1964 was milestone year of great significance for rail travel in Malaysia, as KTM finally made that great leap forward over the River Prai. The opening of the Swing Bridge allowed the railway tracks to move onward to Butterworth.
Prior to that, goods and passengers had to be transported via a special “train ferry” between Penang Island and Prai Town.
The swing bridge could be swivelled around to allow ships to pass through.
I had a frightening experience once, circa 1972, when with a friend, tried cycling along the railway track on it. We heard the train whistle, and in my panic, had my bike pedal caught in the steel rail. Adrenaline gushed in, and I was able to extract myself in time – albeit with a gashed toe.
The bridge was replaced by a twin-track one in 2013.
Look, it’s a train, no, it’s a bus….aiya, no lah, it’s a Railbus, haha
In 1987, KTM started operating a fleet of 10 Hungarian-made “railbuses”. Among the routes were :-
- Ipoh/Kuala Lumpur/Ipoh
- Port Klang/KL/Sentul
I remember travelling once in the early 1990s from SGP to Kulai for a work assignment (my company had a factory in Bandar Tenggara).
There were many complaints though….no aircon, trains were wobbly,etc. After a few years these were withdrawn from service.
Has anyone else travelled on one of these railbuses ?
The last time I rode a KTM train on the KL-Butterworth sector was about 25 years ago. In the early days, the journey took something like 9 gruelling hours with the train making umpteen stops along the way.
But as a kid, every trip was an adventure. The most eagerly anticipated events were the encounters with the 4 tunnels of Bukit Berapit. Two long and two short ones. (The British were clever not have made it Three Long and Two Short, 三长两短). If I remember correctly, the second tunnel south of Taiping was the longest of the four.
With the opening of the new twin-tunnel in conjunction with double tracking and electrification, these tunnels (and tracks) would probably fade into history or else be reclaimed by the jungle. There are some proposals to preserve them…will there be new light at the ends of these tunnels ?