Recognising Perak Hydro’s Contribution to Perak

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Badan Warisan Malaysia or the Malaysian Heritage Body, an NGO that promotes the preservation and conservation of Malaysia’s built heritage, paid a visit recently to the former Malim Nawar Power Station (MNPS). According to Puan Sri Datin Elizabeth Moggie, Council Member of Badan Warisan Malaysia, the NGO had forwarded their interest to TNB to visit MNPS to view TNB’s effort to conserve their older but significant stations for its heritage value.

Malim Nawar Power Station 1950's
Malim Nawar Power Station 1950’s

“Any building or facility that had made a significant contribution to the development of the country should be preserved.” – Badan Warisan Malaysia

Moggie added that Badan Warisan was impressed that TNB had kept the buildings as is and practised adaptive reuse of the facility with the locating of ILSAS and REMACO, their training and maintenance facilities, at the former power station.

Malim Nawar Power Station 2013. Adaptive reuse as a traaining and maintenance facility
Malim Nawar Power Station 2013. Adaptive reuse as a training and maintenance facility

Moggie added that any building or facility that had made a significant contribution to the development of the country should be preserved for future generations to appreciate and that power generation did play a significant part in making the country what it is today.

The Malim Nawar Power Station began operations in 1928. It was owned and built by the Perak River and Hydro-electric Power Company and had an initial generating capacity of 18,000kW and supplied power to the surrounding tin mines, industry and people living within its concession area.

The facility at MNPS consisted of the Power Station and supporting workshops. It also had living quarters for all levels of its workers complete with a football field and convenience store. It is what we would now refer to as a gated community.

The station was the premium thermal power station till the 1960s when its supply was connected to the National Electricity Board’s (NEB, now called Tenaga Nasional Berhad or TNB) power grid after which it was gradually phased out and MNPS was closed in 1986.

 

Power for the People

The first location in the Federated Malay States (FMS) to receive electric supply was Kuala Lumpur. The next location was Ipoh because of its rich tin industry. While not even half the size of Kuala Lumpur, it nevertheless received large allocations of funds to improve its power supply. Although the demand for electric power was initially required for domestic lighting, it was the tin mines with its voracious appetite for power that spearheaded the push to set up a stable supply of power for its mining activities.

The initial power supply in Ipoh was supplied by Pengkalen Mines Ltd, a company operated by mining company Osborne and Chapel, which was generating power for its bucket dredges out of Lahat. Its excess supply was channeled to Ipoh by line, on dark chengal poles to Lahat Lane with sub stations at Hugh Low Street (Jalan Sultan Iskandar) and Cowan Street (Jalan Raja Ekram).

However, the goal of the then Government of the FMS was a long-term solution. Funding was an issue but the firm of Messrs Armstrong, Whitworth and Co had managed to arrange for that.

A preliminary agreement between Armstrong, Whitworth and Co and the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Iskandar Shah, on December 12, 1925 subsequently saw the setting up of Perak River Hydro-Electric Power Company (PRHEP), which was floated on the London market in July 1926. PRHEP was leased for 80 years whereby the FMS government would not have the option to take it over until the first fifty years had expired, that is, after 1975.

 

PRHEP’s Setup

 Chenderoh Dam on the Perak River
Chenderoh Dam on the Perak River

The scope of work, costing GBP3.5 million saw the construction of the hydro-electric power generation plant across the Perak River where it joined the small tributary, Sungai Chenderoh. Called the Chenderoh Dam, construction work started in March 1927 and was completed in June 1930. It was officially opened by the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Iskandar Shah and the British High Commissioner then, Sir Hugh Clifford.

Chenderoh Dam hydro power station had a 27,000kW hydro generating capacity and was linked to a steam-powered plant at Malim Nawar, 40km south, by a 66kVa transmission line. The purpose for Malim Nawar was three fold. Initially it would serve the consumers in Kinta while Chenderoh was being constructed. Subsequently it would act as a standby in case of breakdowns along the transmission lines and used as an auxiliary in times of drought at Chenderoh.

Work on Malim Nawar Steam Power Station (MNPS) began in 1927 and was commissioned a year later. MNPS carried power supply to 12 transformer sub-stations located throughout the Kinta Valley and provided mining consumers an uninterrupted power supply of variable capacities based on individual requirements throughout the year. Besides being a power station, Malim Nawar Station also had the capacity and capability to take on major repair jobs of the company’s electrical equipments.

In order to manage the distribution of power to domestic consumers and villages in the concession area, PRHEP created a subsidiary, Kinta Electric Distribution chaired by Colonel Cecil Rae and included a board consisting of Raja Chulan and Leong Sin Nam.

The office of PRHEP Company was located at Station Road, (Jalan Dato Maharajalela) currently a TNB branch office. In 1932, PRHEP purchased the Batu Gajah Power Station (BGPS) which was started earlier by the Malayan Tin Dredge Company for its own dredging operations. By 1935 after a financial restructuring, the company was free from debt and despite a downturn in the tin industry in 1937/38, paid out a healthy dividend of 7 cents in 1939. Indeed before WW2, PRHEP Company had the reputation of being “the largest hydro-electric project undertaken in the British Empire as well as being the single largest power producer in Southeast Asia”.

On a national level it contributed 55% of the total power produced in the Federation of Malaya. At state level its power supply grew from an initial coverage of 35 towns to over 60 towns and villages by the mid ‘50s.

 

PRHEP Powered the Tin Mines

The main methods of mining for tin in the Kinta Valley was open-cast mining and dredging, both of which used electricity for their operations.

Dredges and open-cast mines used electricity for their operations
Dredges and open-cast mines used electricity for their operations

It was noted that in 1952 there were 39 dredges in operation in the Valley mainly in the Kampar to Tanjung Tualang areas with hundreds more Chinese operated mines dotted throughout the Valley. The role of Perak Hydro was to provide uninterrupted and economical power supply to the mining companies. Its standard guideline was that a breakdown should not take longer than two hours to resume operations otherwise flooding would occur at the mine.

To ensure prompt service, Perak Hydro provided living quarters for its workers with ranks from engineer to technician. Their locations were at the power stations at Chenderoh, Malim Nawar and Batu Gajah and two district stations at Silibin, Ipoh and Kampar.

A visit to the stations at Chenderoh, Malim Nawar and Kampar revealed a pleasant gated community of houses clustered around a playing field. Retired employee S. Murugiah, who was a General Manager at Chenderoh Dam, said he grew up at the Batu Gajah Power Station as his father worked there. “Life there was very nice. I used to take food to my father at meal times. It was like one big family,” he said.

Former PRHEP employee, a District Inspector based at Kampar, Lee Yit Meng, 81, said that “besides selling power to the miners, PRHEP also rented them the motors for their operations”. “These days you could call it a package. In the event of a breakdown the motor would be replaced immediately,” said Lee adding that each station ensured that spare motors and transformers were available at all times.

Another former employee, engineer Adrian Boudville, 75, had earlier taken me on a tour of the Malim Nawar Power Station where he was based in the ‘50s. “MNPS” he explained, “was a steam-powered station which used fuel oil delivered by train from Teluk Intan every morning to generate the steam. Water was derived from a huge adjacent lake supplied with water from Sungai Dipang. The plant also had introduced draft induced cooling towers for cooling water from 100 degrees Fahrenheit.” “All in all the living and working environment at MNPS was similar to that of a self-contained township,” said Boudville.

A subsequent trip with Boudville to visit Chenderoh Dam revealed a similar living and working environment. Chenderoh Dam is still functioning. It has been upgraded and continues to supply power to the national power grid.

PRHEP was taken over by the National Electricity Board in 1982 per the lease agreement. The Batu Gajah station was closed earlier in 1976. MNPS was officially retired in January 1986. The huge lake was covered and the cooling towers and generators removed and the facility adapted and reused to become TNB’s training and maintenance facility, ILSAS, Logistics and REMACO.

(l-r) District inspector Lee, technician Board Singh and Haji Tahir Don with his notebook.
(l-r) District inspector Lee, technician Board Singh and Haji Tahir Don with his notebook.

During the visit by Badan Warisan, TNB had also invited former PRHEP employees such as Lee and Boudville. Another employee En Haji Tahir Don, 77, (control room-in-charge) had brought along his work notebook from his time with notes and diagrams hand drawn by himself and with pages all intact.

(l-r) Moggie with engineer Boudville
(l-r) Moggie with engineer Boudville

For Tahir, as with Lee and Boudville and several others interviewed, working in PRHEP was enjoyable and they took pride in their work there.

Considering the enormous contribution that power generation played in developing the tin industry and its contribution to the GDP of the country, Malim Nawar Power Station should be preserved and packaged as a Tin Heritage tourism product together with Chenderoh Dam and the last dredge TT5 at Tanjung Tualang.

After all, these few icons are all that is left to show the future generations that Ipoh and the Kinta Valley were once the The Richest Tin Mine in The World.

 

 

James Gough

10 thoughts on “Recognising Perak Hydro’s Contribution to Perak

  1. Hullo Readers again,

    I will continue where I left off on 12 January 2014.

    My father joined Batu Gajah Perak Hydro in 1935, just after finishing his Higher School Education (HSC), in the midst of an early stage of steam-electricity production in Perak which supplied to towns, cities and Tin Mining Industry.

    According to Mr S. Murugiah’s comments dated February 1st, 2013 in the Ipoh Echo, he used to take food to his father at meal-times when working in Batu Gajah Perak Hydro Station. I did the same chores too for my father in the 1950s. There was no canteen on site, but a small rest-room to have meal breaks. Shift engineers and workers were not allowed to go home for meals even though; their homes were only a few hundred yards outside the security guarded fence.
    During each visit to my father, I always took a quick glance at the surroundings which reminded me about the loud noises caused by the big Turbines which were supplied by in-flowing cold water from the nearby company river. The generated hot water from the Turbines was then diverted into an outlet stream which flowed out into the distant man-made Lake which consisted of few greenery islands. From time to time, the lake was inspected by engineers, using a steel boat with zinc roof top, parked beside the lake for inspection and maintenance purposes. I had opportunities of sitting in the boat on numerous occasions with my father.
    He had to do shifts system, the so called “Shift Engineer’s job” between 1935 and 1960s. He took over the Malim Nawar Station Superintendent Post before he retired in 1974. The Malim Nawer Power Station was taken over by the Malaysian National Electric Board, now known as “Tenega Nasional Berhard”, in 1986.

    I still remember going out with my father on Sunday mornings between 1967 and 1970 in Malim Nawar, to inspect the river sites in the Malay Village (Kampong) along Kampar- Ipoh Road and which supplied water to the Station for generating electricity and consumption.

    Well, I could have written a book on the three Perak Hydro Power Stations, but I chose not to due to others (retired employees) who could do a better job than me.

    I did not take up engineering as a profession due to the dreaded night-shifts’ system. Somehow, fate was not on my side as I had to do night shifts including ‘split-duties’ when I started working in England Hospitals from 1971 to 1977. I only came out of the night shifts’ system when I was promoted to the Regional Eye Unit Ward Manager & Departmental Co-ordinator Post in 1978 until I retired in July 2003.

    Well, the rest is history.

    Raymond Ng

  2. Hullo Readers,

    I continue where I left off previously, according to the two websites.

    My father, Ng Nam Sang once said to me, enjoy life and always remember where your ‘roots’ of life first started.
    By remembering the old days, you will bring back nostalgic events and happy memories to the present day and then pass on your wise inheritance to your children to follow on in life.

    So, I embark on my father’s words of wisdom as most ‘elders’ believe in, by contacting colleagues, friends and relatives all over the world, like me in England and especially from Batu Gajah, Chenderoh, Ipoh & Malim Nawar, by using Batu Gajah, Perak website, Ipohword.org , personal contacts, emails, Facebook and other forms of contacts which ever suits you well.

    For private and confidentiality purposes, I am using my temporary working hospital address as shown on Ipohworld.org website under Comment Number: 23 dated December 14, 2013 which was addressed to Wendy Lewis (nee Simon). You could obtain my email address from Ipohworld.org or Batu Gajah, Perak website.

    So, I am encouraging all readers to contact their once lost colleagues, friends and relatives to resume or renew contacts wherever you are staying, to share your past and present experiences in the three Perak Hydro Power Stations.

    Best wishes,

    Raymond Ng

  3. Hullo enthusiastic readers of Perak River Hydro Company in Perak,

    After reading through the website about the story of Perak Hydro Steam Stations in Perak, I have decided to share a short and brief history of about my father’s contribution to Perak Hydro Company with the readers.

    My father, Ng Nam Sang started working for the Perak River Hydro in Batu Gajah in the mid-1930s as an Engineer after passing his University Of Cambridge Education with ‘flying colours’ with the following Certificates:
    Junior Examination in December 1932.
    Special Examination in December 1933.
    He went on to complete his University of Cambridge Higher Education: 1934 – 1935 (HSC) at the Anglo-Chinese School in Ipoh before taking up the Engineering Post at Perak Hydro Station in Batu Gajah.

    All my brothers and sister including me were born in Batu Gajah, Perak.

    He gained his gradual promotions in all the three sites (Batu Gajah, Chenderoh & Malim Nawar) as the years went by.
    He passed his Malayan First Grade Engineering on 30 November 1948 followed by City & Guilds of London Institute in 1952.
    He had the opportunity of coming to England for six months for further up-grading and training in Engineering Work at the George Kent Institution of Luton in Bedfordshire, between 28 February and 20 August 1960.

    He retired as a Deputy Superintendent of Perak Hydro in Malim Nawar in 1974 after 40 years of Long Service with the Company. He had stationed in all the three sites throughout his working life.

    Sadly, he passed away in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October 1988. Well, life has to go on with the rest of the family. We are scattered all over the world from Australia, Singapore to England. Half of the family are now living in England since January 1971.

    I hope some of you would recognise or remember my father’s name.

    Happy reading.

    Raymond Ng

  4. Hi Gilly

    No, the family did not come from Penang and ‘Simon’ is pronounced in the English way. My father was brought up in India and his brother was called Gerald and as far as I know there is no french blood in our family. Good luck with the research though.

  5. Message for Wendy Lewis (nee Simon)
    Your father was Alfred Simon. Is that an English pronounciation or a French one? and did youf father’s family originate from Penang?
    I am trying to trace my Gt grandma’s brothers, who were disperced on the death of their father, Henry Charles Simon, Alexander Simon and Charles Thompson Simon (their father was french)

    Gilly

  6. For Prem Ananth

    I notice your Father joined Chenderoh PRH and must have been working under Mr Dundas. We often visited Chenderoh and stayed with Mr and Mrs Dundas as a family and as children, used to enjoy playing on the jetty where the boats were moored on the lake. The whole area was very scenic and I also remember being taken through the dam and hearing the water pouring over the dam outside – that was an experience! Is it still a working Hydro Station? I would be interested to know.

  7. Just read this article after Dad (R. Govindan aka Gobi) and mum who was discussing the in which year LLN took over PRH. My dad joined PRH at Chenderoh in 1960 as a laborer and retired in KL as a TNB staff. During the period we as a family had the pleasure staying at all three stations (Chenderoh, Batu Gajah & Malim Nawar). Later we also moved and stayed at WOH and JOR stations on Tapah – C Highland road.

    It was a great experience staying at these quarters and was very enjoyable too. Really missing that life.

  8. I was very interested in this article on Perak Hydro at Malim Nawar and Batu Gajah. My father Alfred Simon was Station Superintendant there at different times in the 50’s and 60’s. I remember the train bringing the fuel for the station everyday at Malim Nawar as the track was just in front of our house. It was a lovely community and I remember the wayangs in the open air field as my sister and I used to enjoy them. There used to be a sports day for the Perak Hydro employees’ children which was held on the padang outside the club house. Very happy memories for me.

    Wendy Lewis (nee’ Simon)

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