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hellfire pass historic site - thailand



Located 4 hours drive north west of Bangkok in Thailand, it is on Thai military land on the mountainous Burmese border 80 km from the nearest large town, Kanchanaburi. The site comprises a 3.5 km walking trail along the original rail bed through cuttings, over embankments and across sites where bridges were built to support the railway line.

The railway line was completely demolished soon after the war and apart from cuttings, embankments, ledges and excavated rail bed benches, physical evidence of the railway is limited to the rock ballast bed, a small number of sleepers, and in places, metal spikes, drill rods and smaller remnant items. The Hellfire Pass Historic Site is predominantly a hand excavated rail bed through difficult mountainous terrain.


In 1996 the Australian Government engaged HPA (then Hewitt Design) to design a museum and establish the historic site as a visitor destination.  The facility opened in 1998.

This comprised a Museum, car parking, roads, observation decks, bridges, toilets, signage and site interpretation. Today the site is managed by a staff of twelve. Since opening over 500,000 visitors have visited the site. The burden of highly concentrated visitation makes the site susceptible to degradation through increased day to day tourism impact.

Walkway and Observation Platforms:

In 2008 we designed and built a 300 metre long walkway that takes visitors from the Museum down the cliff to the rail bed. There are 170 steps and 130 metres of ramps. Built from prefabricated steel and timber, the walkway was designed to minimize environmental impact allowing visitors to observe the site terrain and views to the distant Burmese border. Lookout platforms were added in 2011.

Graphics and Signage:

In 2007 we upgraded all of the external signage to fully bilingual Thai/English.  This included substantial re writing of external interpretation from the original signage.


In 2008 we upgraded the Museum.  This upgrade included renewing all graphics and interpretation, and a new Audio Visual Program in the theatrette.

Removal of Non-original Features:

In 2009 we removed a number of non-original features including a 70 tonne concrete stair.

New Observation Platforms:

In 2010 we constructed various new walkways and observation platforms at the Museum and on the Walking Trail itself.

Project Director
Michael Pender

Original Museum Exhibition Design
Tom Hewitt

Project Managers
Brian Hocking, Paul Finnegan, Matt Enfield

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