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North Borneo Railway ride


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large_5550_14929571225668.jpgThe tourist train still uses the old name "North Borneo Railway".
I had always wanted to ride on the North Borneo Railway (the only rail service in Borneo) but when I last checked, it was not operating. The tracks were supposedly being refurbished and I expected the service would die a quiet death but surprisingly it was back in operation.

I had thought of taking Uber to the station in the morning for the 0745 departure. But my old friend David brought it up last night at supper and he was keenly interested too. He picked me up at 0630 and we drove to the new modern station near the airport.

We waited a while before ticket sales began at 0700. We had a good look around and understood there were three types of trains:

1. The historic train ride, operated by a resort / tour company utilising the old name “North Borneo Railway” (rather than the present name "Sabah State Railway", at MYR345 including meal and hotel transfers.large_5550_14929570948770.jpgThe rickety old carriage which operated our service to Beaufort. In the background is the historic carriage which operates the tourist train.
2. The old rickety carriage which costs MYR4.80 each way to Beaufort with all stops. This was the one operating our service.
3. The modern air-conditioned carriage operating the afternoon service with limited stops. There is a first class surcharge on this but I imagine it is still super cheap.

The train left promptly at 0745 with a few passengers but it sure filled up at the first stop at Putatan a short distance away.

The journey wasn’t very rural at first. But later we had a little jungle, mangrovey sago palms, river crossings, a tunnel, beach, swift houses (for cultivating edible birds' nest), a couple of water buffaloes and anchovies drying in the sun. To be honest, it wasn’t particularly scenic. The most scenic part is from Beaufort to Tenom, as I understand, but it wasn’t possible to do the entirety as a day trip due to the train schedule (outbound, it has a long connection for the onward journey from Beaufort to Tenom).large_5550_14929570972065.jpgThe historic carriage which operates the tourist train.

In Beaufort, we had about 1h15 before the departure back to Kota Kinabalu [Kota-Kinabalu-travel-guide-1096832]. We really had only about 45 minutes for a walk and to grab lunch before heading back to the station and buy our tickets.

The train was quite full when we boarded. It remained that way until Putatan. It rained heavily at one stage and all the windows had to be closed up making it quite steamy. Despite closing the windows, the train leaked through the joins in the wooden window frames.

One of the most memorable sights for me were the old wooden building with shuttered windows at Membakut. These are a rarity nowadays as old wooden buildings (perhaps with old wiring) tend to burn down. And when it is a long row without a firebreak, it spreads :-(

We grabbed a second lunch back in Kota Kinabalu before David dropped me off at the hotel. I rested until coming out for a pre-dinner walk to Centre Point then back to Suria for dinner.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia

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