|Written and all photographs by Peter Crush|
Additional Information from Mr. Peter Crush;(5, Feb, 2000)|
The Sabah Railway has started special tourist trips on the railway using steam locomotives. They started in January using British-built Vulcan No.15. During the test run the Sabah Railways Manager admitted that there was a problem with track maintenance and this would have to be improved. When I was last in Sabah I could see that many of the wooden track sleepers were rotten and the railway had frequent derailments. I hope they have replaced all these poor sleepers. The tourist scheme is run by a new company called "North Borneo Railway" which is a joint operation between Sabah Railways and a Japanese hotel & resort company (Pan Pacific Sutera). The company will run lunch trips from Tanjung Aru to Papar on Wednesdays and Saturdays and will also be available for chartered trips all the way to Tenom. The railway also plans to use what is desceibed as an "antique" Hunslet locomotive for a Family Joy Ride on Sundays to Putatan. This must be the locomotive which I photographed at the Sabah Museum. I am really surprised to learn that they are planning to use an ex-museum locomotive which has stood unused for about 30 years. They also mention that Vulcan locomotives No14 & 16 may be renovated. When I saw these they were in very poor condition.
About Sabah Railway
When the British North Borneo Company administered what is now the state of Sabah in East Malaysia, the company built a 1000mm gauge railway line from Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu. The 134 km. single track runs parallel to a coastal road between Tanjung Aru to Papar then on to Beaufort from where the line continues inland along the banks of the River Padas through jungle scenery to the terminus at Tenom. The line was originally steam operated but is now totally diesel. The building of the road to Beaufort has taken away much of the passenger traffic because minibuses are able to make the journey so much faster than the train which crawls along taking about 4 hours to Beaufort and a further 3 hours to Tenom.
The trains are usually operated as a mixed passenger and freight combination, and often the freight component includes lumber wagons used for bringing felled trees from jungle logging operations. The line is a state of decline and the standard of track maintenance poor. On my last visit in 1996 we experienced a derailment of a timber wagon in the middle of jungle and had to wait three hours for a relief train from Beaufort to rescue us......not much fun when you have not brought food or enough drink with you.
Some of the oldest steam locomotives have been preserved as static displays in the Sabah Museum. These include a 1913 Hunslet 4-6-0 tender loco, a 1912 Hunslet 4-6-4 tank engine named "Sir Ralph Hone" and a 0-4-0 Sentinel steam tram. In the railway depot at Tanjong Aru there is very well preserved Vulcan Foundry (of England) locomotive. This, I was told by the depot superintendent, can still be steamed and operated although the weight of the locomotive is now too heavy for the poor condition of the track. I asked if the railway is likely to receive any financial aid from the Malaysian federal government for repairs and upgrading of the track but the superintendent was not very hopeful. It seems that the construction of roads is one again going to kill off a spectacularly little railway.|