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11:49PM

Postcards from the South

During my first visit to Urbanscapes this year, I looked around for the program they had in store. This one certainly caught my eyes. A talk on the railway in Johor, how it transformed the landscape of the state as it opened up the interior. Johor was populated mainly at the shores and with the railway system connecting Gemas and Singapore at the time, the Sultan did the state good by snaking the rails through Labos, Pagoh, Kluang, Sedenak and the rest as they said was history.

But the telling of the story also needed passion and commitment. And in Mahen Bala, who’s family originally came from Gemas, the tale was given the delivery it deserved.

All mapped upMahen and his team spent many months documenting the story of how the railway not only opened up this town, but became the central nervous system of these new settlements. A century later, they still played a role for these towns although with the passing of time, these township were connected by the road system. The railway had since played second fiddle.

You can buy some of them ....In the next year or so, the landscape would be transformed again. The rails roads would be upgraded into the new double track system. With the upgrades, the old stations - which used to be the centre of these initially small settlements - would be left abandoned, and some won’t even be a stop any longer on the train schedule.

Mahen told the stories of the people of these towns who grew up by the tracks, and the railway workers of the past who dedicated their live to Keretapi Tanah Melayu. A fascinating hour of storytelling and I couldn’t wait to read the book telling the stories to be published later this year ...

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