Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Joo Chiat Railway Line

                                                Map provided by Mok Ly Yng.

                                                    Joo Chiat Railway Line

As a school boy I like to play at the disused railway track between Joo Chiat Place and Joo Chiat Terrace. I balanced myself on the metal rail and walked as far as I could to test my ability. Sometimes I competed with my friends for fun. The railway line came from Tanjong Katong and cut through Joo Chiat. I remember there were road crossings gates at Joo Chiat Road, Tembeling Road and Joo Chiat Place. After the war all the road crossings together with most of the railway tracks were removed. Today not a single trace is left.

The history of Joo Chiat railway line is connected to the construction of Kallang Aerodrome in 1932. Kallang basin then was a huge tidal swamp and needed to be reclaimed. A railway line for a light train was constructed from the proposed aerodrome to Jalan Eunos earth quarry. Earth was transported in rectangular open buckets from the earth quarry to Kallang Basin swamp.

                                 Chinese coolies excavating earth from the hillsides

                                  Train carrying earth near excavating site
Level crossing gates were put up at all the roads where the train crossed. In Joo Chiat there were 3 road crossings. They were at Joo Chiat Road, Tembeling Road and Joo Chiat Place. The land reclamation at Kallang Basin took about 4 years (1932 to 1936) to complete. For the railway line that crossed Joo Chiat, it was mission accomplished.

The Straits Times 8 March 1933 reported: His Excellency (Sir Shenton Thomas Governor of Singapore) boarded one of the ordinary locomotives and rode on the footplate to Jalan Eunos quarry.

Accidents at railway line level crossings
The newspapers had regular advertisements cautioning the public on the level crossings. Inspite of the warnings there were accidents thereat and some were quite serious including death.

The Straits Times 18 October 1933 An Indian contractor Mariappan Ombris was knocked down by a light railway train at the level crossing in Joo Chiat Road. Both his legs were severed and he had severe head injuries. He was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital where he died a few hours later.

The Straits Times 3 May 1934 OnTuesday morning a lorry laden with bricks crashed into the gates of Grove Road level crossings as they were being lowered ..............

The Straits Times 16 June 1934 The fatal level crossing smashed on the Tanjong Katong Road on the night of May 22 had a sequel yesterday when the driver of a lorry which was said to have gone through the gates at 'terrible speed' was brought up in the Fourth Magistrate Court.

During the Second World War, a bungalow and the railway track behind the shophouses at Joo Chiat Place nearby Everitt Road was destroyed by a Japanese bomb. The bombed site is now part of Legenda JC condominium

Background building facing Joo Chiat Road was a vacant land where the railway line came to Joo Chiat from Tanjong Katong.

At Joo Chiat Lane above the railway line was on the left side of the road.

The line cut across Tembling Road to the opposite side of Joo Chiat Lane. About 100 meters from the junction it turned left towards Joo Chiat Place/Everitt Road juntion.

Behind the yellow building was the bombed site of a bungalow and the railway line.

The railway line cut across Joo Chiat Place to the opposite side of Everitt Road which was then a vacant land.


Tony said...

Hi Philip,
hope you are well.
found this map dated 1932 which I'm not sure if its accurate. Just trying to identify the service railway line you mentioned. Its very faint as its a poor scanned copy. Do you know what time period its for?

Philip said...

Tony, the map is quite current. The railway line was drawn on it as an indication.