One part of Singapore where the landscape has seemed to be in a state of constant flux – at least in more recent times, is the area from the 9th to the 10th milestone of Bukit Timah. The area is one that has long been associated with the old railway, being one of two locations in the Bukit Timah area where an overhead railway truss bridge can be found, and where the train used to run quite visibly along large stretches of the length of the road.
Seeing the tailend of the trains the area is very much associated with – train operations ceased on 30 June 2011.
A passing train in the 9 1/2 mile area being captured by a crowd in June 2011 – the stretch was one where the trains running close to the road were quite visible.
The truss bridge at the 9th milestone.
The ninth milestone area is now in a state of change.
Another view northwards – road widening work is very noticeable.
A train running across the bridge seen just before the closure of the railway in 2011.
Now abandoned by the railway – the railway ceased operations through Singapore with its terminal moving to Woodlands Train Checkpoint on 1 July 2011, the bridge does remain as what is perhaps one of two reminders of the railway, the other being the two rows of single storey houses facing Upper Bukit Timah Road straddling Jalan Asas which we now know as The Rail Mall, which in being named after the railway, does help to preserve its memory.
The row of single storey houses straddling Jalan Asas in 1989. The houses have since been converted into The Rail Mall (photograph used with the kind permission of Henry Cordeiro).
Another photograph of what today has become The Rail Mall (photograph used with the kind permission of Henry Cordeiro).
All around the area, the construction of Phase II of the Downtown Line (DTL) of the Mass Raid Transit System (MRT) which started before the railway abandoned it, is very much in evidence. The work being done has left little in its wake untouched, with a wedge being driven between the two carriageways which make up Upper Bukit Timah Road at its junction is with Hillview Road, just north of The Rail Mall, and disfiguring much of the area as we once know it.
9 1/4 milestone Bukit Timah now dominated by new kids on the block as well as cranes and construction equipment.
Local model and TV host Denise Keller with sister Nadine seen during a Green Corridor organised walk in the area on the final weekend before the train operations ceased in June 2011 – even since then, there has been quite a fair bit of change that has come to the area.
Looking down Hillview Road from the junction, we now see that two landmarks in the area which have survived until fairly recently, have also fallen victim to the developments which will also see roads being widened – a major widening exercise is currently taking place along Upper Bukit Timah Road. A railway girder bridge which looked as if it was a gateway to an area it hid which had housing estate and factories which came up around the 1950s and 1960s, has already been dismantled. That went soon after the railway did. Its removal does pave the way for the road to eventually be widened, thus permitting the private residential developments intended for the vacant plot of land that was occupied by the former Princess Elizabeth Estate. The land for the estate, based on newspaper reports from the 1950s, was a donation by Credit Foncier intended for public housing made to the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1950 and has somewhat sacrilegiously been sold off to the highest bidder.
A train crossing the now missing girder bridge at Hillvew Road in early 2011.
Along with the bridge, a building that has long been associated with the corner of Upper Bukit Timah and Hillview Roads is another structure we would soon have to bid farewell to. Completed in 1957 as a branch of the Chartered Bank (which later became Standard Chartered Bank), the building has also long been one of the constants in the area. When the branch vacated the premises early this month, it would have have seen some fifty-six years and two months of operation at the building, having opened on 6 April 1957.
The recently closed Chartered Bank branch building with a notice of its closure.
Rendered insignificant by hoardings, towering cranes and construction equipment – as well as more recent buildings in the vicinity that now dominate the landscape, the bank building occupying the corner of Hillview Road on a little elevation was one that, in greener and quieter days, was not missed. It provided great help to me as a landmark on the bus journeys I took to visit a friend’s house up at Chestnut Drive, two bus stops north, back in the 1980s.
The bank as it looked in 2010.
It would probably take a few more years for the dust in the area to settle. And judging by the way developments seem to be taking most of what did once seem familiar, by the time the dust does settle, there may be little for us to make that connection with the world the area did host in days that already seem forgotten.
A last look at a landmark soon to vanish.