The International Steam Pages

Bukit Seraya Dam Railway

I used to think I knew more than average about railways in Malaysia and it came as a bit of shock to be told that there were the remains of a narrow gauge railway near a dam outside Bukit Mertajam in Seberang Prai (Province Wellesley) - 521'9"N 10030'20"E. Information on the web is extremely limited - just one article and a YouTube slide show presentation.

It seems that the dam was built by the Federated Malay States Railway (F.M.S.R.) in the mid 1920s to provide a reliable water supply for staff and steam locomotives in the Bukit Mertajam area. It is not clear when it was abandoned and surprisingly it is full of water although apparently unmaintained which strikes me as a safety risk.

The article says the dam is '337 metres above sea level' but topography maps suggest that the true figure should be no more than half that. Whatever the true figure, it meant that materials (other than quarry stone) had to be be lifted some way uphill.

Some 3 years on, I got an email out of the blue from Martin Haywood who was able to fill in some details about the railway side of things. Two petrol locomotives were ordered in 1920, probably MotorRail 2081/2 which were 2'6" (762mm) gauge and delivered to CREC, Prai (possibly Chief Resident Engineer Construction). They worked separately the two flat sections from the top of the incline which we walked down. The article talks about two double track inclines each with a winding engine at the top. Presumably the second one referred to was that between the dam and railway but there seemed to be a third one at the quarry as well, maybe it was an afterthought as the article predates actual construction. As for height, the two inclines were 200 feet and 165 feet (60 / 50 metres) high. You can download the full article as a pdf.

All this added 3rd May 2022.

Good friend Rexy took Peter van der Lans, Yuehong and me on a tour of inspection on 2nd February 2019. As a result, I have prepared a sketch map which is indicative of what I found. There are also a number of photographs.

The key features are:

1. A long straight incline running uphill south-west to north-east to a level open area.

2. From this open area there are two railway alignments running north and south east. 

a) The latter terminates above the dam wall, there would have been an incline down from its end.

b) The former terminates above an area which includes a quarry, within which are a few remains of light weight (ie narrow gauge) railway tracks. 

I have been unable to establish whether there were any locomotives used in construction. The YouTube presentation has two pictures of Super Sentinel locomotives at work. However, one of these is very similar to an official photograph of such a locomotive working on the construction of the Tapah to Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands) road about the same time and therefore can probably be discounted. The article speculates on the existence of an iron mine in the area but without giving any proper evidence.

The whole area is owned by a government agency / department which manages idle assets of the railway (formerly F.M.S.R., then Malayan Railway, now K.T.M.). Yuehong is walking down the alignment of an incline which served the railway above the dam. Parts are on an embankment and there is a gap where once there must have been a bridge. 

This remnant and the two below are in the area of the quarry. The waterfall described in the article seems to be dropping down the vertical face of it.

This slightly heavier rail is at the end of the upper section of the horizontal 'dog leg' alignment, this is slightly higher than the quarry area.

This much heavier rail is midway on the first section of the horizontal alignment and this concrete base is in the angle made by the two sections.  

This shows that the horizontal railway line was quite wide, rather more than would be needed for a single narrow gauge track. The telegraph (?) insulators are lying beside it.

The first two pictures show the main dam wall. The article shows a large pipe emerging from the hole in it but now excess water just drains away in the open area in front of it. The next three pictures show the top of the dam. The final picture shows what may have been an incline between the railway and the dam. The quarry area is quite large, I guess there would have been enough stone there originally to fill the dam wall and build the embankment for the main incline.

Finally another mystery item, a section of rail at the top of Bukit Seraya itself some distance away. I rubbed it clean, splashed it with water and found it has a casting 'F.M.S.R. 60 lb, the latter figure being the weight per yard, 

Needless to say I would welcome more information and pictures, there is an email address below. As always anything used will be properly acknowledged.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson