Saturday, July 10, 2010

History - The Original Sarikei Nyelong River Bridge

Do you know that the current Nyelong River Bridge at Meranti Road was not the first bridge to cross the Nyelong River? Oh, really? Well, let this blog post bridge the information gap then.

Sarikei Nyelong River
View from the new Nyelong River Bridge, 2010
Source: Peter Kong

Long before Repok Road was built beyond downtown. Nyelong River was the means for rural Cantonese folks from the Bulat area to row their boats (sampan) downstream to downtown Sarikei to sell their farm products and to replenish essential household items.

Sarikei Nyelong River Bridge Opening, c. 1962
Find the British Union Jack flag.
What do you call those brown police uniform?
Source: William Law

The original Nyelong River bridge was commissioned by the Australian government in 1962 at about 10  11.5 miles (updated) from Sarikei. This upper part of the river is much narrower. The engineer in charge was none other than our own Sarikei engineer, Tiong Hung Ming 张鸿明, whose house was behind the former hill opposite Methodist School.

This old Bailey bridge was built using the method invented by Donald Bailey. The steel alloy parts were prefabricated in modular parts and could be assembled at the construction site with manual labour without the need for cranes. The triangular shapes you see on the bridge are called trusses. (source: Wikipedia)

Sarikei Nyelong River Bridge, 1970s
Students wanna have fun.
Source: William Law

In the early to mid 1970s, students would drive across this bridge or take the back breaking public bus to visit Binatang (now Bintangor) and the only swimming pool in 6th Division then at Rajang Teachers' College (RTC).

Sarikei Nyelong River Bridge, 2008
Source: William Ting

In 1965-1973, the villagers saw a few red tortoises in the river below the bridge and soon hordes of superstitious people came to pray because tortoises were believed to be linked to longevity and the gods.

A new road was built in 2008 to divert traffic from the corroding old bridge. Now cars zoom past this crumbling bridge without knowing the 46 years of service that she had rendered. A bridge too far ... from most memories. Even the tortoises couldn't help.

Update: Received an email that the bridge has been removed c. 2010

Sarikei Nyelong River Bridge, 2012


baoqiong said...

Yes, Rajang Teachers College's pool is still functional until now!As a part of RTC(now is called as Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Rajang),I still have a swim there.

William said...

This old Nyelong bridge is 11.5 miles from Sarikei before the road was "straighten". I stayed just next to the bridge from 1963-1968.
Your story is accurate. By the way, just next to the bridge was the first rubber processing factory which was burnt down by the communist after just a few years of operation.

Anonymous said...

Pasted this comment from Sarikeians facebook group:

Thomas Chan
I saw the tortoises myself about 5 on that day. Some said more than that. It was not long after the Pulau Kichang tragedy at Rejang River mouth. I think the year was around 1971 or 1972. The tortoises were of different sizes and colours. The interesting thing was that it was only "playing" on one side of the river. When I saw them it was high tide and water was flowing in from the seaward side. You could see the tortoises floated up in the river in front where the former rubber processing factory was and then when it reached below the bridge, it would sink down and reappeared again a bit further down the river and floated in with the tide again. This went on for a while until I got bored and went home which was not far from that bridge. Seeing is believing and it was a strange happening. I am not sure what happened to the tortoises. Years later I heard a local caught and ate them - true or not I am not sure.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the Old bridge?

I was working at the area when they were doing the dismantling and I happened to ask the contractor what he is going to do with the steel.

It was removed and later shipped to be Reused in PNG. So now Nyelong Bridge is in PNG.

Daniel Yiek said...

Thanks for the update. There are Sarikei people living in Paupa New Guinea - mainly in the logging industry, I heard.

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