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Tecko

BRIDGE ON RIVER KWAI

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A tribute build for the POWs who suffered and died along the Thai-Burma Death Railway (WWII).

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For more information, here are two valuable resources (links).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma_Railway

https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/thaiburma-railway-and-hellfire-pass

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The model is scratch build based on available photographs of the movie bridge. This bridge, though symbolic, does not look anything like the real bridge. However, most people, not knowing this generally recognize the movie bridge. This was built specifically to be able to hold a train and carriages, and then to blow it up. So, it was not very well built, but doable for the its task.

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The model scale is 1/150. Here is a rough sketch of overall size.

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To be honest, the research behind this build has been a sad experience for me. To keep the tribute in focus, this build log will be interlaced with images of the real story. To keep some sort of emotional balance, I have decided to add a bit of humour within the build log. To do this, I have introduced one of the figurines as a build foreman (so to speak). His name is 'Minder', and his task is to keep my mind in balance, keep the build mindful of scale, and to keep me on track in doing the best I can in its construction.

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Thank you fellow modellers for your support in this model, by your 👍

_______________________________

This project is already about 1/3 to completion. It is currently on hold until I finish the Wardell Bridge project. So, I will continue to post updates until the 'Intermission'. I plan to restart in the New Year.

 

The figurines for the diorama are 1/2 inch tall, but they are not skinny enough for representing the starved POWs. As you can see, it's going to take me a while to whittle down a whole bunch of figurines.

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I started this scratch-build upwards from the base. Cutting the base board 1190 x 160 x 12 mm. Bought 4 and 6 mm dowel wood for bridge piers.

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Here is 'Minder' telling me to get the timber off the base and start cutting up the dowels.

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Full scale plan drawing for the main cantilever bridge design.

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Drilled holes for the piers; and cut them to length.

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Because the bridge timbers came from trees, the tall piers had to be tapered.

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Minder got buried in his work.

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Comparing the piers to the drawing.

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To be continued . . .

 

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I was always fascinated by this bridge and its story. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s the German company FALLER, specialising in model railway accessories, sold a two-part kit of the (film-)bridge for use on HO-scale layouts. I have somewhere in my files an old catalogue ... here is the box-art I gleaned from the Internet:

 

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Thanks for showing @wefalck Have seen it during my research too, and there is another one too.

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However, I prefer to build my own. I gain insight and appreciation of the model from doing a scratch build. Because it takes a lot of time, it becomes a sort of meditation on the build itself. Besides, I think I can build it better.

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I remember my dad taking me to see the movie and explaining me about the Royal Engineers.... it was then that  the accident happened. Although this way dad tryied to make me go for civil enginnering studys,  I became more stubern and wrongly decided to study mechanical engineering instead....🤔.

 

 

great project  Tecko!  am going to follow you .... all the best.

 

Christos

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I agree, if I was too build a model, I would do it from scratch too. This allows you to understand the construction methods and replicate them. I wonder, whether any survivors attempted to note down after the War how it was done. Or perhaps it followed standard Royal Engineer practices for emergency bridges ? Many countries seem to have (classified) text books and standard models for such bridges.

 

I gather this was a good subject for FALLER in the decade or two after WWII, because many people in Europe would have seen such bridges replacing those damaged/destroyed during the war.

 

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Here is what the original looked like:

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The Japanese engineers used an American Text Handbook of Bridge Engineering to lay plans for the bridge. They used the POWs as slave labour. Basically worked them to death. Tools were primate and most power needed for this construction came from pure human energy.

 

The movie bridge was constructed in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Known as the Kitulgala Bridge.

Here is a partial construction image.

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The base had a bow in it. So I cut another base, from the same source, and attached it to oppose the bow. Now the original base is called the platform. The new base now includes a display case frame.

 

Glued the two pieces together. Later I added screws.

Minder has very poor safety habits. Here he is guiding my cut.

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The display case Perspex will be 3 mm. Used scrap Perspex and a thin card as a spacer while securing the frame.

Don't have a jig, so I made a few errors in getting the 45 deg cut on the correct face of the dressed timber.

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Minder spots an error. I drilled too many holes.

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My reasonably new cheap spatula broke when applying wood putty. Lucky I still had my old one.

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Base is finished.

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Thanks fellows.

___________________

Here I am trying to work out the best approach to adding supporting structures to the piers. It has been suggested to use notches to make it look more realistic. Photographs showed notches were somewhat roughly put together, showing no real regularity of method. So I planned to use notches where possible without going overboard.

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These plans got altered, for the better, as I gained proficiency in building the framework.

Adding central piers. They were easy. Just had to be square to the base.

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Re-drilled the outer holes at an angle to assist in leaning in the outer piers.

Used a wooden template for alignment.

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Collected various sandpaper dust, shavings, and off-cuts for later use in creating the (diorama) side work for building the bridge.

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One step back too far . . .

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The POWs were forced to pile drive the piers into the ground by hand. That is, they had to hoist up a heavy weight, and drop it on the pier. They repeated this process day and night for many months to get the piers in across the River Kwai.

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You can see a team of POWs in background, and the rope set up for the hidden team in the foreground.

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I seem to have read somewhere that Japanese soldier ethics considered surrendering and becoming a PoW a shame, they rather fought to death or even committed suicide (not the ritual one). I consequence they treated their PoWs with contempt ...

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I think you will find that the Japanese military treated ANYONE who was not Japanese with contempt at that time in history. Ask the Chinese civilians in Nanking or the numerous other civilians captured though out the Pacific in the early months of the war. They weren't even POWs. 

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Regardless of terminology, it's a denial of who we all are, human life. 

It's extreme prejudice. And all of it is fear-based. Most of those fears are unfounded. People, regardless of where they come from, mostly live a fear-based existence. That is, they live life mostly upon unreal/unfounded beliefs. We basically believe that it is easier to kill a people with different unreal beliefs to our own unreal beliefs. And this fear all stands out when the oppressed, defenseless, and bound human life gets exploited to death.

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The piers for the cantilever structures, the two central towers, lean inward from all sides. Thinking how to approach this, an idea came to mind to somehow have a jig that represents where the piers ought to be at girder height. So I made a template for the piers to lean on. Traced the template out at the base and transposed that vertically to girder height.

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Gluing the piers in place. Minder realized I made an error after I glued the stabilizing crossbeams at the top. Can you spot it?

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When Jack was telling me about his father's experience as a POW, he also mentioned that all his front teeth were broken and/or knocked while he was bound and beaten. Jack also mentioned that his father had five bayonet wounds that went through the body, all around the vital organs. I had already seen this in photographs on the Internet, but kept that information to myself. We both became teary from his telling of this and other bits. He could not understand how such things can be done to another human being. It's quite delusional (losing the plot about life), in my honest opinion.

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It must have been terrorizing to think, during each thrust, to face death yet again.

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8 minutes ago, Tecko said:

He could not understand how such things can be done to another human being

It was quite common when Japanese troops were involved in the 10930s and 40s for both POWs and civilians. Read Piet's build on the Hr. Ms. Java for some insight on how it was to be a "guest" of the Japanese in Indochina during the war and the lasting effects on life and health for those who survived. 

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20 minutes ago, lmagna said:

It was quite common when Japanese troops were involved in the 10930s and 40s for both POWs and civilians. Read Piet's build on the Hr. Ms. Java for some insight on how it was to be a "guest" of the Japanese in Indochina during the war and the lasting effects on life and health for those who survived. 

Have already researched enough over the last month. It's depressing. That is why I introduced 'Minder' so I can get a bit of healthy distance from it all while building the tribute model. I post snippets of what actually happened, just to keep in touch with the reason for this build.

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Sorry to get on my bandwagon about Japanese actions in WWII but sometimes I feel they got a "pass" in history while the Germans are held up as the personification of evil for the time. I brought up Piet's experience only because he is one of the few, possibly the only personal account we here on this forum will ever have of how it was like. Both he and his wife Gwen lived it and have lived with it ever since. 

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2 hours ago, lmagna said:

Sorry to get on my bandwagon about Japanese actions in WWII but sometimes I feel they got a "pass" in history while the Germans are held up as the personification of evil for the time. I brought up Piet's experience only because he is one of the few, possibly the only personal account we here on this forum will ever have of how it was like. Both he and his wife Gwen lived it and have lived with it ever since. 

Do not mean to minimize what others have experienced. Please feel free to provide a link to . . .

3 hours ago, Tecko said:

Piet's build on the Hr. Ms. Java

. . .  into this build log.

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