48,000 and still counting...

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The last train may have left 4 1/2 years ago, but that did not stop more than 2,000 people from flocking to Tanjong Pagar Railway Station yesterday to recall a time when it was the gateway to the world.

Despite the rain, visitors were in high spirits as they snapped photographs along the remaining tracks, chatted on the platforms and reminisced about the old stall that used to sell bowls of mee rebus.

The historic station was gazetted as a national monument in April 2011, two months before it was shuttered. Last Chinese New Year, it began opening its doors again on public holidays.

The latest figures from the Singapore Land Authority showed that more than 48,000 people have visited the station since.

The 24km strip of railway land connecting the station in the south to Woodlands in the north was returned to Singapore by the Malaysian government in 2011, after being used by Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway since 1932.

Sales manager Alex Kong, 43, who visited the Tanjong Pagar station with his two children aged eight and five yesterday, said it was the first time he had been back there since the 1990s, when he first took the train from Kuala Lumpur.

"I thought I'd take my kids here to let them get a feel of the place, and see how things might have looked like some 30 to 40 years ago."

Operations assistant Faezah Mohd Nor and her fiance Idris Ishak, both 27, tried to capture the building's vintage charm on camera.

"It still looks the same, although there are fewer tracks now," said Ms Faezah, recalling a trip to Perak, Malaysia, that she took when she was a child. "I miss the food here. The stalls were known for their mee rebus, chapati and briyani."

Australian Donn Walker, 47, who made a trip to the railway station while on holiday in Singapore, said it was interesting to think about what the place was like in its heyday. "It would be good if there was a photo display of what it used to be."

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station will next be opened to the public during Chinese New Year, on Feb 9, between 9am and 6pm.

Last November, the Urban Redevelopment Authority announced the winners of a design competition for the future of the former KTM railway land.

Under the winning plans, the station will be repurposed as a multi- function community building, and is expected to include facilities such as a railway gallery, art clubs and cafes. The plans also call for a new public park to host community events, located in the railway station's carpark.

Members of the public can give feedback online until the end of March at http://ura.sg/railrfp

This article was first published on Jan 2, 2016. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.