Saturday, July 02, 2011

Selamat Jalan KTM (by Peter Chan)

“In the 1920's plans were made to build a new terminus in Keppel Road and this was completed in 1932……opened to traffic on 3rd May 1932……………………”, Malcolm Wilton-Jones, railway enthusiast par excellence.

I use photographs to illustrate some aspects of railway developments in Singapore, starting with a 1931 photo from a private collection. It was taken during the final stages of construction of the Tanjong Pagar Station. Do you notice there’s a railway track at the bottom of the photo? From anecdotal evidences, the track connected People’s Park Station with Borneo Wharf Station to a point in Tanjong Berlayar in the 1910s. The track was the remnant of the Singapore-Kranji Railway (SKR); the corporate ownership passed to the Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR), then Malayan Railway Bhd and KTM Bhd.
Keppel Club golfers in the 1980s should remember a track across Bukit Chermin Road. Yes that’s part of the western extension of the SKR. My late father told me when he was 8 years old, he came across the abandoned track at Tanjong Pagar Station but he didn’t know its significance then. He also saw something similar at the foot of Bukit Batok in 1942: the SKR line to the Bukit Panjang Station.

Photo 1: Keppel Station and the original SKR track (c 1931).

Besides operating as a station, Tanjong Pagar Station joined other railway stations at Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh offering hotel accommodation. Just recently I tried room reservation at the Heritage Hotel in the old Kuala Lumpur Station (now KLIO) but it was closed down. What a pity because it was here that my family stayed for a few days in 1965.

Plate 1: Malayan Union Annual Report on the hotel and catering services of the railway company (c 1946)

Malcolm Wilton-Jones further adds, “It continued north-westwards until reaching Newton Station, near where Newton Circus now is, and then ran along the north side of Bukit Timah Road,……… Bukit Timah station, which was across the road from Pei Wah Avenue……….” Where was this SKR track?

Photo 2: The prominent T-shape junction is where Jalan Jurong Kechil (horizontal) meets Upper Bukit Timah Road (vertical) today. Notice the curved alignment just below Jalan Jurong Kechil? That would have been the original alignment of the SKR after Pei Wah Avenue. At the top right corner of the photo is the present railway alignment (c 1946).

That Upper Bukit Timah Road from Lorong Sesuai northwards to Woodlands Road is a dual carriageway with 3 lanes on each side: Was it always that way?

After the FMSR decided on a new deviation for the new proposed railway; a steel truss bridge was built over Upper Bukit Timah Road next to the Rail Mall. As shown in Photo 3, below the truss bridge was a large grass-path which the PWD turned it to become the other half of Upper Bukit Timah Road in the direction of Woodlands.

Photo 3: View of the truss bridge from the future Ford Motor Company factory. A large rubber estate is behind the concrete pillar on the right (c 1931).

I like to think positively these photographs are a strong reminder of Singapore’s connection with the past and Malaysia. We didn’t become prosperous on our own merits though.

“Terima Kaseh atas prihatinan dan kebajikan selama 80 tahun”

Readers who are eager for a deeper understanding of railways – the past and the present developments, do visit KTM’s public library at Batu Gajah in Perak State. HDB residents of Blocks 18 & 19 at Jalan Jurong Kechil, you are sitting on the former SKR track. And me: Photo 4 which was taken at the Ipoh Station.
Photo 4: Mohan Rao and I standing on the passenger coach belonging to the Sultan of Perak (c 1974). This was part of the first train service launched in Malaya in the late 19th century.


a deal a day said...

I made a summer wishlist based on what I've been eyeing online.

Thimbuktu said...

Great memory of this photo on the train, Peter. Thanks for sharing this memorable blog.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I love all this history about trains in Singapore and Malaysia but did we really have a culture of trains? Buses perhaps, and taxis, but not trains.

Thsnk you Peter and Chun See; I learnt lots from this blog.

Lam Chun See said...

I drove past the Bt Timah railway bridge near King Albert Park a few times yesterday and today (near my place) and was amused to see so many cars and visitors; esp this morning. Suddenly everybody is interested in KTM.

peter said...

Either way whether the tracks are preserved or not, I never walk on the track. By the side perhaps but on it No. There's liquid and solid gold that comes from the coaches. Anything black may not be oil spillage. Do they know? Sounds a bit like a discouragement right?

The best time to watch the tracks today is when the workmen start removing those sleepers and steel tracks.

C S Peh said...

Hi, came across your blog while I was trying to gather some old pictures and memories of Bukit Timah 7-mile and the old charm of Beauty World.

Having lived here since the 1970s at Toh Tuck, I would like to do a painting project (maybe for our Beauty World MRT). This could be on the legend of Bukit Timah Hill or about lives at Beauty World. I remembers the bustling Beauty World food stalls and old shophouses, cinema, mutton soup..etc..

Please advice if you have photos or images of what you think would be a good community art project.

Still living at Toh Tuck Road, but those farms and the squatters at 7-miles had all make ways to new developments. I can be contacted at

C S Peh

autoauditmaster said...

This is nice information to share...and it is shown haritage of the country....

Anonymous said...

I live near to the railway bridge shown in photo 3. I am amazed that at that time, the road underneath the bridge was just a simple dirt track. The British engineers had great foresight to build such a wide span for their bridge otherwise the PAP government would have had to demolish it to make way for the present day 6 lane Upper Bukit Timah Road!

Mabel said...

Hi Chun Seng, we will be doing a heritage project which requires Photo 3: View of the truss bridge from the future Ford Motor Company factory. A large rubber estate is behind the concrete pillar on the right (c 1931), may I check how can I contact you with regards to usage of your photos?