All Aboard: Riding the Train from Tanjong Pagar Rail Station to Johor Bahru


Not only are they a dying form of transportation, trains and railway stations are also time machines, taking passengers back to a simpler, slower time. As I set foot inside Tanjong Pagar Rail Station a few days ago, I forgot about the glass and steel buildings in the CBD, the crowded malls and congested streets of Singapore. Train service out of this station will end on July 1, 2011, so I decided to take a train ride to Johor Bahru before it would be too late. 

After July 1, the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) will no longer run trains out of Tanjong Pagar Rail Station to Malaysia. Passengers seeking to ride the rails from Singapore to Johor Bahru and beyond will have to begin their journey at Woodlands Train Checkpoint (WTCP). Tanjong Pagar Rail Station, as well as Bukit Timah Rail Station, have been gazetted and will be conserved. The land where the train tracks now lay seems to be fair game and will probably be developed at warp speed, as land is scarce on this little island. 
The train cars show their age.
All trains leaving Tanjong Pagar Rail Station must stop at WTCP so passengers can clear immigration and customs.
Crossing the causeway by train.
Waiting at the JB station to board the train back to Tanjong Pagar.
This is no Orient Express. The trains are old and a bit grimy, but comfortable. The faint aroma of years of cigarette smoke lingers in the cars.
Everyone stops to catch a glimpse, before there is nothing left to see.
If you want to come experience Tanjong Pagar Rail Station without riding a train, come have a meal from one of the many food vendors on the platform. 

If you're in Singapore and are able to take a train ride from Tanjong Pagar Rail Station, I encourage you to do so. The tickets are only a couple bucks and can be purchased within 24 hours of departure time from the ticket counter at the station. Return tickets from JB can only be purchased on the Malaysian side of the border; just look for the ticket counter at the JB station and pay a few ringgit. 

The trip itself takes less than an hour, but you get to see a side of Singapore that is quickly fading. The train goes through the jungle that once covered all of Singapore, passes by squatters living in KTMB buildings, and takes you through the back of neighborhoods. Making this journey is a great way to see a different side of Singapore. 

Don't forget your passport and grab a window seat to enjoy the view. It will be gone very soon.


  1. Beautiful shots, as always.

    We have a friend visiting from the US when we return in 3ish weeks. Maybe we'll finally stop being lazy and go to JB. This looks like a wonderful way to do it.

  2. I love train travel! How sad to hear that some lines are closing down there.

  3. I love the photo of our seats. (Those were our seats, right?)

  4. @notabilia there was an old couple sitting in front of us so I couldn't angle myself well enough to take a photo of our actual seats (in row 3).

  5. This is fun! I've never sat on a train to M'sia before...

    My parents did take this exact train donkey years ago though...they have been talking about bring us there. We'd better do it before the close!

  6. There is a green corridor near where I live that is probably going to be developed soon because the tracks will no longer be in use. I really should pay it a visit and take some photos!

  7. The photos turned out wonderfully. What a shame about the train :(

  8. i first read about the beauty of the tanjong pagar train station and its services at notabilia's blog! A great post with good insights. Will definitely check it out soon. In fact, I think I might check it out this Sunday! :) Can't wait.

  9. Flora .... the Good Morning Yesterday blog just uploaded another post on TP rail station, thought you might find it interesting too:

    it is a great blog and one of better ones I 'follow'!

  10. i first read about the beauty of the tanjong pagar train station and its services at notabilia's blog! A great post with good insights. Will definitely check it out soon. In fact, I think I might check it out this Sunday! :) Can't wait.

  11. The destiny of meeting The One at the railway station,
    Did you take the chance?

    The undeniable spark of the eyes of 2 strangers while waiting for the right train,
    Did you miss the chance?

    Your most memorable train journey,
    Was it a coincident or a mere accident?

    No it must be something more!

    We need your story!
    Let your fragments of memory be pieced together to form a lasting picture! It is neither a coincident nor an accident so do give your story a voice and share it with us!

    --- --- --- --- ---

    Project 79: Share Your Story Contest!

    Do you have any memorable stories from the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station? Send it to us now.

    Share your story within 200 words, and submit it along with a photograph that best reflects the story. Entries are to be written in either English or Chinese language

    Top winning entry will get a chance to publish his or her photo as postcards in 10,000 copies – which will be distributed at more than 100 places in Singapore.

    For any further enquiries or comments. please contact Project 79 committee by email at or look out for us at our facebook page:!/pages/Project-79/201689243185553

  12. I like train travel. But riding the Train from Tanjong Pagar Rail Station to Johor Bahru is very amazing.
    you have shared nice blog.

  13. While queueing to get our 8 tickets for the last train out of Singapore, the anxiety and buzz in Tanjung Pagar Station grew more and more intense. The train was now almost full...

    But luck was on our side, as we received all 8 tickets. They were the very last tickets sold; the second they were handed over to me, the cameras and microphones literally swooped in on the poor couple behind me in the queue, who were now practically begging the counter operator if they could buy just 2 more tickets. I felt sad for them.

    But the ride was all I imagined it to be. It was clunky, noisy and the carriage was endlessly swaying this way and that. The tracks were old and overgrown. In fact, certain sections were actually being reclaimed by the encroaching jungle. I could see this because we were standing in the open doorway while the train was snaking its way to JB. I guess safety wasn't all that much of an issue in the olden days.

    The best part was when we stopped for a while at a station that looked like a prop out the BBC drama series "Tenko". It was simply oozing with nostalgia.

    The contrast couldn't have been greater after arriving at the JB station. It was spanking new, almost sterile.

    And so another sepia Singapore chapter comes to a close. A bit of shame, sure. But then, who are we to question Singaporean's ambitions, or indeed Malaysia's, to surge ahead?

    Anyway, memories last longer than steel.


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