The lost world

10 02 2014

With several friends that included some from the Nature Society (Singapore), I ventured into a lost world, one in which time and the urban world that surrounds us in Singapore seems to have well behind. The lost world, where the sounds are those of birds and the rustle of leaves, is one that does, strange as it might seem, have a connection with the success of the new Singapore.

A gateway into a lost world.

A gateway into a lost world.

A winged inhabitant of the lost world.

A winged inhabitant of the lost world.

Part of a stretch of the Jurong Railway Line that was laid in 1965 (it was only fully operational in March 1966), an effort that was undertaken by the Economic Development Board (EDB) to serve the ambitious industrial developments in the undeveloped west that became Jurong Industrial Estate, it last saw use in the early 1990s by which time the use of the efficient road transportation network in place on the island would have made more sense. The line, including this stretch, has since been abandoned, much of it lying largely forgotten.

Colours of the lost world.

Colours of the lost world.

More colours of the lost world.

More colours of the lost world.

Interesting, while much evidence of the main railway line that ran from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands up to the end of June 2011 has disappeared,  and beyond the two very visible bridges in the Clementi area, there are portions of the Jurong line that does lie largely intact. Although largely reclaimed by nature, it is in this lost world, where some of the lost railway line’s paraphernalia does still lie in evidence. This includes a tunnel – one of three tunnels that were built along the line that branched-off just south of Bukit Timah Railway Station that was built at a cost of some S$100,000. Work on the tunnel, which was to take trains (running on a single track) under Clementi Road, took some two months to complete with work starting on it some time at the end of 1964 – close to 50 years ago.

A view through the former railway tunnel under Clementi Road.

A view through the former railway tunnel under Clementi Road.

A light at the end of the tunnel.

A light at the end of the tunnel.

Waterlogged tracks leading to the tunnel.

Waterlogged tracks leading to the tunnel.

Along the abandoned railway track now reclaimed by nature.

Along the abandoned railway track now reclaimed by nature.

The tunnel, now lying forgotten, is not anymore that gateway to a future that might have been hard to imagine when it was built, but to a Singapore we in the modern world now find hard to recall. It is a world in which the joy not just of discovery but one of nature’s recovery does await those willing to seek out the simple pleasures it offers. Now incorporated as part of the former rail corridor that will see its preservation in now unknown ways as a green corridor, it is one where the madding world we live in can very quickly be left behind. It is my wish that whatever the future does hold for the rail corridor as a meaningful space for the community, the pockets of wooded areas such as this lost world, does remain ones in which we can still lose ourselves in.

A view inside the tunnel.

A view inside the tunnel.

A non-native cockatoo - the area now plays host to nesting cockatoos.

A non-native cockatoo – the area now plays host to nesting cockatoos.

More photographs of the lost world:

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A granite rock face along the cut - part of the cut had made by blasted through granite rocks in the area.

A granite rock face along the cut – part of the cut had made by blasted through granite rocks in the area.

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The tunnel under construction in the early 1960s.

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7 responses

10 02 2014
Steve Conway

Thanks very much for this piece. I have always wanted to search for this tunnel. It would be an excellent idea if this track were to be re-opened. It would need a new footbridge over the water where the branch line turned east just after Bukit Timah railway station.
Do you know how far the old line can be followed towards Jurong? Is it still walkable, or has a lot of it been closed off.
Thanks
Steve

10 02 2014
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks Steve, it will eventually be part of the larger plan for the former rail corridor. You should be able follow most of the corridor through to the Shipyard Road area, although there is very little left of the actual line beyond the Teban Gardens area. It is broken in parts by major roads that will need crossing.

The best stretch of it to do a walk along would be that between the girder bridge over Sunset Way in the direction towards Jurong to Teban Gardens.

That route will first take you to the truss bridge over Sungei Ulu Pandan towards the area north of Clementi where most of the track can still be found and where some ‘community farms’ can be found.

Further west, close where the AYE crosses the Sungei Pandan (and close to where the two tributaries of the Sungei Pandan meet), there is a former rail girder bridge on which a pedestrian / bicycle bridge has been built. That can be crossed and you can walk along the northern side of the cut (near the German Centre) which will take you towards another tunnel. The tunnel takes you over to the Teban Gardens side where you will find some farming being done.

11 02 2014
Steve Conway

Thanks Jerome, I will explore! Is the Rail Corridor plan finalised? Is it available for viewing at the ICA?

11 02 2014
Steve Conway

Not the ICA, I mean the URA of course.

11 02 2014
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

You’re most welcome Steve 🙂 No plans, other than the preservation of the corridor as a continuous green space for use by community, have been made. As I understand it, the intention is to incorporate proposals from a yet to be held Design Competition that will involve looking at the various needs of the community and various interest groups. The URA does maintain a website on the Rail Corridor Project http://www.ura.gov.sg/railcorridor/

11 02 2014
Paul R Wonnacott

Please note the Old Jurong Line is not part of the formal Rail Corridor. The formal Rail Corridor is monitored by the Rail Corridor Watch Group (of which I am the Coordinator) and upkeep is provided by the SLA. The Old Jurong Line is already contiguous and although we wish what is left will be preserved the future is not yet agreed like the government commitment for the Rail Corridor – Woodlands to Tanjung Pagar. Also in the latest development plans the area of Clementi Woods in which Jurong Line meets the Main Line together with the tunnel under Clementi Road is slated for housing development. However the Nature Society is recommending that Clementi Woods be retained as it is. Let us hope this will be successful as then also it may be possible, at the very least, the section of the Jurong Line through to Sunset Way be preserved as well.

11 02 2014
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks for your comments Paul. You may like to know that the URA has in fact included a 2.5 km section of the old Jurong Line up to the truss bridge over Sungei Ulu Pandan as part of the planning area for the Rail Corridor since late 2011, as the members of the Rail Corridor Partnership withing your watch group would be aware of. This includes the stretch featured in this post, including the tunnel and the you mention at Sunset Way. 🙂

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