SINGAPORE - It took five months for the half-kilometre long Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (TPRS) platform canopies to be carefully cut into 63 pieces, each measuring 9m by 13m by 6m, and moved to a storage yard located a five-minute drive away.
The painstaking process, completed last November and helmed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), removed a 580m stretch of the striking canopies to allow work to be carried out on the new underground Cantonment MRT station, which is part of the Circle Line Extension.
But the TPRS will re-emerge in all its landmark glory at its old location thanks to an ambitious $33.5 million heritage preservation effort. The 86-year-old building will be linked to the Cantonment MRT station upon completion in 2025, said the LTA.
Once that construction is done the canopies - comprising the roof, beams and columns - will be taken out of a storage yard and reassembled at the station’s original site.
Some parts – 80m of each platform extending from the station building – have been left as they will not interfere with the construction.
The Tanjong Pagar station closed its doors on Dec 26, 2016.
Breaking down the canopies for storage and eventual re-assembly has proved quite a task, as The Straits Times learnt when it toured the LTA yard on Thursday (March 28).
The project kicked off with the installation of temporary steel supports under the canopies. A Self-Propelled Modular Transporter was used to brace and move the structures, which allowed them to be cut and detached from the platform slab.
Parts of the canopies’ fascia fins - unique grooves on their eaves - were strategically removed to eliminate the risk of damage during the move.
All these are carefully documented to make sure that what is removed will be put back to the exact same positions,” said an LTA spokesman.
The panels were then taken to the nearby storage yard.
The LTA has started restoration work on the first panel after consulting with architectural conservation specialists. This was done after “conducting heritage surveys, studying existing conditions, and working with various parties to review the pros and cons of alternative strategies”, said Mr Ho Weng Hin, partner of architectural conservation specialist consultancy firm Studio Lapis, who consulted on the project.
The process includes washing off stains with a water jet and replacing chipped-off plaster to restore the canopy’s 1932 look.
Construction of the Cantonment MRT station begins next month. Advance work started in late 2015 and is expected to be finished by June.
The Circle Line Extension, with the Cantonment, Keppel and Prince Edward MRT stations, will close the loop for the Circle Line by connecting HarbourFront and Marina Bay stations.
The preservation effort was praised as a “timely action” by Ms Gan Ee Bee, the founder of heritage consultancy Neumind International.
“It is constructed on the basis of harmonic relations between community requirements, economic activity and protection of historical sites,” she said.
It is not only a win for Singapore heritage but the entire British Malaya, said Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Dr Yeo Kang Shua, an architectural conservation specialist.
The decorative tile panels found in the station hall reflected key Malayan industries of the past, such as tin mining and rice cultivation, he added.
“It’s our shared history. It’s not just historical, economical but also social. Many Singaporean families have relations living in the peninsular and have memories travelling on the railways up north.”