Sarawak Government Railway


In 1915 the Sarawak Government Railway had been opened to the 3rd Mile and was in due course extended to the 13th. In its heyday there were five trains in either direction propelled by three locomotives and observing a speed which precluded any possibility of mishap. There was an ugly attempt at sabotage in 1917 when some miscreant spread fat on the rails at the 7th Mile incline and nearly brought traffic to a standstill, but in June, 1920 occurred Sarawak's only railway castastrophe, when the up 11.30 a.m. passenger train collided head-on with a down ballast train outside the Kuching Central Station. The guard of the ballast train was badly shaken, and the two locomotives were only with difficulty *disentangled.


 A Peckett 4-4-0T at Batu Sa Puloh with a mixed train for Kuching.

The next article is from the Industrial Railway Society as are the two pictures which follow.


    Although not strictly within the scope of this article, readers may be interested in a few details of this metre gauge railway which started off as a passenger line but seems to have finished up as an industrial one! Track-laying began in 1911 with a "light locomotive" quaintly named IDIOT, and although twenty-seven miles were surveyed only ten were built. Three Peckett locomotives arrived later - a small 0−4−0 side tank, JEAN, and two 10−ton 4−4−0 side tanks, BULAN (moon) and BINTANG (star). (These Peckett locomotives were, respectively, 1284 of 1912, 1362 of 1914, and 1363 of 1914. The former had in fact worked as a aft gauge locomotive at John Lysaght's steelworks at Scunthorpe, Lines., from June 1912 to March 1913; it was regauged by Peckett and resold in September 1913 to the Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co. Ltd. for The Borneo Co. Ltd. - Hon. Eds.) The official opening took place on 1st August 1915 but by January 1931, when the third Rajah ordered its general closure, the Railway had lost no less than 1,063,760 dollars (at 2s 4d to the dollar). It was used on and off (the Japanese took it over during the Second World War) for hauling stone from the quarry at Mile 10. Diesel locomotives were employed latterly, and the final closure came in 1947. What was left of the line was sold for scrap in Singapore in 1959. The passenger rolling stock (1st and 2nd class with wooden seats) came second-hand from Burma, and the goods wagons second-hand from the Federated Malay States Railway.

    There is a story (probably apocryphal) told about the second Rajah, who evolved the scheme, that when in England on leave in 1907 he approached the Board of the Great Western Railway for advice. However, when the Chief Engineer heard that the narrow gauge railway was to be only ten miles long initially, he suggested that the Rajah would be better off going to Gamages!