These trains, known as “norry” in Khmer, consist of a wooden frame, bamboo decking, an engine and wheels that come from a bust-up wartime tank. They chug up and down the railway line between Battambang and the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
Naturally, they are illegal, but tolerated because they are so useful – and in any case there is only one real train a week up and down the line. Bamboo trains are used for carrying people as well as freight.
A trip on one of these can be booked through most hotels, or you can arrange it through your local motorbike taxi or tuk-tuk driver.
Instead of a train with carriages, the Battambang bamboo train is in fact a metal frame with bamboo slats that sits on two axles with wheels. It is used to transport people and goods up and down the railway. The bamboo slats form the base on which the passengers, goods and livestock sit. It can carry anything that will fit on it, even motorcycles. It is also used to transport the rice in the harvest season. The Cambodian name for the train is norry. It is an ingenious invention. After the days of the Khmer Rouge, the land mines were cleared from the tracks, and the local residents built dozens of these miniature trains.