New Bukit Timah Railway Station community node welcomes visitors with restored railway heritage features and lush gardens
01 Jul 2022
- Revitalised section of the Rail Corridor offers Singaporeans another rustic, green respite in the heart of the city
- More community nodes and improvement works planned along various stretches in coming years
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the National Parks Board (NParks) announced today the opening of the Bukit Timah Railway Station community node, following the completion of restoration and enhancement works to the compound. Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, officiated the opening, which took place on the 11th anniversary of the former railway land’s return to Singapore that kickstarted an extensive public engagement journey to co-create the Rail Corridor’s future.
Located along the midway point of the 24km-long Rail Corridor and well-loved for its idyllic natural setting and iconic railway heritage landmarks, the new 4.3-hectare node comprises two sensitively-restored conserved buildings—the Railway Station and Railway Staff Quarters—as well as the surrounding compound with newly-added amenities, gardens and lawns.
Embodiment of public’s aspirations and feedback for Rail Corridor
The Bukit Timah Railway Station community node represents a culmination of the feedback and aspirations shared by different stakeholder groups and the wider community, through various engagements that took place since 2011. A recurrent theme that arose from the engagements was for the Rail Corridor’s built and natural heritage to be retained and enhanced. The public also hoped to make the Rail Corridor a more accessible space for visitors of all ages and abilities. Taking into account the feedback received, agencies have progressively enhanced and reopened different stretches of the Rail Corridor for community use and enjoyment since 2018. Refer to Annex A for more information on the improvement works completed to date.
Sensitively-restored heritage landmarks re-open for the community
Further acting on the community’s feedback, URA carried out works sensitively at the site over the last two years, to retain and amplify its distinctive railway heritage and repurpose spaces for public enjoyment, while ensuring that the environment is kept rustic.
Bukit Timah Railway Station
The conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station building, built in 1932 and one of two extant railway stations in Singapore, retains its original features. The building, along with its key architectural and railway elements, has been carefully restored and repurposed as a heritage gallery for visitors to learn about its history and that of the Rail Corridor. In the building, visitors will see restored elements like track switching levers, ticketing booth, and a replica of a signals diagram in the Signal Room, which former Station Masters used to control rail traffic. To the front of the building, visitors can find more restored features, such as station signs, token poles, and replicas of railway station wagons that once plied the tracks.
Railway Staff Quarters
Across the train tracks from the Railway Station building is the conserved Railway Staff Quarters, a former staff housing block which has been repurposed into a café with a rustic, relaxed ambience. When the café opens to public from early July 2022, visitors will be able to enjoy a selection of local and fusion fare while immersing themselves in the history and heritage of the site.
Like the Railway Station building, URA has restored key architectural elements and also added ramps to make the buildings more accessible, as houses in the past were typically raised a foot above ground to prevent flooding during heavy rain.
Accessible and new amenities reminiscent of old railway nostalgia
The community node acts as a ‘living gallery’, with salvaged historical artefacts and new educational signs installed throughout the compound, immersing visitors in the railway atmosphere and its history.
To make the site more inclusive for different users, old access roads and paths were rebuilt for safety and barrier-free accessibility. Visitors using wheelchairs and prams are now able to visit various parts of the compound via seamlessly integrated access ramps that lead into both the conserved buildings and new gardens. A new sheltered Yard serves as a rest area and gathering point for visitors, with public restrooms that simulate rustic toilets found in the old days, while offering modern accessibility features for those with special needs.
Permeating throughout the compound, and unifying both old and new architectural and heritage elements, is a design scheme that mimics long-exposure photography of a passing train and its linear light trails. This evocative concept is manifested in the compound’s paving design, underscored by the deliberate arrangement of other elements such as benches, grass strips, and salvaged timber sleepers around the site.
At sunset, to allow visitors to appreciate the node while maintaining low lighting conditions for nocturnal animals, warm ambient lighting on the two conserved buildings gently illuminates their silhouettes against nightfall. To ensure public safety, only essential walking paths and benches leading to the public restrooms and two conserved buildings are lit, while the main Rail Corridor trail is kept unlit.
Strengthening identity through landscape
Visitors can also get closer to nature with two new gardens – Kampung Garden, and Herb and Spice Garden – at the Bukit Timah Railway Station community node. The Kampung Garden features ornamental shrubs and flowers iconic to Singapore’s 1960s landscape, such as the Bunga Raya (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), and the Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambac ‘Arabian Nights’). The Herb and Spice Garden showcases plants like Siamese Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Laksa Leaf (Persicaria odorata) and Chilli Padi (Capsicum frutescens) that were commonly used for homecooked dishes.
The compound also includes a Community Lawn and Event Lawn, which provide spaces for recreational events for members of the public.
These new green spaces at the community node enhance and complement the historical architecture and linear layout of the 24km-long Rail Corridor, bringing greenery closer to Singaporeans’ everyday lives in our City in Nature.
Commemorative stamps to mark the reopening
In commemoration of the opening of the Bukit Timah Railway Station, NParks has partnered SingPost to launch a stamp issue to showcase the Rail Corridor today. The series of five illustrated stamps features some iconic landmarks associated with the former rail operations along the corridor, such as the Bukit Timah Railway Station and Bukit Timah truss bridge, as well as the flora and fauna that visitors can observe while exploring the Rail Corridor.
Members of the public can purchase the stamps at all post offices, philatelic stores and online at shop.singpost.com.
Moving forward with the community
Participants from NParks’ 6-months long Youth Stewards for Nature programme conducted biodiversity surveys on the Rail Corridor to monitor species diversity earlier this year. The results of their survey will be shared on the NParks website and incorporated into educational signs along the Rail Corridor, featuring the rich biodiversity that can be found in the area.
To strengthen ecological connectivity, and as part of the OneMillionTrees movement, NParks will also continue to work with the community in forest restoration, which includes tree planting and invasive species removal at the Rail Corridor.
As an Identity Corridor identified in URA’s Long-Term Plan Review, agencies will continue to protect and enhance the Rail Corridor’s unique character, and sensitively integrate the space with adjacent developments and communities, for current and future generations to enjoy. In the upcoming years, agencies will work with local communities and stakeholders to develop community nodes and enliven other public spaces along the Corridor.
- END -