With only 10 days before the sun sets on Tanjong Pagar Railway Station ending 108 years of railway operations in Singapore, how would you spend your time capturing the railway's last days and be part of history in the making? After the death knell was sounded last year, there has been a surge of interest in things railway-related: government bodies and interest groups conducted station tours and railway corridor walks; folks snapped up train tickets for a last ride; shutterbugs swarmed the stations at Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah; the media put their spotlight on the event. We know time is running out.
News that the tender to rip up the railway track has been awarded accelerated my work to capture the railway's last days before all is lost. Previously I had expected the authorities to leave the land to lie fallow, like the old Jurong Railway, until development sets in. That the project to demolish the stretch of railway including ancillary structures would start on July 1 means there is no time to lose indeed. I have rough plans on what to do before, on and after June 30. As part of this history in the making - the end of the railway era and the return of the Malaysian railway land to Singapore - I will blog about railway-related topics quite extensively in the coming days and weeks.
A quick and cheap way to tour some very important railway heritage - soon to be history - is to make your way to the west of Singapore and check out the five level crossings where rails meet tar and trains have right of way in the traffic. I did just that on Sunday when I tried to chiong the five of them, like how performers chiong 7th month getai, in the quickest and most cost-effective way, without the weather and walking taking a toll on my physical.
The five level crossings, for a train leaving Tanjong Pagar:
- Gombak Crossing
- Bukit Panjang Crossing
- Stagmont Ring Crossing
- Mandai Crossing
- Kranji Crossing
Rail Mall was decided as the start point due to its proximity to the two railway bridges and the F&B options available. You certainly do not want to chiong with an empty stomach. After a light lunch, start with the two railway bridges - the famous one, people call it the Railway Bridge, is just next to the Rail Mall; the other one, at Hillview Road, is within walking distance.
Harry's @ Rail Mall. The place to energize before a race. But please don't get drunk and watch out for trains.
The race starts after the bridge at Hillview. To chiong all five crossings for $1.21, you take advantage of the new distance fare. How is it possible for one to "hop on and hop off" like a tourist and pay only $1.21? Since the new fare calculation does not penalize transfers, it is possible provided you follow these rules:
- Maximum of 5 transfers within a single journey, with a 45 minute allowance between each transfer.
- All journeys must be completed within 2 hours.
- Same bus service number must not be taken more than once in a journey.
What this means is that you have 2 hours to cover all the five level crossings; from alighting to boarding the next bus you have 45 minutes (inclusive of photography, walking and bus waiting time); only a maximum of six buses can be taken; and the services cannot repeat. Luckily many buses ply Upper Bukit Timah/Woodlands Road and the level crossings are not far from a bus stop though the crossing at Kranji Road requires a bit of walking.
Name of nearest bus stop and no. of stops from the previous stop:
- Standard Chartered Bank - Hillview Bridge
- Min of Defence (4 stops) - Gombak Crossing
- Ten Mile Junction Stn (3 stops) - Bukit Panjang Crossing
- Heavy Veh Pk (4 stops) - Stagmont Ring Crossing
- Opp Mandai Est (4 stops) - Mandai Crossing
- Opp S'pore Turf Club (6 stops) - Kranji Crossing
Fare calculation using the distance fares calculator provided by LTA. This is only an example to illustrate how the transfers add up to only $1.21. You can play around with the bus combination. On the actual day, there is still an element of luck ...
The next six screenshots are taken from streetdirectory.com, showing the bus stop (in blue square) to alight and to board the next bus.
Hillview Bridge within walking distance from Rail Mall. Start the race at the bus stop in front of Standard Chartered Bank (Bukit Timah).
Gombak Crossing in front of a military installation. Distance to the next crossing is less than 1km, so you may consider walking.
Bukit Panjang Crossing at Choa Chu Kang Road. Take care here for the area is under extensive redevelopment.
Stagmont Ring Crossing. There is a bus stop but I wonder why it is not drawn on the street directory!
Mandai Crossing at Sungei Kadut. I thought this is the more unique one as the approach from the south takes the form of a left bend.
Finally ... Kranji Crossing at Kranji Road. You have to walk a short distance in from the bus stop at Woodlands Road. Notice in my fare calculation, the last leg of the race is from Kranji Water Reclamation Plant to Opp Kranji Station with a distance of 1.0km. This is the "return ticket" to the nearest MRT station.