Athos was invited to a birthday party at McDonalds King Albert Park. It’s not a place we go to frequently, but I remember that the KTM (Malaysian railway) tracks pass near there. So after dropping Athos off, I decided to take Porthos and Aramis on a little adventure to look at train tracks.
Pilgrim Parent delicious discovery: the Bukit Timah signal station! If you’re going along Bukit Timah Road towards Woodlands, you’ll find a small road just before King Albert Park. It’s easy to miss because it has no name and is not properly paved. But it’s just past the overhead trackbridge, and before the McDonald’s HQ at the junction. And if you turn into the road, you’ll find a world set apart – train tracks at street level, with a platform running alongside, as well as a signal station and office belonging to Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malaysian Railway, or KTM for short).
Serendipitously, the friendly signalman Mr Abdul Ghani told us that a train would be passing by in 15 minutes! Porthos was particularly excited. In the meantime, Mr Abdul Ghani let us follow him around on his duties.
He changed the signals – here is the signal room and each lever corresponds to a set of lights.
He also showed us the key – there is only one for every section of track, which gives the train the “authority” to go down that stretch. It appears to be a kind of control measure. So when the train passes by, Mr Abdul Ghani will collect from the train driver the key from the previous stretch, and give the drive the key for the upcoming stretch. I think the process then happens in reverse for trains going in the opposite direction. Here are the two keys, with their names marked (sorry if the pictures aren’t great, I was using my handphone camera!)
Finally the train trundled by. Mr Abdul Ghani held up his flag and key (the thing on the loop – there’s a pouch at the end that contains the key). When the train passed by, he exchanged keys with the driver. I was surprised that all this happened without the train ever stopping.
And then it was over. Athos is a huge fan of trains and I knew he would be quite sore about missing this. Fortunately Mr Abdul Ghani was kind enough to share with us the train schedule:
- The train from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar passes by Bukit Timah six times daily: 0750, 1040, 1320, 1445, 2115 and 2300.
- The train up to Malaysia leaves Tanjong Pagar five times daily: 0530, 0740, 1530 and 1800 (which means it passes by the Bukit Timah station a little after that)
Be forewarned that if you happen to want to do this soon, the train schedule is a little bit out of sync now because of the intense border scrutiny due to the ongoing search for Mas Selamat.
Incidentally, if you’re interested in train travel, The Man In Seat 61 is a fabulous website, and evidently a labour of love 🙂