Taking a stroll down the Rail Corridor — Former KTM tracks

Just talking about the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) trains that once linked Singapore and states in Malaysia would probably bring back great memories. Whilst many of the current generations only recall commuting to the neighbouring country by bus or car, these trains were a hit back in the day. Moreover, they significantly reduced the amount of time needed to undergo customs alongside the endless traffic jams.

Unfortunately, the 108-year-old train service ceased its operations in July 2011. Today, the 24 km-long train tracks are being converted to the Rail Corridor — also known as the green corridor. More so, the corridor aims to create an eco-friendly and accessible walking trail whilst allowing families to reminisce about the former railway stations.

Read on, and we’ll shed some light on the walking route along with the newly opened 4KM Corridor stretch between Hillview and Bukit Timah.

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station


This shot of the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was taken in 2011 before it was closed to the public. Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Opened in 1932, the former Tanjong Pagar Railway Station once served as the southern terminus of the KTM track route. Undeniably, it saddens the local community that such a historic building is being underutilised today.

Nevertheless, the conserved building is slated to return to life as ‘Cantonment station’ on the new Circle Line in 2025.

“The station’s design was modelled after Finland’s Helsinki Central Railway Station, with sculptures by Rudolfo Nolli adorning the facade of the station.” Image and caption: @seancham

As the new train station will be built underground, the heritage-listed building and remnants will remain when it opens up to the public.

On a side note: As the current site is closed for repair works, the starting point of the green corridor begins from somewhere around Bukit Merah, which we’ll share below.

 

The entry point from the central region of Singapore

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

If you are familiar with the famous ABC Brickworks Food Centre located at Jalan Bukit Merah, here’s a perfect location to mark the corridor’s start.

Locate Jalan Kilang Barat which is around the area, set your step tracker app and off you go on a splendid walk whilst immersing in the morning dew and crowing of roosters.

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Tip: Writer Shariffah started off the walk at 7 am, which is also a perfect time for a picturesque sunset shot.

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Along the way, you’re most likely to take notice of such pathways (pictured above) that were built by residents. On weekdays, you’d bump into residents in office wear as well as students who are taking advantage of the trail as an alternative route to work or school.

We must say it’s an excellent escape from the hectic street whilst saving some time needing to cross the traffic lights.

 

Passing through the back alleys of historical landmarks

Travel back in time as you walk by a few historical landmarks down Alexandra and Tanglin Halt estate. This includes reliving Singapore’s war history, which is only made known to the public through heritage trails and thorough research.

Alexandra Hospital

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Known to be the only colonial-style hospital in Singapore, the trail leads you to the back alleys of the 90-year-old Alexandra hospital. It’s amazing just thinking of how the former British military hospital has remained intact despite being a massacre site during the World War II Japanese occupation.

Wessex Estate

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Just across the hospital then overlooks a similar-looking facade, the Wessex Estate. The name ‘Wessex’ came from an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom between the 6th and 10th century before England was unified. As many British servicemen occupied them for their accessibility to nearby military installations, the buildings were slowly named after England’s streets.

Today, the estate remains home to residents from Western countries for its resemblance to their residential units back in their homeland. These colonial-style buildings can also be found in Gillman Barracks, just approximately a 10-minute walk away.

Hang Jebat Mosque

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

As you descent towards Queen’s Close (a 10-minute walk from Queensway Shopping Centre), the trail would lead you to the Hang Jebat Mosque. It started as a surau (mini prayer hall) in 1952, and was initially built for the Malay regiment soldiers living in the vicinity.

The mosque got its name to recognise the Hang Jebat Regiment of the nearby military installation and honour Hang Jebat, one of the five legendary warriors in the Malay folklore.

Entry point from Queen’s Close

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

With Tanglin Halt bound for demolishment in the near future, here’s an alternative route to the green corridor from Queen’s Close. Do keep a lookout for this entrance along the street of the current Queensway Fire Station, which will eventually link up with the rail corridor trail.

Side note: If you intend to drive over, it’s best to start from Alexandra or perhaps park at Tanglin Halt instead.

The talk of the town: Tanglin Halt

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Walking down the trail then leads you to Tanglin Halt, the estate that everyone’s buzzing about in recent years. If you don’t already know, Tanglin Halt’s street name was derived from the Tanglin KTM station, with ‘halt’ referring to the train stopping at the station.

The 4 km walk from the Jalan Kilang Barat entry point would possibly have you reach the estate at approximately 8 am; just in time for a quick breakfast stop. Although its recommended to drop by Tanglin Halt for the local delicacies, if you are feeling a little adventurous, take a detour to Colbar (pictured below).

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Read more: Let’s get to know more about Tanglin Halt before its demolishment 

 

The homestretch

Once you’re back on the trail, push on for another 6 km as we approach the junction of Holland Close. As the tracks are still under refurbishment, sidetrack towards the back alleys of Buona Vista MRT before continuing your journey en route to Ghim Moh estate.

Upon approaching Jalan Jelita, another diversion route of the uncompleted trail; spot the Cold Storage building and cross over the overhead bridge. This could be the only pitstop for a quick water or restroom break as there won’t be any detours at the next stretch of the trail.

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

At this junction, it’s evident that enhancement works are ongoing to get the trail up and running by sometime in the next quarter of 2021. Fret not, because good things come to those who wait, so let’s make do with the alternative route at this point.

Quick reality check; at this juncture, it’ll get taxing on your feet, especially since there are no proper rest-stops along the way. So, do pace yourself as you persevere towards the last stretch onto the back alleys of Clementi.

Note: Do chuck your phones aside along the diverted route as the grounds are relatively uneven. At all times, do also keep a lookout for BMX bikes approaching from both directions.

Here’s where you’d also chance upon an Instagrammable spot (pictured below).

Well, look at that beauty. Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

We must say, the wonders of nature indeed take away the tiredness. At this spot, you’d also chance upon cyclists capturing shots with their bikes, and perhaps you could score a new profile picture for your social media handles too.

Clementi Forest

Moving forward, if you have some energy to spare, dive into the undulating terrains of Clementi Forest (pictured below). With that said, if you intend to do so, always ensure you have proper hiking shoes on and head down with a group of friends instead of going solo.

Image: TODAY online

Side note: We skipped the forest trail as we were rushing for time to get a nice shot taken at the Bukit Timah tracks before the sun got too scorching hot.

As you take a further walk up north, you’d chance upon former KTM signs (like the ones below) that indicate the distance between that particular location to another station.

Marking point of the distance covered from Tanjong Pagar railway station. Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Repainted signage stating 772.50 KM, the distance from Butterworth, Penang — the start of the KTM railway line. Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

It certainly got us excited upon coming into proximity with the iron Bukit Timah truss bridge that spans from Bukit Timah Road and Dunearn Road. The landmark is called a truss bridge due to its structure made up of triangular units, making it a famous spot for weddings and graduation photoshoots.

Note: Currently, the two truss bridges have been gazetted for conservation, one of which is pictured above whilst the other (Upper Bukit Timah truss bridge) is located opposite The Rail Mall. Thus, who knows, you’d even be able to capture a family photoshoot in the future.

Newly opened Corridor stretch between Hillview and Bukit Timah

With the recent news on the reopening of the Rail Corridor (Central), here’s also a point where you could look forward to an extra stretch of exploration. The enhancement works along the 4KM stretch currently stands between the two truss bridges.

Note: If you are intending to just walk through this route to head to Bukit Timah, drop off at either Hillview or King Albert Park MRT Station.

Former Bukit Timah Railway Station

It’s evident that you’d unknowingly smile widely as you approach the Bukit Timah Railway Station, which marks the end of the Rail Corridor (South).

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Quick time check: 10 am. This is the perfect spot for you to pose for a well-deserved picture after conquering over 10 km-worth of walking. Zooming in on the central station with the roof on the right, the conserved building is slated to be transformed into a heritage gallery come 2025.

Also, keep a lookout for the former station master’s quarters just across the tracks. According to the signboard, trailblazers can look forward to indulging in a meal overlooking the community lawn once it’s repurposed into a food and beverage site.

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

As you exit the premises of the former Bukit Timah Railway Station, you’d chance upon a repainted signage stating the direction that heads towards Woodlands Railway Station.

According to the enhancement plans of the National Parks Board, the Rail Corridor (North) has a couple of diversion routes; thus, we figured it’s best to wait it out till the end of 2021.

Image: Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

Also, as you exit onto the street sidewalks, you’d be able to spot the 36 km Coast-to-Coast trail signage; who knows what we will challenge ourselves to the next time around?

Feature image by Shariffah Nadia/Butler Singapore

About Author /

A funsize explorer with an endless adventure list, her off-days are spent travelling around the red dot with her camera. Heritage trails, quaint cafes, you name it; she'll take you on an adventure to make your weekends less mehhhh!

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