This old bridge in Perak is actually a national heritage. Here’s why it’s so special.


If you are traveling on the North-South Highway, take the Kuala Kangsar get out, pass the royal city and walk around for a while. You might find yourself in Karai, a remote town so unimpressive that various writings had described it as “sleepy” and “somewhat gloomy”. We didn’t say ar.

“Since that day, Karai has fallen into disrepair and many visitors have [sic] considered Karai as Ghost Town, Sleepy Town or Lost Town.” – excerpt from Karai’s d’village Hotel statement.

But if you drive a little longer, you might come across an impressive sight: a old railway bridge crossing the Perak River, supported by massive pillars of red brick.

What… how remote is this place? ! Screenshot of Google Maps.

It’s the Victoria Bridge, aka Enggor Bridge, one of the oldest railway bridges we have in Malaysia. The only other old railway bridge we know of is the Guillemard Bridge in Kelantan, but while the Guillemard Bridge was completed in 1924, this Victoria Bridge was opened March 21, 1900making it possibly the oldest railway bridge in Malaysia – 122 years old in 2022.

There is an interesting story as to why such a majestic bridge can be found hidden in Karai, and it has nothing to do with tin mining. In place…

Karai was the only town in Perak developed for coal mining

During the British era, they developed several towns in Perak due to their economic importance. While most towns had something to do with tin mining, farming, fishing or trading, Karai was the only one where coal mine was one thing. According to the story, in the 1890s, a Chinese farmer by the name of Hok Hin Hoh discovered coal in the area, while planting rubber on leased land.

How we imagined the incident, since we can’t find any pictures. WWE gif, via Giphy.

While Triple H has been credited with discovering Karai coal, coal mining in the state was soon taken over and monopolized by a company called Enggor Coal Syndicate Ltd. It should be noted that Enggor was the name given to part of Karai by the British after the discovery of coal, inspired by Enggor Street in Singapore.

At its peak, the Enggor coalfield extended 21 acres with a depth of 40 meterswith production reaching 3000 tons per month. Coal was quite important at the time, being used to power trains and other industries, so the town of Karai thrived around this activity. The shophouses built in the golden (soot?) era still exist today, and infrastructure like the Victoria Bridge was also part of this development.

Previously, coal was transported across the Perak River by a pontoon bridge – a floating bridge built over the boats – after which it will be put on a train to Teluk Anson on the other side. However, in 1897 a huge flood washed away the pontoon bridge along with a locomotive, so they decided to quickly build a stronger bridge away from the water. So 3 years, another massive flood and $325,000 (Straits dollar issues) later, an iron truss bridge supported by seven brick piers was completed, sitting at a comfortable height of 12 meters above normal water level.

View from below of the bridge. Image by Craig Ansibin, via Google Street View.

Named after Queen Victoria I, then monarch of the British Empire, the bridge was officially opened by Sultan Idris Murshidul Adzam Shah (then Perak Sultan) and Sir Frank Swettenham (then resident of Perak State) on March 21, 1900. With more efficient coal transport and a train station, Karai and Enggor have become the place to be. Nevertheless…

The bridge quickly fell into obscurity, until recently

Do you remember the “Since that day” part of the quote at the beginning of this article? The fame of Karai coal was relatively short. By 1928, petroleum-based fuels became popular, and the coal demand and prices fell so much that Enggor’s coal mining operations ceased entirely. The city’s economy returned to the rubber plantation, but it can be said that Karai and Enggor have never regained their fame since.

But what happened to the bridge? During the Japanese invasion, it was partly destroyed by the British to slow down Japan’s advance from Kelantan, but it was later rebuilt with lumber from local trees. Since then and throughout the emergency, casemates have been built around the area to protect the point, some of which can still be seen today. Somewhere along the way, the Enggor station seemed to be getting obsoletewith trains from Johor Bharu and Prai passing through but not stopping at Enggor as they did before.

One of the casemates, seen via Google Street View.

The fate of the bridge itself seemed to be sealed in 2002when a a new two-line concrete bridge has been built right next to it. The Victoria Bridge had since been removed from trains, and although villagers used it to cross the river on foot or by motorbike, it was neglected for some time, overgrown with weeds. The authorities had tried to make it a real tourist attraction from 2013, corn. The bridge was cleaned and restored, and in 2016 they managed to officially make the Department of National Heritage recognize it as national heritage.

Today, the Victoria Bridge appears to be a tourist place in its own right, with online images showing the proper facilities and even interpretive panels telling you the history of the place set up in the area. But even without the historical and heritage aspect of it, the bridge itself seems like a good place for photography: some sites mention wedding shoots taking place there, and even Google Street View photos of the bridge place seem quite pretty for the gram. Don’t fall through the cracks.

One of many 360 captures on the bridge, by Mohd Ammar via Google Maps.

So while the days of coal for the bridge are long gone, perhaps the authorities this time recognized and chose to preserve a diamond in the rough.


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