Jun 20, 2011

Countdown to 30 June - How to Chiong Five Crossings and Two Bridges for $1.21

Railway Land No Trespassing

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.

* Chiong, according to Coxford Singlish Dictionary, means "to rush forward" and is used to "denote creating havoc and/or having fun".

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:

  1. Gombak Crossing
  2. Bukit Panjang Crossing
  3. Stagmont Ring Crossing
  4. Mandai Crossing
  5. Kranji Crossing

The Rail Mall
The Rail Mall, named for its proximity to the railway, as the start point.

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.

The Rail Mall - Harry's @ Rail Mall
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:

  1. Maximum of 5 transfers within a single journey, with a 45 minute allowance between each transfer.
  2. All journeys must be completed within 2 hours.
  3. 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:

  1. Standard Chartered Bank - Hillview Bridge
  2. Min of Defence (4 stops) - Gombak Crossing
  3. Ten Mile Junction Stn (3 stops) - Bukit Panjang Crossing
  4. Heavy Veh Pk (4 stops) - Stagmont Ring Crossing
  5. Opp Mandai Est (4 stops) - Mandai Crossing
  6. 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, 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.


me said...

waiting for the photos of your "hpo on and hop off" journey

peter said...

Did u find out the ownership, history and the original building colours of Railway Mall?

peter said...

The nursery before the level crossing at Choa Chu Kang Road was the original Bukit Panjang Station when SKR was built in the 1900s. It continued to be a station (although was momth-balled after the present FMSR was launched)in the 1950s when there was a bus strike in 1955.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually I think the most convenient place to watch a train pass by is the pedestrian bridge linking Ghim Moh to N. Buona Vista Rd. Another one is a Bt Timah Rd near MGS. Actually I often do my walking exercise there and around 5.45 pm everyday, 2 trains would pass by in opposite directions. What I dislike most is the thick black smoke they spew.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually I am a little amused at all the sudden interest in the KTM railways. Two years ago when we were exploring and blogging about the Jurong Line, people did not even know about these places.

peter said...

I agree with Chun See especially when one has no personal connection with a place nor "ever interested" in the past and now suddenly take an interest. For example, Bukit Brown, so much "kow pei kow bu" now but just before the URA announced it last week, nobody ever took notice.

If it's meant for the photo album, it will be soon forgotten as the album gathers dust. The test comes many years later when u ask the person who stood in the photo, "So what was the occasion?" ANS: "Cannot remember, so long ago".

Icemoon said...

For these people, the first time they take interest would be their last time too.

Chun See, I found out from Blackmore Road can cut to KTM track near the station. I've not explored the area around MGS. You should be quite familiar with the place.

peter said...

Somewhere where KTM track is behind former 2SIR, there should be a concrete platform. I saw it back in the late 60s when there was little under-growth. Seems that 2SIR's ground was a former WWII ammo depot. I assume that the railway track was used to haul ammo there.

Chun See, get ready your parang!

Icemoon said...

I forgot which is Camp Holland and Camp Temasek. When I started reading GMY (that was few years ago!), I got influenced by that article and went to explore the camp beside the railway track. Think it was at this camp the bodies from Kota Tinggi were washed, read somewhere our current PM was in this camp last time probably for his BMT.

Which means if you ask old timers from the camp, they should be able to tell us about the railway! So noisy, must have disturbed them at "lights off".