Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

30 Keppel Rd, Singapore 089059

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station along Keppel Road was used to be the southernmost terminus of Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Berhad (then Federated Malay States Railways - FMSR). The station had been named Keppel Road railway station and Singapore railway station. It was officially opened by the then Governor of Starits Settlements Sir Cecil Clementi Smith on 3 May 1932. The building not only bear witness of Singapore’s trade industry rapid development during colonial years, but also the bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia.

The station was designed by Swan & Maclaren’s architects, H. C. Atkin-Berry, Denis Santry, and D. S. Petrovich, built by French construction firm Brossard and Mopin Ltd from 1929 to 1931 under the supervision of FMSR General Manager and Chief Engineer John Strachan, on a reclaimed land parcel chosen by the British Administration. Before the official opening, the station also hosted Singapore Manufacturers Exhibition in 1932.

The station was strategically located opposite the Tanjong Pagar dock to facilitate the cargo transfer between steamships and trains. The need of the rail system had arose as early as 1860s, but was only fully met after the shift of rail system from Tank Road in 1912 and the construction of the Causeway in 1923. The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is also testimonial to the heyday of rail connection between Singapore, Malaya and Siam.

The station housed two 24-hours eateries, a restaurant and bar, a book store and money changer, a hair salon, and a 34-room station hostel to enhance passengers’ comfort and convenience. The family-run hostel operated by 2nd longest serving hotel manager in the world, Lim Jit Chin, was graced frequently by members of Malaysian royalties in its 6 decades of operation.

Since Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, KTM operated daily between Singapore and Malaysia, however, Malaysia’s ownership of the station and the land initiated decades of negotiations between the 2 states on the immigration control issues. Family and friends were found sending off passengers at the platform after paying a token of 20 cents until stricter control kicked in on 18 December 1988.

The train operation at the station was eventually ceased and the terminal was relocated to Woodlands Checkpoint shortly after the station was gazetted on 8 April 2011, The last train departed at 11pm on 30 June 2011 under extensive media coverage and piloted by Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Ismail, hence marking the end of the station’s 79 years of service.

The station building had went through numerous structural inspection and maintenance, is planned to be revamped into Singapore Railway Museum. The building was occasionally opened to general public exceptionally on several public holidays by Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

The station is a Modern Architecture with a range of influences including the art-deco, neoclassical and integration of local styles of design. The station have impressive palatial scale façade on its 3 sides, primarily along Spottiswoode Park Road and Keppel Road. The station entrance is sheltered by an arched porch roofed with green tiles, resembling the characteristic of local Chinese temple. Each circular eaves tiles and triangular drip tiles are crafted with Chinese word shou meaning longevity and Buddhist swastikas.

In between the arches of the front facade are the four statues of Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry, representative of Malaya’s colonial economy’s pillars, crafted by Italian sculptor C. Rudolfo Nolli or his contemporary, Angelo Vannetti, The four crests above each statues bear the initials F, M, S, and R of the Federated Malay States Railway. The initials and the coats-of-arms of the Federated Malay States and the Straits Settlements are integrated into many parts of the designs, such as the windows.

The station hall has a 21.6m high barrel vault roof ceiling to air the interior. The two long walls of the station contained six murals by British firm Doulton & Co, depicting Malayan economic scenes such as rice planting, rubber tapping, shipping activities, bullock cart transport, copra growing and tin mining. The murals were made up by approximately 9,000 coloured rubber tiles that were manufactured locally by the Singapore Rubber Works. These tiles were also used on the station floor initially until being replaced. The other 2 walls of the hall contain the coats-of-arms of the Federated Malay States and the Straits Settlements.

The platforms are 1200ft long, satisfactory for the longest mail trains of that time. Uniquely, Tanjong Pagar is the only station with buffer stops along the entire KTM railway. The buffer stops were manufactured by Ransomes and Rapier.

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