Railways – The Iron Spine of Malaya

loading Shortly after the Taiping-Port Weld train began operating, it fatally hit an elephant crossing the track. The poor animal can be seen here, on the right corner of the photograph. Photo: Personal collection.

The formation of the very first railway system in the Malay Peninsula in the late nineteenth century revolutionised the way economic commodities were transported. It was so significant that it elevated Malaya’s economic importance among British colonies in the Far East. Before the construction of the railway line, tin ore was transported using ox-carts. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, an endemic foot-and-mouth disease swept through Taiping, claiming the lives of thousands of cattle and crippling the transportation system. During this period, cart owners drastically raised their fares due to the shortage of cattle. This sudden surge in transportation cost frustrated the British ...

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