In 1894, the Tapah Road Teluk Intan Railway recorded the first ever train derailment as a result of the confrontation between an angry elephant bull and the train. This incident is also the first train accident ever recorded since the introduction of railway to the Federated Malay States some 125 years ago.
Occurring on 17th September 1894, the three carriage steam locomotive with engine & tender which carried mostly passengers who were somewhat involved in the booming tin mining industry were on their journey to Teluk Anson (Present day Teluk Intan). As the train approached Teluk Anson, an elephant bull stood its ground and while the train and elephant met head-on, the incident caused a derailment. In fact, excerpt of the Railway Resident Engineer’s annual report of 1894 published under ‘Occurences’ read that only the engine and tender of the train was derailed as a result of the crash while no casualties were reported. It also noted that the train driver was ‘thrown into the jungle on the side of the line’.
Although locals in nearby villages claim that at least two Indian tender assistants were killed, the annual report suggested otherwise. While it was noted that the elephant bull was a matured one and ‘large’ in size, it was rumoured in local fables that it avenged its baby who was killed by the train some time back at the same location (1).
As a result of the derailment, the passengers had to proceed on foot to Teluk Intan, approximately 3.5 miles away(2).
While elephants are believed to be sensitive to sounds and lights, it was purported that the incident occurred at dusk between 5-7pm at which time was already dark due to the location. The train would have reached its peak speed of between 40-50 miles per hour at this location measured by normal steam operations.
As a result of the collision, the elephant bull died on location. While efforts were taken to preserve the skull and tusk of the elephant (which is currently displayed in the Taiping Museum) the hip bones which measured almost 1 meter in height is displayed at the Johor Bahru KTMB (Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad) mini museum instead. Visitors can view the remnants of the history making elephant, along with a brief description of the incident. The now famous photograph in which a Englishman stands atop the elephant carcass is also displayed alongside (3).
A memorial was erected at the very site the derailment occurred, describing the events of the evening of 17th of September 1894, on which writes;
“THERE IS BURIED HERE A WILD ELEPHANT WHO IN DEFENCE OF HIS HERD CHARGED AND DERAILED A TRAIN ON THE 17TH DAY OF SEPT 1894”
Since the erection of the memorial, primarily due to exposure to natural elements, the sign was reduced to being faded to a point that the wordings were no longer legible. This was made worse when the railway company decided to discontinue the service on this historic line from Tapah Road to Teluk Intan in the late 1980s . As a result of this abandonment, the sign was largely forgotten.
As a result of this, a group of volunteers from the Persatuan Pencinta Sejarah Masyarakat Perak (History Enthusiasts Society of Perak) and Persatuan Pelukis Teluk Intan (Artist Association of Teluk Intan) lead by Iskandar Zulqarnain had taken efforts to restore the signage on 2018 and received the attention of the Member of Parliament of Teluk Intan. YB Nga Kor Ming then arranged an allocation of RM2000 for the efforts, and as a result the restored sign now stands proudly to mark the site of this historical incident and is readily accessible again to visitors.
- The Straits Times (20 April 1963) m/s 14
- Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah – Arkib Negara Malaysia