Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Railway memories

7 Jun 2011

Dear great-great-great-grandchildren,

Today, I have this urge to write to all of you about my excursions to the Bukit Timah Railway Station and various parts along the KTM railway tracks on 4 Jun 2011. I do not know if you would ever experience these places like I did?

At about 8 a.m. on 4 Jun 2011, I reached the Bukit Timah Railway Station with Bel, Za and Ade.
It was my first visit to that railway station. I was pleasantly delighted to find a stretch of green land in Singapore.

Did you notice that Singapore was spelt "Singapura" on this sign?

I was more surprised when I saw passengers from the train being given permission to get down from the train. Some of them started walking about the tracks. I later learnt that this very train was stopping at Bukit Timah Railway for an hour to give two other trains the priority to pass.

The railway system works on a one-track system. To prevent the collisions of train along the track, the trains have to exchange key tokens with the station master at Bukit Timah Railway Station to be given the right to move to the next section of the track.
The station will cease operation by 1 July 2011.

Many of the passengers have had fun posing with the train.
Patience pays.
After much waiting, there was a train heading North that was approaching the station.

The station master held a green colour flag in one of his hands and waved it. This waving of the green colour flag served as a signal for the approaching train to move forward.

Do you notice that the train master in the foreground has a ring-like item in his left hand? That is a key token.

After a key-token exchange took place, one of the staff members of the Railway Station was found in the signal room changing the signals.

Soon enough, yet another train approached the station, and in a blinking of the eye, the exchange of key-token took place. I'm sorry that I was not fast enough to capture the exchange of the key-token for you.

This was taken at the waiting area of the station. I shall leave it to you to read your history books to figure out why this station is at this time under the care of the government of Malaysia.

Subsequently, the team and I walked towards the direction of the Rifle Range Road. A kind and helpful gentleman, Jerome Lim, prepared a map with clear suggestions on it for us. Thanks a lot for his help, we were able to find our way along the railway track safely, without losing our way. 

This was taken near King Albert Park. When I was younger, I used to pass by the sign "Malayan Railway Bukit Timah Railway Station" on my bus rides to the National University of Singapore almost every weekday. I did not know that the sign was pointing to a treasure trove of rustic charm until 4 Jun 2011!

Are you feeling excited to see this Truss Bridge that spans across Dunearn Road and Bukit Timah Road?
I hope it is still in existence in your time?

Morning glories.

This was taken along the Rifle Range Road. I love listening to the sounds of Nature throughout the excursion.


Nature, I realised, is more precious than gold. Then again, the values of the decision-makers and the people do play a bigger role in deciding what is of greater value.

There was a rain that day. After the rain, we ventured nearby this Truss Bridge that was near the Railway Mall.
We were very cautious. Other than making sure we know the train schedules well, we had to be mindful to be at least three metres away from the railway tracks at all times.
You see, the trains move very rapidly and it was almost impossible to hear or see an approaching train because of the noisy road traffic and a nearby bend of the railway track.

Thanks to Belinda, I have learnt to take a nice photograph of this butterfly to share with all of you.

We travelled to Choa Chu Kang Road where there was a wide level crossing. We waited more than two hours to see a train passing by the level crossing.

Near the level crossing along Choa Chu Kang Road.

My reward for being patient was this photograph of an approaching train that will soon travelling pass the level  crossing across Choa Chu Kang Road. We asked for and obtained permission to witness the train passing by.

And the train was on its way to the north.

As you read this letter, you could have been very aware that your great-great-great grandmother has never been a train enthusiast. I enjoyed the train rides that I had taken across parts of Scotland when I was there for a short trip in my mid-twenties. The reason that the train rides were so special across Scotland were the scenic views of the countryside.

However, for many years, I could not imagine myself taking a train ride across Singapore, from the south to the north and then up to Malaysia. Would it be simply concrete and magnificent buildings that I would see along the way?


Thankfully, this was a misconception of mine. After reading articles written by Jerome Lim of the blog entitled The Long and Winding Road and after visiting various parts of the railway line in Singapore (from the Bukit Timah Railway Station to Choa Chu Kang Road), I felt grateful that somehow, in this country of mine, I could still have a chance to enjoy a glimpse of the charming rural landscape stretching for miles. I thought that the people who have made this possible have a deep sense of wisdom and respect for the land, whether or not they know what they are doing.

Hillview area. Behind the Standard Chartered Bank.

By the time you read this letter, I would have been long gone from the face of this Earth. I now wonder, if you could tell your predecessors what you hope we could preserve for you today, so that you could experience them decades later, what would you have ask for?


In the distant past, people had built grand cathedrals not because they could ever use them. They had built them for the benefit of their future generations. I hope I could play my humble part to shape the better world that all of you will be living in. I am only one voice. Then again, I could be part of a larger collective.

In land-scarce Singapore, my dearest great-great-great-grandchildren, would you have wished that your predecessors had removed a stretch of railway track to build modern buildings and housing in the name of progress, or had preserved a humble stretch of scenic railway track so that you could somehow reminisce how much Singapore has progressed while maintaining a deep connection with its past and a respect for Nature?

Bukit Timah Railway Station.

Maybe you may just think I am simply sharing some old great-great-great-grandmother's stories. Yet, I wish to understand you and your dreams. What would you hope that we could do right now so that we could lay the foundations that are necessary to benefit you and your great-great-great-grandchildren?

The hibiscus that I saw along the railway track, nurtured by a pair of caring hands.

Before I end this letter, I gave my support by liking the Green Corridor's Facebook page, and hope that this will make a little difference.


With love,
Your great-great-great-grandmother.

9 comments:

mamarose said...

My grandchildren will miss saying "goodbye" to the trains when they stop running:((. They have been delighting the kids in the evenings!

oceanskies79 said...

Dear Mamarose, thank you for your comments. Yes, I believe your grandchildren will dearly remember the trains and the delights that the trains bring.

Icemoon said...

Wow PY, this is a very meaningful letter. I hope your great great .. great descendants will find it, if not in your personal collection, at least in Google :)

oceanskies79 said...

Icemoon: Thank you for your encouragements. The best gift will be for my great great descendants to enjoy the beauty of untouched green-land and Nature in urbanised Singapore. Quality life for our descendants starts with us today.

EastCoastLife said...

I miss saying my good-byes to the last train as I was busy.

It is with much envy that I read your post about the green railway tracks. I have to see it for myself before it is gone forever.

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Eastcoastlife, thank you for sharing your thoughts. It was rather sad to see trains stop passing by the Bukit Timah Railway station.

You may find walking maps about the tracks here: http://www.thegreencorridor.org/2011/07/07/overview-map-of-railway/.

"From 1 to 17 Jul 2011, the entire line of railway tracks will be open to public for 2 weeks, except for some localised areas.

After 17 Jul 2011, a 3 km stretch of railway tracks from Rifle Range Road to the Rail Mall will continue to be open to public till 31 Jul 2011." (view source))

Based on feedback and the several treks along the railway tracks I have done, you may like to visit the Bukit Timah Station, and trek along from Bt Timah Station to the Truss Bridge that ends at the start of Rifle Range Road. Then if you find it manageable, you can walk back to Bt Timah Station and continue till the Holland Rd Bridge.

Many also like the section from Sungei Kadut Ave to Kranji, but this is preferably done on a cloudy and fine day please.

A few have told me that the stretch from Kampong Bahru Rd to Jln Hang Jebat can be rather tough for the feet because the gravel are sharp and large. Furthermore, there is limited scenic views along this stretch. So unless this stretch is personally significant to you, you may wish to give this part a miss.

francis siew said...

Pei Yun,claire leow told me to read this particular blog. Highly recommended she said .... glad i took the time to read.

francis siew

oceanskies79 said...

Thanks a lot Francis!

Anonymous said...

pei yun,

did you have to get permission to walk the railway while the trains were still running?