Sounds like a Success 101 tagline, right?
Well, my train of thoughts today was hauled back into the past, with my journeys on the old Keretapi Tanah Melayu. Since young I noticed that at stations, the railway line split into several branch tracks, and so I wondered, “How does the train get on the right one?”
The inquisitive Early Nerdy me led to an interesting discovery that at each station, there was a set of large levers with several colours and a worker yanked at one or more of them, to shift sections of rails for alignment to the intended path of the train. (Lesson: configuring a one-track mind for multiple passage ways)
These days, computerized automation has largely supplanted these manually-activated mechanisms. Nevertheless, some of these vintage lever sets can still be seen at several old KTM stations.
Probably everyone knows the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, but how about “the other one” atop the FMS Railway building — now known as Wisma Kastam ? (They used to call the building “the railway station without a railway”)
As a mainlander in my childhood and youth days, I knew of this one only. Like a beacon, it beckoned the arrival of passengers onboard the ferries. I recall, sometimes we could hear the chimes, as the ferries closed in to dock at the terminal, which was named Pengkalan Raja Tun Uda.
Those were the days when the skyline was reigned by beautiful colonial-architecture buildings and not dominated by ugly, uninspiring, nondescript rectangular blocks and towering concrete high-rises of the later years.
One day I shall try to climb up the inside of this heritage-class icon, to see what makes it tick, literally.
On 01 July 2011 train operations ceased at this iconic station of British colonial legacy (opened in 1932).
It also marked the end of acrimonious bickering between Singapore and Malaysia on the relocation of the Malaysian CIQ, as well as the “one-upmanship” contest between LKY and Dr M. In the preceding 5 years or so, a train traveller from Singapore to Malaysia had to “enter” Malaysia first before leaving Singapore 30 minutes’ journey later — a ironical (some say comical) drama of the immigration saga.
Personally, this place reminds me of the day that my wife and I officially emigrated to Singapore in June 1984. With 2 suitcases and 2 carton boxes in tow, we disembarked from the Express Rakyat after a gruelling 14-hour ride from Butterworth, tired but looking expectantly to greener pastures on The Little Red Dot (that’s an irony in itself).