Monday, July 23, 2007


I have been always fascinated by the subject on trains. I could never forget the sights of level crossing, stations, rail-bridges and wooden black-painted staff quarters. But it was only in recent times that something else got me excited as I wrote my childhood memories; an outing with my father in the early 1960s. He showed me the route of a railway line that ran between Keong Siak Street and Bukit Pasoh Road in the early 1920s.

SKR passing under road-bridge at Neil Road

Being a passionate topography buff myself, I knew where and how I should dig for information but unfortunately much of the information didn’t even exist in our National Archives. Through good contacts, I reviewed various Singapore maps of different eras, interviewed people who worked for the British Military – there was a time when there was a military railway system in Singapore between 1948 and 1960, and of course my old friendly neighbor “Uncle Teo” (aged 88 years) who happened to take the train from the Bukit Timah Station to Saint Joseph Institution in Bras Basah Road (circa 1931). Putting the pieces together, I finally was able to assemble together the jig-saw on what was the first railway service in Singapore called the “Singapore-Kranji Railway”. The “Singapore-Kranji Railway” or SKR in short was later absorbed by the Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR) to become Malayan Railway and now called Keretapi Tanah Malaysia (KTM).

SKR on future Dunearn Road; passing Whitley Road. At the top is Stevens Road

Though most people or historians would have spoken about the route between Tanjung Pagar to Tank Road and Orchard Road to Newton, there was certainly a lack of information between Newton and Woodlands. In the past one year, my friend Bobby Teoh and I spent our spare time working the ground with cadastral maps, different surveying techniques and cameras to gather more evidences of what we believed was the original route. Bobby Teoh himself spent several weeks in Kuala Lumpur reviewing through old KTM files and photos abandoned at a railway yard in Klang. Our survey, analysis and conclusions show that the original routing included the following landmarks:

  1. Newton Station was somewhere between Gilstead Road and Newton Road. The site is in front of the former Singapore Family Planning Board. This building still exists but for different use

  2. Cluny Station was at the Adam Road Food Center

  3. Holland Station was at the former public carpark where the Singapore Turf Club once stood. This public carpark is at the corner of Swiss Club Road and Dunearn Road

  4. Bukit Timah Station stood on the SHELL Station next to Pei Hwa Avenue

  5. Bukit Panjang Station is at the foot of Bukit Gombak and the Level Crossing at Choa Chu Kang Road. There is a KTM hut just behind the Bukit Panjang public carpark and the small canal next to Galistan Avenue

  6. Kranji Station next to Jalan Surau or the Kranji Water Reclamation Plant

  7. Woodlands Station at Admiralty Road West jetty (or the old Malaysian Naval Base area)

SKR Time-table for train service (circa 1905)

Newton Station dated 1920 - facing Bukit Timah Canal - right side will be future Newton Circus

Dunearn Road was actually the site of the old railway track. In some places, SKR ran on Dunearn Road whilst in other places it ran on what was formerly the narrow strip of land between Dunearn Road and the Bukit Timah Canal; e.g. between Chancery Lane and the Adams Road were nurseries and restaurants. In the early 1950s, the Public Works Department of the Colonial Government of Singapore decided to convert the former SKR land for a new dual road-carriageway – that was Dunearn Road from Rifle Range Road to Newton Circus. Whilst there were might be debate about “proposed railway line” and “actual line” between Bukit Timah Station and Bukit Panjang Station, we are certain that we have found the right places. Cheong Chin Nam Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road nearest to the Old Ford Motor factory was the original routing. I recommend readers to look-up this Internet site for additional information.


Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for sharing your research with us, Peter. I must admit, prior to this, I have never heard of the Spore-Kranji Railway.

Victor said...

Singapore-Kranji railway? Just like the term "katoey", I've never heard of it either.

So one end of the railway must be at Kranji, I guess. Was the other end located at the current KTM Tg Pagar Station?

Anonymous said...

Peter - You really do a lot research into the history of railway not only Singapore also mainland Malaysia. On item 7, when the British left Singapore in the early seventies, land occupied was returned to the Singapore Govt. Practically the whole naval base to the north was alloted to the Sembawang shipyard, with parcels of lands being taken over by PSA, namely the naval basin and Admiralty East & West. Senoko Power station was also sitting on part of this land, all of them near to the present Woodlands (including a Shell depot), except the naval basin which is nearer to HDB estates of Sembawang and Yishun. Subsequently a plot was leased to the Malaysian Navy. On one occasion Dr M personally came (in a navel craft) to inspect the naval facilities there. There were always railway lines connected to the jetties during British times, presumely for movements of munitions unloaded to and from the jetties to the underground ammo dumps. In 1978 when I was posted to Sembawang Wharves, I saw a track railway line leading to the jetty at the present Sembawang Park. These tracks were later cemented over, so that the park looks unblemished to users. Many people like to fish from this jetty. Because of the uneven terrain of the park, the lovely sun-set over the side of Johor strait, the park is ideal for relaxing. I spent many hours dreaming away on one of its benches after work. TCS (now mediacorp) also liked to shoot part of their TV serials in the park.

Anonymous said...

Actually SKR terminating station was Tank Road for passenger service although by 1904, a westward extension for freight (that went through Neil Road) continued to Tanjung Berlayar and the Keppel Road dockyard areas.

I did see a track crossing Keppel Road (where the Keppel Flyover connects to AYE) to the old Cold Storage cold room in late 1950s. In the early 1980s, I saw a small-gauge railway track at Bukit Chermin crossing the road into the golf course area (re: Keppel Club). In those days it never strike me that there was some history about these things. I asked Keppel Club management and they say the same story: never heard about it.

My father told me that in 1955 the Malayan Railway trains were roped in to help provide public transport because of the bus strike which paralysed all the bus services in Singapore.

Victor said...

Peter - Thanks for the explanation. Was the Singapore & Kranji Railway network connected to the Malayan Railway network in those days? In other words, can one take the train from Tank Road station to go to, say KL? If not, then the SKR probably ended at Woodlands?

Lam Chun See said...

In my previous article about wayang stages, I mentioned the Al-Huda mosque in Jalan Haji Alias. There's a photo and a news story about the Bukit Timah Community Trail on Pg H4.

Monkey said...

thanks peter for the wonderful post and research as usual :) I've included, not as detailed as yours of course, this bit of information in the Bukit Timah Community Trail brochure as well.

Apparently the Holland station or Holland Halt as it was called was built because one of the swiss club members then knew the people who operated the SKR and got them to specially build a stop for the swiss club members to easily access their clubhouse. That's why the station was situated near Swiss club Road. The members would take the train to the holland station and then jump on the nearby waiting bullock carts to travel up to the club house. This was before the invent for the automobile of course heh :)


Tom said...

Tom said...
Peter, I was looking through your website, it was very fascinating, the site is wonderfull,it reminds me of the steam trains when I was a boy. peter I was wondering if it was one of those two, Steam Trains,the 564.20 Batang padang, or the 562.06 Kuaka Trengang, that took the company I was in to Ipoh, the year was 1961. Thanks for letting me see your site,its Great.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating research. Fascinated particularly by the information on a Changi railway on the linked web site - I had no idea of this in 1960 when I lived there and was unaware of any remaining evidence of it.

Here in the UK you get the feeling that such is the interest in old railways that there are no new facts to be unearthed but Peter seems to have done a great job in unearthing a whole basin load of historical information. Perhaps Spore moves just too fast and the past gets lost in the hurry - again bearing out the need for Chun See's initiative with this blog.

Anonymous said...

There are many surprises that await us; inclduing myself.

For example, plans and designs were drawn up to move Raffles Institution out from Bras Basah Road to somewhere in the suburbs. No I am not referring to the one at Grange Road where the Old Admiralty House once stood (now Ministry of Education Network For Teachers).

It was a big location, as big as a HDB town size.

Lam Chun See said...

Next time I go to Beauty World hawker centre, I will try to talk to the old hawkers there and see if they know about this railway line.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the website,
For item 2,The actual location should be Dunearn road opposite where now Crown centre is.

There were also People Park Station and Borneo Wharf Station along SKR on it ways to the Dock.
They were closed down in around 1910.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ice Kachang

If there is a proper name to address you, do advise. You can reach me at

Were u referring to Dunearn Road infront of Watten Estate/Shelford Road vicinity? Where was your source and in which year?

There were suggestions that it was on the Bukit Timah Road side just before Cluny Road because the first Botanical Gardens were there. There were speculations that the botanists needed to use the train service to get to the Botanical gardens, which I am afraid was not correct. I think the mix-up was because at that time Farrer Road had not been built, not until at least after 1938.

There were other stations as you rightly mentioned but these were for freight/military rather than passenger service. It was not until Tg Pagar Station or Singapore Station as it was then called that a station served both freight and passenger services.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,
Theres this Railway club in malaysia where members can interact and know more about railways.

Link > or

Anonymous said...

I met Bessie Chua, a local book author of children's books. She authored Baby Chick's Batik Scarf and a Radio Singapore family serial in the 1950s called Little World of Hsu Fei.

Bessie told me she remembered standing on the Neil Road bridge (after the Tiger Balm factory) looking down on the abandoned metal railway tracks with wooden sleepers when she was on her way to Fairfield Girls School. The year was 1938. That means prior to WW2, the Singapore-Kranji Railway tracks were still there, though no longer in operations.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,
Thanks fo the memories of Bt Timah... Yes! I was raised at a zinc roof shop house in 843, Bt Timah Road (which now Royal Ville) However,it was numbered as 16F in my elder siblings' birth certs. During the early 60s, we could see the trail of an rail track near my neighbour house(849 Bt Timah)He was a Malay tailor who house was built during WWII using clay and rattan. If you had passed my path, you probably remember what business my father ran at that time.

Anonymous said...

Well, Its interesting now to see that there's the downtown Line following the route