Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

No, not our website….but this beautiful icon of Ipoh is said to be turning 100 years old this year!



This special heritage building was even mentioned in the Star recently (read the article here).

  1. Ngai C O says:


    The Star Article sums up the following points –

    i) It tries to sensationalise the story as with most of its reports for
    the casual reader for the sake of filling the pages.
    ii) Two readers’s comments confirm the lack of interest in heritage
    People’s focus on everyday issues closer to heart and how to
    . generate wealth put heritage out of the radar.
    iii)There is growing traffic in and out of the station as a means to
    . commute from point to point. Period.
    iv)I was there yesterday to fetch a relative. What a coincidence that
    . the station is today’s feature. This gives me the timely
    . opportunity to offer my views. And I commuted via the station
    . recently.

    This is my observation. I spent a total of about two and a half
    hours at the station on these two occassions. I never once came
    . across any person take on an interest in the building nor the
    mismatch landscape, which attracts few if any visitors. There
    . is no symbiosis between the building and the vast open space.
    v) Locals prefer to visit the eateries, shopping malls and travel to
    . neighbouring countries and beyond. Perak on the whole attracts
    . a miserly three to four hundred thousand visitors yearly.

    Yes the station is going to celebrate its centenary. Yes its nickname is the ‘Taj Mahal’ of er Malaysia. Yes, it is coming back to life because of the increasing commuter numbers. Yes the gardens have had many face lifts over the years. Yes the building has been sort of maintained but also lost some of its original features. That is about it to me but other readers may have different views.

    As for its future?

    Lastly, Star likes to present niceties for its different reasons. Most of its articles lack depth.

  2. NCK says:

    Well, Ngai CO, your writing seems sensational too. I remember it wasn’t long ago people complained about overcrowding at the station garden at night, likening the garden to a pasar malam or fun fare. How can it be said to attract few visitors? I think the new garden layout is decent enough, although I’d rather see more floras in it. I suppose one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

    Perak has never been big on tourism. The supposed meagre tourists count today makes the state all the more in need of a decent, new airport. The past role of Ipoh airport in connecting with KL airport has been taken over by the highway and electrical trains. What the city needs now is an airport that will scale new heights.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi NCK,

      Thank you for your compliment. I take your points.

      I have passed by the place many times in the past fourteen weeks at different times of the day, maybe once at night. I have hardly seen much activity, unless I am blind. If the place were attractive enough, there would have been a continuous stream.

      Besides, there would have been many positive comments with ooh, aah perhaps. All I have heard are just one liners.

      As for flora, it is not just about planting flower beds, shrubs etc. It involves careful landscaping to blend in with the surrounding structures as well.

      The airport issue is a nobel idea. In the absence of potential traffic, no one will put in the finances. The government should not take the risk and use tax payers’s money to fund it, as it has already wasted millions at the current ghost airport

      There are more pressing needs to be dealt with. The clogged and aging monsoon drains need urgent attention.

      Just this evening, during downpours, many roads were flooded whereas in the past, most of the rain water was channeled away.
      Roads that I never experienced flooding had deeo puddles of water.

    • NCK says:

      During my last visits to Ipoh, I didn’t pass by the station at night, so I didn’t see it for myself. I think I have read that MBI has disallowed hawking at the station garden. So the fun-seeking crowd has dispersed, I guess.

      Different things attract different people. I don’t expect Ipoh residents will come out in droves to admire objects imbued with serious subjects, such as the cenotaph, but the fountain should draw a fair amount of interests from the public. It is good that the garden can now offer a more peaceful ambience.

      Remember the old airport enjoyed a boom before the highway robbed it of its purpose. The city has a fair number of air travellers. Money would not have been spent on upgrading the old airport if a new airport was to be built, and just so you know, the airport is having a small revival serving some new routes and hosting some new carriers.

      Drains fall under the purview of another department, and I have not seen any flooding during my visits.

  3. Ruth Rollitt says:

    A Famous Malaysian City Has Just Been Named Asia’s Top Destination… And It’s NOT Penang! http://says.com/my/news/ipoh-listed-in-lonely-planet-best-in-asia-2016?utm_source=says_mobile&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=mobile_share

    I received this from another Ipoh born girl who now lives in Sydney. We love our hometown, but weep when we see what is happening to it. With sensitivity it can be maintained and remain the most beautiful city in Malaysia as it once was – but it needs people to be aware of it and respecting it!

    • Ngai C O says:


      This is certainly good news and a moral boost to all the efforts that have been put in to revive Ipoh.

      I hope the momentum can be sustained as others will find ways to upstage the ranking.

  4. Ngai C O says:

    Hi NCK,

    The bottom line is that any cent the authority spends is tax payers’s money in any form or shape. It does not matter which dept. Money does not grow on trees to put it bluntly.

    The airport traffic has remained static for many years but it still has to be maintained by an army of staff.

    As for the Railway Gardens, your assertion that the fountain should draw a sizeable crowd is wisful thinking.

  5. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear felicia (and ika) …

    Thanks for this article and the link to the other one. I’ll just make a few brief remarks here. I can add detail later if the need arises.

    this beautiful icon of Ipoh is said to be turning 100 years old this year!

    I’m reminded of the traditional Chinese way of counting the age of a child, starting more or less at conception rather than at birth.

    It was planned that the new railway station and hotel would be ready by 1914. There was some delay but the overall structure and its railway functions were complete and in use by late 1915. The dining-room and bar were completed and put into service in 1916. It was only the hotel that took until 1917 to start accommodating travelers; and, if I recall correctly, the lift in the hotel was not installed until 1918.

    In other words the station might be 99 this year, or 100, or 102.

    The construction of the second station and hotel started in 1914

    Not quite. It began in 1912.

    The area where Ipoh’s railway station now stands used to accommodate three prior institutions simultaneously: the original Ipoh Railway Station; the Ipoh Rest House; and the Ipoh Hospital. The original Station, completed in 1894, occupied a small spot roughly on the north-west corner of the current site. The Rest House, completed in 1895, was situated between the original station and Club Road. And the Hospital, completed by 1896, stretched southwards to occupy the rest of the current site (and a little more). All three of these institutions were eventually removed (and, in the case of the hospital, not without controversy, but that’s a different story and I can write more about it later).

    As early as 1906, important people, including at one point the Sultan of Perak, started asking for a new station to replace the old one. An early and vague commitment to build a new station was made in 1909 (whereas KL already had a firm commitment). In 1910, just as the new station in KL was being built, it was decided that Ipoh needed a new hospital, and this decision freed up the existing hospital site potentially for a new railway station. By 1911 a design for the new railway station emerged that included a hotel (similar to the one being built in KL). Construction began in early 1912. In 1913 alone more than $200,000 was spent on the project. The goal was to have everything ready by early 1914, but things took a little longer than expected. The overall structure, the ground-floor offices, and all the basic railway services — all these were ready and functioning in late 1915.

    There used to be a fully stocked lounge bar and a superb dining room. If you talk to some of the Europeans who stayed there in the past, they would tell you how wonderful it was.

    Yes, the bar and dining-room were fine. It was the design of the rooms that caused a fair bit of head-scratching. Each room was a sort of apartment with an internal staircase that led down to one’s bathroom as well as space for a servant. The rooms (including bathrooms and verandas) were large — so large that some critics complained about the waste of space: smaller rooms would have meant more guests could have been accommodated.

    According to Anderson, the hotel in the train station was so popular that a neighbouring hotel along Jalan Lahat is believed to have temporarily shut down, after losing customers to the Station Hotel.

    To be fair, when Pierre Creet announced the closing of the Grand Hotel in 1918, he did not blame only the opening of the Station Hotel. He also said things had been difficult because of the war. Many of his regular guests had left Malaya to do their bit for the war effort; and there were no new guests to replace them: very few people were traveling for pleasure.

    Plus maybe it’s worth noting that the Grand had three or four times as many guest-rooms as the Station Hotel.

    It had the largest rooms in town – 100 of the most comfortable and well fitted rooms.

    Yes, the rooms were large but there weren’t a hundred of them, only seventeen.

    It’s true that the Railways quickly came up with a scheme to build an extension to the Hotel. It was going to be built perpendicular to the station on the north side, reaching Club Road. There were supposed to be thirty new rooms, maybe even fifty. And I think a foundation was put in — and maybe it’s still there, waiting to be re-discovered.

    Even the original floor tiles are still there.

    That’s good to know.

    I spent quite some time in that hotel. I can still see the pattern of those floor tiles, still hear the echoing sound my shoes made on them in the quiet of the night.

    • IKA says:

      Thanks for the comments/critique.

      I chuckled when I saw your comments on the 100 tears. The Western way of dating is from the actual opening or (if you like) the birth day. Thus if travellers stayed there in 1917, even if they had to use the stairs, then I make it 100 years old.

      Regarding the room, yes there were 17 originally which in 1936 was increased to 21. Then much later the rooms were halved in size and up to 42 were said to be available. A friend of mine who stayed in the new mini rooms complained bitterly that they had ruined the accommodation.

      The figure 100, which is clearly wrong came from an old booking website. My apologies, but that is the problem with the Internet.

      The bar was a very nice place for a drink while waiting for the train, I remember it well and a 1924 photo of the dining room shows a real old fashioned luxury room with polished wooden furniture, crisp white tablecloths and all the trimmings of European fine dining, unfortunate;y, although I have seen the photo I do not have a copy to publish.

      Finally, I bow to your superior knowledge about the date of construction starting. Is it possible to give me the reference please?

      Thanks again for your comments, that is what this blog is all about – getting the history right and thus we are always happy to receive corrections to both our blog and database.

  6. Ngai C O says:

    Hi Ipoh Remembered,

    Thank you for sharing additional anecdoctal information about the railway station.

    What we often read are usually the sanitised versions which tend to reflect the authors or certaing groups of people. Sometimes, there are omissions for a variety of reasons.

    Your personal experience of the hotel having stayed there many times are really invaluable testament to claims about its fame.

    The description about the room design layout suggested that it was on the whole meant for certain clientale with servants in tow.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear Ngai C O

      People’s focus on everyday issues closer to heart and how to generate wealth put heritage out of the radar.

      Yes, I guess this happens frequently. So many New Yorkers, for example, have never seen the Statue of Liberty up close and could not tell you where it came from or when it was erected. And yet tourists flock to it because it’s something symbolic that they’ve always wanted to see or even touch.

      No doubt people everywhere are busy. In the case of the Railway Station, I guess the hope is that it’s possible (as it is in many other cases) to have a working institution that also attracts visitors, domestic and foreign, who are curious about its history. If it is a symbol, what does it represent? At one level a historian could talk about the importance of the railroads in the development of Ipoh and the country as a whole. That’s a story about geography and economics but also about power and justice, about the colonizer and the colonized. It raises a slew of questions. At another level there are anecdotes that give a glimpse into past moments — the guest at the Station Hotel who somehow got lost in her own expansive hotel room and had to call for help; or the gentleman so engrossed in his newspaper while pacing the platform that he fell off into the path of the train he was waiting for. And for the youngest among us, what could be more inviting than a working model of a FMS train or a KTM railway station? I’m no expert but I guess there are ways to educate while appealing to people’s innate curiosity or pride. I’m not overly optimistic but I suppose it’s still possible.

  7. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear IKA

    I chuckled when I saw your comments on the 100 [years]. The Western way of dating is from the actual opening or (if you like) the birth day. Thus if travellers stayed there in 1917, even if they had to use the stairs, then I make it 100 years old.

    Sure, but wasn’t that only the hotel that opened to the public in 1917 (May 1, to be precise)? And if the railway station, minus the hotel, was fully functional and open for business earlier, then perhaps its centennial ought to have been celebrated earlier?

    Finally, [about] the date of construction starting [in 1912]. Is it possible to give me the reference please?

    There are numerous ways you can confirm the date for yourself. A primary source would be the FMS Railways bureaucracy itself, which was, like all such agencies everywhere in those days, fanatical about keeping records. Each year an annual report was issued that attempted to state every imaginable fact. So, for example, if you look in the FMSR report for 1912, the year the project began, you’ll find an expenditure of $125,248.13 listed under “New Station and Hotel, Ipoh”; and in the report for 1913, under the same heading the amount of $225,556.27 is recorded; and so on. Whereas in the report for 1917, the corresponding entry simply says “New Station Hotel, Ipoh” — the station itself is not mentioned because it was completed earlier, not in 1917.

    I know there are numerous writers who have said construction of the station began in 1914 and ended in 1917. One recent article even claimed that it was “built in 1914 by the East India Company.” Reading that, I was not sure whether to laugh or cry.

    Thanks again for your comments, that is what this blog is all about – getting the history right and thus we are always happy to receive corrections to both our blog and database.

    Thanks for the work you do. It is much appreciated.

  8. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear ika

    Recently (above) I addressed a question you asked about when Ipoh’s (second) Railway Station was completed. You had written that construction began in 1914 and ended in 1917, whereas I responded that, no, it began in 1912 and (apart from the Hotel) was done by late 1915, at which point the Station was functional and in use.

    You asked how you could confirm what I said and I suggested referring to primary sources, the best in this case being the annual reports issued by the FMS Railways. I wonder if you’ve had any time to look at those reports; and, if so, what you found. I assume your silence means you’ve been too busy — which would obviously be understandable.

    Meanwhile, I thought I’d remind you and others of an article by Ho Tak Ming (“Ipoh Railway Station,” IPOH echo, 61, p. 6, 2008), in which he points out that the construction of the Station and Hotel was included in the government’s 1911 budget estimate (for 1912), and that “[the] new Ipoh Railway Station was opened on October 1, 1915.” Granted, he’s not a primary source, but at least he and I are in agreement.

    If you have time and can say whose work you’ve been relying on for the 1914-1917 dates, I’d be much obliged.

  9. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear ika … While still awaiting your verdict, following is yet another indication that the (second) Ipoh Railway Station was ready by 1915.

    In 1935, the FMS Railways published a little book, Fifty Years of Railways in Malaya, in which, referring to the Ipoh Station, it is said: “This was completed in 1915. The building was designed by the Government Architect and built departmentally.”

    If you do not have direct access to that source, you can see it quoted in Kinta Valley by Nasution and Lubis, on p. 196: “When completed in 1915, the Ipoh Station was ‘one of the largest on the system’ …”

  10. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Continuing …

    From the Financial Times (“Development of the Federated Malay States,” January 1, 1913, p. 10):

    On the new railway station and hotel now in progress at Ipoh there will be spent £47,000, while there are also in course of construction in this progressive town, in the centre of the mining and planting districts, a hospital at a cost of £30,000, a town hall and post office costing £26,000, and a central fire station costing £5,000.

    About a year later in the same paper (“Prosperous Malaysia,”[*] January 19, 1914, p. 2):

    At Kuala Lumpur the traveller finds himself in a railway station of generous dimensions, worthy of the comparisons he invariably makes. At Ipoh, the commercial centre of Perak, builders are at work upon a station with similar pretensions.

    From these two articles, we see that construction of the Railway Station was already “in progress” on New Year’s Day, 1913 — and therefore could not have begun in 1914.

    In fact, as I said above, construction began in 1912, and the Station per se (not the Hotel) began operating in late 1915.


    [*] Yes, the title of the article uses the word “Malaysia” — in 1914.

  11. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Continuing again …

    In The Malay Peninsula, Arnold Wright and Thomas Hird Reid, describing a journey by rail from Province Wellesley to Singapore, observe as follows (p. 252):

    Ipoh, the chief commercial centre of the State, a town which is so rapidly growing in importance that a fine hotel is being constructed in conjunction with a new station.

    The book was published in London by T. Fisher Unwin in 1912 …

    Both authors were journalists. Wright edited another book you’re familiar with — Twentieth-Century Impressions of British Malaya — and Reid was the quondam editor of the Straits Times.

  12. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Continuing again, this time quoting an American document from early 1913 …

    Background: The U. S. Department of Commerce collects business intelligence from around the world which it then publishes for the benefit of American companies. In 1913, this publication took the form of daily trade reports.

    Obviously relying on the Financial Times article I quoted above dated January 1, 1913, the Commerce Department’s daily report issued on January 17, 1913 says:

    On the new railway station and hotel now in progress at Ipoh there will be spent $235,000, while there are also in course of construction in this progressive town, in the center of the mining and planting districts, a hospital at a cost of $150,000, a town hall and post office costing $125,000 and a central fire station costing $25,000.

    These figures are, of course, in USD (at the time the exchange rate with the Straits dollar was roughly 1.8).

    If the railway station was “now in progress” in January of 1913, then construction could not have begun in 1914. In fact, it began in 1912, as explained and amply documented above.

  13. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Returning once more to the question of when Ipoh’s Railway Station and Station Hotel were built: With no visible justification a number of sources give the answer as 1914-1917, whereas I maintain that:

    Construction (of station and hotel) was to begin in 1912 and was to be completed in 1914.

    Construction did begin in 1912; the station was completed in 1915 and was put into service immediately; while the hotel took until 1917 to complete.

    In previous comments above I have provided several reasons to reject the 1914-1917 timeframe and to accept instead the dates I mention. Below I provide several more reasons.


    The engineer who supervised the construction of the Station Hotel was one Bill Harding. When he died in the late ’30s, the following was noted in his obituary:

    He came to Malaya in 1911 and joined the F. M. S. Government and his first job was the supervision of the erection of the Station Hotel, Ipoh.

    If constructing the Hotel was Harding’s first job after joining the government in 1911, is it plausible that he waited until 1914 to begin? Or is it more likely, as I maintain, that construction began in 1912?

    Further, while construction of the station and hotel was handled internally by the government, when it came to running the hotel, contractors were invited to submit proposals. When? Several times in the course of August, 1911 (in trade and other periodicals). The invitation stated that, subject to government approval of the project, the Hotel would be ready for occupation by January, 1914.

    And even in early 1914 … when the Railways published an informational pamphlet that included an advertisement for the Station Hotel in KL, the following appeared at the bottom of the advertisement: “The Station Hotel, Ipoh, will be Opened in 1914.” Would the Railways have made such a commitment in a 1914 pamphlet if the construction of the hotel in Ipoh was just beginning?


    As I said at the outset, the claim is made by several writers that construction of the Station and Hotel was achieved over the period 1914-1917 — but there is no visible justification for this claim.

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