From where I left off on the previous post, the 0800 Ekspres Rakyat left Tanjong Pagar late at 0838. The train then continued its passage to the north, a passage that I would be able to take in for the very last time from the vantage point of a train – the final homecoming on The Last Train into Tanjong Pagar coming in the dark of night. The passage has been one that I have especially been fond of, taking a passenger on the train past sights of a charming and green Singapore that is hidden from most, sights which in entirety can only taken in from the train. This last passage in the dim light of the rainy morning was one that was especially poignant for me, knowing that it would be one that I would take accompanied by the groan of the straining diesel locomotive, the rumbling of the carriages over the tracks, and the occasional toot of the whistle.
The morning train offered passengers a last glance at the passage through the rail corridor in Singapore.
The short passage takes all but half an hour, taking the train from the greyer built-up south of the island around where Tanjong Pagar Station is, to the greener north of the island. The passage takes the train first out from the platform and through an expansive area where the view of the familiar train yard is mixed with the familiar sights of the Spottiswoode Park flats, the old and new signal houses, and the Spooner Road flats, before it goes under the Kampong Bahru Bridge towards the corridor proper. The initial 10 minutes of the passage is one that brings the train past Kampong Bahru, along the AYE for a distance, before coming to the first bit of greenery as it swings past Alexandra Hospital and up the Wessex Estate area towards the flats to the right at the Commonwealth Drive / Tanglin Halt areas – an area I am acquainted with from spending the first three and the half years of my life in. It is just after this, close to where the actual train stop which gave its name to Tanglin Halt first encounters a newer and more desired railway line, passing under the East-West MRT lines at Buona Vista.
The Spooner Road KTM flats on the left and the Spottiswoode Park flats in the background as well as the expansive train yard provided the backdrop for many a journey out of Tanjong Pagar.
It is soon after that the anticipation builds as the train passes by the Ghim Moh flats towards Henry Park. Just north of this is the area with arguably the prettiest bit of greenery along the entire stretch of the green corridor. We come to that the train passes under the concrete road bridge at Holland Road. The sight of the bridge also means that the train is just a minute or so away from what used to be the branch-off for the Jurong Line which served the huge industrial estate, and then what is perhaps the jewel in the crown along the corridor, the quaint old station at Bukit Timah. At Bukit Timah Station the old fashioned practice of changing the key token to hand back and over authority for the two sections of the single track through Singapore is undertaken, a practice replaced by technology along the rest of the Malayan Railway line. Beyond Bukit Timah is the rather scenic passage to the north through whichtwo truss bridges, four girder bridges and five level crossings are crossed before reaching the cold and unfriendly train checkpoint at Woodlands. That offered the passenger the last fifteen minutes to savour the passage through Singapore and some of the sights that will not be seen again. The level crossing are one of those sights – something that is always special with the sight of cars waiting behind the barriers or gates, yielding to the passing train – a rare sight that I for one have always been fond of seeing. All too soon it had to end … the rain washed morning provided an appropriate setting for what now seems like a distant dream, one of a forgotten time and certainly one of a forgotten place.
The 30th of June saw the last time the exchange of key tokens being carried out along the KTM line. Bukit Timah Station was the last place where the old fashioned practice of handing authority to the trains using a single track was carried out on the Malayan Railway.
the last passage to the north
0839: A last glance at Tanjong Pagar Station as the Ekspres Rakyat pulls out.
0839: A quick glance the other way at teh old signalling house ...
0839: The train pulls past the cluster of houses before the train yard comes into sight.
0839: The new signalling house comes into sight.
0840: The train passes a locomotive being moved from the train yard.
0840: A ast glance at where the Spooner Road flats which housed the railway staff and their families.
0843: A passenger Gen smiles in the passageway of the train carriage. Gen was the last to decide to join the group, deciding only to do so the previous day.
0848: The train passes under the new railway, the MRT line at Buona Vista. Hoardings around seem to indicate that the area would soon be redeveloped.
0848: The Ghim Moh flats come into view.
0851: Through the greenest area of the Green Corridor - the Ulu Pandan area close to where the Jurong Line branched off.
0853: Bukit Timah Station comes into view ...
0853: Key tokens are exchanged as a small crowd looks on ... the train slows down but doesn't stop.
0853: The train crosses the first of two truss bridges over the Bukit Timah Road ...
0854: A look back towards the bridge and Dunearn Road ....
0854: The train speeds past Rifle Range Road and the strip of land next to what was the Yeo Hiap Seng factory .... this is one area that I well remember on my first train journey in 1991 when the narrow strip of land hosted the small wooden shacks of many squatters who occupied this stretch of railway land.
0854: A glance at to the right at Rifle Range Road
0854: Passing over the danger spot close to where the short cut many take to Jalan Anak Bukit is.
0854: The train passes under the road bridges at Anak Bukit ...
0855: The bridges at Anak Bukit are left behind ...
0855: Over the girder bridge at Hindhede Drive
0856: The very green corridor near Hindhede Quarry ...
0856: Into the mist at the foot of Bukit Timah Hill towards the second truss bridge.
0857: A passenger Angie, sticks her head out to have a better look at the amazing greenery.
0858: The train continues on its way after crossing the second truss bridge.
0858: Through the Hillview pass.
0859: A lone man greets the train with an umbrella near the Dairy Farm Road area.
0859: The greenery greets the train around the Bukit Gombak area.
0859: The closed gate and waiting cars at the first of five level crossings at Gombak Drive.
0900: Towards the second and widest level crossing at Choa Chu Kang Road ... Ten Mile Junction comes into view.
0900: A small group of people gathered at the Choa Chu Kang Road level crossing to greet the passing train. The signal hut marks the location of what was Bukit Panjang Railway Station from where the first train to pull into Tanjong Pagar Station departed on 2nd May 1932 at 4.30 pm.
0901: Across the Bukit Panjang (or Choa Chu Kang Road) level crossing and under another new railway line - the Bukit Panjang LRT.
0902: Past an area I became acquainted with through my days in National Service ... the Stagmont Hill area.
0903: Across the third level crossing at Stagmont Ring Road.
0904: The fourth level crossing the Mandai crossing at Sungei Kadut Avenue.
0904: Past the KTM houses at Sungei Kadut Avenue and onward towards Kranji.
0907: Across the last (and narrowest) of the level crossings at Kranji Road and on towards Woodlands Train Checkpoint.
0907: Looking back at the Kranji level crossing and at the last of the rail corridor through Singapore ... time to get left to disembark the train for immigration clearance out for the very last time.
0908: Arrival at Woodlands Train Checkpoint - no photo taking allowed.
Posts on the Railway through Singapore and on the Green Corridor:
I have also put together a collection of experiences and memories of the railway in Singapore and of my journeys through the grand old station which can be found through this page: “Journeys through Tanjong Pagar“.
Do also take a look at the proposal by the Nature Society (Singapore) to retain the green areas that have been preserved by the existence of the railway through Singapore and maintain it as a Green Corridor, at the Green Corridor’s website and show your support by liking the Green Corridor’s Facebook page. My own series of posts on the Green Corridor are at: “Support the Green Corridor“.