The Heroic Elephant

The Heroic Elephant

Courtesy of John Ward



The bull elephant waited on the railway tracks in the blazing tropical heat to face down the new interloper that had been a threat to his herd and had already killed a calf.

A new railroad, laid by the British, snaked its way through the jungle between Teluk Anson, (now Teluk Intan), to Tapah, Ipoh in India. On that fateful day in September 1894, the train left Teluk Anson and headed towards its destination through the herd’s jungle home. Some say the bull felt he had a score to settle with the ‘Iron Beast,’ seeking vengeance for the calf killed earlier by the same train. While others claimed that it was merely defending the herd from the ‘new enemy’ that had encroached upon their domain.

The railway connecting Teluk, Anson to Tapah, Ipoh was completed in 1893 and its daily rumbling through the jungle threatened the habitat of many of the indigenous animals. So it seemed to be time to establish the herd’s right to live there.

As the train thundered through the bush, the British engine driver was unable to avoid a collision, because the elephant stood defiantly on the railway tracks and refused to budge in spite of the loud whistling and engine noise as they hurtled towards the brave bull.

The bull was huge, taller than the ‘Iron Beast’ and it collided with the engine head-on at 50 miles per hour. The impact derailed the engine and three coaches. Passengers were mostly Chinese towkays and business men returning to Kuala Lumpur after visits to the tin mines in the Kinta Valley. Many were hurt in the twisted wreck and two Indian workers died of injuries sustained in the accident. The elephant was killed instantly. 

The British Government erected a memorial to commemorate the heroic last stand of the gallant elephant. Unfortunately the poor creature was butchered even in death to be used as memorabilia for posterity. The skull is kept by Taiping Museum; some bones are with KTMB (Railways), but somehow the priceless Ivory Tusks found their way half way around the world to England. 

This place should be in the tourist brochures as ‘must see’ places in Teluk Intan, Perak. Lest we forget. Such a tale of self-sacrifice and bravery by an animal should be known throughout the world.


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