August 30, 2011

Railway Track from Mandai to Bukit Timah Station

Railway Track from Mandai to Bukit Timah Station

Our aim was to walk along the track from Mandai to Bukit Timah Station. It was a most memorable walk because we almost gave up half way due to the heat. It was a bright sunny day but also a draining day as our fluids were rapidly being sucked out of our bodies to cool them. But for the rallying cry of MK "let's go on" and the "pink flag" 400 metres in front. The "pink flag" was the T-shirt of RT's wife and we had no choice but to keep moving.

Melon at the garden
Before the rail journey we paid a visit to a secret vegetable garden high in the hills. We were after the king of the fruits not vegetables. We befriended the 'uncle' living there and offered to buy durians instead he gave us two fruits, warning that they were not that good. Our official durian opener took no time at all so much so that after a few seeds I asked whether the second fruit was opened and they all had a good laugh 'cause I missed all the action.

Our uncle initially looked grumpy and still looked grumpy as he answered our questions. All these uncles like to live alone and crave the natural life. Even though children are grown up with steady jobs they still return to the soil to tend their crops. They live alone and usually are topless with well-tanned skin. Their bodies are immune to mossie bites. He said there was a hugh wild boar there tearing up the crops. Had we known this earlier we would not have ventured the trails on the ridge. Asked whether he was frighten at night he said he never met up with spirits. He had more problem with visitors wanting to cut down the rambutan trees to get at the fruits the easy way. He asked for their IC numbers if they wanted to chop down the tree so he could answer to the NEA for a missing tree.

He cultivated melons, bananas, string beans, eggplants, papayas and others I could not recognize

The start of our railway track walk at Mandai 763.25km from Butterworth
 After we took leave of him we proceeded for the railway track. We followed a small trail created by others who came before us crossing a longkang before we could access the railway track. Here was a case of team work as the stronger members helped the weaker ones i.e. me.

The abandoned hut at Sungei Kadut Crossing
The walk was uneventful. It parallel the canal and the Pang Sua Park Connector usually hidden by the undergrowth. Occasionally through the opening we can catch glimpse of it and of course the high rise flats behind. At level crossings we 'took 5' before proceeding. The Sungei Kadut crossing was busy with traffic to and from the industrial estate so patience was needed. The shed used by the gatekeeper was abandoned. Barricades were already in place across the track.

The bridge before Ten Mile Junction
The Chua Chu Kang crossing was less stressful with lower traffic. Just before Ten Mile Junction was a bridge crossing a canal. After this we took a break at a coffee shop on Woodlands Road due to the hot weather. We pondered whether to continue or do the remaining track on another day as we were feeling the heat from the mid day sun. But the strong rallying call to move on to Bukit Timah stirred us into following MK despite his sole half separating from his shoe. A few rubber bands did the trick and kept him going. Had we stopped here we would have covered only 4.5km of track, instead we achieved 9km. One member hesitated but was easily persuaded when we asked what he would tell his children/grandchildren about this great rail adventure. This was despite pain in the toe.

Bridge over Upper Bukit Timah Road at Rail Mall
Just after Gombak Drive, we passed St. Joseph's Church on the left. We crossed Hillview Road over a railway bridge before arriving at the Rail Mall. There was an outdoor dining place next to the bridge at the Rail Mall. A group of corporate trainees were out in force to pose at the bridge. Had to include them in my photos as the pink flag that we were trying to catch up with kept moving further toward Bukit Timah Station.

The stretch of rail from here to Rifle Range Road had lots of greenery and bird life. We were insulated from the traffic of Upper Bukit Timah Road, and we had the Bukit Timah Reserve on the left. Overhead cables on insulated posts reminded us of years gone. What was surprising was signal cables were still left along the track. Would have thought that the souvenir hunters or karunguni men would have taken them.

Bridge over Bukit Timah Road
The track went under the Pan Island Expressway before emerging alongside Rifle Range Road where there were several access points. Finally we arrived at the Bukit Timah iron bridge where hordes of newly recruited rail enthusiasts were busy snapping memorable images. A group of teen models were also working their bodies as they assume various pose.

At the Bukit Timah Station, most of the rail switch gear were already removed with only a set left. The mileage sign was taken down on the last day of train service when a work trolley came by for this purpose. Someone must have realised this would be a collectors item.

The Route

From Mandai to Woodlands
On a subsequent trip, we walked from Mandai to Woodlands. This was a short stretch of about 3.8km. We continued from the Mandai Road Junction where we also started on an earlier walk described above and proceeded northward. Just before Kranji Road the railway track headed north-eastward.

Bridge Across Sungei Mandai Besar
At the iron bridge across Sungei Mandai Besar we met a young couple who had driven to the said river, parked near Woodlands Road and followed a trail to the railway track to begin their walk. From here on, we entered a region of mangrove forests but a fence along the railway track on either side kept us from exploring further. Very soon we reached the end of the line with a warning sign forbidding further progress. We could see the Woodlands Station further down the track.

End of the line
Near here we could see that work had already started to dismantle the tracks. A shunt track has already been dismantled with the rails and track ties and bolts lying on the ground waiting to be picked up later.

There was a locked gate on our right, the direction we wanted to go to reach Woodlands Road. Luckily, we found an opening through which we emerged on the other side before heading towards Woodlands Centre, a once bustling town centre welcoming Johorians looking for bargains, but now the flow is in the opposite direction. After a short snack break, we moved on to Singapore Immigration to head for Johor for lunch.

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