(This is an excerpt from an interview with retired KTM train operator Mr. Abdul Halim)
KTMK: Dear Mr. Halim, please tell us about yourself.
AH: I was tasked to drive the then 562.06 Kuala Terengganu in 1962. I was based at Seremban and took over from southbound drivers to continue the route down to Singapore.
I first started work at the KTM railyards when I was 18 – helping out the train engineers and earning a few cents a day. One of the engineers recognized me for my hard work and I got recommended to be sent for training as a train operator.
KTMK: Please tell us about Seremban as well as the Tanjong Pagar Railway station.
AH: Seremban is a highland area, known for very scenic views. Here is a picture taken slightly south of Rembau, as we were heading to Singapore, our final destination.
Tanjong Pagar Station is old. It was built way before my time and was the penultimate stop for all KTM trains. This is how Tanjong Pagar station looked like in the 60s, with the 562.06 rumbling in.
KTMK: What is so special about the 562.06?
AH: Because the 562.06 is a steam locomotive, it could only make one trip a day. By the 1960s it was almost at the end of its life. The train had to be coupled and uncoupled and serviced after each journey, and it was very cumbersome compared to the efficiency of the diesel locomotives.
KTMK: What else do you remember about your days as a train operator?
The trip to Singapore is about 9 hours. Typically my day starts at about 6.30am, and reached Tanjong Pagar station at 4pm. My house was at Seremban but I had a dormitory in Singapore where I will rest a night before operating the train back the next day. That way, one night I will be in my home at Seremban, the next night I will stay in Singapore. This cycle went on for about a year or two.
KTMK: Thank you Mr. Halim
(We are a group of retired train operators and together we form the group KTMK (Keratapi Tanah Melayu Kolektif). We are dedicated to preserving the memories and lives and times of ex-staff and train operators of KTM Bhd.)