Most of us take the train everyday, and that’s just going to increase with our move to a car-lite society (although it still mystifies me how new ERPs are constantly being built even though we’re going car-lite). But what do we really know about our country’s trains, besides the fact that it breaks down more often than a Snorlax appears? Was it always like this?

There was a time when our trains brought joy, convenience, and wonder to our lives, back when pagers and baggy pants ruled the day. Back when we wanted to know all about SMRT, the amazing new transportation system that appeared in the background of every kindergarten students’ photo. So here are some little nuggets of information that have been lost to history. Maybe one day, we will learn to love our trains again.

1. Toa Payoh MRT Station was the first train station to be built

Toa Payoh MRT Station. Credit: SRX

Toa Payoh MRT Station. Credit: SRX

Long long ago, Toa Payoh Interchange did not have air-conditioning. There was no HDB Hub (or Starbucks or BreadTalk), and it was a smokey, sweltering hub of buses. It was here that Toa Payoh MRT Station was built, and from then on, things only got better. We got an integrated interchange, air-conditioning, and a plethora of fast food restaurants with HDB Hub’s arrival. And all because Toa Payoh MRT Station started the ball rolling.

If it looks pretty new, that’s because it was refurbished in 2008.

2. SMRT’s mascot was Captain SMRT

Captain SMRT. No, we're not kidding. Credit Flow Eventsa

Captain SMRT. No, we’re not kidding. Credit Flow Eventsa

In 2005, seven years after VR Man’s debut, we got Captain SMRT. Dressed in bright red spandex (SMRT’s signature colour) with a long, flowing cape (which is pretty dangerous since it could get caught in SMRT’s train doors), Captain SMRT promoted train safety and awareness. Ironically, his mask meant that he would probably be disallowed on an MRT train. And since he’d take the MRT everywhere, what is the cape for? Capes are for flying superheroes.

Captain SMRT, please come back and replace Bag-Down Benny and Hush-Hush Hannah, who just nag and nag and nag. Or even better, spend less on marketing campaigns and more on train maintenance.

3. Public feedback resulted in two MRT stations

Tan Kah Kee MRT Station. Can you spot the spelling error? Credit: The Straits Times

Tan Kah Kee MRT Station. Can you spot the spelling error? Credit: The Straits Times

Because of feedback from Singapore Polytechnic students, Dover station was built – Clementi and Buona Vista were too far from the school. And nearby in the west, Tan Kah Kee Station was so named because of a public consultation exercise. According to this article, the Land Transport Authority held a naming exercise for nine of its Downtown Line 2 stations back in 2009. Hwa Chong Institution had canvassed students and alumni to take part, hoping that the station would be named “Hwa Chong”. But when “Kah Kee” got the most popular vote out of three shortlisted names, which also included Watten and Duchess, they too gladly welcomed the decision to name the station after its founder.

Over in the eastern side of Singapore, however, Temasek Polytechnic students aren’t kicking up a fuss about how far Tampines and Bedok stations are from their school though… But the new Tampines West station, expected to be completed next year with Downtown Line 3, will be closer to their campus.

4. The longest MRT escalator is at Bras Basah MRT Station

Stairway to Bras Basah road. Credit: Flickr

Stairway to Bras Basah road. Credit: Flickr

And it’s 41.3 metres long. It takes 1 minute to get from one end to the other, which gives it an approximate speed of 2.4 km/h. We’re sure you can finish your 2.4 run in shorter than an hour, but would you want to be running down (or up) a 41.3 m escalator? It would be really, really tiring.

It would make a cool place to film an action set piece though! Imagine an extended parkour chase down the escalator as the bad guys try to escape the police. It’d be one of Singapore’s most memorable action sequences!

5. SMRT’s breakdowns aren’t just confined to its trains

SMRT. Credit: Channel Newsasia

SMRT. Credit: Channel Newsasia

Just a week ago, SMRT held its shareholder’s meeting to decide whether it should be privatised. Naturally, a vote was needed, and the high-tech transportation giant implemented an electronic voting system… which promptly broke down for over 15 minutes. Apparently, you could only vote “Yes” in the system. Maybe they were a bit too optimistic about everyone’s decisions, but then they were also pretty optimistic about the usability of cable ties.

Let’s hope nothing else breaks down.

The Girl on the Train. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Girl on the Train. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

While we may love being blunt about SMRT’s track record, we also love another sort of Blunt – Emily Blunt, to be exact! She stars in The Girl on the Train, a thriller about a divorcee who, one day, sees something that she shouldn’t have on the train! We might also see things that we shouldn’t on our train rides, but at least that doesn’t lead us into a complex web of mysteries like in The Girl on the Train!

So what did Emily Blunt’s character see? And why didn’t she Stomp it immediately like a good Singaporean would have? That’s something only you can find out by watching The Girl on the Train!

 

Credits: SGX, Flow, The Straits Times, Flickr, Channel Newsasia, Golden Village Cinemas

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to say that “public feedback”, and not “complaints”, was what resulted in the construction of Dover MRT station and the naming of Tan Kah Kee MRT station. It was reported in this article that the LTA had sought suggestions for the names of nine stations on Downtown Line 2 back in 2009, and Hwa Chong Institution’s students and alumni welcomed the decision to name the station after its founder.