Last month, i have an opportunity to try the North Borneo Railway! North Borneo Railway is the oldest running steam train in Sabah and Borneo. The nostalgic romance of an old steam train relives memories of a bygone era. Passing through villages and coastal towns, paddy fields, rainforests and plantations of rubber and coffee, a ride on North Borneo Railway is truly a journey of rediscovery into the heart of Borneo.
The North Borneo Railway is a joint venture project between Sutera Harbour Resort and the Sabah State Railway Department (Jabatan Keretapi Negeri Sabah), signifying a historical collaboration between the private sector and the state government. The primary goals of the project are to enhance existing infrastructure as well as help in efforts to promote Sabah as a destination for domestic and international tourism. The North Borneo Railway was officially launched on 22nd January 2000 in honour of Kota Kinabalu achieving city status on 2nd February 2000.
The North Borneo Railway offers passengers an opportunity to experience the bygone era of British North Borneo while transporting passengers along the lifeline of Sabah. Refurbished to recreate the nostalgic romance of people travelling by steam train in the days of the Chartered Company and the British Colonial Office, both the exterior and interior provide an environment that would have been typical of stepping onto a train in the 1900s.
The exterior utilises the traditional deep green and cream of the original North Borneo Railway, with carved brass logos showcasing the original design of a tiger holding a rail wheel, standing on the royal crown. The interior highlights the natural woods of Sabah and unless the train is fully booked, passengers are offered free seating on one of the five colonial-style passenger train carriages.
The North Borneo Railway features a British Vulcan steam locomotive. The engine is designed for wood burning, a costly yet more environmental form of steam. Stepping into the engine is an opportunity to jump back into the shoes of a child, bringing back childhood dreams of pulling on the whistle as the massive train rolls through the contryside.
The train also features five Japanese-designed carriages tha have been meticulously restored and renovated to reflect the era of the steam train. Although the carriages were built in the 1970s, both the exterior and interior provide an environment that is typical of stepping onto a train in the 1900s. The exterior utilises the traditional deep green and cream of the original North Borneo Railway, with carved brass logos on the sides measuring 3 feet by 2 feet on each carriage. The interior highlights the natural woods of Sabah. Each set seats four passengers, with a table in between to facilitate the dining experience.
Each carriage also features a unisex washroom, providing the amenities of a modern bathroom onboard the train. Each carriage accomodates 16 passengers, with a total train capacity of 80 passengers. Windows remain open throughout the journey to enhance the overall heritage experience, and high-powered fans line the ceilings to ensure maximum comfort. A British Pullman carriage is in tow for the entire journey, functioning as a kitchen car as well as a generator. The kitchen has ben customised to cater for the unique tiffin-style dining concept.
The North Borneo Railway runs two weekly return departures (Wednesday, Saturday) from Kota Kinabalu to Papar, year round. Lasting approximately 4 hours, passengers experience the lush landscape of the coastal and rural regions of Sabah. A typical 'tiffin' colonial lunch will be served on the return trip.
Boarding at Tanjung Aru Station - Breakfast is provided
Depart from Tanjung Aru Station for Papar
Stop at Kinarut Town - visit Tien Shi Temple or traditional shops
Depart from Kinarut Station
Arrive in Papar Town - visit local wet market and shops
Re-board train for return journey
Depart from Papar Station for Tanjung Aru
'Tiffin' Lunch onboard
1.40 pm Arrive at Tanjung Aru Station
The North Borneo Railway runs 36 miles between Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah, and Papar, an agricultural town, known as the rice bowl of Sabah.
Passengers board the train at Tanjung Aru Station at the designated platform. At the station, passengers are greeted by well-appointed train stewards. They receive their train passport and boarding pass at the counter and proceed to the platform. As the whistle blows during departure time, the train will commence its journey while, passengers are pampered by the train stewards and treated to some of the unique and interesting sceneries in Sabah.
As the train pulls out of the station, the development of kota Kinabalu begins to slip away. Time and history begin to take over. After Putatan, the train veers into the countryside, away from the modern day trapping of Sabah society. The train hugs the coast of Lokawi Bay and offer passengers an opportunity to take in the picturesque view of the South China Sea.
The train then leaves the road and edges towards Kinarut, a traditional trading village. A school stands proudly in the forefront, reminding everyone of the importance of education. A mosque also stands near the station, highlighting the influence of the national religion. An interesting Buddhist temple appears at the foot of the nearby hill.
After Kinarut, the train passes through Kawang, home to Kawang Forest Reserve. Gazetted as a Second Class Domestic Forest Reserve, its main purpose is to supply clean water for locals in the Vicinity. The centre also offers a myriad of activities from jungle trekking, camping to cave exploration.
The train veers again and crosses the Papar River over a steel trestle bridge as Papar town comes into view. A quaint township, Papar is wedged in the valley between the Crocker Range and the coast. Here, everyone is a neighbour and the intimacy is clear with their dispositions and smiles. The local market or Tamu is a reflection of life in Sabah - simple and alive with the sounds and smells of recurrent daily routines.
The steam train runs every Wednesday and Saturday and is priced at:
RM 270 nett for adults
RM 170 for children between the ages of 3 to 12.
Complimentary for children below 2 years old.
(all the info are from North Borneo Railway Website :Click Here )