Jun 28, 2009

My First and Last Trip on the Tebrau Shuttle Train

People seek thrill in Johor Bahru differently. For some, it is the naughty massage; for others it is the cheap haircut. For me, it is the experience of taking a 'joy-ride' across the causeway by KTM train.

Tebrau Shuttle, plying Kluang - Singapore - Kluang, was introduced on Feb 1, 2009 to "ease the link up of daily commuters from Singapore to the southern part of Malaysia and vice versa". To me, the highlight was the new stop at Danga City Mall (DCM) along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, operational since Jan 5, 2009. It was the classic win-win situation - more people would visit the mall with the added comfort and convenience of a train and the train operator would see more business due to increased ticket sales. In fact, the usually low-profile Malaysian train service and ulu shopping centre basked in the limelight of our local papers when the station - a halt - was completed. See reports in Straits Times (here) and The New Paper (here and here).

Finally on May 3, I gave in to temptation and visited the naughty bought a ticket to DCM.

Danga City Mall HaltDanga City Mall Halt
Left: Danga City Mall Halt.
Right: The "Station" platform. There is no station, only a sheltered platform. A staircase and gangway lead to the mall.

Promotion Tickets
Promotion ticket to Danga City Mall - SGD 3/RM 3 one way.

At SGD 3.00, the promotion ticket did not burn a hole in my pocket. The ticket was bought on the day itself at Tanjong Pagar. The return ticket was bought at DCM. I think the Singapore and Malaysian transport operators have a 'tit-for-tat' agreement on their tickets. I first learnt that from taking the buses plying Johore Bahru and Singapore. The practice must be so ingrained that KTMB decided to price both tickets equally in different denomination. So the return ticket set me back by SGD 1.25.

Teh Tarik29116 Sepetir
Left: Enjoying my teh-tarik on the station platform.
Right: Tebrau Shuttle hauled by 29116 Sepetir.

Departure was set at 0830 but I got the timing wrong thinking it was earlier. I managed to savour a cup of teh-tarik while waiting for my train, unaware it was already at the station but hidden from my sight. Tebrau Shuttle's locomotive that day was 29116 Sepetir. We met her before in the quiz.

My trip opened up a whole new way of entering Malaysia - the kind with an unprocessed passport and no white immigration card. You can read about that in my 'Escape to Malaysia' entry. Oh boy, did I mention there was no security check on luggage also?

Link to YouTube video. My train leaving Tanjong Pagar Station with Ekspres Senandung Malam opposite. Due to the single-tracking in Singapore, Tebrau Shuttle has to wait for SM to arrive before she could proceed. Note the long consist of SM, even longer than the station platform!

The train chugged along the track to Woodlands CIQ. She did not stop along the way, rather all the vehicles stopped for her at the railway crossings (yg told me every now and then residents have to put up with this inconvenience). I was like a VIP chauffeured from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. I'm not sure whether our President or Prime Minister's motorcade need to stop at traffic junctions, but I suppose they are required to pay ERP because of the In-Vehicle Unit.

Link to YouTube video. Evidence of train beating traffic lights between Choa Chu Kang and Stagmont Ring (only because the light is in the train's favour)

The only stop was at Woodlands CIQ (Customs, Immigraton, Quarantine). Passengers were to disembark to have their passport out-processed by our immigration officers. Strangely the outgoing train was checked, for reasons I'm not sure. News of Mas Selamat's capture broke out few days later. Was it Mas Selamat or the latest escape from Whitley Detention Centre, or was it just normal routine to check outgoing trains?

Layout of Woodlands CIQ Complex (my impression). Because the KTM railway is single-tracked in Singapore, the incoming and outgoing trains use the same platform. If you hate queuing (or in a rush to answer nature's call), take the front coach for outgoing train and back coach for incoming train. The exit is more for incoming train passengers who choose to disembark at the CIQ instead of Tanjong Pagar. Bus services are readily available outside. I took that option when I was back and boarded a bus to Woodlands Interchange.

Health Alert Notice
The Health Alert Notice (updated 30 April 2009) in our 4 main languages dished out to incoming passengers (tucked into their passport). At that time, it was called human swine influenza A (H1N1).

At Johor Bahru Station, the train stopped "briefly" before resuming its journey to DCM a stone's throw away. Tebrau Shuttle picked up passengers bound for Kluang and waited for an incoming train to arrive before she could proceed. The train schedule estimated the stop to be around 15 minutes.

Link to YouTube video. An incoming train at Johor Bahru Station. Once again because of single-tracking at the Johor Bahru stretch, she has to arrive before Tebrau Shuttle could proceed. It is all a give-and-take game.

Danga City Mall Halt29116 Sepetir at Danga City Mall
Left: My destination Danga City Mall.
Right: 29116 Sepetir at DCM Halt. She would resume her journey to Kluang.

When I left 29116 Sepetir for the mall, I thought she was lost for good. Little did I know that on my return journey to Singapore she would once again render her service. Good o' rattlesnake!

Link to YouTube video. The return of 29116 Sepetir! Quite a surprise to see her again after a brief three hours separation.

Overall I had a good experience on the Tebrau Shuttle 'joy-ride'. At SGD 3.00, the price was unbeatable. Try to beat that with those in amusement fairs where you have to pay twice - for the entrance fee (around $2) and the ride. You have to join the standing queue for popular rides and the ride is often shorter than the wait. Of course you are still stuck on this little red dot.

Sadly the Tebrau Shuttle 'joy-ride' was my first and last one. Tebrau Shuttle plying Singapore-Kluang was terminated from May 19. The reason, I suspect, due to low demand of travelling or low ridership in non-business speak. From what I heard, the volume was a bit pathetic on weekdays.

Jun 24, 2009

Answers to Quiz (4) - 29116 is Sepetir

Congratulations to Victor and Polestar for recognizing the subject in the quiz. Indeed it has to do with KTM - Keretapi Tanah Melayu - the train service between Malaysia and Singapore. 29116 is a locomotive in their fleet.

Here are the answers to each part.

1. Where can you find this sign?

This is easy if you know it is KTM-related. You may find it along the railway track or at the railway stations (Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Timah). These are all Malaysian Property, by the way.

2. Where did I take the photo?

Victor believed I took the photo while standing on the railway track. This is almost impossible unless you happen to be one of them.

Here is 29116 at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station the day I took the shot. You can see the target is right in front. Assuming I'm Yao Ming (this tall guy can really jump), I could have went below the platform for the shot. This would not be prudent, however, as the driver was in the cab.

2911629116 is Sepetir
Left: 29116 at Tanjong Pagar Station.
Right: Driver in cab, don't play play.

This reminds me of an observation of train commuters in Singapore. Because the Malaysian train service offers no competitive advantage over coach or airline service, most people have no reason to take the train service plying Malaysia and Singapore. Me included, our contact with trains is limited to the MRT/LRT/NEL. If there is a difference between taking our local trains and the Malaysian train, it is this - our transit from platform to passenger compartment is a smooth one. Beware of the platform gap but you never have to climb to get into the passenger compartment. How lucky because generations of train passengers did not experience it that way.

From Indiana Jones in the 1950s ....

to Icemoon in 2009 (from escape to Malaysia episode) ....

The Station MasterThe Driver

(Indiana Jones scenes from movie Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Bottom left and right photos by Icemoon. Note that Icemoon was not caught in the act [of escaping to Malaysia]. Left guy was the station master hunting for Icemoon. Right guy with cap was the cab driver.)

You see, people used to board a train by climbing up, like how you board a bus at road level (well, there is also the WAB - wheelchair accessible bus - which you don't have to climb). This is true for old station platforms. Nowadays stations are built with their platform flushed with the carriage doorway.

Platform LevelKL Sentral
Left: Our old pre-war Tanjong Pagar Station with low platform.
Right: The new KL Sentral Station in Kuala Lumpur with flushed platform.

I'm not sure why older stations were not built to specification unless carriage doorway used to be lower, i.e. flushed with the platform, in the past.

Back to our quiz. As a result, we tend to underestimate the height of a locomotive. Here is a video taken when I was at KL Sentral (Malaysian version of a public transport hub) and shows a locomotive reversing to couple with a coach. Eh, isn't the locomotive our friend 29116? No, she is not. Look carefully. She is 29103, a 'twin'.

Now, do you know from where the quiz photo was taken? Hint: look at the last few scenes of the video. The answer is here.

While you are thinking, let me reveal how the picture was digitally manipulated. I converted the color picture to grayscale, then reversed (negative-imaged) the gray colors.

Digital manipulation - from color to gray negative.

3. What is another name for the subject?

Another name for 29116 is Sepetir. Sepetir and 29103 Merbau in the video belong to the 29 class locomotives of KTMB. Two interesting tidbits about the 29 class.

First, they are double cab locomotives. A cab, in layman understanding, is the 'cockpit' of a train. So the 29 class has two cockpits, at both ends of the locomotive. This is the reason why I could snap the quiz photo from that angle. When the locomotive is coupled, the back cockpit will be facing the first coach of the train. You can see that in the video. The quiz photo was taken behind the door of the gangway. Thus I was inside the train and not on the railway tracks when the photo was taken.

There is actually a prequel to the video if you are interested. This earlier video shows 29103 Merbau reversing slowing ('go-stun') from far. The driver was inside the front cab and at one point, I think the fireman (i.e. their assistant driver) got down and you see him later directing the coupling process. I'm glad I recorded this earlier video because the sight of a lone locomotive without her train consist (i.e. the coaches behind) is just too cute to bear.

The second interesting tidbit is the naming system. Do you know how Sepetir and Merbau got their names? Yes, they are named after timbers found in the region!

Here are the 29 Class locomotives and their timber names:

29101 Cengal
29102 Meranti
29103 Merbau
29104 Jati
29105 Mersawa
29106 Belian
29107 Keranji
29108 Balau
29109 Keruing
29110 Penaga
29111 Seraya
29112 Damar
29113 Nyatoh
29114 Ramin
29115 Kempas
29116 Sepetir
29117 Tembusu
29118 Tualang
29119 Medang
29120 Kledang

Not sure if any of you remembers, yg actually saw a 29 class during one of his 'jalan-jalan' missions. Here is the post. She is 29105 Mersawa.

Jun 20, 2009

This Blog Turns One!

June 21 marks the first anniversary of Second Shot. On this day last year, the blog had its inaugural article .. can you remember the title?

To commemorate the occasion, I'm going to thank each and every one of you who left a note on this blog. They are encouraging and your participation could not be more appreciated. Your comments, whether personal anecdotes or snippets of geography and history of old Singapore, have been edutaining to say the least. Keep your comments coming!

One year, 63 posts, many comments. Here I acknowledge you readers, in alphabetical order of names.

Adelin Lok
Chinese Albumart
Ivan Chew
Jingkai Kuang
Kenneth Pinto
Lam Chun See
Ordinary Guy
Peter Chan
Seen This Scene That
Shaun Wong
Stanley Tan
Uncle Dick

Blog Revamp

I'm also using the chance to revamp Second Shot. First, I think the user experience from the site design could be better. I have certain readability issues with my own blog and I suspect most readers just exit after glancing through the photos. Bad writing is a factor (opps!), but so is the design. I hope the new design fixes the issues. I'm also planning to add more links and photos. Singapore certainly has many good bloggers around and I want to consolidate my list of favourites.

I have preserved the old design though, in the form of a screenshot. Reminisce.

Jun 13, 2009

Amazing Red Dot Quiz (4) - Where can you find this sign in Singapore?

When mountains, bridges and roads cannot stop oldies, you know it is time to find something more challenging.

The quiz today is as easy as I am busy. The Chinese has this saying if somebody is so negatively etched in your memory, you'd recognize him even if he is burnt to ashes. I may not recognize a durian tree even if it is the only tree left but the subject is [positively] etched in my memory after I seen it just once. By the way if Azmee is reading this, you are banned from the quiz ok, haha.

To turn the subject into an amazing quiz, I have digitally manipulated the picture. I will 'undo' the changes when I reveal the answer.

The quiz is divided into parts. This is to prevent the oldies from getting full marks.
  1. Where can you find this sign? For example, if you think this belongs to a lamp post, you can try Civil Defense Academy or Yunnan Garden.

  2. Where did I take the photo? From my understanding, this angle is quite challenging for those vertically challenged at ground level. You can try guessing 'while standing on a crate'.

  3. What is another name for the subject? For example, Standard Chartered Bank is a valid guess for Sixth Battery Road, but not Fullerton Hotel or worse, One Fullerton. If you guess 'building' or 'bank', your answer is not precise enough.
Happy guessing!

(The quiz has ended. Answers here.)

Jun 3, 2009

How I Beat the Crowd (Again) on International Museum Day

Quiz first - when is International Museum Day (IMD)? You may not get the answer after 365 attempts because there is no definite date. In fact, the International Council of Museums recommends celebratory activities around 18 May for members. Since 2006, IMD has been celebrated at NHB's museums during the last two weeks of May. This year, IMD fell on 23-31 May.

31 May was Open House Day (read: free entry) for participating museums. A sucker for free heritage stuff, I strategized/schemed to squeeze the most out of the lobang. Let's do the sums. Here's the list of NHB participating museums and the normal adult admission charges:

8Q Sam - $3
Asian Civilization Museum - $8
Memories at Old Ford Factory - $3
National Museum of Singapore - $10
Reflections at Bukit Chandu - $2
Singapore Art Museum - $8
Singapore Philatelic Museum - $5
The Peranakan Museum - $6

The $10 choice was out because this sucker has visited the National Museum on another occassion (read: another open house). ACM was picked because I can't appreciate art this would be my first visit and I could enjoy the Kangxi Emperor exhibition free.

Free Entry

My plan ready, its execution awaits on 31 May.

Finally the big day arrived. I alighted at City Hall MRT Station and grabbed my breakfast at Ya Kun Raffles Place. Luckily I stuffed myself 4 slices of bread because as it turned out, I skipped lunch later. The morning stroll to ACM along St. Andrew's Road was leisurely. The museum opens 9am on Sunday and I was there at 9:30.

Side View

The museum received her morning group of visitors but there was no crowd. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single soul at the entrance fronting the Singapore River.

Main Entrance

By 11:30, I had chiong most of the galleries including the Kangxi Emperor exhibition. Here's the situation at the foyer and outside just before noon.

I hid inside the neighboring air-conditioned Art House before returning for a documentary screening at 1pm. The documentary was OK and I enjoyed my short nap near the end of the 45 minutes programme.

The crowd now had morphed into a long snake attacking the Special Exhibitions Gallery ....


The snake could climb stairs ....


and filled the area outside the entrance ....


even outside the museum ....


and into the tentage meant for Ancient Chinese Sports.


I laughed all the way to the bank beamed with pride about being the early bird again. It is regrettable that IMD may be the last Open House before the Kangxi Emperor exhibition ends its run on 28 June 09.

The queue was targeted at the exhibition; access to the other galleries remained uncontrolled. The museum repeated this announcement over the PA system. Some people might queue in vain when they could have given the exhibition a miss and chiong other galleries. Others might be intimidated by the queue and gave up on visiting ACM.