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Story behind the first railway of Malaysia

  • The Port Weld railway signboard with four languages can still be found in Kuala Sepetang. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • The opening ceremony of the Taiping – Port Weld railway on 1 June 1885. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily

The railway connecting Taiping and Kuala Sepetang is the first railway of Malaysia and it has always been mentioned together with an interesting incident took place on the day it was officially put into operation.

There was also a story saying that during its operation, an elephant was killed after being hit by the train. And the skull of the elephant is now kept at the Taiping Museum.

Before the railway was built, carts were the main mean of transport in Taiping. There was an outbreak of a serious foot and mouth disease in Larut in 1890, claiming thousands of cattle. As a result, the transport system was almost paralysed and in that critical period, cart owners raised fares due to cattle shortages, surging the costs of transporting tin. It troubled the British colonial government and thus, the idea of building railways emerged.

The old Taiping railway station was built at the location where the King Edward VII Primary School stands now while the Kuala Sepetang railway station was built in Port Weld. The railway was 12.8km long and was mainly used to carry tin from mines in Taiping to Kuala Sepetang, so that they could be transported abroad through the port.

Today, the Port Weld railway signboard with four languages can still be found in Kuala Sepetang.

According to legend, during the launching ceremony of the railway on 1 June 1885, many British colonial officials had gathered at the train station to wait for the arrival of the train. However, the train was nowhere to be seen even long after the scheduled time had passed. They then sent some people to check and found that the driver was late after getting drunk the previous night, causing the train an hour of delay.

Following the decline of tin mining industry, the railroad served for about 70 years before its services were terminated. In October 1987, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) dismantled the rail line.

 

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