I have always cherished the thought of a train rides I had when I was a kid. Living in Singapore, my family would rode the then Keretapi Tanah Melayu to Taiping to visit tok. Those days it took us at least 1 day to reach Taiping.
Boarding a sleeping berth from Singapore to the Kuala Lumpur main station and then switched to the north bound keretapi mel to Taiping.
I have always looked forward to the train rides as I love the sound the train creates when it is moving. It is music to my ears. It is like someone is playing the snare drums. I recalled the time when the prime movers were still powered by coal and the coaches were not air conditioned. Riding through jungles reminisces how beautiful the sceneries then and the air was indeed refreshing. Whenever possible I would stick my face out of the windows to enjoy the breeze and the smell of the jungle. The keretapi mel will be stopping at the many stations along the route to drop and picked passengers. During those stops hawkers will board the train and sells their condiments like karipap panas, ondeh-ondeh, kacang puteh, kopi panas and all that jazz. Some of them will board the train and disembark at the next station and then board the other train that is going in the opposite direction. However travelling with a big family, mak always makes mee hoon goring, telur rebus, and other kueh. Nyum nyum. My late abah will normally replenished coffee during longer stops. To sip your beverage on those old trains will be a wee bit of a problem as the rides is a wee bit shaky most of the times. But this shake is obviously blissful on a sleeping berth as it is like sleeping in a boyan.
As technology advanced, the prime movers were then powered by diesel engine. Train tracks were also replaced from timber to concrete. Train rides became more comfortable and less shaky. Coaches were air conditioned. There were more express trains that stop at only bigger station so to speak. Travelling time was reduced.
I still remember a moment where I almost disembarked at a wrong station before Taiping. I was in my teen and was studying in a college in Shah Alam. At first I thought I wanted to stay awake but as I entered my sleeping hours I could not help it but dozes off. Reaching Padang Rengas I automatically woke up picked my luggage and got down to the station. The sound of the whistle of the station master actually brought me to a complete alert. A mak cik whom I had a conversation while on the train come to the door laughing at me and told me to board the train as it has not reached Taiping yet. I was so humiliated by the incident. Everyone was laughing and they woke up those who were sleeping. More laughs. Luckily the next stop is Taiping. Otherwise I will have to find the dining coach to hide my humiliation. Anyway, obviously I wasn’t the only one that has experienced that as I have also shared my laughs at other people who repeated the same mistake I made.
I must say besides enjoying the train rides; I have also cherished the visit to train stations. Beside the beautiful architecture of the yesteryears, I find the food served there was delicious. The mee hailam and hainanese chicken chop at Kuala Lumpur station, the pau in Tanjung Malim, more mee hailam at Ipoh staition and of course the char koey tiau with the sumptuous cili jeruk at Taiping station. During semester breaks when I am back in Taiping, I will sometimes hang around the Taiping station just to look at trains that had it stop and then pass by. I just love the sight and sound of a moving train. And I also enjoy watching the modus operandi of the station crew. Yes, I do. Until today that is.
KTMB has progressed quite satisfactorily I think. When it introduces the electric train it obviously gave KTMB a better avenue to advance further in their service. They can now enjoy better revenue to slowly wipe out the losses it made before. As oppose to other commercial road transport facilities, the Government is doing a mighty favor to the rakyat as it could transport people en masse. It had to bear high operating cost and was forced to improve their service. Train is still a strategic mode of transport. Although to some standard it is rather time consuming taking a train ride, I do enjoy any chance to ride on it. I look forward to a future ride on the oriental express train.
Keep the good services going KTMB! But I still like the old harimau emblem.