The final mile

12 05 2014

A last reminder perhaps that’s left of an age when distance markers played an important role in Singapore is a milestone marker that was uncovered quite recently, having long been hidden behind a tree. Discovered by Akai Chew, who recently posted his findings ‘On a Little Street in Singapore‘, the granite marker lies half buried, it’s top half carved with the number ‘3’ – which does, in the position it is found in, correspond to the 3rd Milestone of what would have been a main thoroughfare taking one out of the city towards rural Singapore.


The use of ‘milestones’ as markers of a location, had by the time I came into the world, become a widespread practice in Singapore. This was possibly somewhat of a necessity, given the absence of recognisable landmarks and a clear system for addresses in many of the rural areas. It was common to hear places referred to by where they were distance-wise along a particular thoroughfare, a practice that for many who developed a habit of doing it, is being carried to this very day (examples: 9th Milestone Bukit Timah, 6th Milestone Serangoon) long after the introduction of the metric system got us thinking in kilometres.

Mile Stone

A photograph with the 13 1/2 milestone marker outside Sembawang Gate – where Admiralty Road East meets Sembawang Road today (photograph: Andrew Sticklee on Flickr).

Milestones markers, when I did became aware of them from the many drives my father made across the causeway, were not quite as noticeable in Singapore as they were along the Malaysian trunk roads. There, the markers provided a measure of the distances along points along the road to the next main town or towns. This did help in estimating the time it would take to arrive at a destination, and making those seemingly endless drives a little less monotonous.

One thing that I did remember from those days, was that ‘Singapore’ was a distance of 17 miles by road from Johor Bahru – the distance being measured to the General Post Office or G.P.O. (what is today more commonly referred to as the Fullerton Building). For an interesting insight into how this did come about, please visit James Tann’s blog, which does have a post on the subject of ‘mile zero’: The geographic centre of Singapore.

See also:

“Milelages along Roads” (National Library Singapore’s Facebook post dated 30 Mar 2015)

Mileages along roads, posted by National Library Singapore on their Facebook Page.

Mileages along roads, posted by National Library Singapore on their Facebook Page.

Status of the Milestone Marker as of 21 June 2015:

The marker has since been extracted by the National Heritage Board and is not longer in its place along Geylang Road (see video):




3 responses

15 05 2014
Lai Heng

Actually the milestone marker was quite prominent, at least to me when I was staying at 8 n 3/4 m.s. Upp Thomason Rd in the ’70s. It was stated in my address, and there was a marker on the road divider. The marker was not granite, but similar to those markers nowadays on the dividers for ‘arrows’ to keep to this side.

15 05 2014
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Have seen kilometre markers similar to what you described in the later part of the 1970s.

21 05 2018
Gary Pennells

Milestone markers used as location addresses is not unique to Singapore. Almost all British territories used the same system. My address was once 11 1/2 milestone in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

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