Important industrial heritage and historic sites on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River

“…all ancient relics, artifacts, and historic sites are valuable and essential for historical research. Art and historic sites represent Thailand’s long lasting prosperity and ought to be continually conserved as our national treasures for eternity…”

The above statement is part of the royal speech graciously given by King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) during his opening ceremony of the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province, on December 26th, 1961 (B.E. 2504).

The 40 Rai (about 16 acres) of land on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, where the Royal Thai Naval dockyard is currently located, is an important historic site on the Thonburi side. With its historical values, land, buildings, and one of the older dockyards in the country, the Fine Arts Department has registered all the buildings in the Royal Thai Naval Dockyard as historical remains, and designated Wat Wongsamoon Wihaan’s chapel and Plong Liam as two historical sites in 2002 (B.E.2545).

If you have time to spare, in addition to visiting the Royal Thai Dockyard Museum Commemorating King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)’s 84th birthday Anniversary, the curator will gladly take you to see important historic sites in the Royal Thai Naval Dockyard as well.


Wat Wongsamoon Wihaan

Wat Wongsamoon Wihaan was built by Krommakhun Thibetbavon (a nephew of King Phutthayotfa Chulalok the Great - Rama I) in the beginning of the Rattanakosin era. It was built behind the royal residence on King Rama I’s former property (1), presumably prior to 1857 (B.E. 2400). Its chapel architecture is classified as early Rattanakosin style. The temple was auspiciously named ‘Wat Wongsamoon Wihaan’ by King Mongkut (Rama IV). Currently, only the chapel remains and no monk has retreated at the temple during the Buddhist Lent since 1916 (B.E. 2459). The chapel has certain unique characteristics: the principle Buddha image ‘Phra Buddhawongsamoon Ming Mongkol’ is placed lengthwise along the chapel, which has a north facing door. Typically, when a temple is situated on a river bank, the chapel always faces the river. Over the years, the Royal Thai Naval Dockyard has meticulously maintained and restored the chapel so that this religious and historical site remains one of our national treasures for generations to come.

(1) During the period when his title was Som Det Chao Phraya Mahagasatseuk, and Thonburi was the capital city.


Plong Liam

Plong Liam (boiler stack) and an old furnace are classified as historical remains under the category of the industrial heritage. They are part of a steam engine system built according to the royal command of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) for repairing and building the country’s warships for national defense. During that time, equipment operations in the Royal Thai Naval Dockyard utilized high pressure steam to power steam engines. Boilers were important for steam production and had several components including furnaces and stacks (chimneys).

The year that Plong Liam and the old furnace were built is not known for certain. They were presumably built around the same time the boilers were brought in to produce high pressure steam. In approximately 1905 (B.E. 2448), they were officially used at the Rope/Pulley Plant and Dockyard Operations which was under the responsibility of the Miscellaneous Workshop Section in the Plant Division, Thonburi Naval Dockyard. The furnace was a place where fuel was contained and combustion took place in order to heat the boiler. Plong Liam served as a pipe through which hot gas and smoke were discharged to the atmosphere outside the boiler. Moreover, it also helped improve natural air flow. The furnace walls and Plong Liam were made of fire resistant bricks. High pressure steam from the boiler was used to power equipment in the Rope/Pulley Plant and Dockyard Operations for steam engines to pump water from the dockyard. The Mechanical Workshop used steam to drive steam engines in order to blow compressed air to blast furnace during forging process. The Rubber Workshop used the generated heat to dry rubber during molding, whereas the Battery Workshop used steam for water distillation.

The old furnace and Plong Liam were decommissioned after 1990 (B.E. 2533), when the York boilers (which replaced the Lancashire boilers that were originally used) broke down and could not be placed in operation. Plong Liam became deteriorated after being taken out of service for a long period of time and affected by moisture from the environment. Later, the Fine Arts Department and the Royal Thai Navy restored Plong Liam for conservation in 2002 (B.E. 2545).