Old Penang: Weld Quay (updated)

Old Penang: Weld Quay (updated)

As you can see, Penang once had an eco-friendly public transport system.

Weld Quay 1950s
Notice the bicycles, trishaws and electric double-decker buses near the ferry terminal along Weld Quay in the 1950s - Photograph from Ric Francis, also published in his book Penang Trams, Trolleybuses and Railways

Trolleybus No. 36 passing by the Railway Jetty at Weld Quay - Photograph from Ric Francis, also published in his book Penang Trams, Trolleybuses and Railways

Thanks to Ric for this photo from the 1950s. Click on the photo to view a full-screen version.

Here you can see a trolleybus passing by the Railway Jetty along Weld Quay. The Railway Jetty was located at the site of the present-day Church Street Pier. You can see a newspaper vendor and money-changer at the entrance to the Jetty.

Trolleybuses, ferries and trishaws and not a car in sight. People used to buy a train ticket at the Malayan Railway office along Weld Quay and then hop on a ferry to the Prai Junction railway station on the mainland near present-day Prai, where they could board a train. (The present railway station in Butterworth was only opened in 1967.) The two or three ferries shuttling between the Railway Jetty and Prai in the early 1950s were known as ‘Elizabeth II’, ‘Violet’ (and ‘Ibrahim’?).

The trolley buses and tram cars on the island were a major draw for visitors to Penang, he added. “It felt as if we were entering a foreign land.”

Unfortunately, the state government is now taking the regressive step of catering for private motor vehicles with major road infrastructure projects in the pipeline, and this is likely to be financed by more controversial land reclamation swap deals.

If you have any other old photos of places and people of interest to share, do send them to me. (See ‘Submit photos’ link at the top of the page.)


  1. Bro Anil & my dearly Penang Friends,

    Update of info’s. Please FB Jamil Othman or Anak Tanjung Tokong Facebook to get the view of Histories Photo’s of Penang. You’ll find it very intereting and will treasure it.

    Good Luck.

  2. The Europeans understood the value of urban planning for centuries even before they set foot on our shores. Not only do their governance generously give to public facilities, private enterprise/citizens contributed selflessly to communal needs and demanded them of their government. But some of these wide berth are purely conincidental also. The wide roads you see are because of the legacy of horse carriages that required them. As transport was motorized the roads got narrower.

  3. A monopoly on public services is unhealthy and profit and loss should never be the topmost priority of public services providers. If services are efficient and effective, profit will naturally come in as more people utilize them. It is a good idea to have feeder bus shuttles servicing housing estates, ideally another company to create competition. Also, if possible, get huge lands at both ends of the Penang bridge for car parks and have a bus shuttle between the island and the mainland. To make it attractive: charge a small fee for parking and the car owner rides free. The car park operator could also provide this shuttle service at a discounted bridge toll. This would reduce the congestion on the bridge, lesser dependence on cars – better for the environment; and savings on bridge tolls. Above all, the services must be EFFICIENT for people to LIKE to use it.

    • Take PLUS out of the equation and most likely Penang DAP Gomen can and will implement it, Grandma.
      Barang Naiki Syndrome always cause hardship to Rakyat wherever there’s monopoly to hang on!
      Rid of PLUS first from Penang Bridge.

    • The bus system must be taken over by the State Government and not private entities with funding from the federal government. Rapid is from the Federal Government and they need to source land and extra lanes from thestate. If the state provide more land but not buses, it is like a white elephant Private entities are there to cari makan and would not provide other services. Provide shuttles does not work if the buses perform. The driver will be frustrated and would rather drive directly to his destination just for some extra cost rather than waiting for the bus 20 min to 30 min and pack like sardines!

    • to give RapidPenang a suggestion, get Mydin to sponsor (they can put up their billboard & advertise their weekly promo items) the bus stands near their premises; namely along Penang Road and another one at BJ Komplex Hub.
      This is simple marketing which is win-win for all !

    • Mydin is slowly but surely be evolved as My1MalaysiaDin since it is getting all the goodies from BN to carry products with 1malaysia brand name. As a results, it will eventually wipe out all the kedai runcits in Malaysia!

      • Kedai 1malaysia will benefit the cronies while killing the business of those trditional kendai runcit. The government should allow those 1malaysia brand-name products to be sold by kedai runcit, otherwise how to rakyat didahulukan?

  4. I lived in Maxwell Road which is parallel to Prangin Road until the demolition to make way for Komtar. The Municipal bus from Weld Quay passed through this part on its way to Bagan Jermal. On the Maxwell/Prangin Road were Penang’s bus shuttle hubs – the green bus that served the Ayer Itam route, the yellow bus that served the Jelutong (and further) route, the blue (Hin Co.) bus that served the Tanjung Bungah route. On one end of Maxwell Road near the Great World Park was the trishaw ‘stand’ and on the other end nearer to the ‘Sia Buey’ (Prangin Market) was the bullock cart ‘stand’. (Yes, in those days, bullock carts were used for goods transport). It was so organized back then and I suppose the concept could still be used today.

    • Grandma
      You share the effectiveness of public transport of past decades; which should be valuable for the vision of new public transport of Penang Island. We lost the shine of the gem due to poor gerak-geri administration in the 90’s resulting in the death of green/blue/yellow system to be over-ridden by cowboy pajak system !
      Now RapidPenang being the sole survivor and has become the monopoly; and the voices of the consumers are not being taken seriously for fast action. RapidPenang seems to be lulled into complacent mood despite many suggestion by Penang Transport Forum which Anil has been actively involved.
      We suggest to use Anil’s blog as platform for continuous improvement so that RapidPenang becomes more active towards social responsibilities instead of too profit-oriented (still remember they are formed to serve the people first, isn’t it ?).

      I sokong more affordable monthly pass to “lure” more people to leave their cars at home and use Rapid under normal circumtances. Concurrently, Rapid has to improve the bus stands to be user friendly (pls light-up all bus stops and also have shelter for them to avoid potential criminal intimidation in the dark or heavy downpour waiting for the bus). Also the predictability of bus arrivals must be consistent so that the impatient youngs or working people do not miss their crucial appointments depending on Rapid for travel.

      Support Me, pls thumbs up to gather momentum and to get Anil to steer us rapidly towards the rise of public transport to curb pollution and traffic jam.

      • As some readers are aware I hav moved out of Penang Island and settled down well in less urban Sg Petani.

        However, I believe my 2 sen worth of suggestion can hopefully help my friends in the island to enjoy the public bus ride.

        I’ve confirmed report from Sebarang Jaya hub that RapidPenang’s ICIS system are already in place but RapidPenang under Federal gomen can only implement full scale only after this coming GE. Reason i no need to say as u know as well as i do. If islanders still do not have bus arrival info on display at least at main hub, do voice up !

        Many of my islander friends prefer cheaper monthly pass. For senior/studying folks the mthly pass is only RM35 while regular local folks presently pay RM75/mth. While the services are not consistent yet, RapidPenang should think of reducing the monthly fare fairly to RM30 & RM50 respectively. This will pull in more cost conscious people to use public transport. This topic worth debating.

        RapidPenang next step is to introduce RapidPenang Shuttle mini-bus, which ferry the housing estate folks to the main road to catch the regular bigger bus. This mini-bus should have fixed time-table at regular time shuttling within eg at Thean Teik housing estates to bring riders to Air itam main road where they can continue journey via buses 2xx. The same for Tanjung Bungah/Batu Feringghi 1xx & Bayan lepas/Bayan Baru/Relau folks with buses 3xx.

      • readers post their comments in Anil’s specially created forum on public transport.
        RapidPenang nPR folks then read Anil’s blog regularly to learn a thing or 2 to improve bus services.
        Otherwise, direct e-mails may just simply being put aside with no action or even courtesy reply.
        If this is not effective, then State Gomen can start ooperate own public transport to run parralel with federal’s RapidPenang !

  5. How i yearn for the Penang of the past.
    never mind, now we must revive the glory.
    first make the roads less choking.
    encourage more to use public transport !

  6. And now we have tunnel vision!
    All for the nearsightedness of wildebeest development.
    I rather take the Penang Hill Railway tunnel ride which stands the test of time of many appreciative slow riders up the hill.

    • I think it all started going downhill when they got rid of the city council bus service and privatised everything to the minibus ‘cowboys’ at a time when they were privatising everything … thanks to Mrs Thatcher and Mahathir.

      • Maggie also wanted the best finance minister at the time. Someone should have accepted her offer then. Hehe.

  7. We need more people to support public transport. It is doable in Penang.

    I stll remember catching the ferry to cross over to Prai to catch a night train to KL in the late 50’s with my dad. I was only about 6 yrs old. Exciting for a young boy. You get to a boat ride & train ride for the price of one ticket.

    The fact that the railway station is in Pg (present Customs building) used to be the trick question in school quizes….”which rail station in Malaya or Malaysia does not have trains arriving or leaving it? …. Shows our clever you are …if you can answer that one…wow

  8. those days we can take our time doing things leisurely.
    Nowadays the lifestyles of the public have become more complex with issues like barang naik matters.
    People now are so used to convenience (eg handphone, internet, Astro etc) and the younger generations of X, Y, XY are not able to relate to these photos; especially when their parents do not bother to realte the past history to them !

    Anil has been in sentimental yesteryears mood to reflect the past. I think we should learn from the past then leave it aside to look forward for better transport in penang. Hence many have appealed to Anil to set an effective forum like for a start o get RapidPenang to be more appealing to the public to switch over from driving personal transport causing jams now and then.

    Anil don’t get me wrong. Do remain sentimental with your loved ones and be more outspoken (with readers support) to bring mindset changes in public as well as RapidPenang (monthly pass of RM35 ?).

    What say you ?

    • Yes, we really need to have a change of mindset, BoBoiBoy!

      The first thing we must ask RapidPenang is to lower the monthly season ticket price and make it more widely available.

      Maybe I will try and do a tweet or chat box for public transport.

      • Anil

        I realy appreciate your effort to request for lower bus fare via the concession card.

        Keep up the good work.
        We want reliable and affordable public transportation.
        Enough of Proton.

  9. George Town once had a decent public transport system because few owned cars and public expectations were low.
    They didn’t mind the long wait for the seldom punctual bus/tram to appear or taking a ride in a trishaw all the way from Weld Quay to Dato Kramat.

    • Everyone is in nolstagic mood lately.

      Even The Star is recycling old news, maybe has a way to cut cost with less writers?

      Or is it a sign that malaysians has little confidence to look forward to the future, even after the budget goodies from Jibby?

    • Yaya and I agree that we put sentimental aside and look forward to the future for better Malaysia.
      Stop lamenting.
      If we can look ourselves at the mirror and start the positive change for a start, then we believe we can make a positive contribution to the socirty.
      Forget all those political rhetorics. We work hard and smat to fill the pockets to overcome the barang naik phenomena with dignity !


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