Blog

Blog Picture.jpg
Search

It has been 10 years since the last train pulled out of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station on the night of 30 June 2011, ending a 108-year era of rail in Singapore.


Thereafter, the southern terminus of the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) West Coast Railway Line was moved from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands, at the northern edge of Singapore Island. KTM trains no longer ran across the width of the city-state.


Ten years on, most of the railway tracks in Singapore are gone, and the former KTM land is now the Rail Corridor. To commemorate 10 years since 30 June 2011, I unearthed some photos I took with a cheap camera on that historic night.


The beautiful exterior of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

The station staff were celebrities that night. This guy posed for photographs like a star.

What was left of the canteen.

I wonder what became of this man.

Waiting for the last train out. I had a good view because I was standing on a chair I had taken from the canteen. That chair was my best friend that night. I later decided to put this photo in my book, Jalan Singapura.

It was like a carnival. Everyone was excited and in great spirits. We all knew we were part of a historic moment.

After the last train left at around 11pm, the crowd spilled onto the tracks.

We were free to walk all around the place, including the immigration and customs areas. The staff did not care, because their job here in Tanjong Pagar was done.

I love this sign - the font, the colours, the Malay name.

People were in no hurry to head home that night.

The interior of the station building, with its murals. I’m glad this building is conserved.

The former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station will be integrated with the future Cantonment MRT Station of the Circle Line Stage 6, which will open in 2026. I can’t wait to be back inside the historic building to relieve the magical night of 30 June 2011.

In 2008, the International Court of Justice ruled that the island of Pedra Branca (“White Rock” in Portuguese) belonged to Singapore, not Malaysia, ending a 29-year-old territorial dispute between the two neighbours over the rocky outcrop known to sailors for centuries as a hazardous landmark for ships.


A reminder of how far Pedra Branca is from the rest of Singapore and its islands - it is 44 kilometres out in the South China Sea.

Base picture credit: Google Maps.

Now, Singapore’s legal victory has paid rich dividends... in the arena of heritage.


Two shipwrecks have been excavated from the waters surrounding Pedra Branca. The first was discovered in 2016, about 100 metres northwest of the island. The second, that of India-built merchant vessel Shah Munchah, which sank in 1796, was uncovered in 2019, 300 metres east of the island. Both carried Chinese ceramics as their primary cargo; the former had artefacts dating to the 14th century, the latter, artefacts dating to the late 18th century.


What a find!

Locations of the two shipwrecks. Credit: The Straits Times.
From the shipwrecks: Yuan Dynasty-era blue-and-white porcelain. Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
More blue-and-white porcelain. Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
Longquan celadon dishes, which have a green glaze. Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
Artefacts include (clockwise from top left) a glass bottle stopper, a betel nut cutter, copper-alloy beads, agate medallions, a bronze mortar, glass beads, a copper-alloy bracelet, and a gold tag with Armenian script. Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
Figurines include those of (from left) a Chinese couple, a dog, and a Qingbai figurine of a horse with a rider wearing a scholar’s headgear. Credit: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

There have been archaeological finds in Singapore dating as far back as the 14th century, but they all have been on land, in places such as Fort Canning Hill, the Padang, and Empress Place. The two ships are a first for Singapore’s waters (and hopefully not the last).


The 14th-century wreck will add a tremendous amount to knowledge of 14th-century Singapore, and both wrecks will add to the maritime history of Singapore in the 14th and 18th centuries, periods falling outside that of “modern” Singapore (1819 to the present). I can only imagine how excited maritime history researchers must be feeling right now!


Looking forward to further discoveries in the waters around Singapore’s newest piece of territory, and to seeing the priceless artefacts go on display in our museums very soon.

24 May 2021 will go down as an ignominious date in the annals of Malaysian rail history - two Light Rail Transit (LRT) trains collided that evening in an underground tunnel along the nation’s busiest train line, Kuala Lumpur’s Kelana Jaya LRT Line. It was the Malaysia LRT system’s first accident in its 23-year history.


The 37-station LRT line is the Klang Valley’s first fully automated and driverless rail system - but human error contributed to the accident.


It started with an empty train on a test run timing out as it headed towards a depot, its automatic system failing.


Its driver manually drove the faulty train in the wrong direction, against the flow of traffic, causing a head-on collision with a driverless train ferrying 213 passengers between KLCC and Kampung Baru stations.


In all, 166 sustained light injuries, while 47 had serious injuries. Videos and photos of the accident and injured passengers circulated on social media.

Credit: AFP.
Credit: The Reader's Journal.
One of the damaged trains. Credit: Malay Mail.

Consequently, chairman of state-owned LRT operator Prasarana Malaysia, Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, was sacked.


Condolences to the casualties of the disaster.


A train accident is one of the worst things that can happen to a train operator or line. An accident is one accident too many. In an instant, all previous goodwill built up - even over decades - will be wiped out.


In this day and age, with advanced technology, the emphasis on safety, and the dependence of so many on rail for essential transport, serious accidents such as head-on collisions with packed trains just isn’t acceptable at all.


As for Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit system, it has had just two train collisions. The first one took place on 5 August 1993 between Buona Vista and Clementi stations (that was before Dover station was built between them), causing 156 injuries. The second one occurred on 15 November 2017 at Joo Koon station, causing 38 injuries. But as mentioned earlier, a collision is one collision too many.

The 15 November 2017 train collision at Joo Koon station. Credit: New Straits Times.