Malaysia > Kelantan > Kuala Krai Train Station

For old-time train travellers like me (well, in the 60s and 70s), Kuala Krai was deemed the last station in ‘civilisation’ before the Tumpat-Gemas line plunged into the dark, foreboding rainforest of peninsular Malaysia. Yes, in those days, the tar road from Kota Bharu ended here, and the only way southwards was via this lonesome rail track, snaking its way across thick jungles, across countless rivers, through seven tunnels, around mountains and across valleys. So how is ‘Krai’ today, since we now have a nice highway all the way to Kuala Lumpur?

Location: HERE

Krai welcomes visitors. Unfortunately it has been bypassed by the Kuala Lumpur – Kota Bharu highway, so only the odd people find their way here … such as us.

Like Tumpat it’s a totally new characterless station. I can still remember the wooden verandah with the unmistakable colours of cream and brown of Keretapi Tanah Melayu of yore.

Yay, we are lucky, there’s the rare train at the platform, ready to leave for final destination at Tumpat, 85km to the north. It’s a ‘local train’, meaning it stops at every station and halt along the way. Never take this type of train unless you have plenty of time to kill.

Ready to leave, the whistle sounds, and the driver waves his green flag.

The guy in the goods coach reciprocates and the green flag waving propagates to the back of the train. Seldom failed, this green and red flag signalling technology. biggrin.gif

The diesel locomotive roars and the shortish train heaves as it slowly moves out of the station.

Soon the train is out of sight, and the cars and the kids are back on the track.img_0132

Empty platform, and it looks so different from the Krai I remembered from the 70s when I was a frequent visitor.

But as I gaze across the yard, something strikes me. The whole thing suddenly looks eeriely familiar to me.

It’s like coming face to face with a long-lost buddy. Yes, some parts of Krai Station have not changed in the last 3 decades or so!


Apart from Krai Station, the town has another quaint point of interest – The Bradley Stairs or ‘Tangga Bradley’. Built in the late 1920s (a Mr Bradley was District Officer then), it has 81 steps leading down to a floating platform where passengers can board boats for the 320-metre river crossing to the other side. And just 1,300m south of this spot, the mighty rivers Galas and Lebir meet to form Kelantan River. Along the steps there are depth markers, very useful during end-of-year monsoon season when the depth of the inundated river at this spot provides valuable flood forecast for Kelantan River, especially for Kota Bharu almost 100 km downstream. That’s why Tangga Bradley is so famous, it’s a matter of life and death.

Ordinary folks use the stairs to access the boat mooring at the river bank for the crossing.

Well, it’s one helluva steep river bank, if you ask me.

There’s a village on the other side of the river, and the commute is sporadic.

Flimsy-looking boats, more like sampans with outboard motors, are important river transport. Do you spot any life jackets? Nobody really cares.

A 320-meter crossing, but that’s one swift and deep river. A capsized boat would be tragic.

I look up at the top of the stairs. 81 steps, huh?

Imagine during the monsoon season, the swollen river swiftly flows with levels reaching these heights. It’s a scary sight, I can tell you, especially with the debris it’s carrying.

Before departing, a bit of self-education, as always.



8 Responses to “Malaysia > Kelantan > Kuala Krai Train Station”

  1. Howard Y on 18 Apr 2009 at 2039 #

    The Kelantan River system catchment is already so large at Kuala Krai, the rate of rise of the flood waters there is actually not very fast. The local residents have plenty of time to evacuate to safer areas. The state’s emergency preparedness plans all include different levels of alert and action at different water levels at the Bradley Stairs. In KB, we at the DID’s hydrology section used to predict when and how long the flood peaks would occur in KB, based on observations at Bradley. In fact, the hydrologic forecasting models in KL were calibrated on observations at Bradley. By inputting the rainfall amounts observed at the telemetric stations in Ulu Kelantan in the various upstream sub-catchments, the model would predict the rise and fall of water levels at Bradley. Then we’d use these forecasts to make predictions for KB. We were right most of the time! And that was 30 years ago! I’d imagine that the modern techniques yield even better and faster results! πŸ˜€

  2. naim on 18 Apr 2009 at 2043 #

    Very true, Howard. The Tangga Bradley forecasting trick has been pretty successful. Whenever the flood inundated the Kelantan delta/plain downstream, there had never been any catastrophic casualties. Deaths were commonly due to mishaps, carelessness and kids falling into drains while ‘playing’ in the ‘air bah’. It was fun, and as kids we looked forward to the monsoon season, believe it or not. The evacuation and the water all around us! πŸ˜€

    Old pics of 1966

    My house, in the compound of a Ketereh primary school my dad worked. We are in the huge Kelantan river delta, and there’s a river to the right, which breaks from the Kelantan river – a distributary. The ‘naked kid’ at the house is yours truly, not yet schooling. The water was still rising then and soon we had to leave. As you see, we had fun!

    My dad (far left) and his buddies standing on the main Kota Bharu – Kuala Krai road. Kota Bharu is 20km to the right, Krai 50km the other way. Submerged school buildings at the back. Now no more memorable floods like this, (no) thanks to Howard and his gang. Howard, I miss my floods!

  3. Howard Y on 20 Apr 2009 at 0008 #

    Yes, I miss the floods too! (In retrospect…) It’s a great Kelantan tradition, or USED to be, if Naim is correct. “Main Ai” was a local festival in KB, and throughout Kelantan. In the years I was there, we really had no BIG floods, which was a disappointment to a hydrologist like me! The best one was a local flood (see B&W photo above) around my kampong area off Jalan Pengkalan Chepa right near the Thai consulate. (That’s me, 32 years ago!) The year AFTER I left KB, there was a good flood and my friends sent me photos. (See color photo of “main ai” in full swing around the old Pasar Besar in KB.)

    One thing about floods when you’re living in a traditional, silver-painted house like I was (B&W photo): the local animals and insects all climb up the stilts and seek refuge in the house! I had small snakes, mice, and centipedes sharing our house for a day or so while the water was right below the floor level! πŸ™

    As far as there being no big floods these days: blame the ENEX of New Zealand consultants! They were conducting the Kelantan River Basin Study while I was there, and they recommended all those dams that now decorate Ulu Kelantan rivers and mitigate those wonderful floods! (I remember the study saying how the floods were the biggest single impediment to the economic development of the state, yet the study also noted an anomaly: the Kelantanese actually seemed to ENJOY the floods! We could have told them that! πŸ™‚

    Prof. Naim: Wasn’t THE big flood (in recent memory) on Sg. Kelantan the 1967 flood? Could those photos of your Dad be from 1967?

  4. naim on 20 Apr 2009 at 1046 #

    Howard, you could be right. Because dad told me that in one bad season, we had to evacuate and then we were short of rice. So he swam back to our submerged house (pic above) and dived into the kitchen looking for the stuff. It was in an airtight biscuit can and he got it back to dry land for mom to cook. It was a really bad (= more fun) flood, and ’67 was The Biggie when our school house was severely submerged (the pic?). The old man is still doing fine, a bit impaired by a stroke 20 yrs ago, but memory still as sharp as razor. πŸ˜€

    Kelantanese fondly call the ’67 flood, ‘Bah Merah’ or ‘The Red Flood’. The flood water was reddish due to huge amount of earth being carried downstream the swollen Kelantan river. The only other Bah Merah in living memory was in 1926.

    Btw, Howard, that was one wimpy air bah you had there in ’76, not even knee-level. At the time you posed for that pic, I was most likely in my warm blanket in our house in Ketereh, a much better one, on higher ground too, never got flooded. πŸ˜€

  5. AZIE on 05 Jul 2011 at 1054 #

    so suka!!!!! coz ada nostalgia juga di bandar KK tersebut…..very nice story and pics….

  6. Joe Greenhalgh on 15 Dec 2011 at 0141 #

    I was with the Manchester Regiment stationed at Kuala Krai in 1953. We used to watch a film shows with the locals in a railway shed our feet between the railway lines.
    We used to travel by train to the start of our patrols in the jungle.

    Joe Greenhalgh

  7. naim on 15 Dec 2011 at 1333 #

    Thanks, Joe, that’s a really cool story. Yes, in the old days, we had public open-air cinemas, and we flocked to these odd sites for our fix of cowboy or Hindi movies, in return for sales talks from the sponsors. I wonder how Krai station was like in the 50s, my earliest memory of it is from the late 60s, as a kid traveling to Lipis to visit grandparents.

  8. Rosli on 20 Nov 2013 at 1607 #

    I too had the flood experience as we resided in Kota Bharu town, around Masjid Muhammadi or to be exact near the palaces. Was in Std 4 when water flooded KB in 67.

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