Sunday, April 22, 2007

Of train stations and conservation

Last week I spent two days in Kuala Lumpur for a seminar at Jalan Langgak Tunku. This meant having to drive right across the city centre from my house in Cheras. Whilst traversing the city centre on one of the flyovers, I found myself to be on the same level and quite close to the minarets of the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station.

I couldn’t help admiring the beauty of this Moorish-style building, designed by architect A.B Hubbock almost 90 years ago.

I can just imagine how much more beautiful this building must have been during its early days, i.e. the days when the KL traffic were lighter, and the building not surrounded by wide roads, flyovers and elevated highways as it is now. Today, the building looks in decline and neglected, especially since it ceased to be used for inter-city train services since 2001.

That was when the train services were relocated to the spanking-new KL Sentral Station. This is fine except that the authorities should have continued the up-keeping of the old station, and put it to good use. Surely such a handsome building which has served the nation as a major transport hub over the years deserves better?

Apparently, it is not just this central station building which is at risk of being forgotten. The situation is much graver for the small town stations which dot the railway line all the way from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth in the north, and to Johor Bharu down south.

Built mostly of wooden structures, these smaller stations have their own unique beauty and rustic charm such as the one in Taiping shown in photos below.

My favourite small town station is of course the Tapah Road Station. This is where I used to get down when coming back from my secondary school in Kangar for holidays in the early 70s.

My journey then would start early in the morning on a bus charted by the school. Upon reaching Butterworth my friends and I would board the morning train leaving for Kuala Lumpur armed with a “concession ticket”.

During those days the trains was powered by diesel engines (I think). The coaches were non-air-conditioned, such that all the windows had to be opened wide to allow for ventilation. So, by the time I reached Tapah Toad Station, my all-white school uniform would turn almost “All Black”. Even my nostrils would be covered in soot!

But, no complaints. After some refreshments at the small station canteen I’d be on my way home.

But the fast disappearance of the small railway stations IS a cause for complaint.

Somehow, as a society, we just fail to respect our heritage, especially the built environments which provide the link to past history. IMHO, the preservation and conservation of heritage buildings and areas is an important facet in building our identity as a nation.

1 comment:

Mohd Adib Noh said...

Well said.I concur with your views.Thanks for reading mu blog and taking time to leave a comment.