The low bridge of Tamparuli

The low bridge of Tamparuli is a type of beam bridge – I have seen bridges of similar design in the state but as far as I can remember, none is as long as this one.

The bridge in construction in 1954 – note the apparent lack of heavy machinery

Tamparuli LOw Bridge in construction 1954
[Photo credit: Norsalman Ujang]

Before the bridge was built, lorries were parked on the riverbank – hence the name “Tempat Lori” which later became Tamparuli.

I think this kind of design is very rare nowadays especially for a bridge of this length, due to the fact that it doesn’t have any railings on the sides. Therefore it’s not surprising to see vehicles ending up in the river.

The then brand new bridge looking downstream – the legendary hanging bridge was not yet built – that would be in 1965

Tamparuli LOw Bridge brand new
[Photo credit: Norsalman Ujang]

What I find amazing is that many of the supporting beams have been reported to be “floating” i.e. they do not touch bottom anymore, so effectively the whole bridge is one long span, between 50-70m long, yet they carry practically unlimited load daily, plus beatings from floodwaters all these years.

The bridge is also famous for the legend of Solungkoi, a beautiful young local maiden who was betrothed to Serigal, a corporal in the army, who loved getting drunk more than his fiancee.

As the story goes, Solungkoi was abducted (by who?), put inside a glass-like thing (a huge specially made bottle?), and buried alive under one of the bridge’s beams nearest the riverbank leading to Kiulu road, in order to ensure the bridge’s strength. Intriguingly, stories also abound of her photograph placed either at the bottom of the river or stuck on one of the beams, underwater.

The provider of the photo above, Nursalman Ujang said that he was shooting prawns near the first beam nearest Sabah Adventist Secondary School (SASS) in 1982 when he saw what looks like a “photo in a mirror”, around 4R in size and attached to that beam, about 3 feet from bottom. He also claims to have heard the sound of beating gongs coming from the bottom of the bridge.

Another story mentioned that there’s another body, that of a man, name unknown, who was also killed in the same manner as Solungkoi, and buried under one of the bridge’s beams at the other end of the bridge – meaning Solungkoi and this person were buried on opposite sides of the riverbank.

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