John Tiong Chunghoo, ML



Global Correspondent Report From Malaysia

History of the Malaysian Railway

THE charming Moorish-style Kuala Lumpur Railway Station at Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin has a new attractionthe KTM Berhad Mini Museum. The museum is small and its caretaker Kamalul Mohd said it showcases only 25 per cent of the items KTM Berhad has gathered for the project. However, there are enough displays to get one acquainted with the history of the Malayan Railway since the first railway line was set up in Taiping in 1885.

Most of the displays are tastefully arranged in glass cabinets while giant lamps and headlights are placed on the floor. At the door, one is greeted by a, 1 1/2m-tall grandfather clock from the 1920s bearing the stamp of the Federated Malay States Railways. Beyond that is the old Malayan rail era with all its facetsuniforms, lamps of all shapes, headlights, staff record books, typewriters, calculators and even a telegraph message code book from 1949. Because the history of Malayan Railway spans over 120 years, from coal to steam, diesel and electric trains,
one will also see the development of office gadgets such as weighing machines, typewriters and calculators over the same period and how these have morphed from bulky machines to smaller, more advanced equipment of today.

A range of fans is also exhibited and this includes simple gadgets as well as more aesthetic fans used in the first class cabins.

Those interested in uniforms will be able to see a full range of these from the light green porter's uniform with plastic buttons in the 1907 to the more elaborate 1980s version with the Malaysian emblem and gold buttons. There are also guard uniforms used between the 1950s and the 1960s as well as the station master's uniform between 1907 and 1940.

There are old train tickets on display too. These were used at various periods of rail operations and were manually stamped, showing dates and time of travel.

The different signal flags and bells used over the years are another interesting exhibit. Except for real train tracks, almost every little object used in trains or the station can be seen herefrom crockery and lighting and a punch card machine used between 1930 and 1980.

One surprise find is a first-aid kit from 19701990, a woven bamboo basket the size of a standard luggage bag. According to the label, it was used at the Brickfields and Sentul train stations.

There are also many black and white pictures of historical significance including those of the wooden track from Gunung Pulai to Johor Baru taken in 1869, the first railway line in Taiping and the railway head office in Kuala Lumpur in 1895. One is surprised to learn that many items such as plaques and signs used at the old railway stations were assembled or even made at the old rail workshop in Sentul, where the Kuala Lumpur Performance Arts Centre is now located.

Outside the museum is displayed a large model train station and the immediate outlying areas including shops and office blocks.

Other interesting items here are old sewing machines used to repair seat cushions, various train coaches and the Happers Key (the principal key used between 1885 and 1980 to start a train and to signal to the next station of its movement.

Just outside the museum, a short film on the history of the Malayan Railway is shown on a television set throughout the day. The KTM Bhd mini museum is open daily from 9am to 6pm.


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