What started as a mean of transportation to carry tobacco from the interior to the coast for export set up by the British Chartered Company is today a nostalgic train ride offering visitors to Sabah a glimpse of the bygone era during the British colony.
The North Borneo Railway is a joint venture project between the Sutera Harbour Resort and the Sabah State Railway Department to help enhance the existing infrastructure and help promote Sabah as a tourism destination.
The North Borneo Railway was officially launched on 22nd January 2000 in honour of Kota Kinabalu achieving city status on 2nd February 2000 and it was temporarily closed due to the reconstruction of the track.
The North Borneo Railway features a British Vulcan steam locomotive and it represents the last of the fleet of steam engines that have plied the tracks through Borneo since the late 1800’s and it is one of the few functional locomotives fueled by wood.
The North Borneo Railway also features six carriages that have been meticulously restored and renovated to reflect the era of the steam train. The exterior utilises the traditional deep green and cream of the original North Borneo Railway. The interior, highlighting the natural woods of Sabah, has comfortable seating and dining facilities. Every carriage provides the amenity of a modern washroom onboard. Seating accommodates 36 passengers per carriage, with a total train capacity of 180 passengers. An exotic bar car and observation deck accompanies the train, providing a comfortable lounge area to heighten the overall journey experience.
A ride on the North Borneo Railway bring passengers the nostalgic reminiscences where one can re-live the sight, sounds and smells of the old steam train times and a rediscovery into the heart of Borneo. The rail line runs from Tanjung Aru through the major towns of Kinarut, Papar and Beaufort, the old capital of British North Borneo. Along the way, the train plies virtually through rubber and palm plantations , paddy fields and wild mangrove swamps.
Solely managed by Sutera Harbour Resort, the North Borneo Railway departs from Kota Kinabalu to Papar and return to Kota Kinabalu after an hour sojourn in Papar, a small town famed for being the rice bowl of Sabah. The train ride takes approximately 4 hours. Passengers will see sights of the lush landscape of the coastal and rural regions of Sabah. A typical ”tiffin’ colonial lunch will be served on the return trip.
On July 2011, the Sutera Harbour Resort’s North Borneo Railway will reopen for business offering the experience of the bygone era of British North Borneo by transporting passengers back through time along the life line of Sabah.