Sabah is a state of Malaysia situated on the island of Borneo.
The first railway in what was then British North Borneo was a metre gauge line between Beaufort and Weston, a distance of 32 km, opened in 1896. The primary traffic was tobacco leaf for export from the plantations. By 1903, there was a network of 193 km, consisting of a main line from Jesselton (present day Kota Kinabalu) to Melalap via Beaufort, where the original line branched off towards Weston.
The system was badly damaged during World War II and was largely rehabilitated; this was the system that existed at the time when Sabah became part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. The railway administration was not integrated with that of Malaya, and continued to operate as a separate entity. However, traffic and economic conditions meant that ongoing maintanance was less viable and by 1974 the system had been reduced to a single main line of 134 km between Tanjung Aru and Tenom.
Further depradations meant that the line closed in 2007, but reopened in 2011 following extensive rehabilitation and modernisation. It now carries regular high quality passenger and freight services, as well as a tourist passenger service. Extensions are proposed.
Photo image © The Mango Road