Chinese New Year is not a good time to get stuck on a train station in Malaysia.
It seems as though the whole population is moving. Trains are booked up weeks in advance as families plan their festive gatherings.And here i was trying to catch a train to take me up the “Jungle railway” on the eastern side of Malaysia. During busy times like this you would think that Malaysian Railways would add extra carriages to the trains or even run additional trains. But it seems they don’t.
Passengers have to make do with the usual timetable. Standing up is also not allowed on trains. I was told at the ticket office that if you do not have a seat then you cannot get on the train unless the train was a ” shuttle” train which got very crowded and stopped at every station.
So here i was stuck at Gemas having arrived by bus from Malacca. Gemas is 165km from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. It is the meeting place of Malaysian West & East Coast lines, and i wanted to complete the Jungle Railway East Coast line up to the Thai border. Gemas train station is one of the oldest in Malaysia and was completed in 1923 by the Federated Malay States Railway.
The first train i could take was only the next morning and since it was getting late i had to find a place to stay for the night. Luckily in Gemas, almost everything is near the train station and you can easily walk round town in 20 minutes.
Since i my travel schedule had been disrupted i was now running out of time and spent a long time studying the timetable working out how far up the Jungle Railway i could travel which turned out to be Kuala Lipis. I had to be in Singapore in two days time for a flight to the Philippines.
Next morning i arrived early and waited for the ticket office to open, bought my ticket and waited for the 10.47 train to Kuala Lipis. I had time to wander round the station and people watch. There were many Indian Malaysians, a few Chinese Malaysians and myself on the platform.
The indians were the most noticeable with their boisterous behaviour and many children.
Malaysian Railways is investing in their infrastructure and updating the lines. Many new stations are being built to cope with the rising demand for train travel in the country and Gemas is no exception.
The station is a major railway hub for Malaysian Railways with a branch line running up the east coast from the west coast Padang Besar / Kualar Lumpur / Johor Baru / Singapore line. The east line goes all the way to Tumpat near the Thai border and is known as the Jungle Railway.
Most trains include a special wagon carrying a generator which provides power to the carriages for the fans and air condition
Most of the stations original features, including the passenger platforms and tracks for goods train, are still intact. In fact, the station building is still has its original structure and has two historical exhibits on show.
Besides the two 1946 North British Locomotive Company steam engines, Class 56 models, there is also an old refill cannon-shaped barrel at the end of the main platform. These historical exhibits are part of Malaysian Railways effort to preserve the station’s heritage…