The time has come to say goodbye, albeit a temporary one, to another old friend. The former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is set to be closed come the new year so that the extension of the Circle Line MRT and the construction of a MRT station can go on beneath it. If all goes well, it will only be reopened in 2025, by which time it will have a feel that will be very different that which has existed at the station through the grand art-deco inspired station’s 84 year history.
The famous façade of the station features four triumphal figures sculptured by Angelo Vannetti of the Raoul Bigazzi Studios in Florence that represent the then four pillars of the Malayan economy.
The former station holds the memories of many. The railway’s mostly Malaysian staff still speak fondly of their days in what has to be one of the grander stations to serve along the Malayan railway. There also are the memories of the numerous passengers who passed through its especially grand vaulted main hall; many depended on the railway not just for forays across the causeway, but also as a well used link for the thousands who commuted from the homes in southern Johor to Singapore for their work and even to attend school.
Murals decorate the main hall. The hall also features two booths made of teak wood that have since been painted over.
A view of the main hall without the clutter of the last days.
As part of the Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop a concept plan for the Rail Corridor, which was returned to Singapore on 1 July 2011, a concept design was sought for the adaptive reuse of the former station for an interim period of 20 years. During this period, the nearby port facility the station had been positioned to serve, will make a westward move, following which plans for the Greater Southern Waterfront, into which the former station will be incorporated, will be firmed up.
The end of the line. This year is the last year we get to take in this perspective. It is one that has greeted three generations of travellers coming by train to Singapore for some 79 years before the closure of the railway at the end of June 2011.
The completion of the Circle Line also dovetails into this and the tunnels for the line will run directly under the station to minimise the potential for uneven ground settlement and the risk of damage to the precious structure of the National Monument. A MRT station, Cantonment Station (its working name), is also being built under a part of the station’s platforms. For this, sections of the platforms, which had apparently been assembled in a modular manner, will be removed and stored to allow excavation work to be carried out for the MRT stations’s construction. The intention will be to reinstate the removed platform sections and refurbish them after the work for the MRT station is completed.
Gaps in the station’s platforms, said to be amongst the longest in the Malayan Railway’s stations, point to where the modular sections come together.
One of the things that is apparently being looked at by the winning team for the RFP’s adaptive reuse of the former station, is how, besides the use of the station as a gateway into the Rail Corridor as a community space, is the integration of the MRT station under its platforms into it. This may see an additional MRT station entrance between the platforms that will see traffic of passengers of the new train line over the platforms and through the former station’s main building.
An impression of the MRT station’s entrance between the platforms produced by MKPL. New platforms are shown in this impression as it was initially thought that the sections of the platforms in way of the MRT station would have to be demolished to allow excavation work.
The reverse view of the proposed MRT station’s entrance between the platforms. A canopy over it will be one of the interventions that will be necessary.
While this may necessitate several interventions that will alter the feel the former station once provided, it will be a rather meaningful outcome for the former railway station that in the words of the winning team MKPL Architects Pte Ltd and Turenscape International Ltd, will have “the former station, connecting Singapore’s past, present and future”. Another thing being looked at is the beautifying of the space fronting the station currently used as a car park as a “Station Green” – a landscaped garden intended to allow a better appreciation of the station’s grand façade.
MKPL/Turenscape proposes to replace the car park, currently in front of the former station, with a landscaped garden.
For those who want to take a last look at the former station before it closes and is forever altered, only three opportunities possibly remain. These coincide with the anticipated open houses that will be held over the year’s three remaining public holidays. The last will be Christmas Day, a widely commemorated holiday that for the members of one of the larger religious communities here in Singapore, is one of promise. Built with a promise that could never be fulfilled, the grand old station will close after Christmas Day, with a new promise for its future.
The length of the platforms, said to be among the longest in the FMSR’s stations, were to accommodate the longest mail trains.
A look up what in the station’s last days, was the departure platform.
Immigration counters on the departure platform last used by Malaysian immigration officers. These will surely be removed.
One of two hydraulic stops at the end of the tracks – one was returned following the handover of the station.
Memories of teh tarik.
Rooms that were used by freight forwarders at the former station – these possibly will be converted for use by F&B or retail outlets in the future.
Another look into a freight forwarders’ storeroom.
A booth. Last used by the auxiliary police at the station, the booth had in its early days, been used by the convenience shop that operated at the station.
The inside of the former ticketing booth.
Beautiful soft light illuminates some of the rooms along the main hall.
A part of the platforms where one could watch the world go slowly by over a cup of teh tarik in the station’s last days.
Another view of the main hall. There are lots of stories related to the haunting of the third level (section under the letters FMSR at the far end), used previously by the Station Hotel.
The clutter of the main hall in the station’s last days.
The crowd witnessing Tanjong Pagar’s last moments as a station late on 30 June 2011.
A final glance at the main hall.
A look back at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station
Gazetted as a National Monument in its final days as the southern terminal of the Malayan Raliway, the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was built in 1932 as a centrepiece that would underline Singapore’s growing importance as an economic centre in the British Far East. Its position was carefully considered for its envisaged role as a gateway from the southernmost point in continental Asia to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Sir Cecil Clementi the Governor of Singapore, in his address at the station’s opening on 2 May 1932, made the observation that it was “a natural junction between land-borne and sea-borne traffic”, adding that it was “where every facility will be afforded for interchange between railway and ocean shipping”.
It was a promise that was not to be fulfilled. Sir Cecil could not have predicted that the railway’s importance as a means of transportation in the Malayan peninsula would diminish and just a little over 79 years since the 5.1.5 pm arrival of the first train from Bukit Panjang Station, the whistle of the last train to depart was heard late into the night of 30 June 2011. An agreement between the governments of Singapore and Malaysia (who through the administration of the railway, also owned the station and the land on which the railway operated through Ordinance 22 of 1918 or the Singapore Railway Transfer Ordinance 1918), which had taken two decades to sort out, saw to the move of the railway’s terminal to Woodlands and with that the transfer ownership the station and much of the railway land on the island to the Singapore government on 1 July 2011.
Since its closure, the station fell into disuse with the odd event held in the space, and in more recent times, a series of open houses held during public holidays. The location of the former station in what will become the Greater Southern Waterfront has put permanent plans for it on hold. A concept plan for an interim use is however being developed as part of the Rail Corridor RFP by a team led by MKPL Architects and landscape designers Turenscape International. An MRT station for the final stretch of the Circle Line is also being constructed under a section of the platforms, together with the line being run under the station. The work being carried out means that the former station closed to the public for a substantial period of time with the completion of the MRT scheduled for 2025.
The station found use after its closure as an event space.
The rush by the staff at the station to leave on the last train at the end of the final day of operations.
A final journey on the Malayan Railway on 30 June 2011.
A last breakfast on 30 June 2011.
A reflection on the convenience store and the main hall in the last days.
The very hardworking last Station Master at the station, En. Ayub.
The arrival platform with its meal time crowd.
The welcome. One of the first things that would greet passengers after mid 1998 when the Singapore CIQ was relocated to Woodlands. Prior to the move, it would have been necessary to pass through Singapore Immigration, Customs and a narrow fenced passageway where dogs (behind the fence) would sniff passengers for narcotics.
The wait for a loved one.
Watching the world go slowly by over a cup of teh tarik.
The departure gate.
Leaving on the 8am.
The walk to Spooner Road.
A welcome home.
The very friendly En. Azmi. He was posted to the station on 1st July 1990 and completed a full 21 years of service at the station when it ceased operations on 30th June 2011.
Mr Mahmoodul Hasan, the M. Hasan in the name of the station’s makan place. He ran the station’s two canteens before its closure.
Catwalk – one of the many cats the station played host to.
A view down the platform.
The ticketing counter.
An all too common occurrence at the ticketing counter.
The last Eastern and Oriental Express train to depart.
The Ramly Burger stand. Food was one of the draws of the station.
The day the music died. 12.45 pm on 24 June 2011, when the last plate of Briyani from the popular Ali Nacha stall at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was served.
The festive crowd – when queues formed for tickets in the lead up to Chinese New Year. Many with roots in Malaysian would return by train to their home towns for the important holiday (photo source: National Archives online).
The main hall of the station in its early days. The station was built in 1932 to serve as a gateway to the oceans, through the wharves at Tanjong Pagar. Its opening on 2 May 1932 was marked by the 5.15 pm arrival of a train from Bukit Panjang. The first the public saw of it however, was several months prior to this, when it was used for a Manufacturer’s Exhibition in January 1932.