Penang Hill Railway

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Penang Hill Railway
Funicular to the top of the Penang Hill, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.JPG
Type Funicular
Status Operational
Locale Penang Hill, Penang, Malaysia
Stations 8
Services 2
Opened October 21, 1923
Operator(s) Penang Hill Corporation (Perbadanan Bukit Bendera Pulau Pinang)
Rolling stock 2 cars
Track length 1,996 metres (6,549 ft)
Track gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
Route map
Upper station
Viaduct station
Lower station

The Penang Hill Railway is a one section funicular railway which climbs the Penang Hill from Air Itam, near George Town on the island of Penang in Malaysia. The railway first opened in 1923 as a two-section railway, and the system was overhauled in 2010. The total journey time can take between five to twenty minutes.[1][2] The train may stop at other intermediate stations upon request.[3]



Old coach of Penang Hill Railway used from 1923 to 1977

The Penang Hill Railway was constructed for the British colonists to enjoy the cooler air of the Penang Hill.[4] The first attempt at a mountain railway on Penang Hill began with a proposal by three British residents, D. Logan, Joseph Heim and Alan Wilson and the formation of a private company in 1897, with funding from the colonial administration.[5][6] The first attempt was to use steam engines and not funicular, and it proved to be a failure. The line was constructed between 1901 and 1905, but did not work due to technical faults.[7]

The Straits government then organized a new project in 1909.[7] The Penang Hills Funicular Railway was designed by Arnold R Johnson, an engineer with the Federated Malay States Railways, based on a Swiss design. Construction of the second railway cost 1.5 million Straits dollars, and the 2,007m long funicular railway was informally opened on October 21, 1923 and it commenced operation.[8] After a successful trial period, on 1 January 1924, the railway was officially opened by the then Governor of Straits Settlement, Sir L.N. Guillemard.[7] In its first year of operation it carried 35,201 passengers and made 4,021 trips.[9] The Penang Municipality, George Town managed and maintained the railway from its opening until February 1, 1977, when it was taken over by the Penang state Government.[10]

Until 2010, the Penang Hills Funicular Railway had two independent sections due to the difference in gradient between the lower and upper section, and passengers were required to change train in the middle station. The upper and lower sections each had two counterbalanced 40-passenger cars, and each section had a passing loop in the middle and intermediate stops.[3] The cars were pulled by steel cable electrically driven with 500 volts power. The railway has a tunnel which measures 258 feet long and is the steepest tunnel in the world.[10] It took 30 minutes to go up the hill on the funicular service with a change of train in the middle station.[11]

1977 upgrade[edit]

View of a coach used from 1977 to 2010

The first carriages were wooden with defined first and second class compartments in each one. The four carriages were in use on the railway for over 50 years until they were retired in 1977 and replaced with the red carriages which had fans and automatic sliding doors. Each of the red Swiss-made carriages can hold up to 80 people, mostly standing.[12] They were in use for over 30 years until 2010.

2010 overhaul[edit]

The latest rolling stock

After a series of breakdowns, the idea of a complete overhaul of the system with a new funicular railway was mooted. On 22 February 2010, the 87-year-old funicular railway was closed for an upgrade to a new system at a cost of RM63 million.[13][14] New tracks were laid, and new cars purchased to increase the passenger capacity and the speed of the train.[15] A new base station and a public carpark was also constructed.[16] The timber from the old railway track was re-used in the construction of a new four-storey Penang Hill Visitor Centre at the top.[17]

The new train and railway, unlike the railway before 2010, does not require passengers to change trains halfway up. Passengers can have non-stop service in the new blue and white, air-conditioned Swiss-made cars which is capable of ferrying up to 100 passengers at one go.[18][19] The funicular train maximum working load has been set at 7,500 kg.[20] It can carry 1,000 passengers per hour compared to 250 under the old system.[14]

In April 25, 2011, the new railway system resumed its service, although initially there were a number of technical hitches which caused the service to be temporarily suspended.[21] The train service runs from 6.30am to 9pm daily, and the new car can reach the top in as little as five minutes.[1][22]


The entrance to the Lower Station at Air Itam for the funicular ride

Visitors can enter the funicular railway at the Lower Station, and the final stop of the ride is the Upper Station at the top of Penang Hill. There are a number of stations along the railway between the Upper and Lower stations - the Middle Station, as well as the Claremont, Moniot Road, Viaduct, and the Lower and Upper Tunnel stations. Since the 2010 upgrade, the train normally proceeds directly to the top without stopping at the Middle Station. It is however possible to stop at some of the intermediate stations by arrangement with the driver.[23]

The Upper Station has been upgraded with the construction of an extended viewing platform named Skywalk, an elevated walkway leading to a food court, as well as a lift, a cafe and a museum gallery.[24][25] The Lower Station at Air Itam has been improved with a new building with retractable roof and a new multi-storey car park for visitors travelling by car.[26] Visitors can also reach the station on the 204 Rapid Penang bus from George Town, Penang.

Fares & tickets[edit]

For Malaysian citizens, the fare for a return ticket is RM10 per adult and RM4 per child aged between three and 12. Senior citizens will enjoy cheaper fares at RM4 per person. For non-Malaysian the fare is RM30 for adults and RM15 for children.[27]

The ride continues to remain free of charge for disabled persons holding the OKU card.

Also unchanged are the fares for Penang Hill residents, licensed traders and hawkers and workers, who can purchase monthly season pass at RM24.

Technical parameters[edit]

Trains at a passing loop at Penang Hill Railway


Before 2010, the lower section of the funicular has the following technical parameters:[28]

  • Length: 907 metres (2,976 ft)
  • Height: 319 metres (1,047 ft)
  • Maximum Steepness: 50.5%
  • Cars: 2
  • Capacity: 80 passengers per car
  • Configuration: Single track with passing loop
  • Journey time: 11 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 1.4 metres per second (4.6 ft/s)
  • Track gauge: 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
  • Traction: Electricity

The upper section of the funicular has the following technical parameters:[29]

  • Length: 1,313 metres (4,308 ft)
  • Height: 367 metres (1,204 ft)
  • Maximum Steepness: 51.3%
  • Cars: 2
  • Capacity: 80 passengers per car
  • Configuration: Single track with passing loop
  • Journey time: 13 minutes
  • Maximum speed: 1.8 metres per second (5.9 ft/s)
  • Track gauge: 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
  • Traction: Electricity

After 2010[edit]

  • Length: 1,996 metres (6,549 ft)
  • Height: 691.4 metres (2,268 ft)
  • Maximum slope: 52.9%, 27.9°
  • Minimum slope: 18.8%, 10.7°
  • Cars: 2
  • Coach empty weight: 14,500 kg
  • Maximum payload: 7,500 kg
  • Capacity: 100 passengers per car
  • Maximum speed: 10 metres per second (33 ft/s)
  • Haul rope diameter: 38 mm
  • Traction: Electricity
  • Main drive motor: 710 kW


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Up Penang Hill in five minutes". The Star Online. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  2. ^ "A new joy ride up the hill". The Star Online. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Penang Hills Funicular Railway". Joe Thompson. Retrieved March 12, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Penang Hill Railway". Penang Travel Tips. 
  5. ^ Joe Bindloss, Celeste Brash (2008). Kuala Lumpur, Melaka & Penang. Lonely Planet Publications. p. 202. ISBN 978-1741044850. 
  6. ^ "Penang Hill Funicular Train". Penang Travel Tips. 
  7. ^ a b c "About us: Corporate Info". 
  8. ^ "Railways". The Railway Magazine. 120-121: 385. 
  9. ^ Jin Seng Cheah (26 February 2013). Penang 500 Early Postcards. Editions Didier Millet. ISBN 978-9671061718. 
  10. ^ a b "Brief History Of Penang Hill Railway". Penang Hill with 
  11. ^ "Penang Hill funicular trains to attract more tourists". The Star Online. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Penang hill railway Mad genius?". The Sunday Times. 24 May 1998. 
  13. ^ "A new chapter begins". Archived from the original on February 12, 2013. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "New hill railway coaches ready for the ride". Archived from the original on 26 February 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2010. 
  15. ^ "All set to soar uphill Handover of refurbished funicular train today". The Star Online. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Service to resume soon". The Star Online. Retrieved March 29, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Railing for a new lease of life". The Star Online. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Slow or fast ride, that’s the question now". The Star Online. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Penang Hill train service delayed". The Star Online. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  20. ^ Hafiz Marzukhi (11 October 2014). "Penang Hill railway gets clean bill of health". Malay Mail. 
  21. ^ "Penang Hill train resumes service". The Star Online. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  22. ^ "Mixed response to hill project". Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved May 18, 2009. 
  23. ^ Frances Wilks (December 21, 2012). "Penang's Hill Station". Expat Go. 
  24. ^ "Facilities coming up include museum gallery and cafe". The Star. February 9, 2015. 
  25. ^ Kae Min Goh (February 9, 2015). "Skywalk on Penang Hill to draw more visitors". The Malay Mail. 
  26. ^ Christopher Tan (January 20, 2015). "Lift glitch at new Penang Hill car park". The Star. 
  27. ^ "Ticket Fares". Penang Hill Inc. 
  28. ^ "Penang Hill Railway (section 1)". Retrieved March 12, 2007. 
  29. ^ "Penang Hill Railway (section 2)". Retrieved March 12, 2007. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 05°24′55.59″N 100°16′26.13″E / 5.4154417°N 100.2739250°E / 5.4154417; 100.2739250