Jungle Railway

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The Jungle Railway runs through the centre of Malaysia from Tumpat, near Kota Bahru on the East Coast, to the junction with the country's main line at Gemas.
Officially the East Coast line, this railway is an interesting way to get from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore to the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It can form a more adventurous alternative to the mainline for an overland trip between Singapore and Bangkok. However, while there is track across the Thai border, passenger services do not run and a 30-minute bus journey is required between either Pasir Mas or Kota Bharu and Thailand's railway network at Sungai Kolok.
Although not an epic train journey like the Trans-Siberian Railway, it nevertheless offers an insight into life in the hinterland of the more rural East Coast states. Until a programme of road building in approximately the 1980s, most of the towns and villages along the line had no other means of accessing the larger world. While the name evokes a journey through thick rainforest, the reality is that the forests of Peninsular Malaysia are disappearing to be replaced with oil palm and rubber plantations. In particular, south of Jerantut the influence of humans on what was once rainforest is obvious. However the terrain, rivers and patches of remaining jungle are impressive.
Taman Negara, Malaysia's oldest national park, lies near the railway and is most often accessed from Jerantut. Other attractions include the Kenong Rimba Park in Pahang, stong waterfalls and limestone caves in Gua Musang.


The Jungle Railway is 526 km long and runs between Gemas on the Butterworth-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore trunk line, and Tumpat in the northeastern part of Peninsular Malaysia. It passes through the states of Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and Kelantan.
Despite it being called the East Coast Line, it only goes near the coast at its terminus in Tumpat: it goes through the center of Peninsular Malaysia.
There are no large cities along its route. Most stations are in remote, jungle-surrounded villages and many stops are nothing more than a platform in the middle of the jungle. The bigger towns along the line are Mentakab (on the Kuala Lumpur-Kuantan main road), Jerantut, Kuala Lipis (former capital of Pahang state), Gua Musang and Kuala Krai.



The East Coast line was developed a little later than the West Coast trunk line, purely because there was just not as much economic activity in the East Coast states. The construction of the line was an engineering breakthrough of its era, considering the terrain and thick jungle.
The first stretch between Gemas and Bahau opened in 1910. From the north, the first stretch from Tumpat to Tanah Merah was completed in 1914. Both ends met in 1931. The link to Sungai Kolok in Thailand from Pasir Mas was completed in 1921. About 240 km of track was removed by the Japanese during World War II and used in the construction of the Death Railway between Thailand and Myanmar. It was replaced after the war.


The Malaysian Railway Company, KTMB (online timetables) runs a variety of services along the Jungle Railway. As of 2017, there is only one sleeper express train per day from Johor Bahru to Trumpat. Third class trains as described in other parts of this article do not exist anymore.
Most speedy and comfortable are the express services which links Tumpat with Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. These allow you to see the jungle interior and not spend days over it. There are also comfortable overnight express trains to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Johor Bahru (the Malaysian town closest to Singapore), though the views aren't so good at night. These express and night trains are all A/C and are equipped with a restaurant car, though the food on offer is basic and nothing like the feasts on Thai trains.
The more adventurous will enjoy the entirely third class local trains, which besides passengers, may carry livestock and tons of merchandise. They stop at almost every station along the way and there are many -- and will almost certainly run late. These trains often do not run the line's entire length, so some overnight stops will probably be needed. Surprisingly, they usually are entirely A/C, although the system may be down. Seats are individual and padded, making them much more comfortable than Thailand's third class wooden benches.


From north to south, some of the main stations along the line:

Kota Bharu

All three of these station serve Kota Bharu and can be considered the end of the line.

Into the interior

Back to civilization


Fares are cheap.
The cheapest fare (3rd class seat) along the whole length of the line from Tumpat to Kuala Lumpur is RM 31. The most expensive fare for the same journey (a first class bed in a two-bed compartment) costs RM 101 (upper bunk) to RM 130 (lower bunk). A third class journey from Pasir Mas to Gua Musang cost RM 11. Second class seats are approximately double the price of third class seats.


For train buffs, the Jungle Railway used to offer the excitement of old-style train travel, although the trains are now quite new. The entire line is a single line, hence the numerous delays when the mail train is moved to a loop to allow express trains to pass. Key tokens are still used and are passed to drivers by station masters without the train stopping by using pouches. Stations are also not interlocked. While the trains are diesel and coaches modern (although a bit short on maintenance), journeys on these trains are still full of atmosphere.


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