11 March 2009

Penang Hills Funicular Railway

The Malaysian island of Penang was administered by the British Empire as part of the Straits Settlements (Penang, Malacca, and Singapore). The lowlands around the port of Penang are hot and humid. British administrators and colonists wanted to get away to the higher, cooler Penang Hill, and decided that a funicular railway was the way to get there. A line was completed in 1906, but it didn't work and the company that built it went under.


The Straits government organized a new project after the First World War. The Penang Hills Funicular Railway was designed by Arnold R Johnson, who had studied funiculars in Switzerland. The funicular opened to the public on 21-Oct-1923, and was immediately popular, both because it provided access to the cooler upper air and because of the beautiful views.

The Penang Hills Funicular Railway has two independent sections. The upper and lower sections each have two counterbalanced 40-passenger cars.Each car has automatic brakes which apply if the cable breaks or otherwise loses tension. Each section has a passing loop in the middle and intermediate stops.

A winding house at the top of each section is electrically driven.The funicular carries both passengers and freight in special wagons (cars in American).

The line is currently owned by the Penang Government and operated by the George Town City Electricity Supply Department.After an eight-month shutdown in 2003, caused by an equipment failure, the line received a RM2.5mil rebuilding.

After delays caused by difficulty in locating materials, the line reopened in August, 2004.On Sunday, 24-Apr-2005, a load of tourists was trapped on the hill for three hours when a brake malfunctioned. Later that week, the State Tourism Development and Environment Committee requested RM40mil for a thorough overhaul of the system, citing its importance to tourism.

From : Link

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