Dilapidated railway station in Sabah turns to ‘dust’


Colour photo of Melalap Train Station taken in April 2016 courtesy of Dragonfly Robotix.

KOTA KINABALU: A move to restore a long-forgotten dilapidated railway station in Sabah’s interior Melalap district some 160km from here has now turned to dust.

This railway station, which served as a key stop for agricultural producers from the interior more than a hundred years ago, was supposed to be restored starting 2019, with works already starting on the railtrack.

However, it is unclear what happened and why work stopped after that, resulting in the colonial era railway station collapsing and disappearing for good.

Collapsed old railway station in Melalap, 2018. Picture courtesy of historian Abednigo Chow.Collapsed old railway station in Melalap, 2018. Picture courtesy of historian Abednigo Chow.

North Borneo Historical Society founder Richard Ker said there is nothing left of the station now as municipal council workers had cleared the place and thrown away all the ruins after it collapsed not too long ago.

Unsure exactly when the building gave way to age and rot, he said he was only told about it after the incident, and when the debris had been cleared.

“It is such a shame. Restoration of this colonial building was going to start and there was already good news announced by the previous state government but suddenly, everything went into a hiatus,” he said.

“If restored, this railway station could have been an economic catalyst such as tourism and jobs for the locals,” said Ker.

Only rusty tracks remain. Picture courtesy of historian Abednigo Chow.Only rusty tracks remain. Picture courtesy of historian Abednigo Chow.

He said Sabah needs a proper heritage preservation and restoration body just like the United Kingdom’s National Heritage Trust.

He said with the falling and clearing of the now non-existent railway station, what remained were just some rusty train tracks nearby.

Ker had been part of a group of people fighting to get this old railway station restored in 2016, and was a main figure in trying to raise funds for its restoration works.

Black and white photo of Melalap Train Station in 1958 by M. H. Baker.Black and white photo of Melalap Train Station in 1958 by M. H. Baker.

Unfortunately, no one responded.

Built in the early 1900s by the British during the colonial era, this railway could have been used to connect the villagers from many interior zones far from Melalap to Tenom, and Beaufort up to Kota Kinabalu if restored.

Left in the midst of an estate, the Melalap railway slowly lost its function when roads were built sometime in the 1960s.

In 2019, then Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had announced a RM10mil Tenom-Melalap railway project to revive the railway station as part of an initiative to close the development gap between the interior and urban areas.

An empty lot is what’s left. Picture courtesy of historian Abednigo Chow.An empty lot is what’s left. Picture courtesy of historian Abednigo Chow.

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Melalap , railway station , Sabah , Richard Ker , heritage

   

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