Welcome one and all to the 'Philippine Railway Historical Society' blogsite. This site was set up to share photos, historical pieces, comment and virtually anything else pertaining to transportation in the Philippines, with a special emphasis on rail. Occasional we vary from topic, but this is the less serious side of the hobby shining through - cause sometimes, in this miserable and uptight world, we just take ourselves a little too seriously.

If you have a question Philippine railway related, just drop us a line, maybe we can help.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Some Random Philippine Piccies Pt1

                                                                 Howdee all,
                  Yes, yes, you don't need to tell me - it has been some time since I last posted.
  One has been quite busy with rail hobby related things Down Under and, as such, my Philippine railway activities have taken a back seat for a while.
  We are trying to set up the ground work for rail tours to help support preservation attempts around Australia.
  Similar to what we were doing a few years ago for the Philippines - but with the time needed to actually achieve dividends without constant pressure.

  I've been watching with much amusement the changing railfan scene there in the Philippines and am happy to see a new group of young guys carrying on the passion I once had. Their reports and railway visits are great and I look forward to meeting them one day.
  To the PNR Train Enthusiasts Fanclub, the PRHS wishes you all the best.

  On the other hand there is the, not totally unexpected, demise of RIHSPI and another offshoot group in the "Manila Railroad Club' who plan to preserve the little bit that has not been scrapped during the original groups term of existence.
  The same old secrecy and powers at the helm, well, it does not instill much confidence.
  Hopefully I am wrong as their plans to restore 906 (and hopefully 902) depend on it.

 I've been getting some random shots prepared for Flickr and thought I would take the opportunity to stick them up here.
  There will be a lot more to come. But for now, I hope you harvey very fun time enjoying this random delicious selection of photographic tidbits. 

Divisoria - the place to head for cheap bargains and rip off DVDs.

The now scrapped 7A-2001 believed to be a victim of the Quezon accident is seen here at the Tayuman carriage shed in 2009.

Another 7A example in a slightly better condition at Tutuban station.
These were a second hand donation from Japan back in the early 2000s.

While checking out the situation in the loco shed I was surprised to hear a horn in the distance.
A quick sprint revealed 5009 leaving the yard on a perway train for the south.
 For once the sun was situated perfectly :-)

A Pandacan Transportation bus just for something different.

Stay tuned for more random helpings.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

With special thanks to John Ibay.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Come visit the sister group of our PRHS Modelers Division.
Strange Modelers of Universal Trains
We are more than just another Aussie model train group, we are family.
Come visit us today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Another fascinating article by Boo Chanco in the Philippine Star newspaper.
It really is a ridiculous situation, but it seems ridiculous situations are a specialty there with good transport solutions.


It looks like the end of the line for PNR or Philippine National Railways. Its franchise will expire this July. There is a pending bill to extend the franchise but it is not certified as urgent.

I cannot understand why several administrations neglected PNR through the years. Now, it seems PNR will just die during the watch of P-Noy.

It isn’t nostalgia that makes me feel we still need a revitalized PNR. Rail transportation is essential as a means of affordable mass transport and also for commerce and industry. The problems with those container van trucks from the Manila pier, for instance, wouldn’t exist if we had a good rail line for containers as in other countries.

PNR can also be the backbone of our domestic tourism industry. I remember that my UP Prep high school class went on an “educational tour” to Bicol riding a PNR train in the early ‘60s.

My father took me for my very first trip out of Manila as a seven-year old on a train from Tutuban to Damortis in La Union, and by car (a black Bel Air) up the zigzag to Baguio. Today’s kids are being deprived of such a memorable childhood experience.

The tragedy of PNR is not only the neglect typical in a government run business or service. Worse, a succession of presidents appointed managers who apparently didn’t have the ability to run the railway service. Some may have milked PNR to the point of making it a shadow of its past. They even almost fully demolished the historic Paco Station for nothing.

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What is PNR today? The Northern line has vanished. A new NorthRail line to Malolos and eventually to Clark didn’t get off the drawing board after costing us hundreds of millions of dollars. It only enriched some Filipino politicians and their Chinese collaborators.

For a short while during the first few months of P-Noy, there was this attempt to run a Bicol Express service again. Under the leadership of a Bicolano, Junio Ragrario Jr., PNR actually conducted test-runs covering more than 400 kilometers.

PNR used a newly refurbished locomotive train with several hand-me-down tourist class coaches donated by the Japanese government. Ragrario said the Bicol test-run was 95 percent successful.

The Manila-Naga trip took nine hours, shorter than the usual 10-hour travel time by bus. Ragrario added that all train coaches for the “Bicol Express” are air-conditioned. We didn’t even have it this good in the good ol’ days.

But one typhoon washed away portions of the tracks and the plan evaporated back into a dream. Ragrario himself was replaced by a Caviteño when DOTC Secretary Abaya assumed office. So now PNR may even just fade away from existence if its franchise is not renewed.

It is so sad that while bullet trains are running in many countries, we don’t even have a decent rail service. A JICA consultant, who is probably the most learned man about Philippine transportation, lamented that we once had a good rail transit system.

According to Dr. Shizuo Iwata, that was circa 1920s. We had 85 kilometers of rail lines then, Dr. Iwata said, more than the pitiful 50 kilometers we have now. The pre-WW2 tranvia system itself was described as state-of-the-art and second to none in East Asia. It is hard to believe we were actually pace setters… hindi kulelat like we are today.

Dr. Iwata also said that a good rail-based mass transit system is essential for our fast growing metropolis. This would make it possible for people to live as far away as Los Baños or even Lucena and work in Manila. Our decrepit railway system is a daily punishment imposed on our poor people.

Top Filipino transport expert, Rene Santiago, agrees with Dr. Iwata. Rene, who is consulted by a number of ASEAN countries in planning their transport systems, thinks we need some 300 kilometers of rail lines in the next 15 years. Sadly, he said, he doesn’t expect DOTC to build even one kilometer of new rail line before 2016.

Rene is correct. DOTC is fumbling badly just trying to implement a 4-kilometer expansion of LRT 2 to Masinag in Antipolo. That was a low hanging fruit from the start of the P-Noy administration, but up to now they are still at the design stage.

For PNR, it would be better if government just took a proposal actually presented by Ramon Ang to undertake the cost of modernizing the line from north to south. I wrote a column about this May 30, 2011.

Refreshing our memory, San Miguel made a proposal to buy 51 percent control of PNR and still have government as a partner in its development. At no cost to taxpayers, San Miguel offered to develop a national railroad system starting with the Luzon line of PNR that will run slower trains on at-grade level and fast trains on top.

RSA told me three years ago that San Miguel has commissioned a group that includes international companies with experience in bullet trains to study the possibility of building a bullet train railway that will run from the north to the south end of Luzon. San Miguel proposes to run the bullet train railway on the Laoag-Manila-Bicol route. A high-speed train service will boost the economy in general.

PNR, when it was still Manila Rail Road or MRR, used to haul abaca from Bicol to Manila when Manila hemp was a major dollar earner. PNR could still carry tourists to and agricultural produce from Bicol and improve economic development there.

I remember asking RSA how he expects to make money considering the large amount of capex he must invest upfront. He said he is looking at PNR not only as a train company, but also a general logistics company. That’s what Warren Buffet said when he bought Burlington Northern, a railroad company.

Consumer goods marketers will find the railroad the more efficient way to do Luzon wide distribution of their products. He will develop the adjacent real estate and make money on malls, distribution bodegas and other property ventures near train stations.

RSA said he has made a pitch to DOTC early on and all he got was a polite “we will study” kind of reply. But from the discussions, it was clear that the bureaucrats do not want anything that cuts their control over projects.

That’s also why DOTC rejected a proposal of Manny Pangilinan to take over the job of rehabilitating MRT3, taking the legal problems away and giving the government a royalty too. It is a no-brainer but as always, DOTC wants to keep government control even if it had been shown government is totally incapable of running rail systems, except to run these to the ground.

As I wrote back in 2011, it is stupid to ignore a proposal like this. What is there to lose with taking Ramon Ang on his word? If Ramon Ang fails, the attempt would still have generated economic activity and the failure will cost PNR and the taxpayers nothing. But if the venture succeeds, the government and the people benefit tremendously.

If you are naïve enough to believe their press releases, DOTC supposedly has big plans for Philippine railways. Cosette Canilao, executive director of the PPP Center, announced plans for DOTC to present a master plan for the proposed 900-kilometer Integrated Luzon Railway (ILR) worth $5 billion connecting Cagayan in the north all the way to Bicol in the south.

According to Ms. Canilao, CPCS Transcom Ltd. of Canada is set to complete the feasibility study for the ILR that would run from Cagayan in Isabela down to Sorsogon in Bicol. It would cover the entire north and south networks of the state-run Philippine National Railway (PNR) from Manila to La Union as well as a branch line from Tarlac to San Jose, Nueva Ecija, and a possible extension to Cagayan.

The south network traverses from Manila to Legaspi City, including the branch line from Calamba to Batangas City. For the North-South Commuter Rail, JICA was tapped to help the government complete the feasibility study for the commuter rail that would run from Malolos in Bulacan all the way down to Calamba in Laguna.

Great plans if you can believe that DOTC is capable of implementing any plan at all. But they love conducting international road shows, junkets so to speak, supposedly to get investors interested in a PPP for rails. Never mind that a local investor, San Miguel, has expressed interest three years ago and would save them the cost and the trouble of enticing foreign investors.

But first things first. Get PNR’s franchise renewed by Congress. Then, sit down with interested local investors ready to resurrect PNR. The most logical things to do are beyond the comprehension of bureaucrats… so we remain f--ked up, as always.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

   I was horrified to read this posting on the former RIHSPI Group this morning and guess others have seen it.
  After 15 years I would have expected most of us would have grown up a bit, but it seems some still hold on to ancient bias and unwarranted childish hatred.
  As someone who openly supported my friend (and RIHSPI President) Karel, plus who had boxes full of donations waiting to go to them when the museum was open, I can assure I am a long way from happy about their apparent stalling.
   I am also greatly supportive of the new splinter group set up by a new member to preserve some of the few things remaining since 2009.
  I've remained quiet about this long enough, but the endless attacks have worn thin.
  As a foreigner in the Philippines, my attacker seems to feel that no other foreigner should have an interest. The fact I started what become the railfan hobby today is seen as a big threat and, as such, rumours of my trying to control the hobby there are made up in order to discredit me.
  Even when we set up RIHSPI it was always the plan that Filipinos should run it.
  Because I am very pro-Philippines, I love Filipinos and it is their country, so they should run it. My only aim from 1999 was to start a hobby there, something I have been quite successful at achieving.
  However despite the passing years, the defamatory comments have continued and I had thus decided to concentrate on promoting the model railway hobby there. This, I am happy to say, has been a lot more positive.
  My closest friend, who passed away a few years ago, pushed me to never give up on the Philippines. For him I have continued despite the pain this attacker has caused me.
  The reality is, by Philippine law I cannot control any group (RIHSPI or otherwise) in the Philippines. This fact does not stop the person accusing me of this ridiculous accusation.
  I've no interest in running a group there (never have and never will). I have enough things on my plate with the hobby here, the PRHS, modeling group I run and every day life to be bothered moving there to live and run a society.
  Indeed I was offered, even voted in as leader of one group without my knowledge, but still declined.
Moving there is the only legal way I can run a group.
  But still, severe paranoia leads to these sorts of baseless comments from people who, in reality, do little for the hobby except the occasional train journey. NEWSFLASH: A hobby does not survive on that.
  The attacker has been very successful in removing my interest from the 'Database Project', a plan to collate tonnes of information on locomotives and rollingstock in the Philippines for donating to archives and museums in the Philippines and around the world.
  We were passionate about giving something important back to Philippine research but the aim was to destroy this and it was done very well. 
  I am not angry, I just feel so sorry for someone who's life has got so low that they must hurt others to try to feel some sort of self worth. Especially when they use the name of dead friends to convey their message.
  I'm even more saddened as it was a person I thought was a friend who needed to be treated as such, all the time while being white anted from behind.
  The Philippines is important.
The railway hobby is important.
Friendship is very important.
Three points to always remember when others are trying to feed to one sided hatred.
Back to normal programming.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Philippine Railway Historical Society
An Unofficially Recognised Passion

A Brief 15 year old Story Of A Group.

See how it has come to where we are today.

Friday, March 7, 2014


MANILA, Philippines —With its Charter set to expire in three months, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will wind down its operations in three years unless Congress passes a bill extending its life, Senate Pro Tempore  Ralph  Recto said on  Friday.
Recto said PNR’s Charter, Republic Act 4126,  expires on June 20, 2014 “but the executive has not acted yet to seek its extension.”
“If its Charter is not extended, then it says there in RA 4126, that the PNR must  wind down its operations in three years, prepare for dissolution and dispose its properties,” he said in a statement.
“Once PNR’s charter expires, then the process of demobilization begins,” Recto said.

Section 16 of RA 4126, he said,  provides that PNR’s disposal of properties “shall not be for the purpose of continuing the business for which it was established.”
Recto said the dismantling of PNR would mean that “the real estate it owns which is valued in the billions of pesos can be the subject of a “bidding war by real estate companies.”
“If you recall, even the space above the tracks are worth billions of pesos in so-called air rights.  You can build a road above the tracks provided you buy that space from PNR. While it may be poor in rolling stock, PNR is  a Colossus  when it comes to land holdings,” he said.
The senator then urged the Palace to send to Congress a bill extending  PNR’s corporate life  “and use  its majority clout” in both houses to  pass it before Congress goes on recess in the second week of June.”
“We need to fast-track it. We cannot allow the dissolution train to leave the station. If there’s one bill that must be railroaded, then this is the one,” he said.
Recto, an administration ally, criticized what he described as “skewed  prioritization” of government, which could be seen, he said,  in the national budget where the annual subsidy of P344 million for the PNR, which carries 25 million passengers a year, is equivalent to the budget for a 17-kilometer road concreting project in one town in the Visayas.
The same “least priority’ treatment for PNR, he said, was also evident in  the Pasig River ferry service.
“There seems to be an official fixation with roads but an allergy to ferries and rail,”  he said.
Recto said the revival of the Pasig River ferry service has yet to receive official blessings despite its feasibility as an alternative mode of transportation in traffic-choked Metro Manila.
While commending  Metro Manila Development Authority’s (MMDDA) “bold and creative move” to unveil its version of the ferry recently, the senator said it needs more  than the trial runs of prototypes to get the ferry back in service.
“What is needed is an unequivocal policy statement, which would include funding commitments for the ferry’s revival and expansion. Even for so-called ‘signaling’ purposes, that would be enough in jumpstarting things,” he said.
The senator has been batting for the tapping of underutilized mass transport  systems, like the PNR and the mothballed Pasig River ferry as Metro Manila girds for traffic with the simultaneous implementation of 17 road projects.
Recto had earlier said that doubling the number of  PNR  trains plying the 44-kilometer Tutuban, Manila- Sta. Rosa Laguna line alone will allow it to ferry 25 million  more passengers a year.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014



  I am not going to go in depth here, I have already written a multi part article on the anniversary that will appear on one of our sites, or if PNR employed perhaps in your letterbox, shortly.
  My involvement with the Philippines has been a rollercoaster over the years. While I love the place, there has been a lot of pain endured, especially from selfish foreigners who feel they stake a claim on the hobby there.

They nearly, very NEARLY won that battle, but that hatred only served to make me stronger and now that strength, along with realizing this milestone has arrived, has given me a renewed passion for the Philippine railways that they once tried to diminish.

  Part of the celebrations for this event include a brief article covering the years since 1999, the trials and the achievements, also the reopening of this PRHS Blogsite.
  Today the PRHS again reverts to its mostly internet existence following the failure to launch a preservation group in the country, however our missions of promoting the railfan interest, and now the model railway interest, remains the same.
  We eagerly await the next 15 years, but for now, we celebrate with all our friends, both railfan and Philippine railway industry, the last 15 years of personal passion for your wonderful country.