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Going Cho-Choo With The North Borneo Railway!

04

September, 2017
North Borneo Railway

North Borneo Railway Old and New

When it comes to Classic Trains, Sabah Borneo has one of the oldest running steam locomotive that will take you back to the nostalgic bygone era and it is called the North Borneo Railway. Anyone who is planning to visit Sabah Borneo should mark this one on your list of things to do in Sabah Borneo.

Here’s a brief history of the steam locomotive services in Borneo, the history of the North Borneo Railway begins in 1880, when the British North Borneo Chartered Company obtained a large plot of land from the Sultan Of Brunei and the Sulu Sultanate. Tobacco was a big thing in 1880 to 1890 in Borneo. So the need for an efficient transportation to transport the goods is needed. Back in the days, the local planters travel to towns to sell their crops either by foot or animals but it usually takes a very long time as some of their farms are deep inside the tropical jungle areas, so it will take longer and more difficult to reach into town.

The British North Borneo Company soon began the ambitious railway project to link the East and West Borneo through the dense jungle, mountains, rivers, and swamplands. The cost of clearing the path was very costly even the rich British North Borneo company was having troubles with it as they were building the rail from Beaufort to Tenom, and Melalap, and the other one from Beaufort to Jesselton (now known as Kota Kinabalu).

North Borneo Railway

An old North Borneo Railway

The British soon faced a lot of problems maintaining the railway as it was constantly damaged by fallen trees and also the locals who look upon the locomotive as a man-made machine with evil spirits that disturbs the peaceful environment of the jungle surroundings. Soon, rubber became an important source of income as it was high on demand during the World War l for making car tires. After rubber, timber also became one of the most important things and the timber industry also benefited from the railroad.

North Borneo Railway

One of the important transportation during the 1880-1900 in Borneo to transport raw materials from town to town around Borneo

Ater 30 years, the Steam Powered Locomotive is replaced by petrol and diesel locomotive. The Steam Locomotive was later repaired and refurbished to a fully functioning state by the Sutera Harbour Resort together with the Sabah Tourism Association to be used as a train for tourism activities. The original Vulcan 15 Steam Locomotive that was built by the Lancashire-Based Vulcan Foundry in the United Kingdom was first brought over to Borneo by the Colonial-Administered North Borneo in 1954. And it was later decommissioned for general use around the early 1970’s by the Sabah State Railway Department. It is also the only functioning World Burning Steam Powered Locomotive in Sabah until today.

North Borneo Railway

The petrol and diesel locomotive that was used in the late 1950’s in Borneo to replace the steam powered locomotive

Today, tourist can once again experience this unique experience of boarding into a vintage style British North Borneo Era train. The train has six carriage that can accommodate up to 36 people and the carriage has a classic colonial-era bar style with an observation deck. Both the interior and exterior are fully refurbished to provide the environment of the typical train of 1900.

The exterior of the train is painted in traditional deep green and cream that was originally used by the North Borneo Railways trains. It also has the original carved brass logo of the North Borneo Railway on the train. The carved logo is a tiger holding a rail wheel standing on a royal crown. The interior is built based on a Victorian-Era setting with a little mix of local Sabahan woods to give that vintage and local touch to the train. It also has fully functioning unisex washrooms on every carriage and the windows will remain to be opened at all time for maximum comfort to all the passengers. A British Pullman carriage is used as a functional kitchen car as well as a powerful generator which provides all electricity requirements.

North Borneo Railway

The Traditional Deep Green and Cream colour that gives the train a more vintage look.

North Borneo Railway

The side view of this vintage steam powered beauty. Its an old Locomotive but it still runs like a champ even to this day.

North Borneo Railway

The carriage of the North Borneo Railway train.

Today, tourist can once again experience this unique experience of boarding into a vintage style British North Borneo Era train. The train has six carriage that can accommodate up to 36 people and the carriage has a classic colonial-era bar style with an observation deck. Both the interior and exterior are fully refurbished to provide the environment of the typical train of 1900.

The exterior of the train is painted in traditional deep green and cream that was originally used by the North Borneo Railways trains. It also has the original carved brass logo of the North Borneo Railway on the train. The carved logo is a tiger holding a rail wheel standing on a royal crown. The interior is built based on a Victorian-Era setting with a little mix of local Sabahan woods to give that vintage and local touch to the train. It also has fully functioning unisex washrooms on every carriage and the windows will remain to be opened at all time for maximum comfort to all the passengers. A British Pullman carriage is used as a functional kitchen car as well as a powerful generator which provides all electricity requirements.

North Borneo Railway
North Borneo Railway

The vintage style interiors of the train that will take you back to the 1900’s. Even the waiter and waitress is well dressed in a British North Borneo style outfit to give you that additional experience of riding in a vintage steam locomotive

North Borneo Railway

Got your tickets ready Chaps?! That British North Borneo style outfit is looking classy

The routes of this train usually start from Tanjung Aru that is not far from Kota Kinabalu city, up to the Papar district, and you can choose to go up to Beaufort or Tenom from Tanjung Aru. The train ride will transport you back to the days of the North Borneo Chartered Company and the British Colonial Office, when the colonials came down to Borneo from England to become planters and plantation owners, cutting into the wilds of the unexplored jungles in search of adventures and riches beyond their wildest imaginations.

Passengers on the North Borneo Railway can also have that similar experience of exploring and seeing parts of Sabah that is very different from any other touristy tourist spots. Along the way, the railway line is just beside by the mighty Crocker Range which is also near to the Mount Kinabalu. Passengers can see how the indigenous people of Sabah still live and also the flora and fauna along the journey, buffaloes taking a dip in mud pools, small rustic towns, water villages, rivers, paddy fields and so much more to see that will keep you wide awake and excited throughout the journey.

North Borneo Railway

Kinarut town, one of the small towns that you will be visiting along the journey. You will get to see the old buildings in the town and also the local people selling their freshly picked crops.

Passengers of the North Borneo Railway will be treated with some of the unique and interesting views of Sabah. For your breakfast, you will be treated with an assortments of Malaysian Desserts or Kuih Muih together with the famous Kopi Tenom or Sabah Tea.

North Borneo Railway

But the most unique thing about the foods in the North Borneo Railway is the lunch. On your way back you will be served with a ‘Tiffin-Style” lunch sets. A typical railway of the olden days.

North Borneo Railway

Instead of plates, your meal will be served in a metal Tiffin Box that’ll give you that unique experience from your everyday meals

North Borneo Railway

Your lunch is basically a variety of local Sabahan foods. An exotic blend of the Asian and Continental Cuisine that’ll keep your stomach full throughout the journey back to the main station

If you are planning to visit Sabah Borneo, make sure to put the North Borneo Railway on your list. An experience you won’t get anywhere else and not be missed in Borneo. Take a step back to 1900 with this train and see Sabah in a different kind of way, I’m sure it’ll be way different from any other experience that other people will get in Sabah. Choooooo Chooooooo……

For a more Historical story in Sabah Borneo, you can read our other blog post on “Atkinson Clock Tower“. Having trouble to know what to pack? Read our “5 Things traveler need not pack in Malaysian Borneo” for more travel packing tips.

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