There were a total of 16 camps spread along the railway. Work originally started from the Pakan Baroe end, however when it was thought that progress was not being made fast enough, building also started from the Moeara end. The two ends met between camps 10 and 11 on the 15th August 1945 - the day the Japanese capitulated.
These camps were:
1) "Modder Lust" - Mud Resort
2) Soengeitengkrang ("Death Camp" - Hospital)
3) Taratak Boeloeh
4) Taratak Boeloeh
7) Lipat Kian
7a) Lipat Kian (opp. side of river)
8) Kota Baroe
10) Loeboek Ambatjan
11) Koeantan-rivier - 1
12) Koeantan-river - 2
There are other maps showing the location of camps along the railway, and also some maps which were drawn of individual camps, in the photo gallery.
Camp 1 was known as 'Modder Lust' as whenever it started to rain, the ground turned to mud. This is where most of the prisoners first entered the railway system, with the first arriving in May 1944. They found an overgrown camp, and so quickly set to work digging latrines, fixing barracks and building a kitchen.
Work first began on the railway at 5am, on May 24th 1944. Prisoners were sent to the Siak river to unload ships of the sleepers and rails to be used, which had been sent from all over the archipelago from other railway lines which had been removed. Prisoners also set to work laying the tracks, on embankments which had already been constructed by Romushas before they had arrived.
The day would end around 6pm, with a meagre dinner followed by rest. Around 2.5km of track was laid each day. As the distance grew greater between the wharf and the track being laid, trucks were used to transport the sleepers and rails to the prisoners.
The population of camp 1 usually remained around 1000 prisoners.
Camp 2 was more commonly known as the 'Hospital', or 'Death' Camp, and was where prisoners were sent when they became too sick, most never leaving again. These prisoners were put on haf rations as they were not working.
Malaria and Beri Beri were among the most common ailments, along with dysentry and tropical ulcers. There were no medicines available to the doctors in this camp, who made do with what they had. It was found after the war that the Japanese had a warehouse full of medicines which they had never made available.
Maggots were used to clean the rotting flesh of tropical ulcers, along with being a good source of nutrition when mixed with chillies. This was thought to have helped many prisoners recover from their ailments. For those patients with Beri Beri, the only way to ease their suffering was to drain their bloated bodies of fluid, while those with malaria had to sweat it out and hope they lived.
Funerals were a common occurence in this camp, with the main cemetary being across a creek from this camp. Burial parties were in demand, and they would carry the body, usually wrapped in a wovem bamboo mat as wooden coffins soon ran out; to the cemetary, where a grave had been dug by another work party. There was no priest in this camp, and so volunteers performed the burial ceremony and placed a cross on the grave.
The population of camp 2 usually remained around 800 prisoners.