Singapore Railway

There are two set of railways in Singapore; one northbound towards Malaysia (known as North-South Line) and the other is westwards to Jurong (Jurong Line). Malaysia railway operator Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM)’s North-South Line, also known as West Coast Line, runs along the western coast of Peninsula Malaysia from Padang Besar to Singapore.

The total length of the railway system in Singapore is about 40km; 26km belongs to the northbound railway whereas the Jurong railway is 14km long.

North-South Line – Bukit Timah Railway Station

Constructed in 1902, the Bukit Timah Railway Station opened in 1915 as part of the Singapore-Kranji railway system. One end of the line, also known as Singapore Government Railway, ran though Cuppage Road, Newton Circus and Cluny Road to Tank Road Terminal. The other end was connected to Malaysia via Kranji and Woodlands.

The government of Federal Malay States purchased the entire Singapore-Kranji Line in 1918 for a sum of $4.13 million. It was subsequently owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB).

After the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was completed in 1932 and part of Singapore-Kranji Line (Bukit Timah to Tank Road Terminal) was dismantled in 1939, the Bukit Timah Railway Station gradually lost its importance. After 1940, passengers could no longer board the train at this station as it was used as a passing loop station.

When the Jurong Line became operational in 1965, Bukit Timah Railway Station acted as a freight interchange until the early nineties. From 1993 to 2011, trains have sped by without stopping here. There are still daily exchanges of tokens between the trains and the station masters. The tokens serve as proofs of authority that the trains are on the right tracks and are allowed to continue from Bukit Timah.

This cast iron railway bridge allows the trains to travel above the busy Bukit Timah-Dunearn Road.

In April 2011, the government announced that the conservation of the Bukit Timah Railway Station.

North-South Line – Rifle Range Road

The railway from Bukit Timah extended its route northwards along Rifle Range Road, Upper Bukit Timah Road, Hillview, Bukit Panjang, Woodlands Road, through Kranji and ultimately to the Causeway.

The entire North-South Line is about 950km and the starting point is at Butterworth of Penang. The yellow number sign represents the distance from the starting point, thus the one shown in the picture above tells us it is 772km from Butterworth. It is also 750m from the Bukit Timah Railway Station (which has the 772.75 sign).

This stretch of Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) was constructed over the railway in the early eighties.

The speed of the train is limited to 75 km per hour.

North-South Line – Hillview

The north-bound train continues its journey past Bukit Timah Hill and Hillview estate. Another magnificent cast iron bridge spans over Upper Bukit Timah Road.

North-South Line – Bukit Panjang

Passing by Singapore’s Ministry of Defence at Bukit Gombak, the train runs along the long Upper Bukit Timah Road and will soon approach Bukit Panjang.

The tracks cut through a rather busy Choa Chu Kang Road and is near the junction where Upper Bukit Timah Road meets Bukit Panjang Road and Woodlands Road.

The area is not hilly enough to build a bridge, thus barrier system completed with traffic lights are set up here. A KTM personnel will activate the barriers when a train is approaching, stopping all traffic on both sides of the road.

North-South Line – Choa Chua Kang

One more set of barriers, supervised by another KTM personnel, is stationed at Stagmont Ring, which links Woodlands Road to the new town of Choa Chu Kang.

North-South Line – Kranji

Almost reaching the causeway, the train skirts past Kranji industrial area. which has  a pair of gates at the interception of Kranji Road and the railway.

One more KTM railway staff is responsible for activating the gates everyday for the trains to pass through.

This sign tells us it is about 761.25km from Butterworth, the starting point of KTM’s North-South Line. It is also 11.5km from Bukit Timah Railway Station.

Jurong Line – Clementi/Sunset Way

In 1965, the 14-km Jurong railway was completed for trains to carry cargoes to the Jurong industrial area. Passing by warehouses, refineries and plants, the line ended at one of the ports in Jurong. However, its importance declined rapidly due to low usage, which finally led to its defunct in the late eighties after Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) was built.

This short iron cast bridge spans over Sunset Way. Its railway, which was branched off from Bukit Timah Railway Station, was already dismantled.

The railway tracks in the other direction, though, are still intact on a tiny hill at Clementi Street 14, but are not easily visible with the overgrown weeds.

Extending over Sungei Ulu Pandan, this magnificent iron bridge is about 5m tall and connect the Jurong Line westward towards Teban Gardens.

Forgotten over the years and without maintenance, the iron tracks have rust all over them and the wooden planks have started rotting due to daily exposure to sun and rain. Also covered by weeds and vines, it is quite a dangerous place for anyone who attempts to explore it.

The westward railway tracks were laid along Sungei Ulu Pandan, and passed under the flyover of Clementi Avenue 6.

Near the Singapore Buddhist Youth Mission, a stretch of the railway is totally buried underground, before it re-emerges near Commonwealth Avenue West flyover.

Thick overgrowth has covered certain parts of the forgotten tracks. Even some small trees have managed to grow in between the tracks.

The area is more lively now with the new Ulu Pandan Park Connector just beside the tracks.

As the railway continues its journey to the west, it cuts through a private estate known as Faber Estate.

With AYE running parallel to it, the railway soon reaches Sungei Ulu Pandan once again, crossing the river in a smaller bridge compared to the one at Sunset Way.

Near Teban Flyover, lands were raised and tunnels were constructed over the railway tracks so as to allow the continuation of AYE.

However, the iron tracks were no longer around as they have been dismantled and removed recently.

The tracks formerly ran along Teban Gardens Crescent before reaching Penjuru Road.

The removed railway tracks have left its marks on Penjuru Road. This should be a railway-road junction for a period of time before the tracks were removed, thus resulting in the different colour tones of the tarmac.

Just beside the road, a defunct railway traffic light stands lonely in the middle of very dense undergrowth, but the tracks can no longer be seen.

After Penjuru Road, the railway spans over Sungei Bajau Kanan, with AYE running by its side once again.

Before hitting Jurong Port Road, the railway flies over a small canal which is a small branch off Sungei Bajau Kanan.

The railway splits after Jurong Port Road; one to Jurong Port and the other leads to Shipyard Road, passing under the roundabout junction between Jurong Pier Road and Jalan Buroh.

The tunnel at the roundabout junction is currently covered with thick vegetation.

The railway makes its way over the last bridge of its Jurong journey at Tanjong Kling. The bridge is built over Sungei Kajau.

The last visible tracks are found near Shipyard Road, before they disappear in the restricted compounds of Exxon Mobil.

Published: 08 April 2011

Updated: 12 August 2011

30 Responses to Singapore Railway

  1. grightnow says:

    Thanks for the great journey into KTM history in Singapore. I will dearly miss the old train station at Tanjong Pagar as it was my first and last ride some 25 years ago. More so about the fish head curry there! Thanks for documenting this piece of history! Cheers.

  2. Yeo Hock Yew says:

    Dear Sirs,
    Thank you for this gallery of the old railway lines, a precious bit of our history.
    I particularly am grateful for the section showing the Jurong Line – Clementi/Sunset Way. Though it is tucked away in the corner of our mind many of us have forgotten and neglected it.
    Your effort in conserving these memories therefore is much appreciated.

    Yeo Hock Yew
    ( . . . . always remembering the sound of the outward bound)

  3. adeline says:

    hi, do you know where does the whole railway tracks passes through? like which estates does the train tracks passes through or sth….?

  4. Vic says:

    I was an ex- resident at the Sunset Way Estate for 20 years. Although the railway line passed in front of my Block, I had heard and seen the train passing by on less than 10 occasions. Your article and graphics certainly rekindled some fond memories of my time there. Thank you for the nostalgia.

  5. A rare photo (year 1913) of an overhead railway bridge at Orchard Road (towards Tank Road Terminus)

    The tracks were dismantled by 1932.

  6. Peter Dunlop says:

    Whoops! The bridges are made of steel and not cast iron which is a very brittle material. Please add photos of the old route along Duxton Plain Park and beneath Neil Road as well as. Did KTM also own the lines to Jurong?

    • Yes, KTM also owned the Jurong lines which most of it had already been dismantled last year after the handing over.
      I also read that there were railway lines at Joo Chiat and Loyang (both in the east of Singapore but probably owned by private corporations), but there are little or no traces of the tracks left today.

      • Khairul Nizam says:

        The ones in Loyang were built by the British Army to transport ordnance to the guns around the Changi area. There were railway tracks on Pulau Tekong as well for the same purpose.

  7. Alphonse J Anthony says:

    I lived in Monks Hill Terrace, Newton from 1949 – 1964, and there were traces of the railway track running on the vacant land along Clemenceau Avenue towards Newton Circus. We used to fly kites on this vacant land, and yearly Chinese Woyangs were erected and staged there.aljiraj

  8. Melissa says:

    WOW! CONGRATS on actually documenting the journey of this “lost track”! I feel like I have travelled the journey, imagining how it would’ve been in those days! Sigh, it is indeed so sad to see so much of our heritage go, but thanks to people like you, and blogs like yours, we can keep our memories intact! Once again a BIG thank you!

  9. The railway between Singapore and Malaya was linked up one year after the completion of the causeway in 1923.

  10. SINGAPORE – Demolition work on 11 small buildings and structures near the former Bukit Timah Railway Station has started and is expected to be completed next month, said the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

    Among these are former work stations of railway workers located at Bukit Gombak, Stagmont Ring, Sungei Kadut, Blackmore Drive and Tanglin Halt. The SLA said that these “gate huts” were assessed to be structurally unsound and are being demolished for safety reasons.

    Meanwhile, the SLA is also working with relevant agencies to identify plots to erect temporary structures such as rest stops and rain shelters for the public along the Rail Corridor.

    The former tracks on which the Malayan Railways ran its trains since 1903 until July last year has drawn visitors since the land reverted to the State. Since April, 28 applications to hold activities along the Rail Corridor have been approved, it said.

    Channel NewsAsia
    26/12/2012

    • slmka says:

      2 Buildings near Junction 10 (former Ten Miles), 3 Buildings at Bukit Gombak Camp entrance are still around temporary. But heavily infested with mosquito, so please take caution when visiting these places.

    • redondogirl says:

      Is there a map of where these 11 small buildings and structures use to be?

  11. val says:

    Is the railway trail still open to the public for cycling or walking?

  12. De AnDA says:

    I admire your work. I’m sure you’re doing this probono. You’re giving a good historical lecture to your countrymen here. More power to you!

  13. Skeg says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for this. Wonderful nation, Singapore — and nice to know there is some reverence for the past. Thrilled to take the ‘old’ KL to SG train last year, and that will be missed too.

  14. stanley tan says:

    I have been a ktm railway fan in S’pore for the past 30 years, it’s really upset to see those photos & the closure of the line 2 years ago. Now more & more traces of Jurong are disappearing under development.

  15. Trace S’pore’s rail history on bus, foot
    New heritage trail aims to emphasise importance of friendship, self-reliance

    By Yeo Sam Jo

    The Straits Times
    Published on Aug 31, 2013

    BEHIND the quiet facade of the now-defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station lies a little-known dream that was never realised: The British once had a vision to extend the Malayan railway network from Singapore all the way to France.

    This is one piece of esoteric trivia that can be picked up on a new educational trail launched yesterday. Called “Rail Corridor: Our Journey Together Through the Power of Friendship”, it is the last in a series of five Resilience Trails focusing on Singapore’s historic moments and achievements.

    Conceived by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Singapore History Consultants, the trail traces landmarks along the old rail corridor that runs through Singapore to Johor, emphasising the importance of friendship and self-reliance.

    For example, at Woodlands Waterfront, where the trail starts, participants can see Singapore and Malaysia’s mutual dependency tangibly manifested in the water pipes, the railway and the Causeway.

    Participants also travel along Woodlands Road and Bukit Timah Road, which was the route that the Japanese used to advance on the Allied forces during World War II. The trail also includes a section between Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Mayfair Park estate, where participants can glimpse remnants of the communal kampung lifestyle.

    In all, the 30km journey on bus and foot takes four to five hours to complete, and ends at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station in the south.

    Some 360 students from 22 schools were the first to experience the trail yesterday, which was launched by Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. “It is through trails like this that we are able to learn about Singapore’s history, culture and heritage in a more meaningful and engaging way,” Mr Wong said.

    History teacher Samuel Goh, 28, who was there with his students, said: “I think it was good learning for the kids. It connected them to many things they didn’t know about their own heritage and past.”

    Those interested in the Resilience Trails may find out more at http://www.shc.com.sg

  16. Peter Tame says:

    Wonderful memories. The pic of the bridge across Orchard Road reminded me of an English style pub and restaurant opposite the old Singapore Cold Storage. Can anyone remember it’s name? I think the upstairs restaurant was called The Churchill Room. It was owned by the people who owned the Tangle Inn and the Captain’s Cabin at Serangoon Garden.

  17. The older version of the KTM signage at Bukit Timah


    (Photo credit: PictureSG)

  18. azrialiasbob says:

    Singapore government were quite good on preserving the past history. Not like Malaysia. I’m one of Malaysian younger generation who really love history. As all you know KTMB just finish their double track project from Ipoh To Padang Besar. To my regret most of railway were dissembled and iron bridge were sold to “besi buruk” or scrap yard. I live in Penang, and now amid on fighting to preserve the iron bridge between on Sungai Muda interlink the Penang and Kedah state. Your blog really inspired me for this campaign.

  19. Geoffrey Hansen says:

    Thanks for posting this information. I recently visited Singapore and stayed adjective to Orchard Road so I am interested in the Tank Road Station and Orchard Road crossing. Did they close in 1932 and where could I found out more information and pictures?

    Also was any consideration given to using the railway for local transport after 2011 and/or possibly converting it to an MRT line?

  20. Sisicious says:

    May I know if all these railways are demolished? Because I would like to go down to one of them to take photos. And may I know how to go clementi railway? Thank you

  21. Dave says:

    Great photos, and thanks for taking the effort to document the whole line.

    I made it halfway, from Bukit Timah to as close as I could get to Tanjong Pagar (and then to the old Singapura Station along the remaining roads) the other day, the link lives here:

    http://saltwater.typepad.com/take_two/2014/06/bukit-timah-to-tanjong-pagar-on-foot.html

    If anyone wants original photos (or many others I took not on the blog), let me know and I’m happy to forward them across.

    Thanks also for the detail on the old Jurong Railway – this was the first time I’ve heard a railway has passed via Orchard and along Bukit Timah Road previously. We currently live near Newton and live and breath the construction of the DTL on a daily basis.

  22. cheryl says:

    May I know how to visit these places like how can I get there?

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