I had read that close to the town of Batu Gajah in Perak there is a surviving tin dredge, a colossal industrial relic from the days when Malaysia was the world’s largest tin producer. I drove there recently to take a look.
A tin dredge is like a floating factory. This one, named Tanjung Tualang Dredge No. 5, or TT5, weighs 4,500 tons and is supported by a pontoon of 75 meters in length, 35 meters in width and 3 meters in depth. It was built in England in 1938 by F.W.Payne & Son which, at that time, was a major design engineering company in bucketline dredges.
Tin dredges work by scooping up bucket loads of tin-bearing soil at the front end, which then passes through an oscillating drum and a system of jigs and screens to extract the tin, before spewing out the waste material at the rear end through a number of chutes.
This dredge was built for the Southern Malayan Tin Dredging Ltd, a company formed in 1926 which operated a further 5 dredges in the Batu Gajah and Tanjung Tualang area. TT5 was in operation for 44 years until 1982 by which time the Malaysian tin industry was in rapid decline due to a combination of exhausted tin deposits, low tin prices and high operating costs.
Since 1982 the dredge has fallen on hard times. All the other dredges in the area were disposed of long ago and this last remaining example was in danger of being of being sold off for its high scrap metal value until heritage-loving individuals launched a “Save the Dredge” campaign. The dredge is currently owned by the Perak State Government so there is a chance it will be preserved. A visitor car park has been created (sadly mine was the only car in it) and there is a miniscule museum providing some information on tin mining and you have to pay a small fee to get up close. Workmen were doing some maintenance during my visit ( a good sign perhaps?) so I was unable to go inside the dredge.
All the tin mining and dredging activity which took place for over a hundred years has left behind a pockmarked landscape running for hundreds of miles down the length of Peninsular Malaysia. But the scars have filled with water and cleaned up quite well and now serve new roles as fishing ponds, wetlands, water features for housing developments and so on.
The lady collecting the entrance fee said that this is the last tin dredge in existence in Malaysia. That may not be entirely accurate as I have heard there is another near Paya Indah, Dengkil, albeit a newer model, but that too might be sold off to Australia shortly.
If you are interested in seeing this important piece of Malaysia’s industrial heritage you had better visit Tanjung Tualang soon while you still can.
16 thoughts on “The Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge”
I remember seeing these behemoths when I was growing up in Malaysia. Nostalgic – certainly the made in England bit.
Paya Indah, Dengkil,had no such thing..i been there is just purely wetland..
The one in paya indah is called d9, owned by petaling tin
Thanks for that additional information.
Nice pictures , good memories , longlive those dreges !
Just visited the dredge in Tg Tualang on 24/4/13. It’s a pity the dredge has not by now being promoted as a tourist destination for I find it rather interesting. Quite a masterpiece it is.
Thanks for the update. Glad to hear it is still going.
i am planning to go tomorrow. is it still around? I was trying to call the number but couldn’t get through
As far as I know it is still there.
My dad was dredge master of the particular dredge in 65 and mine manager in the 70…. I spent many an afternoon aboard with my dad. Great memories
Wow, interesting. Do you have any photos? I imagine the dredge must have been very noisy when it was in operation.
No-one being allowed into the dredge because of work (maintenance or other) going on, seems to be a standard excuse with this dredge. I visited in 2015 and again last month and both times I was told sorry, you can’t go in, same old excuse. During my latest visit a tour bus arrived and about 40 visitors were prompty ushered in, so I asked and was told, oh, a government official tour. Huh!
I should have joined them and tagged along…
The site seems to be operated half-heartedly (to be fair the admission fee is very low and staff were friendly and helpful with the limited information they knew).
Getting out to Batu Gajah and beyond to the dredge is an expedition in itself and one has to go by car. Which may explain the limited interest in it. That, or maybe only retired tin mining engineers ever bother to visit.
Whatever, I didn’t get inside and only got to walk around it and of course take pictures. Take a wide-angle lens with you, it’s a mammoth of a thing.
Disappointing that you weren’t allowed into the dredge during you visit last month. I was assured a while ago by the operators that the dredge is now fully open to the public and I updated my Malaysia Traveller page accordingly:
Still, I’m not surprised. I’ve been 3 times and never yet seen inside.
i’m seing this dredge since small, but just 2 days ago managed to go inside with tourist guide.
i just love it.
That’s good. I still haven’t seen inside. Hopefully on my next trip.