After 43 years, he’s calling it a day

  • Nation
  • Friday, 23 Aug 2019

GEORGE TOWN: The last Penang Hill funicular railway conductor who can trace his lineage back to the Great Depression has called it a day.

He retired yesterday.

Third generation funicular train conductor N. Chandrasekaran, 64, bade farewell to his beloved profession when his colleagues gave him a simple send-off as he clocked out for the last time.

His grandfather was a conductor for the same railway from 1932, followed by his son, before the baton was passed to Chandrasekaran, who in turn held the job for 35 years.

“My grandfather conducted the train for 33 years and my father took over for 35 years from 1952.

“I started work with the then Keretapi Bukit Bendera in 1976 as a sweeper, then moved up to become a porter in 1982, and joined my father as a train conductor in 1984, ” said Chandrasekaran, who was born and raised on the hill.

He witnessed the transformation of the funicular train service from wooden coaches to fibreglass ones.

“Back then, we had to manually stop the train, and open and close the doors for passengers.

“Today, the operation is easier as all controls are computerised in the new air-conditioned coaches, ” he added.

The storm of November 2017 that flooded parts of Penang broke his heart when he saw the devastation to the lush greenery.

But there were also fond memories for Chandrasekaran, who is fondly known as MGR after the late Indian actor M.G. Ramachandran.

“I’ve rescued animals that were crossing the track. We just stop and move them out of the way, ” said Chandrasekaran, who made 100 trips daily in the present-day coaches.

The father of two and also grandfather said he would be spending more time with his family now, especially with his nine-month-old grandson.

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