Closing the Circle

29 10 2015

One of the things the announcement identifying the sites of the Circle Line Stage 6 stations that will not go unnoticed is that parts of the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station’s platforms will have to be removed for the construction of Cantonment Station. This may come as a surprise to many as the former station, at which operations ceased on 30 June 2011, was gazetted as a National Monument in April of that same year. Currently unoccupied, it is the subject of a concept plan being developed under the Rail Corridor RFP, part of which seeks to identify a use in the interim prior to the development of the future Greater Southern Waterfront.

The final journey on the Malayan Railway on 30 June 2011.

The final journey on the Malayan Railway on 30 June 2011.

The platforms of the former railway station are historically significant. They are amongst the longest found along the Malayan Railway’s lines, having been dimensioned to accommodate the longest mail trains. The platforms however, at least for the stretch that will be affected and based on the April 2011 gazette that accords the former railway station with National Monument status, have not been protected as part of the monument.

An extract of the May 2011 gazette showing the part of the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station designated as a National Monument.

An extract of the Apr 2011 gazette showing the part of the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station protected as a National Monument.

The end of the former station's platforms seen after its closure.

The end of the former station’s platforms seen after its closure.

Considerations made in selecting the site of Cantonment Station (its working name) include the need to protect the National Monument from damage as well as the presence of existing structures in the vicinity such as the Keppel Viaduct to the immediate south and HDB flats to the immediate north. Construction would involve tunneling work deep under the former railway station and the excavation of part of the area where the platforms are to construct the station.

The platforms were constructed in a modular manner and LTA is looking at removing the platforms in way of the excavation site in sections and reinstating them.

The platforms were constructed in a modular manner and LTA is looking at removing the platforms in way of the excavation site in sections and reinstating them.

The excavation work in way of the future MRT station will see sections of the platforms removed. It does seem that the intention is to dismantle the parts of the affected parts of the platforms, which were built in a modular manner, and restore and reinstate them once construction is complete. Other options that are being been considered include demolishing the platforms altogether and either reconstructing them in the same style or in a style that is in keeping with the former station’s intended use.


Work is scheduled to commence in 2017. As this will only be completed in 2025, it does mean that we will not get to see the platforms on which many memories have been made, for close to a decade.


Thinking about it, it does perhaps make perfect sense to have the new MRT station integrated into the former railway station, whatever its intended reuse in the future. While this may deviate from what had been intended in building the grand old dame, modelled some say after Helsinki Central to serve as the gateway to the oceans, it would be in keeping with its intended use as a transportation hub and serve as a fitting reminder of what once was.

Further information on Circle Line 6 can be found in the joint LTA / SLA Press Release found here.

More of the platforms in forgotten times




















9 responses

29 10 2015

Goes a long way back in time, but remember a song in my early schooldays starting ‘In Eighteen-hundred and eighty-four the Great Malayan Railway was begun, the Great Malayan Railway…’. Sorry, cannot recall any more lines after all these years.

29 10 2015
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Wow, didn’t realise that there was a song sung about the Malayan Railway!

29 10 2015
Paul Ridgway

I recall from 1969 that the buffers at the terminus were made by Ransome & Rapier in my home town of Ipswich, on the east coast of England.

29 10 2015
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Paul, you have an excellent memory! Here is a close-up of one of the buffers:
Close-up of the hydraulic buffers

30 10 2015
Paul Ridgway

Thank you Jerome.
They also made a footbal team of some note in Ipswich. You may have heard of the Tractor Boys.
All the best in your endeavours and thank you for the excellent coverage.

29 10 2015

I think the song appeared in one of our ‘Malayan Readers’ English textbooks, and there was an accompanying sketch (or photograph) of the train crossing a bridge somewhere in the Bukit Timah area. Until the mid-1930s, the Railway Station Terminal in Singapore was at Tank Road. The new building that came up on the site later housed Rediffusion & George Lee Motors (?)

This extract is from Source/Link :

“The Malayan Railway Station has undergone numerous changes in its structure and architecture since its construction. The following is a chronology of development events from 1886 until 2007: –
1886: The first station was built at the current building site. It is located at the junction between Klang and Kuala Lumpur, at Good Yard Station, in the northern component of the existing building. The building is also known as Residency. Almost all building materials are purchased from England….”

30 10 2015
Malcolm Wilton-Jones

There are a number of errors in the last two paragraphs written by Narayana2 which need correcting. The first station in Singapore was built below Fort Canning hill, on the same spot that the van Kleef Aquarium was later built. This opened in 1903 when the line to Bukit Timah and later Woodlands was opened and it was named simply “Singapore”. In 1906 construction commenced on a new station at Tank Road some way to the north in conjunction with an extension to Pasir Panjang and both opened in 1907. The former station continued in use as a goods station only.
The second paragraph obviously refers to Kuala Lumpur and not Singapore.
Again, the original terminus in Kuala Lumpur was not on the site of the present station but a little further north where the National Textile Museum now stands. The line ran south west to Bukit Kuda. When the line from the north was built it joined this line where the Post Office HQ now is and trains had to reverse into the old station. This arrangement soon proved unsatisfactory and a new station was built south of the junction, on the site of the present Kuala Lumpur Old station, opening in 1892. This building had a short life being rebuilt into its present form by 1909. Residency station, opened in 1891 but rarely used, was on the line to the north and west of the old terminus station which was later expanded for use as a goods station. The lie to the north was realigned by the early 1920s, bypassing residency station and tunneling under the hill.
I have been researching Singapore and Malayan Railways for over 50 years and my website can be found here:
Some quick links to relevant pages:

30 10 2015

Why don’t they incorporate the old Tanjong Pagar station into the new MRT station to be built there?

31 10 2015
Tony Taucher

Many thanks Jerome for this update on the possible future of the iconic rail terminus in Singapore. I have vivid & fond memories from arriving there & departing back to Malaya (Tampin) in our school holidays along with carriage loads of school chums. Our parents were at Terendak Camp north of Malacca back in 1961-63 where father was stationed & my brother & I were at Alexandra Grammar School (boarding at Kinloss House). Was saddened as were others to learn that the rail link was closed. Very happy to learn that the station is to be kept for posterity (in whatever form). Again, thanks. [Tony Taucher, Strathtay, Scotland]

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