Penang Hill Railway: Selling the family silver?


You know they are supposedly “upgrading” the Penang Hill Railway.

So what’s going to happen to all the vintage machinery (scroll down that page to see the equipment) that pulls up the funicular trains? There are two sets of such equipment to pull up the trains, one at the middle station and the other at the summit station.

The other day, I met a friend and he told me that someone from the UK was in Penang recently, interested in acquiring the wheel that pulls the cable (and the trains) up. Apparently, there is a funicular railway in Devon in the UK that is interested in the equipment.

So I googled ‘Devon’ and ‘funicular’ and found the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway, which rises 500 feet above sea level – lower than the Penang Hill Railway. Check out the photo gallery here. Looks so charming and inviting.

This Cliff Railway was opened in 1890, around the same time that work on the earlier version of the Penang Hill Railway began. Check out the history of the Cliff Railway here.

While others are painstakingly preserving, protecting and restoring their heritage, we are getting rid of ours. How sad. Look how they treasure their heritage while we couldn’t care less.

As my friend asked, “Are we selling the family silver to buy some stainless steel?”

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a citizen but also kaisu

Time to move one. Well we cna always cherish all the good memories and the fun time times we have with our funicular train but it is time to move on
It looks pretty scary and mark my word tragedy will strike one day if nothing is done now. Who is to take the blame then.
So move on guys

Ric Francis

Well I can see the Citizen did not get what i had to say on the 7th.Your right in one statement It looks scary and mark my word tragedy will happen with the new concept. History will repeat it self as the first railway found out.Arnold Johnson said about the railway when he built the 1923 railway.


tunglang, guess you were not born yet when the ferry tragedy happened many many years ago… i think it was some 30 years ago… why? because it was lacked of maintenance… my friend’s cousin was one of the many killed in that tragedy… he was just a teenager but his life was robbed due to human error… if ours is like Singapore’s govt or the West, then it will be a different story, but look at ours, stadium collapsed, court building collapsed and last year the collapse of a new bridge in Perak that killed 2/3 young lives… I say… Read more »


My friend, read my earlier comment again. You are no Penangite, I guess. When the Penang ferry tragedy happened on 31st July, 1988, I was in town. This misfortunate tragedy was mainly due to human errors like poor crowd control and overcrowding at the waiting areas. This was not due to maintenance fault. Get your FACT right. Just imagine putting a 50kg Dumb bell on a 1cm thick wooden flint stick, get what I mean? The recent incidents of collapsing bridge, buildings and stadium are uncalled for due to several factors, one of which is the questionable workmanship of questionable… Read more »


I hope Iron has found his new nasi kandar stall which is very convenient to him and be happy forever

One minor correction, it’s Ikan Bakar, not Nasi Kandar.

But I guess you don’t know the difference because you never go out of your house — still feeling so scared that the sky gonna fall on you, Kee?


Ric Francis, thanks very much… at least you bother to explain…

Maybe i have to admit i am a paranoid…

Maybe the greatest fear is i just dont trust and am having no faith in our own system – maintenance, etc.

Lately, there are too many tragedies happened in the Land… I really do not want to see anymore caused by human error.

tunglang, i appreciate your experience.

Truly, my concern is more on the safety of human lives…

Good day !


In Penang, people know how to maintain old things to pristine yet safe-to-use conditions. Just take a look at the trishaws, the old bungalows, the ferries, the antique cars, the living heritage buildings, the Fort Cornwallis, the tram road rails, the old cemeteries, the churches, mosques and temples, the old stilt houses, the old giant trees. Has anybody died due to poor maintenance of these old things? Has any trishaw killed anyone? In Penang, you can get maintenance services cheaper than in KL! So it’s not necessary expensive if you know how and where to get it done. And save… Read more »

Ric Francis

Kee, I take on board what you have to say But as a Engineer ,lets get your facts straight. Some of the worlds old hills railway are over 100 years old and still running to say the train is old really it is only about 25 years old Anything old can be maintained to a REALLY SAFE MODE.Guess what you are in for with this new train faster than a bullet. No time to view the scenic finish up with sore ears might even be height sickness,I am running trams nearly 100 years old and pass all safe testing by… Read more »


Anil, maybe i would like to wish you the luck of having both worlds – your old train and the safety of human lives.

Please forgive me for being a paranoid… old vehicle needs high maintenance… are we that efficient? i doubt…

Maybe you should come and visit my kampong, everything is antique.


If you are so scared of everything, why don’t you don on a protective armor and hide under the bed, inside your own house, 24 hours a day?

It’s dangerous outside, you know?


I dont know la Anil, but I really dont feel safe with the old train. Yes, we may repair and maintain but somehow, honestly, i just dont feel safe. I think it is a wise move to have it upgraded before any disaster happens. Yes, we need to preserve certain things which are old and of value but not everything la esp where there is an involvement of risk and harm that may cause to human lives. Indeed, there is a boundry to be drawn between “heritage” and safety. Somehow, i feel that we cant have the cake and eat… Read more »


I think i beg to differ from you guys. Please pardon if you disagree, esp Mr Anil. I went up to Penang Hill 20 years ago and i swore to myself, this would be my first and last because it was so scary, i mean the train it was so old and worn out… I was afraid la folk, and of course, i worried for the safety of others as well !!! Wonder how many of you can still remember the “ferry’s tragedy” in Penang/Butterworth many many years ago. To me, if we dont upgrade now it is like a… Read more »


Sure we can keep the old train but who is going to foot the anual inspection and period where it has to be taken off from use to the public?????

Any machinery and structure has a design life and if not properly taken care, then regular maintenance and inspection is required especially our climate is humid and rainy susceptabile to high corrosion and rot.

If anything happen to life, will we be screaming off like why another landslide again?


I had travelled in the old train, the one you see in the Penang State Museum since my childhood days during the 60’s. My cherished experience: 1)The Ride – I can still remember the great anticipation and excitement seeing the train coming down for my turn to take a ride up the Penang Hill. The antiquated atmosphere added to the overall unique experience at the bottom station. But the real joy began once you stepped into the train. The slow ride, the green, green farms, the cool breeze, the thick mist, the chirping of birds, the inquisitive monkeys, the old… Read more »

Iron Is Penang lacking in international convention centres? By Marina Emmanuel [email protected] 2010/01/27 Why does the Penang state government need to build an international convention and exhibition centre? Is it to be used as a “magnet” to draw world-class events to the state, a showcase to potential investors or is it merely an exercise to bulldoze a proposal that is not likely to create any significant economic spin-offs for the people? Is the state currently lacking in such a facility? The fact that the proposed Penang International Convention Centre (PICC) is getting little applause speaks volumes that this may not… Read more »

charice chance

LGE’s govt keeps blaming the Fed govt, but if there had been any political will, brains and imagination, these things could have been prevented.

Infrastructural upgrades and development are (usually) an easy avenue for unethical exchange of monies [corruption], in any country.

The present State govt is quite bankrupt of imagination and ideas, given LGE’s unquestioning support of PORR, the second bridge, all those dubious deals that irked right-thinking Penangites in the first place.


charice, do you know which are federal projects, and which are state projects?

Ric Francis

Soon all the scene will change, so I have written a book on the Hill to record the Great Historical Railway will not be forgotton. Keep an eye open later for the Book Penang Hill by yours truly
Ric Francis

Keng Hooi

What is the state government doing about this?


I have this to say:- Only when we as Malaysian’s learn to appreciate our HISTORY and our HISTORICAL background, will we be able to appreciate the future and its significance. At the moment we have no clear HISTORICAL background. We are Malays, Chinese, Indians, etc first, before we are Malaysians. What or whose HISTORY are we defending? Malay, Chinese, Indian history? We have none or the TRUTH has been so screwed, we don’t even know what it is anymore? If we have a clear connection with History, I am sure, many would have thought about it before throwing it away.… Read more »


Those Feds are more interested to get rid of any colonial heritage in Penang. Never mind to replace something out of place, as long as there is ‘Khang Thow’ to be made. The damn thing is they don’t see value or care to appreciate heritage things whilst those Japanese, Europeans and Americans pay gold to keep theirs in pristine condition for future generation to enjoy and appreciate.

Have you seen what those idiotic Talibans did to their heritage Bhudda statue?
Pathetic, Pathetic, Pathetic.


Yeah. Sell these scrap metal. Let the English have it cheap so that they keep their train running. They appreciate these heritage more than Penang. They would take loving care of the machineries.

As for Malaysia, it the the new rich syndrome. Everything must be spanking new and better than others. Everything must show off the new wealth.


Watch out, lest those expensive vintage trains/equipment go ‘missing’ like those fighter plane engines!


Never mind lah, let this mat salleh have what originally belongs to them. UMNO does not need these pendatang stuff

I love Penang

Morning Anil,

As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another one’s gold..

What I do not understand is the cable car in Hong Kong and the one you mentioned – Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway are able to function after so long, but our Penang Hill’s cable car is left to rot, and *poof*, time to upgrade, tender..


Oh yes, Anil, were you at the Cathedral last night? Good Friday, the day our Lord died for us. And to think that you are afraid of DAP, so much so that you are thinking of censoring out the truth about what happened to the former DAP HQ in Island Glades… Truth is truth, Anil, no matter how you want to censor it out, the truth is STILL the truth. You may want to censor out the truth … You may think that once you censor out everything nobody will know about the truth. But God works in mysterious ways,… Read more »


See the problem with you is — you do not read the Chinese media !

It isn’t that the Malaysia media hasn’t reported the so-called “allegations” <— your word

The sale of the former DAP HQ at Jalan Delima in Island Glades had been widely reported in the Chinese media.

As I said, the problem is you do not read the Chinese paper or you wouldn't say the things you said, Anil.


If the news are in Chinese this PKR cybertrooper wants to report here too? He cannot see his report is irrelevant to the article here. Iron knows how to bang bang like blacksmith for PKR cybertrooper.


Ah … many thanks to the DAP … to tell Anil what to do with his blog.

Anil, I think you must be very thankful too, DAP … is teaching you how to run your own blog. 🙂