The silence of a world forgotten

10 12 2012

I recently had a look in and around the former Bukit Timah Railway Station, lying quiet and abandoned while plans have not been made for its future use. The station, the last on the old Malayan Railway (known in more recent times as Keretapi Tanah Melayu or KTM), where the old key token exchange system was employed, was vacated on 1 July 2011 when the southern terminal of the railway was moved to Woodlands, and is now a conserved building.

A bridge that's now too far.

A bridge that’s now too far.

Bukit Timah Railway Station is now world that almost seems forgotten.

A world that almost seems forgotten.

The station is one that was built as part of the 1932 railway deviation. The deviation raised the line (hence the four bridges south of Bukit Panjang – one of which, a grider bridge over Hillview Road, has since been removed), as well as turned it towards Holland Road and the docks at Tanjong Pagar. Bukit Timah Railway Station in more recent times prior to its closure operated almost forgotten, seen mainly by passengers on passing trains, operated only in a signalling role. It was only as the closure of the railway line through Singapore loomed that more took notice of the station and the archaic practice of exchanging key tokens.

A window into the forgotten world.

A window into the forgotten world.

The ghost of station masters past?

The ghost of station masters past?

Together with the nearby truss bridge, one of two longer span railway bridges over the Bukit Timah area, which in some respects gives the area some of its character, the station lies today somewhat forgotten. The frenzy that accompanied the last days of the railway and the days that followed prior to the removal of the tracks has since died down – the post track removal turfing work intended to level the terrain and prevent collection of rain water has probably served to do the opposite and rendered the ground too soft and mushy to have a pleasant walk on).

The tracks along much of the rail corridor has since been removed with only short sections such as this one at the truss bridge at close to Bukit Timah Railway Station left behind.

The tracks along much of the rail corridor has since been removed with only short sections such as this one at the truss bridge at close to Bukit Timah Railway Station left behind.

The last half dozen or more than 30 levers that were once found in the signalling room of the station.

Through broken panes, the last half dozen of more than 30 levers that were once found in the signalling room of the station is seen.

While interest in the rail corridor seems to have faded with the passage of time, there may yet be motivation to pay a visit to it in the next month or so. A recent announcement (see Removal of structures along Rail Corridor dated 23 Nov 2012) made by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) points to the removal of unsound structures. These unsound structures include two of the signal huts at the former level crossings, one of which does have a memorial of sorts to the last day of railway operations and the last train. Besides the huts, some buildings that served as lodgings including the ones at Blackmore Drive, will also be demolished. Work on removal of the structures, based on the announcement, are to be completed by the end of January 2013 and this December probably offers the last opportunity to see the affected areas of the rail corridor as it might once have been.

A Brahminy Kite flies over the formaer railway station.

A Brahminy Kite flies over the formaer railway station.

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15 responses

11 12 2012
Jaslyn

The photos are great and has a deep emotion – I can sense sadness maybe because of the color tones. But these are good.

May I know how to get to this old railway station? Nearest MRT where I should alight, any bus stops and landmarks to go to so I would not get lost.
Thanks for sharing this.

11 12 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks Jaslyn. Yes, there is a certain sadness about the former station as it lies forgotten in its relative solitude.

The closest landmarks to the station are probably the McDonald’s at King Albert Park and the black truss railway bridge over Bukit Timah and Dunearn Roads if you are familiar with the area. The closest MRT station is the one at Bukit Batok from which you can catch a bus to Dunearn Road (after Rifle Range Road) – where the truss bridge is, cross over to the Bukit Timah Road side, and take either of the two paths on each side of the bridge (perpendicular to the main road), both of which leads you to the station which is about 250 metres away (location on google maps: http://goo.gl/maps/PTvHD – you can click on the bus stop markers for a list of bus services which serve them).

If you are coming from the city – it may be more convenient to take a bus up Bukit Timah Road instead and stop at the King Albert Park bus stop and walk over to below the truss bridge (note that there is no access from King Albert Park).

The station is open to visitors from 7 am to 7 pm daily.

11 12 2012
Jaslyn

Thanks so much Jerome for the details. It will help me a lot getting there because I would love to capture the sights in that place too.
Have a great day and thanks once again!
-Jaslyn ;)

11 12 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

You’re welcome Jaslyn! Glad to be of help. Love the place … while the trains and the people who made it what it was have gone, it does still offer an escape from the urban world we live in. Best time to go is in the early morning when many birds and butterflies are out. If you have time – take a walk south to the road bridge at Holland Road. :)

11 12 2012
Jaslyn

Woah I love butterflies! Thanks for the tip :)

13 12 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

You’re welcome :)

11 12 2012
Cindy

Yes, the photos look great. Is it still possible to go visit this railway station? Thought it has been closed to the public. Please share how to get there. Thanks!

11 12 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks Cindy – yes it is possible to visit. Please refer to my reply to Jaslyn’s comments above.

11 12 2012
Brahminy Kite over Bukit Timah Railway Station « The Birds and the Bees

[...] Brahminy Kite seen over the former Bukit Timah Railway Station on [...]

12 12 2012
plumerainbow

Great post and thanks for the directions in your comments above.

13 12 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks! And you’re welcome!

13 12 2012
timinsingapore

It saddens me that no one had the imagination or the generosity to leave the equipment in the building, so that it could be a kind of mini-railway museum. I visited it before it closed down, and it was a fascinating period piece of railway technology.

14 12 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

It would have certainly made a nice mini museum but unfortunately the Malaysian side had wanted most of everything, including the turntable at Tanjong Pagar, the tracks (and in fact also the bridges) along the line returned, some of which is intended for a railway museum of their own.

8 03 2013
Tanya

Hi Jerome, love the pics. i am into bw photography, and i love taking pictures of old tracks. will definitely visit this place. btw, i also would love to visit some old cemeteries, do you have any recommendations? thanks again for the wonderful article.

11 03 2013
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks Tanya! Am glad to also hear that you are into b&ws … there are some old cemeteries here with lots of character. Ones that come to mind are the two Muslim cemeteries on either side of Jalan Kubor, off Victoria Street, one of which is thought to be the oldest in Singapore and one of which two of Singapore’s most dangerous gunmen spent their final hours holed up in: http://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/when-gunmen-roamed-the-streets-of-singapore-a-showdown-at-jalan-kubor/. There is also the Japanese cemetery off Chuan Hoe Avenue which dates back to the late 1800s of which I have a post on : http://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/voices-from-a-forgotten-past/.

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