Kota Kinabalu: North Borneo Railway


I am not a train enthusiast but I got to agree that North Borneo rail excursion is the best way to discover the lush landscape of the coastal and rural regions of Sabah. I decided to do something different during my trip in Kota Kinabalu; go back in time with an old steam train. I got my ticket through Borneo Trails inclusive of 2-way transfer.  A tad pricey but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


The North Borneo Railway runs two weekly departures; Wednesday and Saturday. The carefully restored train is operated by Sutera Harbour Resort. All passengers will board the train at Tanjung Aru Station. Only passengers with valid train passport and boarding pass were allowed to enter the platform.


The vulcan steam locomotive built in 1896 is powered by firewood. Only a few trains in the world still uses firewood to power the engine.


There were 5 coaches named after a town along the journey, like Papar, Kinarut, Tanjong Aru, Putatan and Kawang. Each coach can sit up to 16 passengers and there is no air conditioning on board. Deep green and cream colours is the original of North Borneo Railway, with carved brass logos showcasing the a tiger holding a rail wheel, standing on the royal crown.


The train pulls out of Tanjong Aru station at 10am followed by breakfast service.

Route Map North Borneo Railway
Credit: Sutera Harbour Resort

Round trip from Tanjong Aru to Papar station. Throughout the journey, there was a brief commentary on the landmark and scenery to look out for from the window.


The train steward wearing uniform from the colonial era serving Sabah tea or Tenom coffee during breakfast.


Busy preparing for breakfast service.


Traditional local delicacy for breakfast; Kaya toast, Chicken Curry Puff, Kuih Penjeram and Pais Ubi Kayu.


We were made to disembark at Kinarut town for 20 minutes. Passengers have the chance to explore the nearby Tien Shi Temple or local shops. I did decided to go the the later.


 All our passport was stamped as we passed through each town along the route.


Great views from the window.


Stop over at Papar town to explore their local market.


Men at work!


I had the chance to witness how the train turntable works at Papar.


Ready for lunch service!

Tiffin lunch; a colonial style lunch served in a stackable metal container. One word, delicious!


The train arrived back at Tanjong Aru later than expected. This is not unusual due to the train engine. My tour agent suggested not to schedule any trip in the afternoon and she was right! The excursion ended at 5PM.

You may purchase your ticket directly from Sutera Harbour or at any travel agent.

Other destinations: Auckland | Singapore | Seoul | Paris | Shanghai | TokyoKuala Lumpur | Penang | Hong Kong | Macau | Chiang Mai


9 Thoughts

  1. Hai.. May I use your picture for my presentation and research purpose? I Will credit your blog for the picture.

  2. Seems lovely. Aku tahu boleh google tapi nak tanya jugak berapa RM bro tiket dia?

    Dengan tingkap boleh bukaknya, lalu kawasan kampung dan makan dalam bekas tiffin… betul2 macam back to the future. haha.

    1. Boleh katakan mahal jugak. RM371 per pax termasok 2-way transfer. Mmg lawa tengok suasana kampung. I’ll say it’s a good experience but be prepared to spend most of the time waiting because of the train technical problem.

        1. Kalau naik train RM5 je….Itu train under Sutera Horbour memang mahal bro. Sebab itu keretapi klasik.

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