Thursday, 30 June 2011 marked a very sad day – the last day of the Singapore Sector of the Malayan Railway after 108 years of operations since 1903 as specified by the Malaysia–Singapore Points of Agreement Supplement 2010. From 1 July 2011 onwards, all KTM Intercity trains would terminate at Woodlands Train Checkpoint, with the immigration checkpoint’s platform edge just around 350 meters away from the Straits of Johor.
As two of my pictures of the KTM Singapore Sector were chosen to be published in KTM’s Tanjong Pagar Railway Station – A History In Remembrance coffee table book, I was invited by KTM Berhad to be on the very last train departing from Tanjung Pagar Railway Station. No, not the last Senandung Sutera which the public is on, but on the actual very last train ever – the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up driven by none other than His Majesty DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor.
Before I begin, let me say that this has been the hardest article to write on RailTravel Station so far despite being 8 years ago and despite remembering every moment of the last evening of Tanjung Pagar Railway Station like it was yesterday.
However, with the recent news of the RTS being suspended making me the “only RTS” linking Singapore and Malaysia, and on RailTravel Station’s 5th Anniversary which I can’t believe I could have made it this far and long, I decided that it’s time to pen this down for proper history since there has been plenty of “know-it-alls” since the announcement of the closure and no one trusted a train-loving teenager’s real railway facts in 2011.
I got to Tanjung Pagar Railway Station only in the evening as I spent the day trainspotting for the very last time at Bukit Timah Railway Station before heading home to get changed to formal wear and my packed bag for the journey to Kuala Lumpur. It would have been probably just an ASC ride with lots of staff returning to KL, but the journey itself would have been priceless.
The special rake for the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up had already arrived at Platform 3, featuring SK1 “Puteri Saadong”.
The emptied out car park behind Platform 1.
A team from probably the Johor Royal Press Office had already arrived with a car still bearing the Kembara Mahkota Johor 2010 sticker, the annual motorcycling event in which His Majesty DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor first drove a train around Johor instead after getting his KTMB Locomotive License (Sijil Kelayakan Pemandu Kanan Lokomotif KTMB).
The emptied-out M. Hasan Railway Station Canteen on Platform 1.
The last Shuttle 64up for Gemas oddly stopping way ahead of Platform 2.
I headed out of the platform as the crowd got a little too big just to get a picture of the Shuttle 64up.
The calm driveway before the storm.
I was actually involved in the mini-exhibition at Tanjung Pagar Railway Station helping out at the Malayan Railway Fan Club’s (MRFC) booth, bringing my model KTM trains to be displayed at the exhibition held from 28 to 30 June 2011.
Unfortunately, the exhibition was cleared out before I got to Tanjung Pagar Railway Station this evening despite being told that the exhibition would last till the last train departure, and I could not find my trains kept anywhere for me in the station.
So in more ways that one, I said goodbye to the railways in Singapore on 30 June 2011 – the real railway and my own layout which had been on display at Bukit Timah Railway Station and Tanjung Pagar Railway Station during the last days of the Singapore Sector of the Malayan Railway.
The Singapore Sector of the Malayan Railways and my own trains which sacrificed for the final days making KTM known to the public (a bit too late though) will never be forgotten.
As the active Tanjung Pagar Railway Station saw her last sunset, the chairs for His Majesty DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor and his entourage were set up for a photo-taking session in front of the Tanjung Pagar Railway Station facade.
The arrival of His Majesty DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor.
The crowd just swarmed forward to catch a glimpse of DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail.
DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail‘s vehicle which his entourage drove from Johor Bahru.
The Johor Sultanate’s emblem as the registration plate of the vehicle.
After the photo-taking session, DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail heads to the platform.
By this time, crowd control measures at Platform 1 needed to be in place before the arrival of the very last train into Tanjung Pagar Railway Station – 15dn Ekspres Sinaran Timur from Tumpat.
After alighting the last passengers into Tanjung Pagar Railway Station, I thought the locomotive moved forward to use the headshunt for the very last time. However, the distance from the buffer stop was worryingly close – this might be the first time I’ve seen a YDM4 do this in Tanjung Pagar.
From the departure platform as I got ready to standby for the 1030up, I saw that the 15dn Ekspres Sinaran Timur had moved forward into the headshunt without decoupling. This is probably the only photo in history whereby the entire train had moved forward into the headshunt and even the coaches had passed the fouling point. This might also be the only train in 108 years to do this.
YDM 6543 is now officially the last inch of rolling stock and motive power to depart on top of the tracks as close to the hydraulic buffer stop in Singapore. Some of her siblings have since started their new life in Cambodia, at the other true end of the ASEAN meter-gauge railway reaching till Sihanoukville.
The shuttered gates of the departure platform as the last 24up Senandung Sutera had departed. If you were wondering how I managed to get all these weird angles in the station where no public can get to, well, I had a pin from KTM which I was wearing to access the 1030up.
There were so many Station Masters and porters on duty on the last day that I couldn’t figure out who ranked as what during operations. But this Station Master donned his old beige uniform for the last journey out, armed with a bell to signify departure – one that has not been in use at Tanjung Pagar Railway Station for a long time.
It was a bittersweet moment to get access to the platform before anyone else. Apparently there was also a last-minute switch from the departure platform of Platform 3 to the arrival platform of Platform 1. Having the immigration counters closed after the 24up Senandung Sutera had departed means I couldn’t clear Malaysian immigration and thus was unable to get to KL without some serious border issues.
Blue Tiger 26 Class 26108 “Tanjung Kupang” leads the last train out of Tanjung Pagar, the same locomotive which DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail drove while learning the ropes of driving a locomotive before getting his license and during KMJ 2010.
26108 “Tanjung Kupang” leads the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up, the last ever train to depart from Malaysian soil in Singapore, combined with the empty rake of 15dn. Following this train, the railway land from Tanjung Pagar to Kranji will revert to Singapore ownership.
The consist of the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up is as follows:
After the media swarmed in, there was no way to get a good picture of Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up any more.
Locomotive drivers who had been with DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail since his learning how to drive the Blue Tiger readies the cab for him.
Here’s what’s so special about the train number 1030up. (This explanation is valid from the timetable change since 1 October 2010.)
The 30-series of train numbering in KTM has only been in use for the Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express luxury train (32up and 33dn), and the SRT then-International Express from Bangkok to Butterworth (35dn and 36up). Thus, it could be said that the 30-series of train numbers could be for either international trains of other companies hauled by KTM, friendship trains, or higher-class trains than regular 1 to 10-series day express trains or 20-series night express trains.
The 1000-series of train numbering in KTM, however, is a bit more rare. Any train with 10xx up or dn as the train number is usually not for regular passenger service, chartered or of a very high priority. In fact, in KTM’s heyday where additional trains are ran during holiday periods and KTM added a 10 in front of public train numbers to signify such additional trains eg. 12up Senandung Malam to 1012up for the additional night train, the train always bore the name of Ekspres Khas or Special Express rather than something simpler like “Tambahan”, or, boringly nowadays, “Tren Wherever-Wherever”.
Thus, to use 1030up as the last train’s number represents the highest of highest priority and class of train running on the track at any point of time. A fitting special train number to mark the end of 108 years of Singapore railway history driven by DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail.
DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail boarding 26108 “Tanjung Kupang” for the first and last time at Tanjung Pagar Railway Station.
DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail waving goodbye to everyone at the platform.
Mohd Fazil, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications donned in the Station Master’s uniform readies the train from the cab. He also told me to board the train quickly as the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up was ready for departure.
The Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up departed from Tanjung Pagar Railway Station at 11.02pm – 2 minutes delayed, marking an end of an era, with lots of historical moments.
The Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up is, to my knowledge, the only train ever to depart with passengers from the arrival platform of Platform 1. This actually makes the 24up Senandung Sutera the last train to depart from Platform 2, the actual departure platform, because of this strange arrangement to combine the rake with the 15dn empty rake. And because of this, the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up is, again to my knowledge, the only train ever to depart without Malaysian immigration clearance for everyone ever since immigration was implemented between Malaysia and Singapore at Tanjung Pagar Railway Station after Singapore was ejected from Malaysia. Malaysians do not need to have their passports scanned (at that time) to enter Malaysia, so there was no issues with all of the passengers except for me, the only Singaporean who was also heading to KL with the rest of the KTM staff. That wasn’t going to happen after all.
Passing under the CTE viaducts for the last time.
Heading to Malaysia along the AYE. The next time I’m doing this is on the AYE itself.
Taking a left curve after passing under Queensway.
Passing by Biopolis and Tanglin Halt, a scary area to drive a train along due to the many illegal pedestrian crossings and tall grass here. You can Google how many accidents have happened on this stretch before.
Also, the Tanglin Halt that I’m speaking about here is not the housing estate but the actual Tanglin Railway Halt as explained by fellow railway fan Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong here:
Passing under the East West Line viaducts.
Passing by Buona Vista MRT Station.
Passing by Ghim Moh.
Passing through the Inner Home signal of Bukit Timah for the last time.
Entering Bukit Timah Railway Station‘s platform.
Random people on the platform waving goodbye to the train. Notice that the token pouch for the very last Tanjung Pagar – Bukit Timah token is missing from the token catcher – the last token was also never received by Bukit Timah Railway Station, rendering the section from Tanjung Pagar to Bukit Timah forever blocked.
I think that this is the biggest crowd Bukit Timah Railway Station has ever seen since its inception.
The huge swarm of people also rendered it impossible to see the Station Master properly. The last Bukit Timah – Woodlands token was however taken by the locomotive driver on duty as DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail‘s fireman.
The Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up passed through Bukit Timah Railway Station at 11.19pm – 7 minutes delayed.
A video of the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up passing through Bukit Timah Railway Station.
Leaving Bukit Timah Railway Station by train for the last time, heading onto Bridge 1871 across Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road.
Curving along Rifle Range Road.
Passing by Gombak Gate outside MINDEF HQ for the last time.
Here on, I was interviewed by a media outlet who didn’t use the clip after all. What a terrible waste as I missed 3 railway crossings.
Passing by the quaintest railway crossing in Singapore to me, Kranji Gate. The width of the railway crossing consists of just one road lane. As such, the traffic lights turned red constantly throughout the day so as to regulate the two-way traffic passing through the crossing, one way at a time. Of course, if a train is coming through, the lights turn red on both sides, controlled by the gate man. The road has since been widened after the closure of the railway.
Passing through the last active railway crossing in Singapore.
As I am a good citizen, I did not take any photos in Woodlands Train Checkpoint. However, it was heartbreaking to see maintenance staff ready at the new ending point of the line just as the train entered the station area and the point to the line for the platform to fence it off and to prepare the track for a new buffer stop so quickly.
The Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up arrived at Woodlands CIQ at 11.45pm – 15 minutes delayed.
It is also not known if the last Bukit Timah – Woodlands token was returned to Woodlands CIQ.
As I did not go through Malaysia immigration at Tanjong Pagar, I had to tell the immigration officer going through the manifest not to clear me out of Singapore as I needed to head out of the checkpoint since I did not enter Malaysia yet. That went without a hitch.
It was indeed a bittersweet moment to be on the last train out of Singapore (which is what is in the KTM ticketing system for Tanjung Pagar Railway Station), yet having the knowledge that it is well and truly the last one and that I’ll never be able to get another train from Malaysia to Tanjong Pagar ever again.
Despite having not any photos at Woodlands Train Checkpoint and rather upset at the fact that I can’t go to KL with 1030up, I was quite elated when DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ismail acknowledged my greeting personally with a wave as I slightly bowed and smiled when passing by him through the new glass (?) panels as I was heading out of Woodlands Train Checkpoint in the modified exit lane for the last time (now on the boarding lane towards Singapore immigration), as he walked in the reverse direction past the customs channel.
The last page of Singapore trainspotting on my log book, signed by the second last Station Master of Bukit Timah Railway Station, Pakcik Atan. This page of my book has since been signed by the last Station Master of Bukit Timah Railway Station, Pakcik Gani after 1 July 2011.
My two signed copies of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station – A History In Remembrance coffee table book.
Don’t worry President Dr Aminuddin Adnan, even if the whole Singapore has forgotten about KTM and the railway in Singapore, I will definitely not, for life.
Overall, (Still ending this article with “overall”. Hmm.) it was both a happy and sad journey on board the Tren Khas Terakhir Stesen Tanjong Pagar 1030up, happy because I met so many friends from KTM from so many departments on a single journey with everyone together, but sad for obvious reasons.
Even up to the arrival at Woodlands Train Checkpoint, the whole journey felt so surreal as it was something so familiar but yet it will never ever happen again. Reality probably only hit me when I went back to Bukit Timah Railway Station a week later to see the whole area half fenced up with the familiar Singapore green wire fences. The whole sight was just depressing, as if the railway station was in jail for a crime it did not commit despite serving its function so well.
Since the closure of the KTM Singapore Sector, my Malaysian stamps in my passport have definitely significantly increased, but unfortunately, it’s really sad to see KTM going downhill ever since the cessation of Singapore services, especially with ticket revenue not in Singapore Dollars any more.
It is slightly upsetting that I have to now enjoy my hobby in a different country every time I would like to go for trainspotting, though this gives me more compulsory rail travel experiences. And every time I go somewhere out, my mind somehow says, why not further. Why not the end of the line? Why not the next buffer stop in Thailand? Why not ASEAN?
It’s like a train which keeps on moving down the line, with the train refusing to stop at a station, without a buffer stop. Or is the train travelling, a station in its own right?
The irony of a RailTravel Station.