The International Steam Pages

Up Memory Lane, Penang 2009, Part 2

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

After our visit to Burma and transit in Thailand, we had an extended visit to Penang - click here for the main index page. There is a glimpse of the 'new railway' elsewhere on this site.

'Funiculi, Funicula' - the Penang Hill Railway on DVD - Now available!

I bought 'Penang - Trams, Trolleybuses & Railways' by Francis & Ganley, published locally in 2006 by Areca Books, ISBN 983-42834-0-7, excellent value at MYR 50. I found a copy in MPH at the Gurney Plaza near Bagan Jermal but no doubt it is available elsewhere. Thomas Kautzor tells me it is described on Areca's website and can be bought from them by credit card - I have added some pictures taken in the 1970s just before the new cars arrived (20th November 2009) - click here.

Despite the date Penang Hill Railway actually opened in 1924, it is a classic cable funicular operated in two sections, each with two coaches:

The state government has recently announced plans to revamp and maybe replace it with a 'modern' system, which will be only the second major operational change in its history, the other being a new set of coaches in 1977. We rode it up (and then walked down) at the end of October 2009. First our train arrives and then Peter Nettleship and Yuehong get their tickets checked while goods are loaded into the 'truck':

To facilitate crossing, all vehicles have one wheel unflanged and another double flanged. Next to the station is a weighing room complete with vintage Avery scales:

Half way up the first section, necessarily 'the other half' must be crossed:

For this section I travelled at the rear to get a view back, the second picture shows the winding house at the midway station:

I transferred to the front for the upper section. This is Claremont station, until 10 years ago the 'driver' indicated the need to stop by using a brass strip to short circuit two adjacent wires, these days everything is done by walkie-talkie radio. The stations are 'unbalanced' and first time visitors are frequently unnerved when their train apparently stops in the middle of nowhere. The passing loop layout clearly shows the means of operation which allow the cables to pass through the middle of the track without the use of points:

The highlight of this section is a short tunnel. Our final view of the railway was the train going down, quite why anyone was travelling in the truck is anyone's guess as, being in the morning, this train was almost empty. Perhaps they were smokers...

From here we descended on foot down the once notorious 'Moon Gate Trail'.

At least two of the original four Penang Hill Railway coaches survive. One is outside the Penang Museum:

The other is near the summit station.

The following pictures show the worksplate and the emergency braking gear:

I recall (but have not yet checked), that one was preserved at the bottom station although I didn't see it. Another is outside the national museum in Kuala Lumpur. These are pictures of these at work from our Tiger Steam CD-ROM.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson