Previously known as North Borneo Railway, Sabah State Railway has a rich history just like KTMB in Peninsular Malaysia. It is more than 100 years old and also runs on 1000mm gauge. Unlike KTMB though, the line is kinda short at 134KM compared to 1677KM of KTMB’s. What it lacks in size and modern trains, it makes it up with charm and uniqueness. It’s as if going back in time because the trains are short, the stations are small and it is run by very friendly local people.
I had the privilege to visit Sabah on the 28th of November for a wedding. In between the tight schedule being the best man, I managed to squeeze some time for trainspotting. I was quite lucky to not only be able to catch their local diesel train but also their steam train which is known as North Borneo Railway.
First of all, I would like to apologise for the quality of the photos in this post, my camera is going to give way soon so I took most of the photos using my handphone which turned out kinda grainy. The journey started at KLIA and below is a pic and video for aviation geeks.
My first glimpse of trains in Sabah was at Stesen Sembulan which is the first stop. The platform was short and became quite crowded. Some of the passengers opted to wait outside the platform in the rain instead to get a seat I suppose. I was told some of these coaches were donated by KTMB and refurbished to be used on this tracks. Operating speed for this trains are 80km/h. I met a friendly staff here who told me that the steam train runs every Wednesday and Saturday which really made anxious because I had a wedding to attend the next day! Apparently the steam train leaves in the morning and returns back to Tanjung Aru Station around 2pm.
Despite the tight schedule at the wedding, I manage to get to Tanjung Aru station, partly because the station was actually very close to my friend’s house where the lunch for the wedding was held. I went ahead and took some photos of the stations:
Finally, the steam train. This was kinda emotional for me because this is the first time I am in the presence of a running steam locomotive. It was really more than expected, steam locos have a certain character which even diesel locomotives lack. It is quite difficult to describe it. It’s very unfortunate I was not able to take a ride on this train though, perhaps that’s for another trip and write up.