Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ulu Pandan Heritage Trail (10) – The Lost Railway Line: Part 2 (by Peter Chan)

Photo 1: View from Clementi Block 307 showing the Jurong Line as it crossed the Sungei Ulu Pandan

After the railway crossed the Sungei Ulu Pandan, it swerved to the right (the tracks are still there in front of Clementi blocks 301 and 305) and ran parallel to the river until somewhere behind the Clementi Fire Station and the Buddhist Temple. Then it turned to the left, cut across Commonwealth Avenue West and ran behind ITE Clementi and Faber Terrace until it reached the AYE where it then followed the road westward to Jurong. Next time you travel along the AYE towards the city, look to the left just after the Teban Flyover and you will see some remnants of the railway track. Likewise, if you are traveling along AYE towards Jurong, after you passed Penjuru Road, look to the left and you will also see some remnants of this track.

At Jurong, the Jurong Line terminated at the doors of different industrial activities. Some railway friends of mine spent many hours using old 1960s and recent photos, and the 1985 Street Directory to piece together the many prominent landmarks along the Jurong Line. My appreciation goes to Dominic Thomas and Stanley Tan.

In total there are 3 sub-branch lines ending at.

1) Fishery Port Road
2) Jalan Tepong
3) Shipyard Road



Photo 2: Various parts of the Jurong Industrial Estate were served by the Jurong Line


Photo 3: The “ends” of the Jurong Line

Photo 4a: Jurong Station Signage in recent years


Photo 4b: The same Jurong site some decades earlier. The time-keeper’s hut is visible


Photo 4c: A 1993 map showing the location of the SBS depot at Jurong Port Road


Industrial users of the Jurong Line included Pan Malaysian Cement Works Ltd, Asia Cement (Malaysia) Ltd, Sugar Industries of Singapore Ltd, and an oil storage company.

The Jurong Line slowed down its freight activities in the mid-1970s but this finally ended in the early 1990s, by which time only the Jurong Port Road section towards Jurong Port was busy. By the mid-90s it was proving difficult to spot its alignment. Not many of the old Jurong Line and its prominent landmark features were visible to the casual observer, unlike the railway bridge across the S. Ulu Pandan or the Teban Garden Tunnel. Railway tracks were either removed because of new construction projects or covered by thick vegetation. Even the wooden railway sleepers rotted over time.

Here’s a question. We know that Malayan Railway Berhad (or its successor KTM) operated the Jurong Line. Who owns the land on which the railway track was built?


Final note from authors:

This concludes our series of articles on the Ulu Pandan Heritage Trail. We hope you have learnt something from them. Perchance some young reader has developed an interest in Singapore’s history, we encourage you to take this up as a school project. Go and investigate some of the places that we have told you about. Take some photos to show to future generations. We fear that before long, even these last vestiges of Singapore’s lost railway line will be sacrificed in the name of progress in fast changing Singapore.

33 comments:

Victor said...

>"...Jurong Line. Who owns the land on which the railway track was built?""

Oh no, will this be settled at the ICJ as well?

Norman said...

Photo 2 and Photo 3 have lots of detail and it'll be nice if we can have a larger version.

Norman said...

Just a rant. As a boy I remember taking bus 82 up to Punggol Point and then having satay and seafood with my family. The satay and seafood are gone, and now you just get an isolated cul-de-sac with hardly any people.

timesofmylife said...

Interesting article. I love the photo of the Jurong Station (past and present).

edidas said...

My guess would be Singapore who own the land, based on my evidence that Jurong line was partially demolished for construction projects.

If there was ever an icj for jurong line, it would be a good chance to learn more about the history of the place as more facts are dug up during the trial.

Ed said...

Thank you for this interesting writeup on the railway. Things I used to look at when I stayed at Jurong as a kid, but hardly took notice or any importance of this heritage and changes.

The maps are great for exploration.

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures. I would really want to go take a look. Is it possible to show larger pictures of the maps? Its quite hard to read them now.

Norman said...

Hmm... I've always thought the Malayan Railway line can be converted into a Woodlands-Tanjong Pagar MRT line on land, with stops at Bt Panjang, Bt Timah, Buona Vista.

peter said...

Norman
Indeed it was once converted for that purpose but way back in 1955 when there was a major bus strike in Singapore. Some of the places you mentioned were already railway stations then but deactivated after WW2, so we only had Tg Pagar and Bukit Timah Stations.

There was even one called the Tanglin halt Station behind Biopolis. It was there until the building was finally demolished in 2003.

Norman said...

wow, I really didn't know about the Tanglin Halt Station. I never saw that station even as a boy when I studied at Keok Ming Pri School (formerly at junction of North Buona Vista Road and Commonwealth Avenue). Very quaint village school :)

peter said...

Norman
U might like to do some research to find out about this or check with LTA or MRTC.

1. The MRT track alignment between just before crossing Cho Chu Kang Road into Choa Chu Kang MRT Station was using an old British Army military track built after WW2

2. The future CCL line that runs along Teluk Blangah Road follows the 1910 railway alignment which connected Tg Pagar to Pasir Panjang Road. Where there is a Teluk Blangah Station, it was the spot for a train station of the same name - later became a Malay school in the 1950s.

CelluloidReality said...

I believe the future Bukit Timah MRT line will follow the current KTM rail arrangement from Bt Panjang till King Albert Park.

It's also interesting to note some of the parallels between our new Circle Lines and some of the stations' locations in the pre-war days.

stanley said...

How come i see my 'Jurong station' photo & my friend's jurong map been published here....

It must be taken from the ktmrailwayfan ?

Anyway those who are interested in the history of Malayan railway in Singapore can go to ktmrailwayfan.com for more infor..

stanley said...

By the way, there are alot of the old railway photos like the tank rd station, newton, orchard & maps in the olden days of singapore.

Can check out if you guys are interested in railways...

Cheers

Pat said...

To my regret, the line along Teban Gardens towards IBP & Sungei Pandan had since been piled over with large amounts of clay-earth by early 2009 (if I recall correctly). The old track is now 2-4m underneath a man-made "ridge" overgrown with assorted wild vegetation. The dense (& sometimes thorny) undergrowth is taller than human height along the IBP stretch. One literally has to bush-whack through one's way to Sg Pandan.

The kampung-like veggie plots beside the Teban track have been replaced with a marshy ditch filled with self-sowed aquatic/semi-aquatic plants such as cattails. The tunnel below the AYE-Teban flyover is now sealed with metal hoardings on the IBP side.

However, one remnant remained as it is -- the scarily-rusty railway bridge (with missing planks) crossing the confluence of Sg Pandan & Sg Ulu Pandan. How ironic ... the part most used by the population is the only section left "unimproved".

Besides having to stop (either in a vehicle or on foot) & wait for the Bukit Timah-bound freight train to cross Penjuru Rd into the backyard of Teban Gardens, I can also recall the comforting rumbling of the locomotive back in the 1980s & 1990s. The sound was most obvious in the quiet of the night ... something that one could count on like clockwork. In the daytime, I could look out of the window (from 200m away) & catch glimpses of the passing train.

Weirdly enough, I still hear these very familiar rumblings on occasional nights. As the nearest MRT track is some 2-3km away & MRT trains probably don't operate at 3am, I have no idea about the source of the rhythmic metallic rumbling. It might be some industrial machinery working away in Teban Gardens Crescent ... for a duration that matches EXACTLY how long an entire train takes to pass through a section along the track. In the witching hours of the pre-dawn, I like to imagine the KTM trains still passing by the estate, as they always did so in the past.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for sharing your memories. Do you have any photos of the trains running along the Jurong Line that you can share with our readers?

Pat said...

Chun See: "Do you have any photos of the trains running along the Jurong Line that you can share with our readers?"

Unfortunately, I don't recall taking photos of the KTM trains along the expunged Jurong Line, because I didn't own any camera back then. That was in the 1980s & early 1990s -- I was a kid & didn't have easy access to cameras. But the KTM articles brought back the good ol' rumbling memories ... thanks.

I am now looking at old street directories (1970, 1975, 1978), & discovered that there is actually another expunged track from the still-operational Alexandra line. The branch-off is located between Jalan Kilang Barat (off Jln Bukit Merah) & Friendly Hill (an expunged loop of Depot Rd). This spot is now just beside the current AYE.

This curving sideline ran northwards for perhaps 1km, right between ABC Market & the current IKEA Alexandra (formerly part of Archipelago Brewery), alongside Kodak Malaya Ltd, & terminated at the doorstep of Diethelem Aluminium Factory (ie. the area now occupied by Mercedes Benz Centre/ Sime Darby Peformance Centre). This is located just before Lea Hin Hardware Factory (now Lea Hin Co. Pte Ltd).

I can't seem to find any info on this relatively urban sideline that stopped at "303 Alexandra Rd, Diethelm Aluminium Factory". Any clues ? Is part of the old track still there -- esp. the section where it first branched off ? That area (behind NEA Regional Centre) is covered by undergrowth.

peter said...

Pat,

Let me fill u on the details of that line you mentioned going across Jalan Bukit Merah.

That track has a very long history even longer than "Jurong Line". It was probably built in the 1930s when the British decided toim rmap up Singapore's defenses against a future enemy, Japan.

That line was a branch from the main Federated Malay States Railway which later became known as Malayan Railway after WW2. The lines actually went all the way into what was later called Prince Charles Avenue (next to present-day Delta House). It even crossed Tanglin Road. Prior to WW2 there was a British Camp there but I am not sure who were the users. It could have been the Indians who worked for the British Army, just like "Buller Camp" at the present Dawson Estate.

After WW2, Prince Square Avenue site was turned over to the S.I.T. for public housing (I think in 1953). Before 1953, The British Army withdrew from the Alexandra Road area because they found a new place at Ayer Rajah Road (where SAF Transport Battalion reside and the future Mediacorp offices will be come 2014). The line was "shortened" around 1948/49 so it ended up at the beer factory (which was acquired from the Germans because of WW2). The reason was sinple: the customs department was located inside the bonded warehouses of the beer factory.

I would sit there in the 1960s to watch the wagons move across Jalan BUkit Merah - the railway crossing gates were up to stop vehicular traffic. I am also curious when was the track removed from Jalan Bukit Merah. Anybody knows? Anybody got pics of the crossing?

peter said...

Pat,

When I used "lines" I meant from that branch, there were 2 sub-branches; one went into Buller Camp and the other all the way to Prince Charles Avenue site.

For a while after the Brits retruend to Singapore after WW2, they ramped up their presence by a) requisitioned the warehouses around Pulau Saigon and Havelock Road areas so that military goods could be stored and b)goods were transfered on lorries to Buller Camp and the Prince Charles site. The military goods were taken off the ships from Tg Pagar Wharf and transfered to tonkangs sailing up the Singapore River. That is why there was a tonkang shipyard at next to Kim Seng Bridge which is different from the wooden sailing ships that were built at Nicoll Highway. My late grandfather filled me in on the history.

If u walk after the barrier at Jalan Bukit Merah (behind IKEA) there are some remnants. Take a walk below 37A carpark off Kung Chong Road also......there are a few rusty pieces of the old militayr line.

BTW the former Gillman Heights was once a British military housing/camp area.

Pat said...

Thanks Peter, for the very interesting historical nugget. Hope to check out the railroad remnants behind IKEA & below 37A soon.

<< The lines actually went all the way into what was later called Prince Charles Avenue (next to present-day Delta House). >>

Is Prince Charles Ave a long-expunged road ? I can't find this avenue in the old or current street directories, although the latter does show Delta House. There's only Prince Charles Crescent & Prince Charles Square in the vicinity of Alexandra Canal. Did the railway tracks go alongside Alexandra Canal ?

<< I would sit there in the 1960s to watch the wagons move across Jalan BUkit Merah - the railway crossing gates were up to stop vehicular traffic. I am also curious when was the track removed from Jalan Bukit Merah. >>

Were the services on this line finally stopped in the 1970s ? The said track must have been removed after 1978, since my 1978 Street Directory still displays the line. Perhaps the tracks were excavated during the construction of AYE (1983-1988) ?

Pat said...

To add on, I just saw some 1950 aerial photos of Archipelalago Brewery/ Anchor Brewery/ ABC Beer Factory & Alexandra Rd. (How many names did the beer factory have anyway ?)

PHOTO 1
The above photo looks towards the west. The traffic circus at the 9 o'clock position is the current Alexandra Rd-Jln Bukit Merah junction. The 2 adjacent structures on both sides of Alexandra Rd & connected by an overhead bridge are therefore the brewery & its extension. The white building at the 3 o'clock position should be Diethelem Aluminium Factory.

Unless it's just my imagination, the railway track is just about visible in the photo -- running behind the brewery towards the aluminium factory. I'm guessing that the low-rise rectangular structures at the 7-8 o'clock positions are walk-up SIT flats ...

PHOTO 2
The above photo is the view from the south. The brewery, aluminium factory & Lea Hin Hardware Factory are clearly visible on the lefthand side. Unfortunately, the adjacent railway track is just outside of the frame. :(

PHOTO 3
Here are some 1984 photos of the Jln Bukit Merah track (now beside the current AYE). Can anyone identify the exact locations by the neighbouring landmarks ?

PHOTO 4
On a related note, this shows a 1951 photo of a "scrapped old railway bridge" at Ulu Pandan. Very reminiscent of the existing iconic bridge-crossing across Sungei Ulu Pandan.

xy said...

Hi,

is the jurong railway track still around?

Lam Chun See said...

Yes. Some parts of it are still around; but since I put up this post, parts of it have disappeared. Recently, I read on a blog or Facebook somewhere that the Heritage Society organised a walk along the track for the public.

Pat said...

Chun See/ Peter -- You might be interested to see NLB's detailed response to my enquiry about the KTM-Alexandra railway line as previously discussed here.

NLB's research revealed that on 08 Mar 1979, a KTM train crashed into the Jln Bukit Merah railway-crossing gantry mentioned by Peter ! ... (do you remember this accident ?)

Btw I visited this railway site recently. While I did not see any obviously rail-related artefacts (besides the roadside barrier), I did spot a strange gravestone-like slab located very near the buried line (on the grass verge between IKEA/KTM land & Jln Bukit Merah Blk 3). The slab has some red Chinese words which I can't decipher ... ("Here lies the Mouse Queen" ?? haha) I posted a photo at the SgRailway Forum (sign-in required).

Pat said...

<< xy: jurong railway track still around? >> At the Teban Gardens stretch, the Jurong line track is buried by tons of earth that created a very long ditch from which self-sown aquatic/marginal bog plants grow. 2 photos here: Cleared Western Stretch (with re-grown Kangkong in foreground), Middle Stretch (with DIY bridge -- the beheaded bog plants after it are Cattails, which used to be taller than human height & stretched to infinity; by the looks of the partially-disturbed flora, I think the buried railway track might still be intact underwater here).

SLA partially cleared the ditch at end Jan/early Feb 11, & the excavator dug up some parts of the buried railway track. The torn-up parts (base tie-plates, joint-plates, clamps, bolts, base-dampener, pieces of timber sleepers) are piled up at intervals on the drier western stretch. See SgRailway Forum (sign-in required) or HERE for some photos of the artefacts that I saw during a visit at end Feb 2011. I think the beheaded ditch plants have not overrun the exposed "treasures" yet.

See "Jurong Line: Is this Goodbye?" for photos for the unearthing, lifting & cutting of the tracks on the extreme eastern end (towards Teban tunnel) on 13 Feb 11 by SLA (or KTM?). I missed witnessing the event by 7 days ! The tracks over here are not just buried, but really gone now. :(

For info, several tours of the Jurong line took place in Jan/Feb 2011: (Abandoned) Railway Track Photo Walkabout (Teban to Sunset Way), The Human Train to the Sunset (NSS tour: Teban to Sunset Way), Digging Up A Bit of My Childhood (Faber Walk to Commonwealth Ave West), Abandoned Jurong Line (Clementi to Sunset Way, with many photos of the "Bridge over River Kwai" aka Sg Ulu Pandan).

peter said...

There is one more military track which connected Kranji to the former Malaysian Naval Base at Woodlands and ammo dump behind the detention barracks. Now I think is the coastal walkway. Last time (1960s) I could walk opn the track and a small lane beside the track.

Pat said...

<< peter: There is one more military track [...] Now I think is the coastal walkway. >>

You mean the Kranji Nature Trail near the reservoir ? I traced the main line from "Woodlands Custom Station" to Bukit Timah, but there's no side branch -- at least not on paper (ie. old maps). To me, the absence simply emphasizes how important the memories & experiences like yours truly are -- esp. to the younger generation who would otherwise be ignorant of what heritage has been lost over the years of relentless "progress".

Another natural piece of the Jurong line (Faber) is probably going to be destroyed & then officially beautified. The State does actively indulge in such ironic projects. "Don't disrupt green corridor's connectivity" (08 Mar 11, NSS)

If the old tracks have to be converted to something else, won't it be nice that some familiar rail artifacts/landmarks be left in-situ ?

Solastalgia: a form of psychic or existential distress caused when one's environment changes unrecognizably for reasons beyond one's immediate control. Or in Clive Thompson's words ... "you can’t go home again — even if you never leave.”

peter said...

The start point is somewhere near a water treatment plant@Kranji. You can see that plant from Woodlands Road. It goes under a bridge or tunnel to Admiralty. There used to be a WW2 British Army Camp there.

Paul said...

I am most impressed of your dedication and work in collecting and placing all these wonderful memories online. And I agree, it's an important part of the past.
In December 2010 we walked the KTM railway track from Clementi to Bukit Timah - perhaps the last time we could see those tracks before they'll destroy it all? When the KTM train approached we had to jump of the tracks as it came around surprisingly fast. Bit scary but exciting. The views of and along the track offered such different and beautiful pictures of Singapore.
Would be a real shame to remove the tracks.

Lam Chun See said...

In recent months, quite a bit of interest has been generated about these old railway tracks. And some have also blogged about it; e.g.Jerome Lee.

Since the time Peter and I blogged about these, more sections of the railway tracks have disappeared. For example the stretch opposite the Jurong Ice Skating Rink (Sheng Siong). Have been converted into foreign workers dormitories I think.

YT said...

Hi,
I found the branching of the 'alexandra rail' on my walk last wk, there seems to be some sleepers collected behind some thick vegetation there. if u use google map/earth u can see a stretch of greenery behind IKEA resembling a 'C', that's the railway line. there's been some construction work behind IKEA there last wk, didnt see anything left & the opposite side of the road is fenced up. the only sign of it being a railway seems to be the sleepers near the branching point.

peter said...

YT

U mean IKEA@Alexandra Road?

Good for you - that's the remnant of a siding not by that name but rather the "Anchor Beer" Siding. That track came off the main KTM line, crossed Jalan Bukit Meah into what was once the Anchor Beer Factory. Only the guard house opposite IKEA is the only building remaining from the old days - now a restaurant I think.

There is an even longer history of that track. IT went longer than that, going as far as Prince Charles Avenue during WW2.

zhiyuan said...

I just cycled to that area recently. As of 2013, after the return of the KTM land to Singapore, this bridge that crosses Sungei Pandan has been transformed and converted into a proper tar-laid bridge, which connects the Clementi Park connector to the Ulu Pandan Park connector. It also links to a very beautiful spiral bridge that goes across AYE to Pandan Gardens park connector. Its a huge transform compared to 10 years ago when i was there.

i would be glad to share the photos with you after it has been transformed =)