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This won’t be a huge blog. Not because nothing’s been going on, rather the opposite! I didn’t get back to my hotel until late because I’ve been over to the mainland to meet up with a friend, Nicholas Lim. Nick is from Singapore but he’s travelling back from Bangkok. He’s broken his rail journey at Butterworth for the day before heading the rest of the way to Singapore by train tomorrow. As he knew I was in the area he contacted me and we arranged to see each other. I caught the ferry over to Butterworth where the pair of us enjoyed exploring part of the local rail network. The Northern sector of Malaysian railways is heavy with freight as well as a pretty intensive local passenger service. From February 18th that’s been strengthened by an extra three 3-car trains transferred North from KL that previously operated the suspended Skypark service. I can understand why. I travelled on it once and I was the only passenger. In contrast, the trains around Butterworth are busy, especially the ones to Padang Besar which often have six-car SCS sets working them.

We nipped out to Bukit Tengah the first station out of Butterworth which is where the new loco depot is located. On the platform we bumped into two local rail enthusiasts, both in their teens. Nick translated a question for me and I found out there’s 34 people in their local group which I found interesting, as it’s clear rail enthusiasm isn’t just a UK thing, nor is it confined to older ages.

We moved on to the next station, Bukit Mertajam to inspect the old steam locomotive plinthed outside the station. I remember it being outside the lovely old Butterworth station and wondered where it went. The years haven’t been kind to it. It needs some serious restoration (especially on the tender) otherwise in a few more years it’ll be a pile of rust.

As the Penang ferries are so infrequent now that was the limit of our travels. We headed back to Butterworth and caught the 18:00 ferry to Penang as Nick was keen to show me what he considered one of the best Nasi Kandar restaurants on the island. We boarded the free shuttle bus from near the ferry terminal to the Komtar centre and walked from there. I have to admit, Nick was right, this place is so popular you have to queue to get in – and I can see why, the combination of spices in the curry sauces was excellent and the staff are liberal with the mixtures. I had chicken and squid, both of which were delicious.

After eating we stopped off for a shared bottle of beer at a street restaurant which turned into an interesting experience as whilst we were sitting outside on the pavement the police turned up in a wagon and confiscated all the outside tables bar the one we were sitting at! The officers of the law had decided some infringement had taken place, so that was it!

I left Nick at the Komtar tower to get his bus back to the ferry terminal and catch the last ferry (21:00, what a travesty of a service) whilst I walked home. I’ll detail more of the trip tomorrow, but for now, here’s a few pictures.

One of the Chinese built 29xxx series freight loco’s which were bought in a palm oil swap many years ago. Known as ‘Dalians’ (after where they were built) they’re not as reliable as the ‘Blue Tigers’ but recent work has helped many of them return to traffic after being stored. This one’s returning light after having brought an intermodal service to the North container terminal.
The new shopping centre built over Butterworth’s bus station provides an excellent vantage point from its rooftop car park. Here’s looking back across a ship in the oil terminal at Butterworth to Swettenham Pier on Penang and a huge cruise ship which is getting ready to set sail. Two more from Singapore are due in tomorrow, which might make for some interesting pictures. In the background to the shot are some of the many residential skyscrapers that have sprung up like weeds in past 10 years – and there’s many more to follow…
Two of the redundant Penang ferries left rusting at Butterworth. Hiding behind them is one of their temporary sissy replacements.
The huge ramps to the Butterworth ferry terminal that used to be rammed with cars. Now all they see is the occasional scooter.
Also left rusting is former Malaysian railways ‘Pacific’ No 564.25 which was moved from Butterworth to a place outside Bukit Mertajam station.
Wearing Skypark livery but with all branding removed (at least on the outside) set 33 sits at Butterworth before working a local service to Padang Rengas.
Nicholas enjoying a plate of Nasi Kandar. It’s a mix of chicken, boiled eggs, veg and rice with lashings of different curry sauces.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to pottering around Georgetown whilst trying to catch up on editing todays pictures, so expect an earlier blog – or two.

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