I’m working on a story about Cambodia’s “Bamboo Train” this week. The Bamboo Train is a result of Khmer ingenuity. When the original train line, constructed during Cambodia’s colonial past, fell into disrepair, the local people constructed their own bamboo platforms, rested them on salvaged train bogeys and stuck an engine through the middle.
The resulting contraption is functional, fast and fun. Not necessarily in that order With only one set of rails, meeting another bamboo train travelling in the opposite direction requires a hasty dismantling to allow the oncoming train to pass. The speed of the train is controlled by a simple lever, moving the engine back and forth to provide more or less torque on the axle.
My guide/translator/fixer, Mr. Thean enjoys “surfing” the Bamboo Train – I’m thinking of putting a sequence together with a Beach Boys soundtrack. The Bamboo Train is a sight to see and a unique experience. However, it’s the stories of the lives of the communities alongside the train track that really appeal to me and so I’ve been concentrating on getting “behind-the-scenes” of the Bamboo Railway and have been enjoying getting to know the people who make their homes in the villages along the railway track.
If you’re interested, I’m hoping to run a workshop in Cambodia in late July and the Bamboo train will feature as one of our visual story exercises. Watch this space.