While there are currently no scheduled train services in Cambodia – for the time being at least – enterprising locals in Battambang have made good the deficiency with the ingenious bamboo railway (norry), running along a stretch of otherwise disused track just outside town and used to transport people, livestock and goods, as well as increasing numbers of tourists. The planned resumption of regular train services along the line has thrown the future of the bamboo railway into doubt, although it continues to flourish in the meantime – and indeed it’s possible that even if regular trains ever resume, bamboo trains will continue to run during the gaps between scheduled services.

Currently, a dozen or so “trains” run up and down the line, each just a couple of metres long, consisting of a simple four-wheeled metal undercarriage with a detachable wooden platform placed on top. Trains were formerly propelled using long poles in the manner of an Oxbridge punt but are now powered by small motorbike or tractor engines, reaching speeds of around 40km/hr. If two trains meet en route, the one with the fewest passengers cedes right of way and is dismantled on the spot (the work of just a minute or two) and cleared from the line, allowing the other to pass.

Practicalities

The start of the line is about 7km from Battambang ($4 return by moto, $6 by tuk-tuk). The line itself runs for some 6km, with a fare of $5 per person (or $10–15 to hire an entire “train”). Trips up and down the line last around 20–30min, with trains departing as soon as sufficient passengers have climbed on board.

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