Oldest Railway Kopitiam in the nation


I am familiar with the legendary tale of how Lim Huan Hee started a small business, running a canteen within the Kluang railway station in 1938, with just one kati of sugar and a few cans of milk.


Barney [Far Left] and Jack [Second from Right]
honoured their long-serving staff at the event

This railway canteen was open early to serve commuters and travellers when the first train arrived in Kluang and its location close to the Police Station, post office, telecoms office and Government offices, made this a convenient and popular spot for breakfast.


Over the years, the canteen developed into a coffeeshop under Lim’s son, Lim Heng Yong and his grandson, Lim Jit Chen, better known as Jack, established the Kluang RailCoffee brand and took the business to the next level.


In 2008, Jack partnered with his cousin, Lim Jit Tong, also known as Barney, to build the business and expanded the menu to include more local and international items.


Notice the overhead bridge that carries
the all-new, dual-track rails

Over the years, I covered many stories on the Kluang Railway Station coffee-shop that featured Jack and as I became more familiar with the Lim family, it was only natural for me to document the Kluang Rail Canteen story under Heritage Trades in My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, published in 2018.


At my book launch event in December 2018, I had the privilege to meet with the son of Jack, Lim Ben Winn, the fourth-generation family member who was injecting new blood into the family business.


Fast-forward to July 2022 when I received a message from Ben Winn or Ben in short, with a VIP invitation to the Kluang Railway Station coffee-shop for the induction ceremony for this kopitiam, recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records as the Oldest Railway Coffee Shop in Malaysia.


 “Congratulations!” I promptly responded as I was absolutely thrilled to hear of such a recognition. What followed was a quick exchange of messages to learn more about what was planned for the event.


My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places
and Inspirational People

Ben agreed that it was fitting to present the VIPs invited to the event with copies of, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, that features the Kluang Railway Canteen story on page 118, as a token of appreciation and went on to discuss their order with MPH Publishing Kuala Lumpur.


After two years of uncertainties where many lives and livelihoods were lost, it was so refreshing to know that the Kluang RailCoffee coffeeshop not only weathered the challenges brought on by the global pandemic, but it had also gained recognition as the oldest coffeeshop with 84 years of serving their classic coffee and menu of comfort food to coffee-shop connoisseurs.

To avoid over-crowding, the event was planned for 10am on Monday, the usual day on which the Railway Station coffeeshop was closed for business.


After a smooth drive from Johor Baru to Kluang via the North-South Highway, it was interesting to enter the old town via the scenic route but with a difference.


Barney Lim Jit Tong [Left] 
with Jack Lim Jit Chen [Right]

The railway crossing gates were removed because the all-new, dual-track rails were constructed on an overhead bridge that passes the new railway station, now under construction at Kampung Masjid Lama.


When I arrived at the Kluang Railway Station, it was good to see the familiar, original building that was built in 1909, where one wing was the coffee-shop and the other, was still being used as the railway station ticketing counter and offices.


A festive feel prevailed as was seen from a pair of feather flags that fluttered in the wind and proudly announced the Malaysia Book of Records event for the recognition of Kluang RailCoffee opened since 1938, as the Oldest Railway Kopitiam in Malaysia.


An archway of balloons decorated the entrance to the coffeeshop and staff, dressed in the event T-shirt with the proud recognition of the Oldest Railway Kopitiam in Malaysia by the Malaysia Book of Records, emblazoned across the T-shirt’s back, busied themselves in welcoming media personnel, some who had arrived from Kuala Lumpur.


A modern cafe in the Kluang Railway
Station with a replica of the railway
track designed into its decor

After I was warmly welcomed in, Barney filled me in on the developments in the vicinity since my last visit to the Kluang RailCoffee outlet at the station.  


As more guests were arriving, I watched as Jack and Ben welcomed and ushered in VIP guests who were the assemblywoman for Mahkota, Datuk Sharifah Azizah Datuk Syed Zain, as representative of the Johor Menteri Besar, CEO of KTM Berhad or Malayan Railways Limited, En Mohd Rani Hisham Samsudin and the CEO of Perbadanan Aset Keretapi or Railway Assets Corporation, En Adam Abu Hanipah.


The Lim family who operates Kluang RailCoffee at the railway station, have always valued the strong partnership they share with the authorities in the Kluang Municipal Council, Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) and Railway Assets, the owner of the railway station building.


My order of Kaya Toast with Kopi-C

The convivial mood continued as guests were invited to place their orders for a choice of beverage and snacks from the menu, on free-flow specially for that event.


When I was reminded that they sell between 5,000 to 6,000 sets of Kaya Toast every day, I decided to place my order for Kaya Toast to enjoy with a hot cup of Kopi-C.


Looking back, I probably learnt more about the coffeeshop culture in our community from the good people at Kluang RailCoffee who helped to educate me with kopitiam jargon like Kopi-O, Kopi-C Kosong, Kopi-Kaw or Kopi-Cham etc, the phrases and permutations used to order your favourite cuppa.


One for the album [L to R] Ben, Barney,
En Mohd Rani Hisham, Datuk Sharifah 
Azizah, En Adam, Jack and Jwan Heah

In course of our conversation, Jack remarked that the Kluang RailCoffee kopitiam was an institution in Kluang that united the multi-cultural community here.


He recalled that Datuk Sharifah Azizah’s father, Datuk Syed Zain, a former Speaker in the Johor State Assembly, used to meet at this kopitiam at 11am daily with other regulars who included school headmasters and politicians, to enjoy their coffee and conversation.


This kopitiam was the destination of choice not only for coffeeshop connoisseurs but groups of hobbyists like car and motorcycle enthusiasts who chose to drive or ride to Kluang and hosted their weekend gatherings here.  


The VIPs received My Johor Stories Book Two
as a special memento for this significant event

In fact, recently some 100 Porsche car owners arrived at the Railway Station kopitiam and because it was impossible to accommodate them here, the group was separated into batches and invited to go to the other outlets in Kluang.


Jack lamented that theirs was such a humble beginning that through the early years, it was a matter of making ends meet and nobody ever thought of capturing any photographs of the original canteen.


Around the early 1980s, when Jack joined his father in the business, he saw the value of their heritage trade and did everything to preserve and promote the nostalgic charm and ambience in the coffeeshop.


Jack and Barney presented an
event T-shirt to Jwan Heah after
they received the Malaysia Book of
Records National Record certificate

While this recognition by the Malaysia Book of Records was a treasured honour and a deeply motivating inspiration to do better for the image of Kluang, Jack aspires for more to be done to preserve their 84-year-old coffeeshop in that heritage building when the new Kluang Railway Station went into full operation.


He looks forward to the opportunity to expand the premises with better facilities and landscaping to welcome more visitors as the Kluang RailCoffee kopitiam becomes a must-see tourist destination here.


Meanwhile, Barney paid tribute to his wife, Choon Yann, who worked behind-the-scene to write the Employee Handbook that essentially guided the team in their daily tasks and was key in the implementation and execution of tasks. (She was not present to witness this significant event because she was a close contact to a Covid positive patient.)


While the Lim family attributed the success of Kluang RailCoffee to the strong and sustained support from the people of Kluang, they also acknowledged the contributions and commitment of their hardworking staff.


Autographing my book for
Datuk Sharifah Azizah at the event

I was pleased to observe that the highlight of the event was an award ceremony for their long-serving staff who were each rewarded with a Certificate of Achievement, a sports jacket and a token of appreciation within a Red Packet.


They were Mohd Rezal Mohammad, Azman Ahmad and Zorimi Abd Hamid, who each clocked 15 years of service, Rizal Sukardi who was with Kluang RailCoffee for 16 years and Lai Teck Cheong, the longest-serving staff who was with them for 25 years.


In the next part of the event, I was deeply honoured to be acknowledged when they presented my book, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, to each of the three VIP guests.


Barney and Jack pose for a current
shot of the same pose published in
My Johor Stories 2: Interesting 
Places and Inspirational People

Then, for the moment we had been waiting for: Barney and Jack received the Certificate for the National Record as the Oldest Railway Kopitiam in the nation that was officially presented Malaysia Book of Records Marketing Officer, Jwan Heah.


Barney and Jack, the two Lim cousins who were responsible for the growth of the family business, each took their turn to express their appreciation and support to everyone involved for their contributions that led to this momentous event.


Then it was a fun time for photos to capture the excitement as I autographed my books for the VIPs and then, Barney and Jack were asked to stand in the same pose at the doorway of the kopitiam that was published in my book, for a current shot.


Together with the original Railway Station kopitiam, Kluang RailCoffee now has three other outlets in Kluang located at Jalan Duku, Jalan Tasik and Sri Impian, that serves a signature menu of specialties that pair perfectly with freshly brewed coffee.


The next chapter for Kluang RailCoffee would involve bringing this Johor brand to other parts of the country and by September, an outlet should open in Shah Alam, Selangor.


Kluang RailCoffee coffeeshop [Halal] is located within the old Kluang Railway Station at Jalan Stesen, 86000 Kluang, Johor. Open daily from 7am to 6pm, closed on Monday.

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