The Malayan Railway started it’s services in Singapore from 1903. Previously known as The Keppel Road Railway Station the building was opened in 1932 to serve as a West Coast Line of the KTM Railway. It was contructed by a French company Brossard and Mopin Ltd. The station was officially opened by Governor Sir Cecil Clementi on 2nd May 1932. The location was directly opposite Tanjong Pagar’s docks which made easy transfer of cargo between steamships and railway trains. In the 1918 agreement, the British colonial government, had handed over the ownership of some 200ha railway land in Singapore, including the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to the Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR) on a 999 year leasehold term. After independence of Malaysia the ownership went to KTM Berhad a successor company to FMSR owned by the Malaysian government. As part of the separation agreement that Singapore signed with Malaysia in 1965, KTM Berhad was allowed to retain control of the railway land, meaning that Tanjong Pagar Railway Station had become a part of the Malaysian sovereign territory. It was because of this arrangement was why travellers had to clear Malaysian customs even when boarding the train from Singapore.
On 8th of April 2011 the Preservations of Monument Board gazetted the building as a national monument. The impending closure of the station aroused unprecendented public interest towards the building. There were guided tours, people taking train rides just to preserve the memory of ever departing by train from Singapore! I have always loved the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Whenever I step into it, I do not feel I am in Singapore, I feel that I am time warped into Malaysia. The food court there also serves very good food, epok-epok (curry puffs) nasi lemak, chappati, pratha, Malay kuihs (cakes) etc, ask the taxi drivers they will tell you where the good food are. I have taken the train from Singapore to Malaysia a couple of times. Somehow I love taking the train. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it is about the scenes that you see as the train chugs along, green forests, kampung houses, the different train stations and the local scene. Then when you transfer in Kuala Lumpur to connect the night train, it is the beautiful scenes of the paddy fields, mountains, lakes, sunrise, such is the beauty. When we were living in Singapore at Everton Road it was just walking distance to the train station. Many a time I would take a walk to get morning breakfast or just some fried bananas and kuih for afternoon tea, how convenient!
We did a trek along the railway tracks after the train services ceased to leave from Tanjong Pagar Station. It was surreal being able to walk on that very same tracks that tooks us from Singapore to Malaysia once upon a time. We also got to see nature surroundings along the way. Then there was Bukit Timah Station, at one time the train picked up passengers from there, but not anymore.
As we walked along we came across Wessex Road. That area also have some old black and white colonial houses and flats, built during the British colonization. Huge balconies, huge space and loads of greenery. Mr K and I almost wanted to move there, because it was so peaceful and tranquil with plenty of greenery and birds singing, it was like not being in Singapore. We came across a very old coffee shop that has a very old fashioned weighing scale from the days of yore. They were also doomed to move but the people in that area wrote in a petition that they should let something so nostalgic remain as it is. So it did, the place is called Colbar. They serve some western meals and local food of course, but it’s so old school that Singapore should retain some of these old time grocery stores or coffee shops for the youngsters nowadays who know not much about them but only fancy cafes and fast foods!
Such was the lush greenery at Wessex Road area Mr K and I wished we lived there. We made an enquiry anyway, but they gave priority to the people who work at Biopolis an IT, bio engineering tower office and the nearest mrt station is Buona Vista. Oh well, we can only admire and envy the people living there.
Now there are only memories. Of the days when taking the train into Malaysia was exciting, well at least for me it was. There is something about train rides that perhaps for me, it adds some kind of adventure, feeling like the “Indiana Jones” kind of movie, or a beautiful seductress spy on the Oriental Express, or just watch the changing scenes as the train moves from destination to destination, unlike the boring airplane where one only sees the sky, clouds and the droning of engines. Perhaps it is just me who loves the old fashioned way of travelling, yes maybe so. Or have been watching too much movies that involves romance, adventures and spies on board train journies. Well, am just plain old fashioned me.