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North Borneo Railway

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Confession time: we like trains. We have to admit we were a little bit excited to travel on the historical North Borneo Railway, but you don’t have to be a trainspotter kind of person to enjoy the romance of a steam train. The North Borneo Railway isn’t a regular train service, although a regular service does follow the same route, but rather a manufactured tourist attraction recreating the historical era of steam travel.

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Construction on the original line began in 1896 with the intention of opening up the interior of Borneo by the colonial administrators to pillage the rich natural resources. The 36 kilometre section from Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) to Papar, along which the train runs today, was built in the early 1900s. Once the area was stripped of forest (something sounds familiar here), tobacco, rice, sugar and sago crops were grown and transported along the line.

Tip: Get a seat in the front or rear carriage for the best pictures. Photo taken in or around North Borneo Railway, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Tip: Get a seat in the front or rear carriage for the best pictures. Photo: Sally Arnold

The official North Borneo Railway was established on 1 August 1914. World wars and the Depression paralysed the system intermittently, then finally in 1971 steam locomotives were replaced by modern diesel trains. In 2000, the steam engines were resurrected as a historic tourist attraction.

The engine used today is a British-built wood-burning Vulcan (supposedly more environmentally friendly than coal). The five Japanese-designed carriages were built in the 1970s, and refurbished to recreate carriages typical of the 1900s featuring local woods from Sabah.

Each carriage has room for only 16 passengers, sitting facing each other with a wooden table in-between. Seats are comfy upholstered benches with the North Borneo Railway logo attached on brass plaques and all are window seats as it’s one passenger per bench. Don’t worry if you are travelling backwards, as the train reverses for the return journey. Large windows remain open for the full smokey experience, and breezy ceiling fans keep the carriage cool. Each carriage has a bathroom, and a British Pullman carriage functions as the ... Travelfish members only (Around 900 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
To get to Tanjung Aru Station catch a Putatan bus from Wawasan terminal — 2 ringgit (15-20 minutes). Buses only depart when full, so a taxi may be a more reliable way to get there and will cost approximately 20 ringgit.

North Borneo Railway
The Magellan Sutera Resort, Level 2, 1 Sutera Harbour Boulevard, Sutera Harbour, Kota Kinabalu
Departs Wed and Sat at 09:30 from Tanjung Aru Station
T: (088) 308 500 F: (088) 311 136;
Admission: Adults and children aged 4 and up: 345 ringgit including breakfast and lunch. Children aged three and under are free.

Location map for North Borneo Railway

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