tanjong pagar railway station

July 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Heritage, Stories, Transport

By Stephanie, 18 Jun 2011.

With the impending closure of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station at the end of this month, it is little wonder that many Singaporeans and tourists alike have flocked to this majestic building to take a last look of the building in operation before it gets conserved under the Preservation of Monuments Board. Likewise, we were no exceptions as we joined the thousands who have since stepped foot into this station after the release of the news. In fact, both MK and I will be joining many others to be part of a history in the making by purchasing our tickets for the last train ride from Malaysia into Singapore! It’s gonna be exciting! The Green Corridor is also organising a series of nature walks along the railway tracks (including the now defunct Jurong line) over the weekends in the month of June. So, for those who are up for an interesting morning walk, do check out their facebook for updates!

More about its history

“Built between 1929 and 1932 on reclaimed swampland, the station’s inaugural opening was conducted by Governor Sir Cecil Clementi on 2 May 1932. It became the southernmost end of the Malayan Railway, serving the needs of Singapore town, particularly the transport of goods from its harbour. The station became one of the latest of the main terminus along the West Coast Line to be completed and thus had some of several unique designs of its time, both in the mechanics of its system and in the design of the station. Until 18 December 1988, friends and relatives could say their goodbyes at the platform, paying a mere 20 cents.”


The architectural design of Tanjong Pagar Train Station was heavily influenced by Art Deco, as well as a combination of European, Islamic and Oriental styles (if you were to look closely, you will realise that the roof of the station is made of Chinese green tiles, similar to those found in Chinese temples and mansions). The architecture was greatly inspired by Finland’s Helsinki Central Railway Station and the Union Station at Washington DC, USA. If you were wondering if the railway station reminds you of many of the other classical buildings in Singapore, that’s because this station was designed by 1 of the most prominent architecture firm in Singapore - Swan and MacLaren. The firm is also responsible for the colonial design behind Raffles Hotel, Goodwood Park Hotel, Stamford House, Butterfly House at Amber Road (which is now partially demolished to make way for another condominium) and Victorial Memorial Hall. This probably explains why many of us do not feel like we are still in Singapore upon stepping foot into the premises of this grand railway station.

Unless you are extremely blur or in a hurry to catch a train, it is almost impossible for anyone to miss the sight of the 4 imposing white statues located at the facade of the train station. The 4 marble reliefs – bearing the words “Agriculture”, “Commerce”, “Transport” and “Industry” – are sculptured by little-known Italian artist, Angelo Vannetti.

Wanting to gain a better insight of this historical building, my family, MK and myself went on a special tour conducted by the Preservation of Monuments Board (PMB) about 3 weeks back. A lot of the information shared during the short tour could be easily found off the internet but there were definitely some new stuff that I had learnt about this railway station through this tour. For instance, I never knew that the station used to house a 34-rooms station hotel that remained in operation till the mid 1980′s (disclaimer: not too sure about the dates)!

FMSR = Federated Malay States Railways

What used to be a ticket counter for the VIPs is now a police station

One of the most beautiful feature of the train station has to be the 6 mosaic murals located within the main hall. These 6 murals depict the typical Malayan scenes that were significant in the blooming of the economy in Malaysia – tin mining, agriculture and farming, bullock cart transportation, rubber tapping, copra plantation and maritime activities. An impressive display of art for waiting passengers to appreciate!

Do you spot it? The word “Hotel” that is scratched out from the signboard? There used to be a station hotel that was located on the 2nd floor of the train station, which is, unfortunately, currently out-of-bounds to all visitors. Darn. I was really hoping for the chance to explore the ruins and remains of what used to be a glamorous station hotel reserved only for the wealthy and VIP. Back in its heydays, the 34 rooms station hotel was so luxurious that many had even compared it to the world renown Raffles Hotel! Shall imagine how it feels like living within a train station through Nabilah’s adventures of the 2nd floor  here!

According to Infopedia, Mr Lim Jit Chin – the station hotel’s manager – actually received a Guinness Book of Record for being the 2nd-longest serving hotel manager … In the world! WOW. How’s that for being so loyal to a company?!

Had a bowl of baseball soto (Frankly, it is the first time that I have ever heard of this dish – Baseball Soto?!) with the rest of my family. To put it simply, it is a delicious albeit oily dish of gigantic meatball – minced mutton stuffed into a fried potato coquettes – served in soup. My dad loved the dish and bandung drink so much that we joked that he should make it a point to visit the coffeeshop for lunch everyday before it closes for good! For those who are keen to embark on a local foodie trail at the train station, do check out the food reviews at 1 of my fav foodie blog, 365days2play!

Old-school “Hit the Object” with a punching hammer game! Brings back fond memories when my primary school friends and I (yes, it was THAT LONG AGO!) used to hang out in the arcade playing old-school games like this. Then, it was “Hit the Crocodile” with a hammer! Does this game rings a bell?

Businesses closed for good: Transport-related services and businesses that have ceased operations

Soon, even the coffeeshop that is located beside the tracks (a great place for those who like to people-watch!) will be gone. I can’t help but wonder what is in store for these hawkers once the station ceases operation.

Designed by once upon a time major machinery company, Ransomes and Rapier, these hydraulic (aka energy-absorbing) buffer-stops are necessary to prevent an oncoming train from colliding into the station.

The mandatory pictures of the railway tracks and the KTM train

Information sources credit to:


Project 79: A group of students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic is inviting everyone from all walks of life to share their stories and pictures from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Get this right: The top winning entry will get a harinezumi 2++ lomo camera in white! Get your shutter ready, folks! For more details regarding this story contest, do check out their facebook page at this link or drop them an email at project79.np@gmail.com! 🙂

Source credit: the girl at the traffic light junction

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