Restoring conserved truss bridges along Singapore's rail corridor to their former glory

The Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge was officially reopened on March 22, 2021.
The Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge was officially reopened on March 22, 2021.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge.
The Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
A bed of stones around the track was relaid to make it safer to walk on.
A bed of stones around the track was relaid to make it safer to walk on.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Since its reopening late last year after about two years of restoration work, the Bukit Timah Truss Bridge along the Rail Corridor has become a popular photo stop for hikers and cyclists alike.

Another truss bridge, the Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge, was officially reopened on Monday (March 22).

While the industrial beauty of both rustic bridges is immediately apparent, the painstaking effort made to restore them to their former glory will likely go unnoticed by most people who walk or cycle along them today.

That few realise restoration works have been done is a testament to a job done well, said Mr Teo Chong Yean, a director at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) who was involved in enhancement works along the Rail Corridor.

He said the team was meticulous in its efforts to restore the two 1932 bridges, which are located next to The Rail Mall and at the western end of Dunearn Road and Bukit Timah Road.

For instance, they ensured that each sleeper, clip and spike of train tracks was put back in its exact position on the bridges after being removed for drainage works.

To achieve such precision, laser scanning technology was used to map the position of each of these parts.

Taking Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge as an example, all its 172 sleepers - 114 timber and 58 concrete - were labelled after removal so they would be reinstated correctly. Rotten timber sleepers were replaced by sleepers salvaged from other parts of the former railway.

A bed of stones around the track was also relaid to form a continuous and relatively flat path on both sides of the rail to make it safer to walk on.

The land along the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway track was returned to Singapore after the Malaysian rail operator ceased train services here in 2011.

The ensuing public debate over what to do with the land was described as a watershed in Singapore's heritage discourse in a 2015 book, Heritage, by current director of the Asian Civilisations Museum Kennie Ting.


New landscaped stairs at the southern end of the Upper Bukit Timah Truss Bridge near The Rail Mall. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI


A bed of stones around the track was also relaid to form a continuous and relatively flat path on both sides of the rail to make it safer to walk on. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Advocacy groups like the Nature Society (Singapore) and Singapore Heritage Society collectively proposed that the entire 24km land track be preserved as a green corridor, instead of being turned over to developers.

In response, the Government adopted a more "open, conciliatory and consultative approach" in drawing up plans for the space, said Mr Ting.

The restored truss bridges, which both stand over busy roads, bear marks of this approach. During the restoration process, various railing prototypes were set up, and community members were invited to give their input on which type they thought was most suitable for the restored bridge.

Railings that are too thick might spoil the look of the bridge, while those with beams spaced too far apart might pose a safety risk.

Such factors were considered before the URA team eventually selected simple design with thin bars.