19 July 2009

Frank Swettenham and the founding of the FMSR

The formation of the Federated Malay States (FMS) in 1896 led to a centralisation of Residential power and improved coordination of development in the new founded federation. In the same year, the newly appointed residents-general of the FMS, Frank Swettenham, proposed a master plan to extend and connect railway networks within the FMS and Province Wellesley.

Swettenham's proposal encompassed three phases: The first was to be the construction of a "development" line towards the north that would connect Perak's railways with those of Selangor's and the Province Wellesley's, while running through valuable but underdeveloped land in between; the second phase consisted of an extension of the line to Kuala Lipis, Pahang's then administrative capital, to promote the development of the state's mineral industry; the third section was to be a southwards extension from the Selangor Railway's southern terminus in Cheras to Seremban, connecting Selangor Railway to Sungei Ujong Railway and providing direct connectivity from Prai to the north to Port Dickson to the south.

Swettenham's proposal was approved by the Colonial Office under the justification wide-ranging transport linkages would allow access to land for use in agriculture and diversify the region's sources of revenue, while improving administrative efficiency by linking the FMS with the Straits Settlements (widening the scope of the plan to include additional linkages to the Straits Settlements of Malacca and Singapore).

Construction of the connections began in 1897 and concluded in 1903 with the Prai-Port Dickson line completed. The FMSR was founded in 1901 in the process, combining assets of Perak Railway and Selangor Railway as the two railway networks were the first to be connected. Management of stations and railways within the two networks were turned over to the FMSR, while locomotives originally operated by the two companies were absorbed into the FMSR and renumbered in July 1901. The amalgamation of other railway companies into the FMSR would follow in the coming years.

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