Industrial Railways in Singapore


In addition to the Singapore Tramways, Singapore Government Railway (later the Federated Malay States Railway) and the Military Railways there were also several industrial concerns who operated their own systems over the years. Perhaps the earliest was the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company, who in 1894 acquired the steam trams from the failed Singapore Tramway venture. There were also contractors, such as John Aird & Co., Topham, Jones & Railton and Sir John Jackson who had contracts to build harbours, airfields, the causeway, etc. Then there were smaller concerns who operated quarries, factory sidings etc. It should come as no surprise therefore that there may have been upwards of a hundred steam locomotives operating in Singapore during the first half of the 20th century. Click here for my current listing. Following is a list of the various concerns which will be followed by any data which I have on them.


Tanjong Pagar Dock Company (1865 to 1912)

later the Singapore Harbour Board (1912 to 1964)

later the Port of Singapore Authority (1 April 1964 to date).

Above: A Tanjong Pagar Dock company locomotive with a loaded train alongside one of the godowns. A framed print of this picture is in the KTM museum at KLO with the caption "Scenery at Tanjong Pagar Warehouse at Singapore on 1928".

The Tanjong Pagar Dock Company was formed in 1865. An 1870 photograph shows what appear to be railway tracks but the earliest record I have is of the Singapore Tramway having a branch into the docks in 1885, although Dick & Stevenson supplied two 0-4-0ST shunters numbered 1 & 2 to Singapore in 1877, so it is possible these went to the docks. As mentioned above, in 1894 they acquired the locomotives and rolling stock from the tramway at auction. John Aird & Co. supplied them with at least 7 saddle tank locomotives of 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 wheel arrangement from Manning Wardle. They also had at least 5 0-4-0STs built by R Stephenson between 1904 and 1909. Four were delivered new in 1908/9 while the others were second-hand from UK contracts, having been converted to metre gauge by about 1921/2. In 1933 they took ownership of two Hawthorn Leslie locomotives which were working in Mandai quarry and supplying granite to the Harbour. In September 1946 they purchased 3 Hunslet A class 0-6-0Ts from FMSR, who had acquired them from the Sembawang Naval Base in November 1941. In 1947 an 0-6-0ST numbered 3 was seen there, at first thought to be Peckett but now Avonside as it was transferred from the Naval Base by Topham, Jones & Railton. This would make it the same class as SL7 & SL8 in the military section. Click here for my current listing. By the time of my visits there in the 1970s only diesels could be seen.

SL7, an Avonside 0-6-0ST similar to No 3 of the SHB, at the Military complex. Brian Raybould

Tanjong Pagar Dock Company Locomotive listing

    1    Dick & Stevenson ?/1877      0-4-0ST    no cab

    2    Dick & Stevenson ?/1877      0-4-0ST    with cab

    ?    Kitson             ???/1885-7     0-4-0Tr    ex Singapore Tramways, quantity acquired not known, some may have gone on to Penang Tramway

    ?    R Stephenson    3122/1904    0-4-0ST

    ?    R Stephenson    3123/1904    0-4-0ST    later to Singapore Harbour Board as SHB 3

    ?    R Stephenson    3213/1906    0-4-0ST

    ?    R Stephenson    3346/1907    0-4-0ST

    ?    R Stephenson    3375/1909    0-4-0ST

The above assumes that whereas the government took over the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company in 1904 the Singapore Harbour Board was not formed until 1912.

Singapore Harbour Board Locomotive listing

    initial fleet taken over from Tanjong Pagar Dock Co in 1912

    1    not known    may have been any of the first four above

    2    not known    may have been any of the first four above

    3    R Stephenson    3123/1904    0-4-0ST

    4    R Stephenson    3213/1906    0-4-0ST

    5    R Stephenson    3346/1907    0-4-0ST

    6    R Stephenson    3375/1909    0-4-0ST

Additional locomotives acquired after 1912 and given vacant numbers in the series.

    1    Hawthorn Leslie    3644/1925                    ex Singapore Municipal Council for Mandai Quarry, to SHB in 1933, withdrawn c1954

    2    Hawthorn Leslie    3685/1927                    ex Singapore Municipal Council for Mandai Quarry, to SHB in 1933, withdrawn c1954

    3    Avonside              20xx/1929    0-6-0ST    seen there in 1947 but details not recorded

    5    Hunslet                 1626/1929    0-6-0T      ex Malayan Railway 331.01, FMSR 124, Sir John Jackson SL20, to SHB 1946

    7    Manning Wardle    1754/1909    0-4-0ST    ex John Aird 326 for Topham, Jones and Railton Singapore Harbour works, to SHB c1918

    8    Manning Wardle    1729/1908    0-4-0ST    ex John Aird 228 for Topham, Jones and Railton Singapore Harbour works, to SHB c1918

    9    Manning Wardle    1495/1900    0-4-0ST    ex John Aird 137, ex Std Gauge, to SHB 1921?, later to Penang as HB2

  10    Manning Wardle    1588/1902    0-4-0ST    ex John Aird 510, ex Std Gauge, to SHB 1921?

  11    Manning Wardle    1496 or 1500    0-4-0ST    ex John Aird, ex Std Gauge, to SHB 1922? 

          Hunslet                 1624/1929    0-6-0T      ex Malayan Railway 331.02, FMSR 126, Sir John Jackson SL18, to SHB 1946

          Hunslet                 1625/1929    0-6-0T      ex Malayan Railway 331.03, FMSR 127, Sir John Jackson SL19, to SHB 1946


Sir John Jackson's Singapore Harbour contract

This had a standard gauge line with two Barclay locomotives named Princess May and Burntisland which were later shipped to Canada (by 15th February 1914).

        Barclay 797/1897    Burntisland

        Barclay 892/1901    Princess May


Topham, Jones & Railton's Singapore Harbour contract

This contract was awarded around 1908 to build a new dock on swampland at Tanjong Pagar. It involved the realignment of Keppel Road to run parallel to, and just south of, the railway line from Tank Road to Pasir Panjang between Anson Road and Borneo Wharf. A new dock, known as Empire dock, was then dug out with wharves on the north, east and south sides with the opening to the sea at the south-west corner, near Borneo wharf. Much of the granite for the works came from Mandai Quarry (see below). John Aird's supplied a small fleet of Manning Wardle 0-4-0STs, some of which passed on the the Singapore Harbour Board later. The works lasted from 1908 to 1917. Concurrently they had a contract to build the King's Dock, a Graving (or Dry) dock, which was opened on 26th August 1913. The locomotives for this work came from Gibraltar dockyard and were originally built to Standard gauge.

Locomotives used on the King's Dock works

            Bagnall                  1472/1895    0-4-0T    metre gauge, ex Gibraltar dockyard, in use 1909-1918

            Bagnall                  1473/1895    0-4-0T    metre gauge, ex Gibraltar dockyard, in use 1909-1918

            Manning Wardle     1465/1899*  0-4-0ST  metre gauge, ex Gibraltar dockyard, in use 1909-1918, named GIBRALTAR; later to Malacca

            Manning Wardle     1496/1900    0-4-0ST  Std Gauge, ex John Aird, Millom, in use 1912-1918, parts to SHB 11 in 1922 

            Manning Wardle     1500/1900    0-4-0ST  Std Gauge, ex John Aird, Millom, in use 1912-1918, parts to SHB 11 in 1922

            Manning Wardle     1550/1901    0-4-0ST  metre gauge, ex Gibraltar dockyard, in use 1909-1918

*Manning Wardle 1465 had previously been identified as 1446 in a letter to IRS 55 but this was working in Newcastle. Manufacturing records show that 1465 was shipped to Gibraltar with the nameplate GIBRALTAR and was later sent to Singapore in 1909.

Locomotives used on the Empire Dock works

            Manning Wardle     1729/1908    0-4-0ST  metre gauge, new to John Aird as 228, later to SHB 8

            Manning Wardle     1730/1908    0-6-0ST  metre gauge, new to John Aird as 233, named MALACCA, later to Prai Wharves

            Manning Wardle     1731/1908    0-6-0ST  metre gauge, new to John Aird as 234, named MUDA, later to Prai Wharves

            Manning Wardle     1754/1909    0-4-0ST  metre gauge, new to John Aird as 326, later to SHB 7

It is possible that there was some interchange between the two systems. SHB11 was metre gauge and incorporated parts from both locomotives, which may have been converted to metre gauge before being used on the dock works.


The locomotives in the above pictures are believed to be Manning Wardle tanks with the possible exception of the last one which might be a Bagnall.


Sir John Jackson's Sembawang Naval Base contract

Locomotives used in the construction

            Avonside    2024/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 1    to RN base as M1

            Avonside    2025/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 2    to Burma Railway as SL2

            Avonside    2026/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 3    to Burma Railway as SL3

            Avonside    2027/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 4

            Avonside    2028/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 5

            Avonside    2029/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 6    to RN base as SL6

            Avonside    2030/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 7    to RN base as SL7, later to Ayer Rajah base near Tanglin as SL7

            Avonside    2031/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 8    to Ayer Rajah base near Tanglin as SL8

            Avonside    2032/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 9

            Avonside    2033/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 10    to RN base

            Avonside    2034/1929    0-6-0ST    SL 11

            Hunslet      1622/1928    0-6-0T      SL 16    to Malayan Collieries as MC 1

            Hunslet      1623/1928    0-6-0T      SL 17    to Malayan Collieries as MC 4

            Hunslet      1624/1928    0-6-0T      SL 18    to FMSR as 126, later 331.02; to SHB as SHB5 in 1946

            Hunslet      1625/1928    0-6-0T      SL 19    to FMSR as 127, later 331.03; to SHB in 1946

            Hunslet      1626/1928    0-6-0T      SL 20    to FMSR as 124, later 331.01; to SHB in 1946

            Hunslet      1627/1928    0-6-0T      SL 21    to Malayan Collieries as MC 8

            Hunslet      1628/1928    0-6-0T      SL 22    reported to Malayan Collieries but no record there

            Hunslet      1629/1928    0-6-0T      SL 23    reported to Malayan Collieries but no record there

            Hunslet      1630/1928    0-6-0T      SL 24    to Malayan Collieries as MC11

            Hunslet      1631/1928    0-6-0T      SL 25    reported to Malayan Collieries but no record there

            Hunslet      1632/1928    0-6-0T      SL 26    to Malayan Collieries as MC 9

            Hunslet      1633/1928    0-6-0T      SL 27    to Malayan Collieries as MC10

            Hunslet      1634/1928    0-6-0T      SL 28    reported to Malayan Collieries but no record there

This was a large user of rail traffic on both metre and standard gauges. It is not clear whether the metre gauge line was connected to the FMSR line during construction. To obtain sufficient concrete, a new granite quarry was opened at Bukit Lunchu (or Lunchoo), on the Johore side of Old Strait, opposite the dockyard site. A total of 1,600,000 tons of granite stone was brought down to the Straits by a special railway constructed for this purpose, and shipped across to the dockyard on barges. I have yet to establish the gauge of this railway.

There were 24 metre gauge locomotives, 13 0-6-0Ts with outside cylinders from Hunslet (3 of which became FMSR A class and passed on to the Singapore Harbour Board) and 11 0-6-0STs from Avonside (two, SL 2 & SL 3, went to Burma; two, SL 7 & SL 8, to the Military and at least one to the SHB). One of the standard gauge locomotives was Hawthorn Leslie 3865/1936 which is still extant today - see the Military page. The build date suggests it was not used for the construction.

Above: a works photo of SL 2, Avonside 2025/1929. This locomotive went to the Burma Railways with SL 3 after completion of the Naval Base contract.

Below: 3 of the locomotives en-route from the Avonside works to the docks at Bristol.

Above: SL 26, Hunslet 1632/1928, one of the locomotives supplied to Sir John Jackson for the Naval Base contract, and the same class as those sold on to the FMSR and Singapore Harbour Board. This one became Malayan Collieries MC 9.

Below: Hawthorn Leslie 3865 at work in Singapore.


Public Works Department, Straits Settlements

construction of Kallang Airport

This was a 3' gauge line using Hudswell Clarke 1625 of 1928 and 13 Peckett 0-6-0STs (1841-51/1932 and 1865/6). By the time of the Japanese occupation at least one if not both Manning Wardle locomotives (1985 & 1986/1920) were working on this line. The fate of this line and the stock is not recorded but it is possible that it was all moved to Changi for constructing the airfield there during the Japanese occupation.

Sand was excavated from a quarry at Kampong Batak (now the site of Bedok reservoir) and transported by rail to Kallang Basin. A map held in the British Library archives shows the railway running southwards and westwards in stages from the quarry to cross Jalan Eunos where there was a spur into a shed and then continuing southwards and westwards to Kallang basin where it crossed the swamp

Above: Public Works Department Straits Settlements No 1 (Peckett 1841/1928) left and No 6 (Peckett 1846/1928) right.

Below: Manning Wardle 1985 and 1986 at Abertillery before being sold to Singapore, they were last recorded at Kallang airport just before the Japanese invasion.

Above: Two Peckett 0-4-0T locomotives, presumably at the sand quarry.

Below: Map of the Railway from the earth quarry near the top right corner to the airport site in the bottom left corner. Note the siding just after it crosses Jalan Eunos, this is most likely the site of the locomotive depot close to the quarry as the line runs through swamps on the site of the airfield. The original airfield was the 1 km circle as shown but after the swamp was reclaimed and the land settled the runway was extended across the swamp for a total length of 1675 metres (5496').


The Mandai Quarry

This was jointly owned by the Singapore Municipal Council and the Singapore Harbour Board. The land was acquired in 1920-21 and quarrying operations commenced in 1925 when the metre gauge quarry railway was connected to the FMSR main line. Two locomotives were purchased from Hawthorn Leslie in 1925 and 1927 for use in the quarry and these were maintained by the Singapore Harbour Board, who supplied additional motive power when required. Most of the granite was required by the Singapore Harbour Board and in 1935 they took over the whole operation including the locomotives.


Causeway construction

The two photographs above were taken from Woodlands, probably in 1922 as the work appears to be well advanced. The lines on the right lead into Woodlands station which is just out of sight on the right. The vehicles in the right-hand picture appear to be Ford model T 7-seater "mosquito buses", probably waiting to return workers to their homes. The contractors were Topham, Jones & Railton. Construction commenced in 1920 and took 3 years.

The old photograph on the left was captioned "Johore Causeway" but it actually shows the Selangor Government Railway station and goods yard in Kuala Lumpur and was taken c 1886. The full picture with many others will appear on my History of railways around Kuala Lumpur which is currently under construction.


Locomotive listing for causeway works

    Manning Wardle    1119/1889    0-6-0ST    Std Gauge    K class    GOWY                ex Swansea 1921, returned 1925

    Manning Wardle    1331/1897    0-6-0ST    Std Gauge    L class    WYMONDLEY    ex UK, returned by 1927

    Manning Wardle    1413/1898    0-6-0ST    Std Gauge    H class    KELANTAN       

    Manning Wardle    1461/1899    0-6-0ST    Std Gauge    H class    KEDAH                scrapped 1927

    Manning Wardle    1579/1902    0-6-0ST    Std Gauge    L class    PAHANG              returned to UK by 1929

    Manning Wardle    1585/1902    0-6-0ST    Std Gauge    L class    PERAK

Singapore Municipal Council

In 1928 Atkinson Walker supplied four of these metre-gauge vertical-boiler chain driven rail tractors to the Singapore Municipal Council. They had works numbers 105-108. Interestingly, the above picture of No 2 in the Locomotive magazine for 1928 has very different bodywork to number 4 in the picture on the right, which appears to be a works photograph when new. I have yet to find any details of where they were used, but the Council was responsible for the provision of water, electricity, gas, roads and bridges and street lighting. It is also known to have been involved with large construction projects, similar to Kallang airport, which had a 3' gauge railway (see above).

Previously, in 1927, Sentinel had shipped an 0-4-0 steam railcar to the Singapore Municipal Council but nothing more is known about this.

This page created 2nd September 2006

Updated 1st November 2017

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