Part 1- They Kept the Wheels of the Nation Moving.      | SikhNet

Part 2- They Kept the Wheels of the Nation Moving.      | SikhNet

Part 3- Dodging the Bullets!

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 Mr. Charna Singh (Station Master ) Charna Singh s/o Sohan Singh was born in Kampar, Perak in 1922. He studied at the Government English School (Sultan Yussuf School) in Batu Gajah, Perak.  Just before he could sit for his Senior Cambridge, the Japanese forces occupied Malaya. After the Japanese surrendered and left Malaya, he joined the railways in 1947 and started to work at the Sentul Railway workshop until 1954.

He was promoted to assistant station master and transferred to Petaling Railway Station. He served there until 1959 and was transferred to Batu Gajah Railway Station. In 1971, he was transferred to Bukit Timah Station, Singapore, and retired in 1977 as a Station Master.  He passed away on the 17th of August 2000.

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Station Master Mr. Charna Singh at Batu Gajah Station with his daughter Mrs. Manjit Kaur. Circa 1970. His daughter, Mrs. Manjit Kaur shared a story of her late father, who once in the early 1950s, was traveling to Batu Gajah from Kuala Lumpur, when the train they were on, was ambushed by the communist terrorist. The bullets were flying everywhere, My father told everyone to lie down flat in the passage between the seats, and all of them managed to escape unhurt. 

"They were the guardians of the tracks"     

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 Mr. Mahinder Singh  (Permanent Way Inspector) Mr. Mahinder Singh Baidy s/o Ujagar Singh was born in April 1934 in Buttar, Moga, Punjab. At the tender age of 3, he came to Malaya. He studied at St. Michael's School, Ipoh. He was an active member of the Red Cross Society. He joined the Malayan Railways in 1956 in the engineering department at the track maintenance section. Between 1957 to 1963 he served in various towns like Gemas, Segamat, Triang, Kuala Lipis & Mentakab.

From 1963 to 1972 he served at the Ipoh's, Fryer Road, Engineering Department. They work behind the scenes for the railways and assure the safety of the trains and its passengers. They provide protection for passengers off board and off the platform. Their job was maintaining and repairing the rail tracks. Their work was essential for ensuring the safe and efficient operation of trains. 

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Mr. Mahinder Singh with his repair gangs  .

During "The Great Floods", in January 1971, almost three-quarters of the Kuala Lumpur (K.L.)  was submerged underwater. All rail services passing north out of K.L. were suspended, affecting mail, passengers, and freight. Mahinder Singh and his repair gangs from Ipoh were stationed at Kuala Lumpur. They managed to repair the tracks and restored all the train's schedule to order. Mr. Mahinder was promoted to Permanent Way Sub-Inspector and transferred to Segamat in 1973 and again in 1974 to Kuala Lumpur where he worked at Ang Seng yard, Brickfields.  In 1979 he was promoted to an Inspector and transferred to Alor Setar maintaining rail tracks up to Arau. He was responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the tracks. He passed away in 1982.

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Mr. Athma Singh (Chief Clerk) Mr. Athma Singh s/o Isher Singh was born in 1919. He studied at Gopeng Perak. After completing his studies, he joined the railways in the 1940s during the Japanese occupation and started as a ticket checker and later he became a ticket inspector. He had to learn the Japanese language and was able to communicate in Japanese. After serving as an inspector, he later became a Railway guard in the railways. Later he moved into the stores as a clerk then subsequently he was promoted to chief clerk and later, retired as a storekeeper at the goods shed Sentul Railway workshops. He passed away on the 15th of February 1985.

"Ensuring the safe arrival of passengers & cargo to its destination"

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Mr. Latchman Singh  (Senior Railway Guard)

Railway Guard plays a vital role in railroad travel and are responsible for the timely and safe operation of the train ensuring the safe arrival of passengers & cargo to its destination. Mr. Latchman Singh s/o Jewan Singh was born on the 5th of March 1936. He joined the Malayan Railways in 1954 as a Ticket Checker at Ipoh. After some time serving in Ipoh, later he was posted to Tapah Road Station as a Ticket Inspector on passenger trains from Tapah Road to Teluk Anson route.

Later he became a Railway Guard on a Goods Train and posted to Ipoh again. Then he was transferred to Kuala Lipis, Pahang. He was working on the Kuala Lipis to Kuala Krai goods train. He was transferred to Ipoh in 1967. He served with the Malayan Railways for 35 years. He passed away on the 8th of May 1989 while on duty. His last post was as a Senior Railway Guard. 

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Mr. Latchman Singh with the Station Master and a colleague at Kuala Lipis, Station, Pahang. Circa. 1966.  He shared some stories with his family members when he was serving in the railways. He saw a suicide attempt by a man in front of an oncoming train. He had to report the matter to the Station Master and the Police as the locomotive driver was too traumatized. He waited until the police came and helped them to pick up the man's remains.

While serving at Kuala Lipis, he said that during the monsoon season, the whole town and the Railway Station will be flooded. The rail and road traffic will be disrupted. They had to use boat services to deliver goods and sometimes passengers. He said that during the disastrous floods, cholera & typhoid cases were rampant.

Policing the Railways!

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Mr. Naranjan Singh (Railway Police)

It was necessary for the Federated Malay States Railways to maintain these Railway Police forces to guard property, prevent thefts, and control passenger traffic at the Railway Station. The F.M.S. Railway Police have carried outward, watch, and escort duties on the line and stations over 600 miles from Padang Besar to Singapore. They dealt with all serious crimes, burglaries, and petty affairs in the railway domain.

In 1913 the total no. of Railway Police engaged from 1st January 1913 to 31st December 1913 was 510 men. As of 31st December 1919, the total Railway Police was 666 men. Mr. Naranjan Singh s/o Nanak Singh was born on 1908 at Dhamot , Ludhiana, Punjab. He came to the Federated Malay States in 1927. He applied to join the Railway Police force and he was selected and served in Ipoh, Perak with a starting pay of $27 per month. After serving in Ipoh, he was transferred to Tg. Malim, Perak and later to Pasir Mas, Kelantan and Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. He served with the force for four years. According to his son, a retired Federal Court Judge, Datuk Pajan Singh Gill, told that his father was a devout follower of the Sikh religion. He led a simple life and was God-fearing. He advised all his children to help people in need.

The main religious institution of the Sikhs is the "Gurdwara" (temple), which literally means “gateway to the guru”. The Sikhs, as it is, are well known to be God-fearing and Temple-loving and no matter where they go, the moment they have settled in a place even in a small group the first thing they do is to organize and build a Temple. This gives them a place both to worship and to get to socialize. It virtually becomes their second home.

Mr. Naranjan Singh and a few other Sikhs like Mr. Waryam Singh (Station Master), and Bhai Jang Singh the priest of the Railway Police Sikh Temple, Ipoh initiated the construction of the Railways Sikh Temple along Fryer Road in Ipoh.

Mr. Naranjan Singh passed away on 16th February 1993 at the age of 87.

There are more than 50 archival records related to Sikhs serving in the F.M.S.R. & Malayan Railways as Contractors, Engineers, Fitters, Carpenters, Electricians, Station Masters, Engine Drivers, Guards, Railway Police, Goods Clerks, Accounts Clerks, Carriage & Wagon Examiners, Riveters & etc at the National Archives, K.L.

"When one thinks of the Malayan Railways, rarely do Sikhs come to mind. Often left out of the storytelling about their effort!  Their stories are a testament that helped shape the history of this country's Railways.


I am thankful to Datuk Pajan Singh Gill, Mr. Amman Singh s/o Dalip Singh, Mr. Sandeep Singh Godrei, Mr. Prem Singh Judge, Mr. Harmeet Singh s/o Gurbachan Singh ,Mrs. Harcharan Kaur d/o Jaswant Singh , Mr. Sarjit Singh s/o Inder Singh, Mrs. Manjit Kaur d/o Charna Singh, Mr. Prithviraj Singh s/o Mahinder Singh , Mrs. Kavaljit Kaur d/o Athma Singh, Mr. Rabinder Singh s/o Latchman Singh, Mr. Gian Singh s/o Meher Singh ,Mrs. Narinderjeet Kaur d/o Ajaib Singh , Mr. Manjit Singh s/o Nahar Singh, Mr. Amarjit Singh & Mr. Sarjit Singh s/o Kernail Singh for their cooperation & assistance given to me during the interview session.

Resources: -

Federated Malay States Railways Report for the year of 1907 by C. Edwin Spooner C.M.G. General Manager. 

Federated Malay States Railways Report for the year of 1919 by P.A. Anthony General Manager & Chief Engineer F.M.S. Railways.

Federated Malay States . Report on the Police Force for the year 1913 "Supplement to the F.M.S. Government Gazette," August 14, 1914.

National Archives, Malaysia

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