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Waiting For A Train

Playwright & Narrator:
Shannen Tan

Sound Designer: 
Ng Sze Min

Notes from the Playwright

I lived and studied near the Bukit Timah KTM Railway Station since I was 7 years old. Growing up, I was a bit of an introvert and spent a fair amount of time by the tracks watching the trains go by. Sometimes I’ll make a detour there alone and sometimes I bring along close friends who simply wanted to tag along. I once dressed up as a train conductor and made my friends take photographs of me at the tracks. In hindsight, I am glad I have all these, albeit embarrassing, photographs.

I always perked up every time I heard the sound that signalled an incoming train. I could be a distance away but I would always take the moment to stop and turn around to see the train rumble along the black truss bridge. I love trains. I love sitting by and wondering where all the passengers were heading, who they were and what kind of lives they lead.

It was that sense of fascination that made me eager to board a KTM Railway train. I knew that the Bukit Timah station was a loop station and trains stopped there only to exchange tokens with the station master. I went to the sign that was near the office that detailed all the possible destinations the KTM train could take me but it did not specify which particular path would cross this exact tracks.  I told myself I would figure it out and purchase a ticket after I finished my exams.

Memory is fragile – even now as I am doing the write-up, I realised that the KTM Railway station closed in 2011. I was an unreliable narrator in the audio piece. I did not take the KTM train because I told myself to do it after I finished my ‘A’ Levels and not the ‘O’ Levels I had mentioned. It certainly puts into question that mysterious train I saw. I remembered the exact spot I stood transfixed as I saw it pass by the truss bridge. I am unable to say with certainty that the train was real.

The Bukit Timah KTM Railway Station is not the same anymore. Ever since the closure, chunks of tracks have disappeared. The buildings are not looked after. Rather they are fenced up and new surveillance cameras have been installed. There is a sign that says a pipeline is being installed to upkeep the city’s water demands.

I still hang out by the tracks, although less often nowadays. Sometimes it is quiet and I can hear the insects buzz about. Sometimes it is noisy; there are joggers and cyclists who pass by The Green Corridor alongside photo-shoots being held at the bridge.

The land of which the Bukit Timah Railway Station sits is no longer part of the Malayan Railway Land after the land-swap deal in 2010.  After the initial buzz around the station closure in 2011 has died out, I am unsure if Singapore would preserve it.

This radio play is my way of concretizing this memory before it fades away further.

Find Out More about the Bukit Timah KTM Railway Station:

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