Having to bid farewell to another old friend?

24 05 2010

It was with sadness that I read the news about the impending closure of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in July next year, which was announced today. It has very much been a part of the Singapore that I grew up loving, one that I first became acquainted with on the makan trails that may parents led us on from the heights of Mount Faber. What the news release does not say is whether the station which has served for so long, providing many of us, including myself, with many memories of adventures on the railway to the Federation or Malaya as we may have referred to to it back then, will have to go, as both Malaysia, which owns the station and the railway land, and Singapore seek to jointly redevelop the parcels of land around the railway.

The entrance to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station with the four pillars of Malaya's economy, Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry.

Transport, one of the four pillars.

The distinctive architectural style of the station hails from an era when European railway travel was at its height, as it is said to have been influenced by the architect behind Finland’s Helsinki Station. The station has stood as a landmark in the area since 1932, has survived much of the renewal that has swept through Tanjong Pagar, as up till now, the Malaysia government has resisted the many attempts by the Singapore government to persuade it to redevelop the railway land and the land on which the station stands. The station features four large statues on the four pillars at its entrance, each symbolising one of the then Malaya’s four economic pillars. The top of each of the pillars also bears one of the letters in the initials, FMSR, which stand for the Federated Malay States Railway, as it was known then.  The station has a very airy lobby which features batik styled mosaic mural panels which depict scenes around Malaya, which are reminiscent of the style of batik paintings that were once popular in Singapore and Malaysia.

The airy lobby features batik styled mosaic murals depicting scenes of Malayan life.

Moasic mural panels in the lobby.

Close up with a scene showing coconut plucking.

Close up of the mosaic panel depicting farmers planting padi in a padi field.

I have in my life passed through the lobby and the gates to the platform many times, and have many fond memories of the station as well as of the many railway journeys I had made to and from the station. I have also many fond memories of listening for the sound of the whistle and watching the comings and goings of trains from the vantage point of my aunt’s flat in Spottiswoode Park, each Lunar New Year’s eve where my extended family would gather for our reunion dinner. With the news, it would not be very long when the platforms that would come to life with the arrival and departure of the trains several times a day, would be left silent, as would the magnificent building that fronts the platforms. It may yet be a vain hope, but I do hope that the building is preserved in some form, not just for memories sake, but because it has for so long been so much a part of  the Tanjong Pagar area, and with the loss over the years of the many buildings we had come to associate with the area, it is one of the last remaining bits of heritage we have left in Tanjong Pagar.

The train platforms will soon fall silent.

A station clock on the exterior of the building.

A reminder of the romantic days of rail travel that the station served.

The timetable.

Hopefully the view of Singapore from what is technically a part of Malaysia will survive the relocation of the train station to Woodlands.


The Star’s news release earlier today on the imminent shift of the station to Woodlands.

KTM Tg Pagar station will move to Woodlands in S’pore July 1, 2011

SINGAPORE: KTM Tanjung Pagar station will move to Woodlands in Singapore on July 1 next year, say Malaysian and Singaporean leaders.

The KTM land issue has bogged down ties in the past with both sides playing hardball diplomacy and having their own interpretations of the Points of Agreement (POA) signed in 1990, on the terms of development and status of the KTM land that expands from Woodlands in the north to Tanjung Pagar in the south of Singapore.

Under the POA, Malaysia and Singapore, among other things, agreed that the KTM railway station be moved from Tanjung Pagar to a location to be decided later.

However, over the years, negotiations stalled after both sides failed to agree on where the new location should be in Singapore.


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22 responses

24 05 2010
bookjunkie

I am sad about this too. I love old railways

24 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

I love old railways too! Well, at least the passenger terminal building would be preserved in some way. :)

25 05 2010
bookjunkie

I have had great snacks here like goreng pisang and tea but don’t recall taking a train from this place. I hope I can take a journey before it totally shuts down. Thanks for blogging about this. I love your blog by the way :) It makes me feel nostalgic for the good ol’ 70s. In my opinion the most glorious time for a childhood in Singapore.

25 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

I would pick breakfast up at the makan outlet upon arriving with the Senandung Malam after weekends in KL, before catching a cab to straight to work! It’s my pleasure, bookjunkie! Thanks for your kind feedback. Yes, the growing up in the 1970s was certainly great, when it was less of the modern metropolis and more of the charming old Singapore. It was a time when we could run around not in void decks, but in open spaces and amongst the coconut groves by the sea shore. I had a great time doing it and part of the reason for this blog is to share my personal experiences and the things I loved about the Singapore that I grew up in. :)

24 05 2010
Heng-Cheong Leong

According to Bernama: “Najib and Lee also agreed that the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station passenger terminal building be conserved, given its historical significance, and will be a centerpiece for the new proposed development on the site.”

http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=500673

24 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Heng-Cheong! That’s wonderful news! The least I felt was that the terminal building should be conserved. What would really be nice to see is that being preserved together with the platforms and some of the tracks as part of a transport museum. At least in that the significance of the building would not be lost in some commercial development. But I guess commercial considerations would override sentimental ones.

25 05 2010
Swee Lim

I came to S’pore 10 yrs ago to study and what struck me when I first arrived at the station was how typically Malaysia-like the building was; a grand colonial building that was dusty (still is) and had fallen into disrepair due to poor maintenance. It’s gray, peeling facade stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the skyscrapers of the CBD. I’d love to see it preserved as a hotel, retaining its old world charm.

25 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

I suppose the station did seem tired and in a little need of repair. Turning it into a hotel would be another idea!

25 05 2010
gregLIM

I certainly hope that the Spore Govt will not knocked down the Bldg… it is a REMINDER of the old colonial days…a history that Spore n Malaya were once jointly under British administration. Last year, I intentionally took the train fr KL to Spore… to experience the journey and to recall my childhood memories. The Station Hotel (in fact, all the Station Hotels in Malaya ) were managed by the Hainanese employed as Clerks, Cooks, Room Boys, Waiters etc… serving the British Masters.. I remembered how beautiful the Passengers’ Lounge was from the Hotel corridors from the floor above.. Station Hotel was one of the ‘ 5 star Hotels ‘ in Spore then..

26 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

Yes certainly Greg! The good news is that it will be conserved as mentioned in the news reports that have followed – now what is left to know is how exactly it will be conserved. I hope it would be done in a way where it becomes accessible to the general public and in a dignified way that is in keeping with its historical significance. I certainly remember the Station Hotel being there … always had the impression of it being the way you described … thanks for your memories! :)

26 05 2010
mamadondi

Have a lot of fond memories of this station and surronding area. Had a malaysian relative who worked at KTM and lived in the workes quarters and had accsess to a lot of restricted areas.
Jerome do you remember the William Jack warehouse on Spottiswode Park Rd. This bldg. was closer to General Hosp. side our family freind was the watchman and lived here with 5 kids in a 1 room dwelling and we children would sleep in the lorries which would all be parked here after work.

26 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Mamadondi – anything to share about the quarters? I always enjoyed peering at the train yard from the trains I took. Can’t say that I remember the William Jack warehouse you mentioned, I try to look up and see if I can find any information on it. :)

30 05 2010
mamadondi

Nothing special about this quarters They were 3 storey walk up with 2 b/room small kitchen, and deduction from pay was only 15 dollars which paid for utilities. A whole chapter can be wrttten on workers quarters wheter it was small or aspacious bungalow with swimming pool.The British were smart to give this perk.Almost all the Police station Power plant had on site living. The more ‘higher class 2 storey detached houses were all over Spore. In geylang, haig rd. , Kampong Java,All the air naval bases,Tg. pagar, all the small rds.between Serangoon rd. and Jin. Besar.etc. etc.I will be in spore in early June and maybe can meet up.

30 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Mamadondi for the interesting information. Yes, we did find quite a lot of quarters around for various groups of employees and servicemen. In fact I just mentioned something about the Police quarters along Whitley Road in another post, which housed a lot of Policemen that had come from Malacca! Sure – we can do that – I can contact you by email on this. :)

27 05 2010
peter

I went to this Kelab Malam which was a small but shady night spot next to the mama stall. Now I think it’s the makan place. For some reasons the Singapore police never raided this place until some big mouths had to write to the Straits Times. You could see striptease show after midnight. That was in early 1980s.

28 05 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks for the information, Peter … seems that we automatically switch languages whenever we walk onto Malaysian soil – even if it is Malaysian government owned soil on our island … :)

28 05 2010
Blood and politics at the Cape of Stakes « The Long and Winding Road

[...] and politics at the Cape of Stakes 28 05 2010 In writing a recent post relating to the news of the shift of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, as well as in my recent [...]

29 05 2010
Weekly Roundup: Week 22 « The Singapore Daily

[...] Pagar Railway Station – Musings From the Lion City: Landmark Going – The Long and Winding Road: Having to bid farewell to another old friend? – The Malaysian Insider: KL agrees to vacate historic Singapore train station – Free Malaysia [...]

2 06 2010
The wondering wanderer

I just hope that the Railway Station doesn’t go the way of some of our well loved conservation buildings, which we can admire only from the outside. One such example is Clifford Pier, which has been used as an exclusive restaurant for about two years. We are now not able to wonder through the deck of the pier, admire the concrete arched trusses which are such a delight, and perhaps relive the memories we had of it, or even allowed to take photographs inside what used to belong to the public.

21 09 2010
Journeys through Tanjong Pagar: First Impressions … « The Long and Winding Road

[...] Pagar: First Impressions … 21 09 2010 I had as a child, been fascinated by the old railway station at Tanjong Pagar. The grand old station building, which has provided many of us with a passage to the north, had [...]

27 09 2010
Journeys through Tanjong Pagar: The Station at Bukit Timah « The Long and Winding Road

[...] crossings to be minimised. The realignment also allowed the construction of a brand new and much grander terminal at Tanjong Pagar, one that could be considered as befitting of its status as the southern terminal of the railway [...]

26 11 2010
Crossings through the passage of time « The Long and Winding Road

[...] of 1932 – one that gave us the two stations that we see standing today, Bukit Timah and the grand old dame at Tanjong Pagar, as well as some that have disappeared altogether. One of these in fact left its legacy behind, in [...]

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