was destroyed by the allies during the second world war. The missions was to intercept Japanese soldiers. A local by the name of Mr. Long Manomul found the first unexploded bomb and in the following days, three more bombs were found and disarmed. They were each paraded like deities, made into bells and were placed in Wat Na Tum, Wat Phra That Si Don Kham and Wat Mae Lan Nuea respectively. This is why people in the north of Thailand call Phrae Province, 'The city of Phrae exploded' or 'Phrae people parade bombs'. There was a story that one of the bombs exploded whilst they were parading it killing dozens of people. I cannot find any real evidence of this and thus presume that it is probably an urban legend.
It is a fun drive down into the valley and hanging around the tracks there is a real sense of history. I walked to about mid-way until feeling it was too big of a risk. Below are some drone of camera pictures of The Black Bridge in all it's glory. A great little stop you can make if you are travelling a long route 11; it should only take you 1.30hr out of your journey and I know you will be pleased you did it.
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