The restoration of St James Power Station is finally complete and with it, comes the launch of the St James Power Station Heritage Trail and Gallery! Both the trail and gallery are FREE for everyone to visit so it’s a new place to explore in Singapore with the family.
The Heritage Trail is located OUTSIDE of St James Power Station so it is openly accessible to all at any time of the day.
The Heritage Gallery is an indoor exhibition and is also free to access. However, advanced booking of tickets (and time slot) is compulsory.
Here’s what to expect of the new St James Power Station Heritage Trail and Gallery:
|Credit: Mapletree Investments|
St James Power Station Heritage Trail
Gazetted as a National Monument in 2009, St James Power Station was a coal-fired power station built by the British between 1924 and 1927. The power station was decommissioned in 1976 as it was unable to meet Singapore’s rising demand for electrical power.
Checkpoint 1: NEW HARBOUR AND SURROUNDS
Start the Heritage Trail at VivoCity’s Lobby F, Level 2. This is where the overhead bridge connects VivoCity to the other side of the road where St James Power Station is located.
As one walks through the linkway, take time to read the many information panels that have been put up which narrates the history of the Keppel area, especially how the power station got its name.
In the 1900’s, Cape St James was situated between Blangah Bay and Sibet Bay and consisted of a small hill with a land connector leading to the main island.
Initially, the cape was known as Tanjong Aur. It was later named Cape St James after James Guthrie, the founder of Guthrie and Co, who leased the land from the Temenggong to build his house.
In 1924, Cape St James was acquired by the colonial government to construct St James Power Station, the first municipal major power station in Singapore. The site of St James Power Station was chosen for its strategic seafront location.
The seawater provided an unlimited supply of cool water for condensing purposes during the power generation process. After the hilly terrain was flattened, the site allowed for ample land for expansion purposes and was easily accessed by road.
Checkpoint 2: GLOBAL NETWORKS – HARPOON, ANCHOR & STONE POSTS
As one descends the linkway via the escalator, you will see three installations located right in front of the power station.
Commercial whaling was common in the mid-19th century and was historically associated with Imperial Russia and later Soviet Russia. This harpoon gun was mounted on a ship named ‘Voskhititel’nyy’ translated from Russian as ‘delightful’. The ship was in commission from 1962, and belonged to a Russian whaling fleet called ‘Sovetskaya Rossiya’. The fleet would often dock in Singapore during its expeditions to the Indian Ocean.
Whaling eventually declined in the 1970s due to its controversy. The harpoon gun was gifted in 1974 to the Maritime Museum before ‘Voskhititel’nyy’ went out of commission in 1980.
Standing nearly two metres high, this anchor was commonly used in vessels in the 20th century. Its cylindrical shank (instead of the usual sharp-edged shanks) differentiates this model from other anchors. Refined from earlier anchor designs, Hall’s stockless anchor became the model for the modern anchors to come and continues to be used today.
These two stone posts have stood at the boundary of the P&O wharf since the 1850s. The P&O wharf was built at the New Harbour, where its deep-water conditions were ideal for the significantly larger steamships. The wharf likely stood in place until the Singapore Harbour Board bought it in 1926. In 1977, the land was used to build the World Trade Centre, later renamed HarbourFront Centre.
Checkpoint 3: HISTORIC MILD STEEL WINDOWS
Walk towards the main road (West Coast Highway) to find these towering steel windows.
The façades of St James Power Station feature tall mild steel windows with green glazing. The lofty windows resemble those of cathedral buildings, bathing the interiors with a soft, diffused light. The signature green tint is characteristic of early glass windows, a popular material of the 1920s, which reduces glare from the harsh tropical sunlight.
The facades of St James Power Station are constructed of a self-supporting brick envelope in fair-faced finish. The word ‘Alexandra’ is imprinted on the bricks, indicating that they were sourced locally from Alexandra Brickworks. Established in 1899, Alexandra Brickworks was the first modern brickyard in Singapore, located at Pair Panjang.
Checkpoint 4: TANJONG PAGAR GATEPOSTS
Make a U-turn and head towards Sentosa. Walk past the harpoon and anchor, and you will come face to face with two gate posts.
These two cast-iron gate posts possibly date back to 1864, when they marked the entrance to ‘Victoria Dock’, owned by the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company. By 1913, the colonial government had taken control of the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company.
They established the Singapore Harbour Board, which was eventually replaced by the Port of Singapore Authority. The gate posts have remained in place, witnessing more than a century of the transforming docklands.
Checkpoint 5: STEAM CRANE
If your kids love large vehicles, then this installation will definitely excite!
Located just beside the gate posts, this 10-ton Steam Crane, named Works Number 683, was made by John H. Wilson & Company of Sandhills, Liverpool. It was installed beside Albert Dock and ran along the docks on a fixed set of railway tracks.
The steam crane is composed of parts made by different companies in the UK. The railway tracks for the steam crane were supplied by the British Steel Corporation’s rail making plant in Workington. They also once provided the rails for Singapore’s MRT systems for 30-40 years. These constant upgrades have allowed the steam crane to function for more than 100 years before its decommissioning in 1983.
NOTE: Visitors are not supposed to step onto the raised platform.
St James Power Station Heritage Gallery
Once you are done with the outdoor trails, it’s time to enjoy some air-conditioned comfort in the Heritage Gallery!
Remember to pre-book your entry slot BEFORE heading down as you will need to scan the QR Code in your confirmation email at the entrance to enter.
Housed in one of the power station’s distinctive chimneys, the Heritage Gallery reflects Singapore’s history as a trading hub, her rich heritage and progressive transformation over the years into a world-class city centre. Visitors will be treated to an immersive experience in this part of the national monument and discover the rich and fascinating history of St James Power Station and the evolution of the HarbourFront precinct.
Power, Progress and Future
The heritage gallery narrates the practical and symbolic roles of St James Power Station over a span of nearly a century. It traces the key players and events throughout the evolution of the Harbourfront precinct from its industrial and maritime past, to the commercial and leisure hub of today.
3D Augmented Reality Model
The original commissioned interactive artwork by award-winning digital visual creative Jerome Ng Xin Hao
Use your phone to scan the QR code to bring the building to life, with animated scenes that depict the intricate systems of moving water, steam and electricity through the building’s layers of complex machinery.
Singapore’s next phase of power generation priorities greener energy sources such as natural gas or renewables. In line with Singapore’s power generation story, the adaptive reuse and ‘rebirth’ of St James today as the headquarters for a leading global technology company marks a symbolic shift towards sustainable practices.
Learn more about the various power generation models and the transformation towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy use.
A Steam Power Plant
St James Power Station was outfitted with the most up-to-date steam- powered machines and it was conceived with lofty ambitions to supply electricity to the entire town and beyond. While other privately-owned electric plants were already present, none rivalled the capability and complexity of St James Power Station.
Find out more about the different parts of the power plant, its operation and mechanisms. Be fascinated by how these systems remain a testament to the steam-power generation processes of its time.
The Electric Men
The smooth operation of the power station relied heavily on the men who worked tirelessly to ensure that the machinery was well maintained. Labourers carried heavy coal to provide a steady fuel supply to the boilers, while the engineers made certain that the machines performed as they should. They had to be on alert to react any time a fault occurred. The maintenance of a power station proved to be an arduous task.
Take a deep dive into the collective memory and stories of the people involved with the power station especially the challenges faced during the post-war recovery period.
St James Power Station’s West Chimney
Perhaps the greatest thrill is the opportunity to stand under one of the power station’s chimney!
The west chimney was part of the restoration and refurbishment works from 2018 to 2021. Rising to a height of 32 meters, the distinctive chimney marked a significant milestone in the power station’s history when it switched from steam to gas turbines to meet the growing demand for electricity during the post-war era.
The Heritage Gallery is not exactly that big to begin with, but it offers concise information of the history and workings of St James Power Station.
All in all, it’s an informative place to hang out if you are in the vicinity of VivoCity or even on your way to Sentosa!
ST JAMES POWER STATION HERITAGE TRAIL & GALLERY
Address: 3 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore 098544
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm (Last entry at 5.30pm) | Closed on Monday
Admission Charges: FREE*
*Visitors are required to pre-book the slot online prior to their visit: PRE-BOOK LINK
**Children 13 years of age & below must be accompanied by an adult at all times in the Heritage Gallery.
How to get there:
BUS – HarbourFront station/VivoCity Bus Stop: RWS8, 61, 855, NR1, NR6, 97, 10, 30, 30, 57, 65, 80, 97E, 100, 123M, 131, 143, 145, 166. Alight at bus stop [HarbourFront station/VivoCity]
MRT – HarbourFront MRT Station [NE1/CC29]. Take the NorthEast Line or Circle Line (NE1/CC29)
DRIVE – Parking of car/motorcycle is not available at St James Power Station. Nearest carpark is at VivoCity.