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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station


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Tanjong Pagar Railway Station


Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was official opened by then Governor of Singapore, Sir Cecil Clementi on 2 May 1932 to serve as the terminus for the West Coast line of the Malaysian rail operator, Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Berhad railway. The railway station was initially owned by the Federated Malay States Railway (FMSR) on a 999-year leasehold term. Following the independence of Singapore and Malaysia, as part of the separation agreement between the two nations in 1965, ownership went to KTM Berhad. KTM Berhad was allowed to retain control of the railway land which effectively made Tanjong Pagar Railway part of Malaysian sovereign territory.

The design of the three-storey railway station was said to have been influenced by Finland’s Helsinki Station. Bearing strongly of Neo-Classical and Art-Deco influences, the exterior of its front façade stand four imposing statues representing the four sectors of Singapore and Malaya’s colonial economy – Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry. The interior of the station is spacious and airy due to the prominent 21.6m (equivalent of 3 storeys) high vaulted space above the main waiting hall. Six murals can also be found in the main hall that revolves around the four sectors, depicting the life in Malaysia and Singapore which exudes a Southeast Asian feel amidst the Western architectural style of the station.

The upper floors of the station used to house a 34-room hotel that was operated by Lim Jit Chin and his family for over 60 years. The Lims also managed a pub within the station known as Prairie Express Pub. During its golden age, the hotel played host to many luminaries such as members of the Malaysian royalty and its services were even considered to be on par to that of Raffles Hotel at that time. In 1992, Lim was acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as the second-longest-serving hotel manager in the world. With the closure of the hotel in 1993, only a small convenience store, money changer and two 24-hour Indian-Muslim eateries remained in the station ever since.

Due to the shift of Singapore immigration authorities to the newly opened Woodlands Train Checkpoint in 1998, an unusual situation arose. With the Malaysian immigration officials operating at Tanjong Pagar and Singapore officials at Woodlands, passengers who boarded the train at Tanjong Pagar towards Malaysia were first granted entry to Malaysia before clearing Singapore immigration, which is contrary to international practices. Talks were held to resolve this issue, and eventually KTM Berhad agreed to vacate the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station by 1 July 2011 and shift its operations to Woodlands Train Checkpoint. In exchange for the railway land, Malaysia was promised ownership of six other land parcels in Singapore to be jointly developed by both governments.

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was gazetted as a national monument on 8 April 2011 and was officially closed on 1st July 2011. The last train, driven by the Sultan of Johor, Ibrahim Iskandar departed the station at 11pm on 30 June 2011 as ownership of the railway station was transferred from Malaysia to Singapore at the stroke of midnight.

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