Though surrounded by limestone hills and expanses of sugar cane, Kanchanaburi is best known for the infamous Burma-Siam Railroad. Constructed in 1942–3, it crosses over the Khwae Yai River just to the north of Kanchanaburi town center. At the small station beside the bridge are a number of steam locomotives dating from the period. A memorial to those who died during the war was erected by the Japanese administration in 1944. Today, 47 miles (77 km) of the railroad remain, and the trip along it from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok is one of the most interesting in Thailand. The Thailand-Burma Railroad Center charts the history of this railroad. The building of the railroad cost the lives of more than 100,000 Asian laborers and 12,000 Allied prisoners of war. The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, contains the graves of almost 7,000 mostly British and Australian prisoners and is one of two war cemeteries in the town. It is immaculately maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The smaller of the two cemeteries, Chong Kai Cemetery, contains 1,740 graves and lies on the north bank of the Khwae Noi River, a short ferry ride from the center of town. Nearby is Wat Tham Khao Pun, overlooking the river and the Burma-Siam Railroad, which at this point heads south toward Ban Kao and Prasat Muang Sing. In the grounds of the wat complex a network of narrow passages leads through a cave system filled with Buddha images.
In the JEATH War Museum, housed in Wat Chai Chumphon, visitors can see three replicas of the bamboo huts used to house prisoners of war in the camps that sprang up along the Burma-Siam Railroad during the war. The huts display paintings, sketches, and photographs of life in the camps and along the railroad line. JEATH is an acronym for Japan, England, Australia and America, Thailand, and Holland, some of the countries whose nationals worked on the railroad. Many survivors and victims’ relatives visit Kanchanaburi each year. Accommodations here include riverside raft houses.