Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Railway lines at Hillview

In my previous article that I posted in July regarding the Hillview factories along Upper Bukit Timah Road, a lot of interest was centred on the two railway lines that ran past Hillview. These were, firstly, the 1903 Singapore-Kranji Railway, and secondly, the 1932 KTM Railway that 'replaced' the 1903 railway line. I must clarify that even though I occasionally write about the railways, I am not a rail enthusiast, nor an expert on this subject, and my writings about them only relate to my blog articles here.

One of my contacts, a local railway expert, Trevor Sharot, had earlier re-discovered and confirmed the existence of a tunnel that was seen in old 1950 aerial photo maps. This tunnel is under the now 'Green Corridor' and is not clearly visible by any and all who trek along this conservation corridor. It is covered by shrubs and overgrowth. I have marked it out in this 1950 aerial photo. I will do a writeup on this tunnel in a future blog article.

The hidden tunnel under the old 1932 railway track.

Another old friend and railway enthusiast, Peter Chan, also got in touch with regards to the older 1903 Singapore-Kranji Railway. Peter's grandparents lived at the Chestnut area and had seen the building of the 1932 KTM railway that was to replace the 1903 Singapore-Kranji Railway.
More fortuitously, Peter's grandfather had the presence of mind to take photos of the construction in those days, and Peter shared one with me.

What is interesting about the black & white 1931 photo is that it shows the steel truss bridge being built across Upper Bukit Timah Road in 1931 for the new KTM Railway that would run to Tanjong Pagar. This now retired truss bridge is being conserved today as a heritage item along with the rail corridor.

What is of greater interest in this B&W photo (especially to rail enthusiasts) is that you can see behind the bridge, the level on the hillside where the older 1903 Singapore-Kranji Railway line ran down from the hill (where Ford Motors would later be built). It was on a higher level above Bukit Timah Road.

With Peter's permission, I enhanced the old B&W photo and found that I could then make out the old telegraph poles that ran alongside the 1903 Kranji railway tracks! The old telegraph poles were significant in determining the layout and alignment of the 1903 tracks as seen in my previous posted article. (The red line).
In the old days, telegraph poles were built parallel alongside the railway lines.

 Note the 1903 telegraph wires up on the bridge level (right of pic).
There also appears to be overhead electrical cables alongside Bukit Timah Road as well. These can be seen beneath and beyond the bridge.

Peter then sent me more photos he had!
These were the actual remnants of the telegraph poles which he found and had kept!

Parts of the 1903 telegraph poles.

The telegraph wire insulator.
(Peter's souvenir from 1903)


  1. Hi, the tunnel looks like its right behind the current Hillview Heights. It also looks like a short tunnel to just pass right below the tracks to go to the other side. It should still be there just covered with alot of wild growth... If it doesn't exist anymore, there should be quite a depression on the ground. Would be interesting to know tunnels like the one running under AYE and across Teban Gardens.

    1. Yes, the tunnel is still there as of today (Sep 2020). You are right that it is just beyond the Hillview Heights Condo, in fact just in line with their pool, if you check Google map.
      It is covered by shrubs and overgrowth but essentially intact.
      I will do a writeup soon once I gather more info on this tunnel; what was it for, why was it there, etc. One thing I can deduce evn now is that it's not for pedestrian access.

  2. So there was another underpass - near the Hume factory. Interesting. From Bukit Timah Road this is not visible. Also it is a shame that the authorities prefer to cover the railway bridge support with plants. The original looks much better.

    1. If you mean that pedestrian tunnel under the rail abutment structure on the northward traffic side, then it has been known all this time and was always accessible. The only thing was that most people walked on the other side of Bukit Timah Road (southward side).