Ex-Bukit Timah Railway Station master visits old home-cum-workplace

Mr Vijayaragavan, the former station master, used to live in the station's staff quarters with his family. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Mr Vijayaragavan (right) with his son Rama, who works at LTA, posing with old pictures of their days living and working at station. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Mr Vijayaragavan, 87, comes from a family of railway men.

His father laid rail tracks in Malaysia, he was a station master at various rail stations and his son, Mr Rama Venkta, works at the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Mr Vijayaragavan, who goes by only one name but is fondly known as Mr Ragavan, was station master at the Bukit Timah Railway Station from 1979 to 1982, where he lived in the station's staff quarters with his family.

On Friday (July 1), he returned to his former home and workplace, which were repurposed as a heritage gallery and cafe as part of the Bukit Timah Railway Station community node - one of several planned for the 24km-long Rail Corridor.

There, he recounted his time as the station master to guests, including National Development Minister Desmond Lee, who officiated the community node's launch.

This follows two years of restoration work on the site's heritage buildings, which date to the early 1930s.

Among Mr Ragavan's main tasks as station master was ensuring only one train was utilising the old railway line at any one point, as the line from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar was a single-track route.

This was done through a token exchange, facilitated by the station master.

Train conductors had to hold a token for each sector of the railway line, and when entering a new sector they would deposit their "old" token on a token pole and pick up a new one from the station master's outstretched arm before they could move off.

Asked about how he felt returning to the station, Mr Ragavan said repeatedly: "I am very happy."

His son, Mr Rama, group director for the North-South Corridor Project at LTA, recalled life in the railway station's premises as a child.

"Can you imagine having an office that is just across the railway track from the house? Dad was always around," said the 53-year-old, who described himself as having "rail blood".

"I was doing my PSLE homework here actually," he said, pointing to an area in the former station building.

Living in the staff quarters felt like living in a small kampung, said Mr Rama, who shared a unit in the staff quarters with his parents and younger sister, while a second unit was occupied by the deputy station master's family.

Referring to his neighbours, he said: "We grew up together, we played together. They were a Malay family (and over time) we understood the culture very well.

"We had our own garden, reared our own chickens, had our own vegetables - there was plenty of space to enjoy."

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