The Bridge on the Perak River.

Built in Dec 1897, Victoria Bridge is the oldest railway in Perak. | Photo taken by the author.
Built in December 1897, Victoria Bridge is the oldest railway tracks in Perak. | Photo taken by the author.

The long National Day weekend has prompted yet another road trip back to Ipoh, Perak for us, despite having vacationed here some time back in May this year. There is something about Ipoh that resonates with us. And that the lifestyle and the cost of living are both laidback and affordable. Even more so than what we have in Klang Valley (also known as Kuala Lumpur and/or Petaling Jaya).

Having left yesterday after work, we reached my uncle and aunt’s place just a little over midnight. After a double cheeseburger for supper, we called it a day and went to bed. The next morning, we awoke feeling very well rested and ready to take on the day. Our first destination was in Karai, a small Malay village in Perak where we saw one of the oldest railway bridges in Malaysia — the Victoria Bridge. Constructed in December 1897 by the Perak Government Railway, the Victoria Bridge took three years to complete and was opened for service in March 1900. It was a single track railway truss bridge that served the local tin mining industry.

The Victoria Bridge remained in use until 2002 when a wider concrete, girder-bridge was built parallel to the old bridge, and upon completion, it took over the role of handling railway traffic. The newer bridge is significantly wider, and comes with room to support a second railway track. Yet, in its early life, it was only used to handle a single track until double tracking and electrification was introduced between the Ipoh-Padang Besar railway line during the late-2000s and early-2010s.

When the old bridge was closed to railway traffic, its adjoining footbridge was still publicly opened to motorcycles and pedestrians. Attempts had been made to retain the structure with the occasional maintenance having been conducted on it.

However, in May 2015, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture was in the process of obtaining approval from the Perak Government to turn the Victoria Bridge in Kuala Kangsar into a national heritage. The effort was being made to ensure the bridge would be adequately protected, to retain its heritage value, and for the interest of future generations. Upon its declaration as a national heritage, the rights and responsibility to look after the bridge will be bestowed upon the Natonal Heritage Department.

The 115th anniversary of the Victoria Bridge was on 31 May 2015. A similar single track railway truss bridge to the Victoria Bridge is the Guillemard Bridge in Kelantan. However, the Guillemard Bridge has a slightly more historical angle to it than the Victoria Bridge.

It was a really grand railway bridge. Rusty no doubt, but after climbing over its dusty tracks to get onto the other side, I realised that yes, it is something that should be declared a national heritage and efforts to maintain and upkeep it should be made. I’m certainly proud to be Malaysian.

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