Great-grandmother shares memories of Melaka railway, hopes its history will be revived

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 26 Jul 2020

MELAKA: The only known survivor of the bygone Melaka railway wishes the history of the "Choo Choo" train is revived.

Great-grandmother R. Papathi Raju still lives close to the ruins of the Alor Gajah Railway station in Pengkalan in Alor Gajah.

The 95-year-old vividly recalls the station teeming with people during its heyday.

"It was the most convenient and only mode of public transport for people in Negri Sembilan and Melaka to reach the heart of the historic city in the mid-1900s," she said.

Papathi lived 100m away from the station as a child, where her late father S. Raju owned a grocery shop and restaurant.

"The station itself was a playground for children living along the railroad then, and its history should be preserved," she said in an interview on Sunday (July 26).

Papathi said the remnants of the rail bridges still exist at Batu Berendam and areas in Bachang.

She also learned to speak fluent Hokkien from those living around the Alor Gajah station.

Papathi also shared a story on her proficiency in Hokkien which helped to locate two children who got lost while taking a ride on the train, sometime in 1935.

"My dad asked me to communicate with the two boys and finally we located their father from Tampin in Negri Sembilan.

"At the time, there was no telephone and my dad had to bring them back to their family using his horse carriage," she said.

Papathi said the businessman father of the boys was so grateful and as a gesture of appreciation, he donated building materials for the Sri Sithi Vinayagar Sri Bala Subramaniar Alaya Paripalana Sabai temple in Pengkalan.

"My father was instrumental in building the temple, which is still functioning" she said.

Papathi shared her memories of the Melaka railway after The Star featured an article on the ruins of Alor Gajah Railway station in Jalan Keretapi in Pengkalan, Alor Gajah.

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

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.

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.

The Melaka railway service was discontinued after Japanese occupation of Malaya.

The train tracks along the Melaka line were reportedly 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 during World War II.

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