Archive for the 'Places & Buildings' Category

Bye Bye To Hollywood Theatre And Lion City Hotel Part 2

…continued from Part1.

Sorry for the long delay in the second part of this post.

After 43 years, the Lion City Hotel was gone…Yes, this Lion City Hotel costing $4.2M then was opened in 1968 by the late Dr.Goh Keng Swee, the Minister for Finance. Construction of the hotel started in 1965 at the junction of Tanjong Katong Road and Geylang Road by Wee Thiam Siew Co. Ltd.

C redit : Singapore Press Holding, SPH

It was a 10 storey hotel with 168 fully aircon rooms. It was then near to the Singapore Airport which was at the Paya Lebar then and the city. You will be surprise with the rate then : $30 to $35 for Single Room, $40 to $45 for Double Room, $60 for Family Suite and $90 for Deluxe Room.

Those who had been to the hotel, the shopping complex below was considered an unique feature and one of the largest then. It housed an emporium which sold China products, and there were also a snack-bar, and finance company and bank. There was even a first class restaurant then on the first floor catering both European and Chinese dishes in the evening with a live band playing soft music for dancing. On the ground floor, there was a cocktail lounge too. Maybe many may not be aware that there was even a swimming pool located on one of the floor in the hotel but in the later years, the pool was removed.

It is sad that the Lion City Hotel together with the Hollywood Theatre had to make way for new developments. When you are reading this post, the hotel and it’s surrounding are gone;

Above : Lion City Hotel then

Above : Lion City Hotel going

And the surrounding Hin Hollywood Canteen also disappear;

Above : Then

Above : Gone

So what is left now is probably the Thank You note from their website;

Credit : Lion City Hotel

I remember when I moved in to Haig Road in the 70s, there was the Oriental Emporium on the ground and 1st floor on the Lion City Hotel;

Above 3 Credits : Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board, taken in 1994

Oh the McDonald and Kentucky Fried Chicken were there too! The KFC was opened in 1982 and you can see their ads looking for helpers for the 20th outlet at Lion City Hotel;

Credit : SPH, Straits Times

Of course at one time, the 人民百货公司 (People’s Emporium) was there in place of the Oriental Emporium. Only until the later years, it became a furniture showroom and the ground floor with a mixture of shops;

I still preferred the Oriental Emporium as I liked window shopping there after my dinner as they had a more variety of goods.

Some of the shops already moved out during the last few weeks;

The Happy Restaurant (双喜楼) just besides the main entrance to the hotel;

The restaurant was located upstair on the 1st floor;

In fact almost every year during the Chinese New Year, I would still go there to buy the Yu Sheng (鱼生). I also got mix-up and confused with the other similar names of the restaurant nearby – one at the Tanjong Katong Complex, while the other one in Lion City Plaza.

Even my father like the claypot rice in the Lion City Cafe;

I remember there was once Filipino live band playing in this cafe/snack bar;

The Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet was just round the corner;

The main entrance to the Lion City Hotel;

The hotel lobby;

The hotel back entrance;

The ‘sheltered carpark’ of the hotel;

The linkway joining the shopping complex and the hotel;

You can see a spiral staircase joined to it;

You can see the other spiral staircase on the right side partially hidden by the tree;

In the past, I like to walk to the Oriental Emporium via this back entrance;

The aerial view of the Oriental Emporium from the Haig Road flats (I supposed) in 1984;

Credit :  PICAS, Naitonal Archive of Singapore

I’m trying to get the same aerial view from the top floor of the flat;

The demolishing of the government quarters in 1974 to make way for the Haig Road Hawker Centre and flats. In the background is the Lion City Hotel with the linkway;

Credit :  PICAS, Naitonal Archive of Singapore

Looking at the Hollywood Theatre from the demolished government quarters in 1974;

Credit :  PICAS, Naitonal Archive of Singapore

When I first look at the above photo, the Hollywood Theatre was not so obvious until I compared it with the below photo;

Distant view of the Lion City Hotel probably from the Sims Avenue or Geylang Road junction;

A 1970 photo of the Lion City Hotel;

Above 2 credits : PICAS, Naitonal Archive of Singapore

Current View;

1994 view of the hotel from the overhead bridge;

Below is one I took from the overhead bridge in 2011;

What my father wrote;
“A Stumble May Prevent A Fall.”

Bye Bye To Hollywood Theatre And Lion City Hotel Part 1

What’s the link between Hollywood Theatre and Lion City Hotel? Well they are both owned by the late property magnate Mr.Wee Thiam Siew. Mr.Wee Thiam Siew also owned the not too long demolished Seven Storey Hotel. The Seven Storey Hotel was built in 1953, followed by Hollywood Theatre in 1957. The Hollywood Theatre was opened by the cinema magnate late Mr.Loke Wan Tho in 1958.

I’ll blog on Hollywood Theatre in Part 1 and Lion City Hotel in Part 2.

I remember whenever I drove past the Thiam Siew Ave, my mother would point to me the corner house nearer to Haig Road and said “See, that was the Hollywood Theatre boss’ house”. At that time, I thought that it must be some rumours from the wet market aunties spread to her; but when I’m researching for this topic, I think it might be true. Just a few streets away from the Hollywood Theatre and Lion City Hotel, along the Haig Road, you can find Thiam Siew Avenue. It was named after Mr.Wee Thiam Siew in 1939. It was originally known as Thiam Siew Road. In 1940, he proposed to the Municipal Commissoner to have it renamed as an Avenue so that the properties value will increased. Probably I’ll blog on Mr.Wee Thiam Siew in the near future.

The opening of Hollywood Theatre in 1958;

Hollywood Theatre in 1958;

Above 2 credits : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore

And how it looks like now in 2011;

Of course you cannot find the name Hollywood Theatre on the building itself anymore as it is now Sheng Siong Supermarket. Surprisingly the only place where you can find the full name “Hollywood Theatre” is at the fence of the power generator besides the theatre, in the Lion City Hotel carpark just in front of the KFC;

When I was still in the army, I would like to watch a movie (mainly Mandarin shows) in this Hollywood Theatre as it was cheaper with my 11B (soldier’s identity card).  Of course at times there were rats running across the feet while watching the show. And if it’s a night show, there were some food and drink stalls in front of the theatre in its early years. With the introduction of multiplex and the increased in movie ticket price, this theatre screened its last show in end of June 1995. You will be surprised to know that this typical Chinese theatre last movie was a French show “Le Parfum d’Yvonne”.

Hollywood Theatre in 1994, just a year before its last show;

Credit : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore

Same view in 2011;

A rather deserted theatre, as view from the overhead bridge in 1994;

Credit : PICAS, National Archives of Singapore

After 17 years (2011), the 2 trees in front of the theatre have grown much bigger;

I’ve not seen the escalator moving so far. The overhead bridge linking City Plaza to the front of Hollywood Theatre;

The carpark entrance, turning right after entry to the theatre; turning left to the Lion City Hotel;

There are more parking spaces at the side of the theatre. On the left is the previous Yock Eng High School, now become CDAC;

The Hollywood Theatre almost turned into a multiplex if not for a fail negotiation between the owner and Eng Wah Organisation for a longer lease. At that time, the owner was only willing to lease it out on a 2 to 3 years basis, thus in 1995, the City Harvest Churh settled down at this venue;

Credit : City-News

The old theatre stage still remained. Many of the new multiplex cinemas are without such stage;

Credit : Quiet Confidence, Em

It was said that Siew Fung Fung and Fong Bo Bo once performed here on this stage during its heyday. Even when it was being used as a supermarket, they still retained the stage. Somehow, the City Harvest Church ended her lease in 2001 and Sheng Siong Supermarket took over from then till now 31 Aug 2011;

Besides the Hin Hollywood Canteen, construction already going on, think it’s for a substation by SP Powerassets;

The back of the theatre facing the Hin Hollywood Canteen;

The carpark exit booth (behind the white car). Very troublesome, have to wait for your change. In the past, this was 2-way (out/in);

Behind the theatre is the Hin Hollywood canteen that I called Hollywood coffee shop;

There are already many bloggers blogging on this coffee shop, so I will not elaborate on this eatery. Frankly having stay here for so many years, I don’t find the food here fantastic. Somehow after the Mediacorps showed the documentary on this coffee shop, many people flocked to it before it was demolished;

Before I end the Part 1, below is the excerpt from the Mediacorps documentary on the Hin Hollywood Canteen;

Credits : Mediacorps, PICAS, National Archives of Singapore

I’ll blog on the Lion City Hotel in Part 2.

What my father wrote;
“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

Guess Where Quiz No.5?

The above photo shows a 43 years old spiral staircase leading to nowhere. Guess where is this place located and what building is this. Clue : There are 2 such staircase in that place!

Note : I’ll blog about this place soon.

What my father wrote;

“If the staff be crooked, the shadow cannot be straight.”

Marina Bay In 1800s?

Last month I’ve read in the online portal STOMP about the Past and Present of Marina Bay;

The above were among some of the photos of Singapore and major cities of the world Past and Present comparison sent in by Stomper Vassili .

Below shows the Present Marina Bay in 2011;

compared to Past Marina Bay in 1800s;

Above photos credit : STOMP

This thought ran through my mind : Is there a Marina Bay in Singapore during 1800s? In the Present photo of the Marina Bay, it shows the Marina Bay Sands on the right and the Singapore Art Science Museum at the centre left, with the Custom House tower on the foreground left and the Promontary @ Marina Bay on the foreground right. From this view, I can deduced that the photographer probably viewed the Marina Bay from the location shown below by the red star;

So in the Past photo comparison of Marina Bay in 1800s, from the same angle of view by the photographer – is there a Marina Bay?

First what and where is Marina Bay? If I will to Google, I will find “Bay” as “A bay is an area of water mostly surrounded or otherwise demarcated by land. Bays generally have calmer waters than the surrounding sea, due to the surrounding land blocking some waves and often reducing winds. It can also be an inlet in a lake or pond.” by Wiki. The Marina Bay is actually a sheltered body of water formed by the reclaimed land at Marina Centre and Marina South.

I remembered my first encountered were probably shopping at the Marina Square shopping mall and Marina Mandarin Hotel in that area. Later on were the SuperBowl and Victor’s Bowl at Marina South, also for the “eat all you can” seafood buffet, kite flying / football area, and not forgetting the game arcade. Of course the most memorable thing is not tearing the parking coupon while eating out at the seafood buffet and once the parking warden was there, many dinners were rushed to their cars to tear the parking coupons. Probably this is the meaning of  “United We Stand”!

The development of Marina Bay probably started as early as in 1969. You can see the shoreline or coastline before 1962 and present;

Credit : Pearson Education South Asia Pte Ltd 2002

Also below shows the stages of land reclamation of the Marina Bay from 1969;

Credit : Pearson Education South Asia Pte Ltd 2002

Those familiar with the area will probably remembered the Marina City Park and Marina South Promenade which were closed in 2007 to be rebuilt into Gardens by the Bays. Those statues at the Marina City Park have already been relocated to the Chinese Garden;

Now take a look at the development of the Marina Centre first. In 1969 when the Concept Plan of Marina Centre just started, let’s take a look at the aerial view;

Credit : MyPaper, Singapore Press Holdings

Land reclamation started in the early 1970s for the Marina Centre to take shape as shown above. Also see the old map below showing the view;

The reclamation of Marina Centre was completed in 1978 and among the first projects like Marina Square shopping mall which houses the 3  hotels, Marina Mandarin, Mandarin Oriental Singapore and Pan Pacific, were opened in the late 1980s. Of course, Suntec City was later developed in the Marina Centre during the 1990s.


Credit : MyPaper, Singapore Press Holdings

Flanking the Marina Bay in the south is the Marina South. See the land reclamation phase of the Marina South in 1977 below;

Credit : The Sunday Times, Singapore Press Holdings

In the foreground (above 1977, 1986), you can see the Marina Centre development over the 9 years period. As for the Marina South, those interim setup like the 2 bowling alleys, Chong Pang and Chin Huat Live Seafood restaurants, game arcade, etc. had to close down (2008) for the redevelopment of Marina South;

Credit : The Sunday Times, Singapore Press Holdings

Remembered the National Day static and firework displays held at the Marina South in the past;

I remembered seeing the huge Singapore Flag being tied to the Super Puma during the National Day parade at the Marina East before doing the fly past.

The Marina City is made up of these 3 plots of reclaimed land : Marina Centre, Marina South and Marina East. The Marina East was reclaimed off the Tanjong Rhu joining the East Coast Park. The Marina City;

Credit : Gerald H, Krausse, J. Wong (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1976)

By middle of 1980s, about 40% of the both Marina South and Marina East was sheduled to be completed.

Aeria view of the Marina City;

Credit : LTA

One of the major projects is linking the Marina East to Marina South via the MCE (Marina Coastal Expressway), the 10th expressway in Singapore. This dual 5-lane, 5km expressway has part of it a undersea and underland tunnel. The MCE is expected to be completed by 2013.

Artists impression of the MCE;

Linking the part at Marina East;

Above 3 Credit : LTA

Personally I feel that with the Marina City fully built-up, I feel pity for the Merlion – seems to be encased up by the Marina Centre, Marina East and Marina South;

Credit : URA

Credit : CyberPioneer

So my conclusion is that Marina Bay is not even developed or ready in the 1800s. The old photo of Marina Bay in 1800s shown is probably looking in the reversed direction facing the old Johnston’s Pier.


What my father wrote;

“All colours will agree in the dark”

Thong Chai – A 143 Years History

For those who have watched U-Channel recently, you may have come across the below broadcast;

Yes, it’s Thong Chai Medical Institution first Charity Show on TV. The words “Thong Chai” do ring a bell to many elderly people but how many of us really know the meaning of it and the history of Thong Chai Medical Institution?

First let’s talk about the meaning of the name  “同济” (“Thong Chai”). The name “同济” was derived from the Chinese word “同”, meaning “the same” — same or equal treatment for all. “济” is derived from the word “Ji”, meaning “to help or relieve” the people. Thus  “同济” simply means “benevolent to all”.

As for the history of Thong Chai, some said it was set up in 1867 while some said it was 1892, why? After Raffles founded Singapore in the 19th century, it attracted many people from different parts of the world. Many “overseas Chinese” (maybe now we called them “Foreign Talent”) came to Singapore to work or trade. These overseas Chinese migrants also brought along with them their traditional Chinese medical herbs, and also some Chinese physicians began to settle down in Singapore. By 1860, Singapore population grew to about 80,792 and Chinese accounted for about 61.9% (50,010).

Many of the Chinese immigrants here were poor labourers and did not have much money left for seeking medical treatment when they fell sick. In 1867, two charitable Chinese businessmen from Fujian and Guangdong, Ho Tao-Sheng (何道生), Liang Jiong Tang (粱炯堂) set up the oldest Chinese medicine charitable Chinese medical establishment named “同济医社” (“Thong Chai Medical Society”). They employed two Chinese physicians to give free medical treatment to the poor regardless of race, and collect their free medicine from assigned Chinese medical shops (these assigned medical shops will collect payment from Thong Chai Medical Society).

Maybe many of us are not aware that “同济医社” first rented a shop at Macao Street or Upper Macao Street to be precise  (31 Upper Pickering Street as it is now known as) in 1867;

Credit : Cornell Library

Credit : Ong Chwee Im

Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, the Governor of the Straits Settlement then, heard that Thong Chai was assisting and relieving the poor and sick, he then granted a piece of land totalling 8,380 sq.ft., 3 Wayang Street to 67 New Market Road, to Thong Chai to build its own premises. See the old map below;

Credit : Editions Didier Millet

Note that this Wayang Street has ‘disappeared’ and now renamed as Eu Tong Sen street. The Chinese then raised funds to build the new building for Thong Chai at this new premises. Philanthropist Gan Eng Seng (the founder of Gan Eng Seng School) had been financing the establishment of Thong Chai but his endowment was spent by 1890. At that time, 7 wealthy merchants, popularly known as “七家头” (“7 Heads) of Market Street from Guangdong, namely Zhu Guang Lan (朱广兰), Zhu You Lan (朱有兰), Guang Heng (广恒), Tong De (同德), Luo Ji Sheng (罗奇生),  Luo Zhi Sheng (罗致生) and Fu Lan (朱富兰), pooled their resources together to establish this new two-storey building. 

This Southern China palace design building with three halls, two courtyards and ornamental gables was completed in 1892 and the name “同济医社” (“Thong Chai Medical Society”) was officially changed to “同济医院” (“Thong Chai Medical Institution”).

The front of the building faces what is now Eu Tong Sen Street and the back entrance faces New Market Road. Although the building architecture is of South China design, the roof ridges are not as it is straight instead of curve.

On both sides of the front door, there was a couplet : “同人胞与量,济物圣贤心”.

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

These pair of door couplets seem to have disappeared now;

Credit : Kagawara Miss Flora

Once you entered the front courtyard, you may see many many inscribed tablets (匾额) and couplets ( 对联) like : “善与人同”, “东渐西被”, “义行可风”, “谊笃桑梓”, etc., that I do not understand the meaning of it.

Credit : 柯木林

This old 2-storey Thong Chai building was among the first few buildings to be gazetted as a National Monumnet on 6 July 1973 since the formation of the Preservation of Monuments Board in 1971. For the stamps lovers, this old Thong Chai building was featured in the 1984 Singapore National Monuments series of stamps;

Credit : Retrievia

In the past, as the Chinese popluation increased, the number of Chinese clans also grew in numbers. Many public meetings were held at this old Thong Chai building by the Chinese clans and it was also regarded as headquarters for the Chinese guilds. At the inception of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1906, the Chamber functioned from a room in Thong Chai in Wayang Street.

Let’s take a look at the building in 1963 when Thong Chai was still operating at Wayang Street;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Note how run-downed the building was (above) after about 71 years since it was built in 1892.

In 1983, there was an exhibition on Chinatown held at the old Thong Chai building;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

In 1990 when it was used by Rising Art and Crafts Pte Ltd;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Although the old Thong Chai building was gazetted as a National Monument in 1973, it has been used commercially after Thong Chai moved to its new premises in Chin Swee Road. From late 1980s to mid-1990s, an arts and crafts centre occupied the building. You can see the red banner in the above photo.

In the late 1990s, the building was used as a wine bar, pub or nightclub and later became a number of restaurants. Tung Lok Group acquired the building in 2000, and operated a restaurant known as Jing and later renamed it as Asian. Both were not as popular as expected and closed down in 2003 due to the outbreak of SARS.

Credit : Poole Associates

The building was left unused for about two years and it was converted into its current use by Forever Living Products Intl in 2005. See below photo in 2006;

and in 2007;

Although in 1960, the management of Thong Chai already planned to rebuild a bigger building on this Wayang Street land, this old building was then gazetted to be preserved in 1963. URA gave the managent an option to purchase a site at Chin Swee Road for the rebuilding of the new building. The new 10-storey building was completed in 1975 and Thong Chai Medical Institution moved into this new building in May 1976.

Credit : Thong Chai Medical Institution

Sometimes I do seek medical help from the Chinese physician, do you? Oh btw I’ve not passed by this new Thong Chai Building at Chin Swee road for a long time, I wonder if it’s still pink in color? Any idea?


What my father wrote;

“Better lose the saddle than the horse”

Big Pore and Small Pore of Singapore

“Big Pore and Small Pore of Singapore”, don’t quite make sense but if I will to say it in Chinese “新加坡的大坡, 小坡” and “going down town” in Chinese or Cantonese “下坡 or 落坡” – it means a lot to the older generation. Maybe I should rephrase it as “Big Town and Small Town of Singapore”. I remember in the 60s and 70s, my godmother would always got her daugthers to 落坡 or to 大坡, 小坡 to buy something. We are Cantonese so we said “落坡” instead of in Mandarin “下坡”, but both means the same. Chinese New Year is coming soon, most elderly generation will usually 落坡 (go down town) to buy some Chinese New Year’s goodies. So where exactly are  “大坡, 小坡” and “落坡” means going to where?

In this post, I will explain;

– why the name “大坡, 小坡”  and what does “下坡 or 落坡” means?

– where are “大坡, 小坡”?

As early as Raffless’ time, Singapore town was simply divided by the Singapore River. Why would I said that? From history, we knew that Raffles returned in 1822 (3 years after he found Singapore) for the last time and he and Lt.Philip Jackson drafted the Raffles Town Plan or the Jackson Plan (Singapore first development town plan).

This plan divided the town into different areas for different ethnic groups as opposed to today, probably Raffles believed that people of the same race would like to stay together. In fact long before Stamford Raffles, there already existed a small Chinese immigrant population cultivating gambier and pepper. As more immigrants flocked here, the population increased.

The Raffles Town Plan allocated the Chinese to the Southern bank (or South-West) of the Singapore River and the European mainly to the northern bank of the Singapore River. The South Bank (or left side of the River) and the North Bank (or the right side of the River) are shown below;

A simple Raffles Town Plan;

Credit : Above 2 Singapore University Press

The detailed Jackson Plan 1822;

Thus the Boat Quay which is South-West bank of the Singapore River, was designated a Chinese Kampong (the British spelled it Campong as seen in some old maps). This Chinese Kampong slowly grew and became homes to many Chinese immigrants then, and that was how Chinatown was evolved. In fact we can said that this was probably the first settlement of Chinese here and it as it grew bigger, thus known as “大坡”. The “大” here may also mean “first”.

But why use the word “坡”? After some “Googling” and visit to the library, the Chinese word “” (pō) was actually used mistakenly for the word “” (bù) due to the similar Hokkien pronunciation and the lack of Chinese word knowledge in the past. The word “坡” means “slope” and the word “埠” is commonly used in Southern Min language, 閩南語, (Min Nan or Hokkien)  means harbour, port or market place along the bank of the river. As the Boat Quay area was first developed and a busy trading place, it was referred to as “大埠”. As time passed by, those who spoke in Min Nan language mistaken the word for “大坡” due to lack of education and similar in Min Nan pronunciation. It was believed that at that time, most Chinese porters spoke Hokkien.

Another explanation was the old generation used the word “坡” as “place”. In olden times, Singapore was known as “石叻坡” by the Chinese. “石叻” is a direct translation from the Malay word “Selat” (Sit-lat) meaning “Straits”. So the Boat Quay area soon became a “Big Place” – “大石叻坡”, while the north bank of the Singapore River became the “Small Place” – “小石叻坡”. But the phrase were too long, and people shortened it to “大坡” and “小坡”. Some also said that “坡” means “Urban District” (市区).

So now where exactly is “大坡” or what are the places in “大坡” ? “大坡” include areas along the South Bridge Road and New Bridge Road like Raffles Place, Market Street, Malacca Street, Pearl Hill, Cross Street, Upper Cross Street, Telok Ayer Street, Phillip Street, Church Street, Circular Road, Amoy Steet, Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown, Hong Lim, etc.

An old 1862 map by Moniot showing  “大坡” ;

Credit : Ong Chwee Im

No one knows when the term “大坡” and “小坡” was used, but as early as 68 years (1887) after Raffles founded Singapore, there was a record of the place “大坡” and “小坡” in the book “新加坡风土记” from China.

As more and more China immigrants came to Singapore, the “大坡” became overcongested, so these immigrants “overflow” to the North Bank of the river. Though Raffles allocated the European and the Government buildings to the North Bank, the Chinese immigrants slowly “overflow” to this North Bank. The richer European began to relocate to Katong and Tanglin area. So those later Chinese immigrants were located at “小坡”.

An old Raffles Town Plan map showing the “小坡” in general;

An 1900 map showing the area between North Boat Quay, Hill Street and High Street;

Credit : Above 2, Yoke Sum Wong, Lancaster University

“小坡” (Small Town) include Hylam Street, Tan Quee Lan Street, Bali Lane, Bugis Street, Sultan Gate, and Beach Road area. In the olden times, there existed an “grey area” between the “大坡” (Big Town) and “小坡” (Small Town), which was known as “水仙门” (area between North Boat Quay, Hill Street and High Street). See above map. These area were not part of “小坡” nor “大坡”, and I will blog about “水仙门” separately. 

To some, the Singapore River is used to divide the”大坡” (Big Town) and “小坡” (Small Town) while others use the Elgin Bridge and Coleman Bridge.

An arial view of the Elgin Bridge and Coleman Bridge and part of the “大坡”;

Credit : Editions Didier Millet, National Archives of Singapore

If we used these methods, the “小坡” (Small Town) will include the “grey area”. So using the Fort Canning Rise and Coleman Street seemed more accurate to divide both town, but later Stamford Road was used. So “小坡” area were from Stamford Road to Rochor River in the past, even include Serangoon Road (Litte India). Since “小坡” (Small Town) consisted of two main roads – Victoria Street and North Bridge Road, thus using the Stamford Road as a divider is more accurate.

An old 1956 map showing “小坡”;

Credit : SIT, Survey Dept.

As more and more immigrants came to Singapore, besides the European, we also had Arab and Malay immigrants residing at the “小坡” (Small Town) area.

So are you going to “落坡” to prepare for the Chinese New Year? And where are you going, “大坡” or “小坡”?


What my father wrote;
Wishing all my Chinese Readers a “Happy Tiger New Year!”

Cool New Graphics – MySpace/Friendster

One Station Many Names

This is the 2nd time in my life taking the train (not the MRT train) from Malaysia to Singapore. The first time was probably in the early 80s from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore with my friends. Don’t really recalled much with which friends and exactly when. But the train then was stuffy and was without aircon. I felt giddy after a while and need to walk about in the train or keep talking to my friends. As journey was long and nothing much to view except the greenery at the side, I find taking train boring and tiring.

This time (Dec. 2009 school holidays) together with my wife and 2 kids, I planned for a short trip to Johor Bahru using public transport. I decided to try a train ride back from J.B. to Singapore so as to avoid the causeway jam. I thought that after so many years, taking a train would be different experience – at least not so tiring. Sad to say, it’s still as boring and tiring for me…it’s so tiring that I didn’t take much photos upon arrival at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station as it was already 5 or 6 pm.

Some people called it Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, some called it Singapore Railway Station or Keppel Road Railway Station (probably because it is located at Keppel Road). If we take a look at the old street directories, it was mainly listed as Singapore Railway Station & Hotel ;

Credit : Chief Surveyor, Survey Dept. , Ministry of Law

From the copies that I’ve, the Singapore Street Directories are listing it as Singapore Railway Station & Hotel from 70s to 90s.

If we check the current Street Director online, we get Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

From my 2007 edition of Mighty Minds Directory, it was also know as Tanjong Pagar Railway Station;

Credit : Mighty Minds Publishing Pte Ltd

OK, the actual name now  is probably just Tanjong Pagar Railway Station ( 丹戎巴葛火车总站). So in the past it was called Singapore Railway Station & Hotel. But why “& Hotel”? Is there really a hotel at the station? I’m not too sure if the hotel still in operation now? It was known to have 34 rooms in this Station Hotel and it was one of the 3 station hotels in Malayan Railway stations. The other 2 were at Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh.  Our Singapore’s Station Hotel manager, Mr.Lim Jit Chin, received a Guiness Book of Record for the second-longest serving hotel manager in the world. This Station Hotel’s services were known to be equal that of Raffles Hotel then. I wonder where exactly is the hotel located at the station? Let’s take a look at this 1977 photo ;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Comparing the above photo with the one I took upon my returned trip last month in 2009;

You can see the beautiful wall murals depicting the scenes of Malaysia in the past. Below is another old photo taken in 1935 of the same;

The other side ;

Credits above : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

I find the wall murals are really beautiful. Luckily they are still well maintained over the years. This one by me;

Click to see the panorama view of the station interior.

Didn’t see clearly the wall murals, ok here 2 more views;

Credits : Above 2 from

If you are not aware of, these beautifuly mosaic panels wall murals are made of colored rubber by the Singapore Rubber Works with a patented process. Between the 2 side walls of murals, you can see a wall in the lobby with the initial F.M.S.R. – Federated Malay States Railway. This is the railway’s original name when Singapore & Malaysia were both part of British Malaya.

The design of the station is very European and said to be influenced by the Finland’s Helsink Station;

Credit :

Maybe the dome and the 4 wall figures resembled it. The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was built in 1932 on reclaimed swampland. The station’s inaugural opening was conducted by Governor Sir Cecil Clementi Smith on 3 March 1932. Take a look at its 1969 aerial view;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

You can take a closer look of this station from the below undated photo;

You can see from my photos below that there isn’t much changes in the design of the station even until now;

Luckily the Malaysia side did not demonlish or change the outlook of this historical station. Look, the old clock is still there!

 There are 4 towering bas-relief figures at the entrance to the station;

They are the symbols of Malaysia’s economic pillars – Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry, each personification holdings symbols unique to their character.

Agriculture (F);

Commerce (M);

Above Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Transport (S);

Industry (R);

So does the railway track from Johor Bahru end at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station only? I understand from the old maps that this is not so in the past.  

Take a look at the following map from my Pri.4 Geography text book (70s);

Credit : Above 2, Magraw-Hill Far Eastern Pubhishers (S) Ltd

OK, we can see from the above maps that besides the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the track was branched out (I think it’s at Telok Blangah) to the Empire Dock and Queen’s Dock. This is understandable as the railway was meant for the transportation of goods from the harbour in the past before using it for passengers. Are the railway tracks still there to the 2 docks? I’m not sure, what about you? Maybe the below aerial view photo of the above map can help (taken from the Singapore Independent 1 year magazine);

Can you spot the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station on the extreme right side of the photo?

How long will this Tanjong Pagar Railway Station still be in use, no one knows. Remember the dispute about relocating this railway station to Bukit Timah? But both parties (Malaysia and Singapore) intrepret the agreement in different ways – Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement of 1990. The land where the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and the railway tracks are located is on a 999-years lease. Probably because the station and tracks are not owned by Singapore now, we still have yet any postage stamps about railway station and tracks.

The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is not the first and only railway station in Singapore. There were may other railway stations in Singapore before 1932. The Singapore Railway was built in 1902 and the main railway station then was at Tank Road. After Tank Road, going north, there were Newton, Cluny Rd, Bt Timah, Bt Panjang, Kranji and the final Station at Woodlands.

Don’t forget that the Johor-Singapore Causeway was only builit in 1919 and was opened to trains in 1923. So before that, all passengers and goods were transferred at the Woodlands station to a ferry to Johor Bahru and then to the connecting train there. The Singapore Railway was transferred by sale to the FMSR (Federated Malay States Railway, formed in 1896, a loose union of Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang) in 1918. Of course now it’s owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM).

So how many times have you taken a train to or from this railway station?


What my father wrote;


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April 2020