Ipoh Railway Station: Once dubbed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh

Ipoh Railway Station
The Ipoh Railway Station

The Ipoh Railway Station & Hotel, located in Jalan Dato' Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab,  was built to cater to the expanding population of Ipoh and most importantly to cope with the growing business of tin mining industry at that time. Originally the first Ipoh railway station was just a simple wooden structure with attap roof which was built when the railway service was first introduced in Ipoh in early 1894.

First Ipoh Railway Station circa 1900
This hand-coloured photograph made into postcard was originally published in the Perak Government Gazette. The photograph shows rickshaw coolies and their rickshaws waiting for passengers outside the first Ipoh Railway Station.

The present Ipoh Railway Station was to replace the old station. It was designed by the British colonial government architect, Arthur Benison Hubback or more popularly known as AB Hubback in 1913. The Ipoh Railway Station & Hotel was actually the last building designed by AB Hubback before going home to England in 1914 and he has never returned to post-war Malaya again.

The architecture of this majestic edifice was the result of the hybrid between Neo-Classical of Europe and Mughal architecture of India which is referred to as Indo-Saracenic or sometimes it is also called Mughal-eclectic or British Raj architectural style. It was a popular architectural style then in British India and the idea was also exported to the British colonies in Southeast Asia especially to then Malaya, Singapore and Burma. That is the reason the Ipoh Railway Station inevitably has some resemblance to its Kuala Lumpur counterpart, the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station as they both were designed by the same architect observing the same architectural style. The Ipoh Railway Station was also dubbed the Taj Mahal of Ipoh by the British during its heyday perhaps because of some Mughal architectural elements in it like its domes and arches as well as its towers topped with cupola.

The construction work started in 1914 and its construction was said to have been supervised by AB Hubback himself.  This grand building was completed in 1917. Upon completion this building had three platforms, commodious offices, a hotel (The Station Hotel later renamed The Majestic Hotel) and a restaurant to meet the travellers' need when train travel was the main mode of transportation across the Malay peninsula.

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser dated 16 May 1914 entitled Ipoh's Front Door, New Railway Station and Hotel stated as follows:
Since progress on the new railway station was last reported in "The Times of Malaya" the work has gone steadily ahead. and the outlines of the building as it will be when completed can now be seen.
The scaffolding has not yet been removed, and until that is done it is difficult to visualize the many fine features which the building will possess. The pillars at the ends are now being erected, and though at present they seem to have rather a squat appearance, it can be seen that when the station is finished they will give a very pleasant architectural finish to a building which will be an ornament, as well as a thing of utility to the town, and will form a "front door" worthy of Ipoh's status as the second city in the FMS (Federated Malay States).
In many ways Ipoh station and hotel will be an improvement on the Kuala Lumpur structure, which so far has remained supreme as one of the finest railway stations in the East. One of the features of the hotel will be a fine airy verandah which, from the position of the hotel, will give a magnificent view over Ipoh to the towering hills which flank the Kinta Valley like a grim black wall on the east. Another great advantage will be the provision of a room for boys as well as bathroom beneath each bedroom, thus enabling visitors who bring their own servants to have them close at hand all the time.
Nothing has been overlooked in the architectural scheme of the new station to make it at once a truly imposing structure, and replete with all the most modern conveniences in station and hotel matters. The hotel is being wired for electric light, and access to the upper storey will be by lift. On the ground floor there will be a handsome restaurant.

Ipoh Railway Station
The Ipoh Railway Station

Meanwhile The Straits Times dated 2 July 1915 reported that:
Although the finishing touches have yet to be put to the construction of Ipoh's new railway station the main part of the building is nearly ready for occupation, particularly the ground floor, which whill be in use by September, states the Times of Malaya. The work on the main facade crowned by the stately central dome is still in progress. The smaller domes on each wing are completed and the whole will have a very impressive effect when the central portion is completed. Whitewashing, polishing and decorative are being carried on steadily at present in the station-master's quareters and the booking halls. The roofs of the five platforms are also under construction. The offices of the assistant traffic manager and the telegraph department have now been removed to the new building. Ipoh will soon have a station that will be excelled by few buildings of its class this side of Suez, adds our Ipoh contemporary. 

Obviously many parties looked forward to the completion of another iconic landmark that signified the wealth, the grandeur and the advancement of the British empire in the East.

This railway station was once featured in the Hollywood film, Anna and the King, starring Jodie Foster and Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun Fat.

In the year 2000, as part of KTM's double tracking and electrification project between Ipoh and Rawang, the Ipoh station was significantly renovated. Prominently, the platform area was completely rebuilt and modernised to level the platforms' height with entrances to train carriages as well as accommodate the newly laid double track and overhead lines (these included replacement of the original underground tunnels between platforms and steel-and-wood pitched canopies with an overhead bridge and curving metal canopies). Although interior refurbishment on portions of the ground floor of the main building were also conducted, remaining elements of the headhouse, including the station's Majestic Hotel, were preserved. The overhaul was completed in October 2007, three months before the conclusion of railway electrification between Ipoh and Rawang.

Unfortunately, today, the glory of this beautiful building has been tarnished somewhat by the lack of proper maintenance while the tropical hot and humid weather exacerbate the condition.  By the way, although the train station is still in operation as usual, the hotel has been closed down since March 2011. I am not sure what they are going to do with the hotel portion of this grand structure in future.

I photographed this stately structure at the end of last year.  Knowing fully well that weather at that time was cloudy and overcast most of the time at that point of time, I still didn't want to miss the opportunity to take pictures of this iconic landmark of Ipoh, though.  So I kept on shooting under the unflattering light since dawn.  However by stroke of luck, the sun light suddenly found its way through the cracks on the clouds that caused the building to be bathed in the beautiful warm light emanating from the low-angled sun light. I jumped at the opportunity and wasted no time to click away the shutter release button. The results are as what you can see below. Enjoy!



Ipoh Railway Station
The Ipoh Railway Station


Ipoh Railway Station
The Ipoh Railway Station in the early morning

[Last updated on 28 September 2017].

REFERENCE

Anthony, P.A. (1915, July 24). Railways in Malaya. Their history, progress and present position. The Straits Times. p.12.

Ipoh's front door. New railway station and hotel. (1914, May 16). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser. p.12.

The Ipoh Railway Station. (1915, July 2). The Straits Times. p. 6.

Comments

  1. I love the photo of the Ipoh Railway Station with the flowering plants in front. So beautiful!

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