Jul 5, 2011

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station Shuts Its Gates After 79 Years

Motivational Poster

All good things must come to an end. After the station sent off her last train on 30 June and the crowd dispersed, albeit reluctantly, the government machinery moved in, stealthily, while the whole world was asleep and did the inevitable. When Peter Chan, guest blogger on GMY visited the station on the morning of July 1, the deed was done ... with surprising efficiency.

Curious on the fate of the station now that ownership has changed hands, I paid the grand dame a visit few hours later, during my lunch time, with a little hope there would be a way for me to sneak in innocently and roam freely inside the compound before our government digs in.

Fat hope.

Temporary gate
Approaching from direction of Cantonment Link, I thought all was well. An empty carpark gave the first hint of trouble. This newly erected gate at Keppel Road entrance dashed all hopes. SLA has dug in!

Guards were posted and from their uniform, I found out security was outsourced to AETOS Security Management. From Wikipedia, I learnt that AETOS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings and was the result of the strategic merger of the auxiliary police forces of PSA, ST Kinetics and CIAS. With their years of experience guarding our port and airport, what's a railway station to them?

Guards are no slouch
The guards were no slouch and certainly not to be trifled with.

Testimony to the professionalism of the folks who locked up the place, all access to the compound, whether from Keppel or Kampong Bahru side, was sealed off. Guards were posted at the platform and I read those who thought the rail corridor (free access this month) includes the station were greatly mistaken. However high security does not mean high literacy, as I found out from one side entrance at Blair Road. Where there was no gate, a temporary one was put in place. Where even a temporary gate was not possible, the opening was simply boarded up.

Narrow entrance boarded up
This narrow entrance from Kampong Bahru side was boarded up.

By ordep
What does ORDEP mean? An ill-eagle alien? I hope this is not a case of haste makes waste, the result of OT to put this up.

These measures were to be expected. After all the crowd was quite ravenous on Thursday and I heard looting at the station almost took place. Some people were looking for war spoils and I suspect a few actually went away with them. About the only relic that could not possibly be looted was the big blue signboard outside the station, thus it was left unguarded. Would this historical signboard be part of the national monument, I wonder.

The only relic accessible
If the railway tracks and platforms are removed and only the main terminal building is preserved, this would be the only clue that the building was once a railway station.

The walk along Keppel Road was a little heart wrenching, seeing sparks from acetylene torch like firework illuminate the platform; every now and then a loud thud sound made my heart skip a beat. Few days ago at this hour, there was still the Ekspres Sinaran Selatan waiting at this platform. 12 hours after the last train from Tanjong Pagar left Singapore for Johor, I saw workers dismantling the partition fence on the platform. The loud thud happened when the workers allowed the partition to fall unassisted. The partitions were then stacked up nicely and ferried away by forklift. Where will they land up?

Sparks like firework
Acetylene torch does its job. The dismantling and loud thud had this piercing effect, like what this fence did to the trunk along Keppel Road.

It has started. Bit by bit, Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is being destroyed. How will it look like when it finally become a national monument?


madscan said...

This is Singapore. We want condos we want condos. Anything in the way, tear it down tear it down. Railway station, bukit brown, tear it down.
patch of green? Rip it up. We want condos we want condos.

Icemoon said...

I dont want condo, I dont want condo. I cant afford condo want condo for what. lol

alternatve said...

If there's something Singapore should have less of, its condominiums. Before we have less of our heritage!

And the argument that since we do not "visit" it, it is worthless (bukit brown), I argue that it adds intrinsic value to the nation as a whole. Did England tear down Stonehenge or closed the Imperial War Museum due to low visitation rates by the locals?

Icemoon said...

But I'm afraid Stonehenge and IWM are kinda world heritage. Bukit Brown you tear down even Chinese nationals wont shed a tear.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is working in the architecture field. I do agree that the pace of change is extremely fast in Singapore. Its a hard juggle between conservation and having new developments to meet the needs of the society. Its really sad to see Tanjong Pagar Railway station go as it is one of the places where it's relatively untouched since its inception. Although they will be preserving it, it will lose its originality and never be the same again.

fr said...

In our Country, I think the needs of the society comes first. Then you have to consider the cost of maintaining the heritage.

Anonymous said...

I have the photos inside the station when I was going to take the train to KL.It becomes historical photos now :P

Sometimes reading this kind of blog makes me can't live in present time because yesterday seems better lol

peter said...

I wonder whether we are purely sentimentalist to see the train service go or Tanjong Pagar Station go?

In the former, the train service has stopped but in the latter case, the station building is still here. So what are we lamenting -the train service which by the way many of us do not choose because we have the airport and coaches going up to Malaysia? We still can hop over to JB Sentral and pay in ringgit for that train ride; mind you train rides in Malaysia are subsidized public transport and Singaporeans do benefit from it on top of the favorable currency exchange.

Or are we grumbling because we do not have the chance to walk and see the green spaces along the railway track? Well the space for the tracks will still around except there wont be sleepers and steel tracks. Will the same people who grumble still walk on them again?

Or do we miss the food inside the train station which is mainly a haven for taxi drivers and port workers. Does the rest of Singapore come here for a meal knowing very well many opt for a/c food courts and Dempsey Hill?

I am still coming to graps what are we crying?

Anonymous said...

change is inevitable to progress and develop and sometimes, it saddens me to see that we have to demolish some beautiful old buildings to make way for new skyscrapers. Nonetheless, I'm glad to know the PMB is helping to conserve these historical buildings and maintain them in a good condition for the future generations to grasp a better understanding of our history and past.

to answer the last comment -> I can't say for the rest but personally, train travel is relatively new to me (being born in a generation where it's cheap to take budget flights) and the one thing i will truly miss is to enjoy a rather scenic view of Singapore from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. Sure, we can always enjoy the view in Malaysia but to view natural lush greenery in the cosmopolitan city of Singapore is something rare. :)

peter said...

The trouble with sanctioned government press releases thru the media, we dont quite get the full details of what is contained in the P.O.A. This perhaps gives rise to all slorts of queries and fears

Tg Pagar Station/space though under the Preservation status is also governed by the MS Pte Ltd commercial agreement whereby 60% Malaysian Govt (thru Khazanah)and 40% Sporean (Temasek) for the purprose of redevelopment. I believe the same thing goes for Bukit Timah Station/space. There must also be something in those commercial agreements that delimit the extent of demoliion and extent of redevelopment.

I have not sighted those commecial agreement details yet but it makes sense to demolition the railway yard around Spooner Road. Even in building the new Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station, the former land-use was the Brickfields rail-cargo
center and I can safely say when I saw it in the 1970s, it was dirty (like any railway yard).

So the only thing that reverts fully to Spore Govt are the track-lands. There is nothing very much or of commercial value one can do with that narrow strip of land. My fears here is when NParks or some government statutory board come up with "modern" ideas that destroy the looks and feel of the space.

peter said...

Even in Malaysia, their government are also upgrading/modernising their railway stations and tracks. Very soon (but maybe in 10 years time), the look of the good ole days will also disappear like Spore.

Malaysia today is different from yesterday, so it might be different from what we perceive about the Malaysians. They too are making good progress.

Anonymous said...

I do agree that in the event that Nparks or some other government agency that comes in will destroy the original look and feel of the strip of land. I'm very worried that they will come in and pave the tracks, trim and introduce new plantings and eventually it will end up looking exactly like any other man made parks in Singapore.

peter said...

There's nothing much one can do about the tracks; they have to be shipped back to Malaysia by legal agreement.

Now the tricky part: Do we want the Govt to build a track to replace the missing KTM tracks? LTA/MRTC has the expertize to build tracks but is it worth it?

From the aesthetic point of view, Yes they should build the build the replcaement tracks.

This is not as simple as it sounds. Ask any civil engineer, he will tell you below the railway tracks are not simply granite aggergates. There is a concrete pavement which secures the steel tracks and wooden sleepers. There is cost involved, running into millions. Where should we build - the entire length from Woodlands to Tg Pagar Stationr or parts of it?

If we build the tracks, can they be used by cyclists and pedetrians? Can we walk on granite aggregates without twisting out ankles? Can we ride our bicycles on them?

I am certain the new minister BG Tan/LTA/NParks have their answers but they are not ready to open up yet. Let u guys do all the talking first.

Thomas said...

Walked pass this place last night and saw that the blue signboard has been removed.

Icemoon said...

Oh no, hope they didnt read my blog and realized their omission. Wonder about its fate now.