Alor Gajah railroad in ruins

Historic site: The old Alor Gajah railway station, now covered in shrubs. The only remnant of the bygone Malayan Railway in Melaka is its concrete platform.

MELAKA: A signboard with the word “Alor Gajah” and part of a forlorn concrete platform are all that is left of the railway in the state.

Covered in shrubs, the ruins of the Alor Gajah Railway station in Jalan Keretapi in Pengkalan, Alor Gajah, hardly gets any tourist visits.

But the railroad, laid by the British administration in 1905, holds many memories for residents nearby, who until today, are known as the “Melaka Railway Children”.

Maimunah Haron, 65, remembers stories of the railroad passed down to her by her parents.

“I guess the new generation is unaware that Melaka used to have its own railway. My mother told me the railway master used to give her sweets when she was a child, ” she said.

The railroad used to connect Tampin in Negri Sembilan to Melaka city and service folk from as far as Rembau, passing by padi fields, orchards and villages along the way, she said.

The 32km rail line from Pulau Sebang in Tampin ended at a street which is now known as Jalan Hang Tuah in the heart of the historic city.

Over the years, many stories have arisen from the abandoned tracks, including a ghost, said to be that of a woman who committed suicide along the rail line, which would appear while the train waited for the signal from the railway master along the Durian Tunggal stretch at night.

Maimunah claimed that during the Japanese occupation, those who worked for the railway in Melaka were captured and forced to work on the infamous Death Railway project along the Thailand-Myanmar border.

P. Perumal, 66, said during World War II, the train tracks along the Melaka line were dismantled by the Japanese army and transported to the Thailand and Myanmar border as materials for the 415km-long railway, where some 102,000 workers eventually died.

The Tampin-Melaka rail service, he said, was discontinued during the Japanese occupation.

“I was told that the Japanese detonated several bridges along the railway line to stop the British Armed Forces from dispatching ammunition to the city.

“The railway staff, who were our ancestors, built houses along the abandoned tracks once the Japanese surrendered and many of us are still living here, ” he said.

The Melaka railway service has not been revived since then.

Perumal said some of those living along the area known as Jalan Keretapi Lama in Pengkalan and Gadek, both in Alor Gajah, had yet to receive their land titles.

“Luckily, we got a Chief Minister from Alor Gajah, who is aware of the predicament faced by folk like me who are termed as Melaka Railway Children, ” he said.

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