Jul 12, 2011

The Two Ends of the Rail Corridor


Before Singapore removes the tracks and other ancillary structures and hands them over to Malaysia, the public would have a chance to trek along the railway from 1 to 17 July. From 17 to 31 July, the stretch from Rifle Range Road to Rail Mall would continue to be accessible. In 108 years of Singapore railway history, this is the first time the tracks are accessible to public with absolutely zero danger from incoming trains and did I say we need not worry about trespassing?

Earlier I blogged about the efficiency of the authorities in locking down Tanjong Pagar railway station which, to my amazement, was completed the very next morning. I was also curious, since the rail corridor is open to public, might it not lead the innocent trekker right into the yard and the station? The answer should be obvious but I just had to see it for myself.

The Yard and Station
Where the rail corridor meets the yard. No fence or barrier can be seen.

In a way the answer came before my feet touched the metal rails. As I made my way down the steps to the Malayan Railway block at Kampong Bahru, a voice called me from behind. The man must have asked a question but due to the distance between us it became a mumble. If the former Malayan Railway land was strictly no trespassing and trespassers would be prosecuted, I would have feared the worst. In my case that did not matter. I pointed gamely in the opposite direction ... away from the yard.

The Guards of Kampong Bahru
The guards of Kampong Bahru. Unless you want to overpower these folks under the bridge, the best form of infiltration would be to parachute in, agree?

Start of the Rail Corridor
This is the official start point of the rail corridor at Kampong Bahru. Behind me were the guards.

Officially the former railway line stretches approximately 26km. If we discount the restricted areas at Tanjong Pagar and Woodlands, the rail corridor would be around 23km. I have not met anyone online or offline who trekked the 23km in one sitting. Few days ago, our Minister of State for National Development, BG Tan Chuan Jin, did just that. I read he chiong the corridor in like 8 hours. There must be others like him, I'm sure.

Briskwalk along Green Corridor
Banner beside the railway bridge at Rail Mall showing ministers and MPs hosting briskwalk along the rail corridor.

From my days of trekking along the rail corridor, I observed most people, and there are many families with children, tend to crowd around the more publicly accessible areas like Bukit Timah station. Of interest are the two black truss bridges over Bukit Timah Road; they must have enjoyed their share of fame and the corresponding human traffic. But is that all to the rail corridor?

High hanging fruits are often the most rewarding. Curious to know what lies at the end of the rail corridor, I decided to try my luck and bash in to the railway tracks before Woodlands Train Checkpoint. If there is an end point to the rail corridor, that must be it.

So I crossed the road at Old Woodlands Centre, under the flyover where BKE ends, to Woodlands Road. It was near evening but certainly I did not start my railway exploration for the day there and then. What I saw in the distance almost dashed all hopes: there was a sheltered platform (when was it constructed?) with a human form sitting on a chair (the security?) and what looked like a dog beside. Before my scent reached its nose, I figured it would be better to make myself scarce.

The next entry point, from map reccee, was this road Kg Mandai Kechil after the junction that is shown as a stub on the street directory but which could well lead to the railway tracks. I thought that might even be the fabled entrance to Lorong/Kampong Fatimah which was expunged/cleared for the new Woodlands Checkpoint. What I saw at the end of this short road sank my heart. And for the first time, there was this fear of "trespassing" on the rail corridor. The familiar white on red sign of a guard shooting an intruder was unmistakable.

Junction of Kg Mandai Kechil and Woodlands Road
Junction of Kg Mandai Kechil with Woodlands Road. End of BKE in the background.

End of Kg Mandai Kechil
The end of Kg Mandai Kechil. After making doubly sure there was no "No Photography" warning, I took this shot.

I had no choice but to walk further, to the Esso down the road. Few days ago I had bashed in to the tracks west of this position. Today, I bashed in right from the back. Backtracking 400 metres from the petrol station along the railway, I saw a strange compacted sand platform blocking the tracks! Start of protected area, might this be the end of the rail corridor?

Approaching Protected Area
The sign reads, "You are approaching a protected area". What's the purpose of the compacted sand platform behind?

Seeing how this old Indian man continued his way with ease - and without fear - I followed him. There is strength in numbers, at least I would not face detention alone. Our dare stopped before the barrier and as I looked to my right, I was not amused this was the end of that short road earlier. The CCTV on the post behind the barrier told me in no uncertain term, you have to stop.

End of Rail Corridor
The absolute end of the rail corridor. Note the CCTV on the post behind the barrier.

The Indian man was complaining why they not allow us to trek right to the causeway just like before, when the railway was still operational. What he really meant was, why does the rail corridor not end near the main road so folks need not backtrack all the way to Kranji Road (around 1.5km) to exit?

To pacify him I told him about the shortcut from the petrol station just before the railway bridge. He could very well have thought I was going to lead the way and lead him out. Luckily I did not make such an offer though it might be implied in our conversation.

I did save myself from certain embarrassment. On our way back, to my horror, I realized I could not locate the exact spot I leapt out from the overgrown to the railway line. From my position I also could not spot the roof of Esso station. Where was the shortcut to the petrol station? It is easy to find your way onto the railway but to find your way out? Here, nothing but grass, and more grass, lined the green corridor!


peter said...


why were u pointed the camera at her bottoms?

Icemoon said...

I took it while squatting down. So the rails appear bigger.

Lam Chun See said...

If weather permits, I think I will go down tomorrow afternoon to check out the stretch from Bt Timah to Holland Rd.

Icemoon said...

You should Chun See. After all the railway is near your house and brisk walk area. Say goodbye to your "neighbour".

Lam Chun See said...

Too late. Walked by this afternoon and they alr started work to dismantle the rail tracks. Lucky for us they did not remove the Jurong Line tracks for years; no decades.

Visqueraient said...

I really hope they don't dismantle the Jurong line too soon. The other day I bashed in through the forest from Clementi rd with a friend, following the Jurong Line until bt Timah station. What an adventure! =D

As for the way to get back to the esso station, it is near a drain over which the tracks pass, some distance before the woodlands checkpoint. On the checkpoint side of the drain.

Icemoon said...

Visqueraient, must be quite an adventure! Do share your photos or blog on it.

I have not done the bashing yet. Cant stand the mud and insects, especially after a downpour. :(

peter said...

woah Vis,

any tracks before u started bashing or u had to use parangs? tell tell lah

Lam Chun See said...

When we were last at the Jurong Port Rd, we saw them dismantling a section (link). Subsequently a stretch opposite Jurong Bowl also gave way to some construction. Bit by bit it will disappear. But I hope the bridge over Sg Ulu Pandan will not be dismantled.

Visqueraient said...

@peter: I didn't really bash using a parang lol. just push away thick brush and vines etc. some sections me and my friend had to climb over and under huge fallen logs, and avoid extremely muddy ground. quite manageable, really. but wear proper boots and attire. There are actually tracks made by previous explorers, but some sections you have to find your own path. I felt like those explorers in a Nat Geo documentary =P