The Jinrikisha Station (Chinese: 金吉力沙人力车站; pinyin: Jīnjílìshā Rénlì Chēzhàn) is a historic building in Singapore, and is located in Tanjong Pagar in the Chinatown district within the Central Area, Singapore's central business district.
Situated at the junction of Neil Road and Tanjong Pagar Road, the Jinrikisha Station is Singapore's last reminder of the once ubiquitous rickshaw. Rickshaws were small, light-weight carts with springs and large wheels. The rickshaw puller worked two shafts protruding from the front of the rickshaw and ran between them. The rickshaw was first imported from Shanghai to Singapore in 1880 and by 1888, a Jinricksha Department was set up to register and license each rickshaw. By the end of the 19th century, there were about 1,000 rickshaw owners in Singapore. The demand for rickshaws was so great that Japan began manufacturing cheaper versions.
The Jinrikisha Station was built from 1903 to 1904. Its location was ideal for catering to customers from the nearby Tanjong Pagar Docks and the adjacent thoroughfare that led from the docks to the town. By 1919, there were 9,000 rickshaws manned by 20,000 rickshaw pullers working in shifts.
The life of a rickshaw puller was harsh. Most could not afford to own a rickshaw and had to rent one. Rickshaw pullers lived in cramped cubicles in shophouses in Chinatown and earnings were meagre. To ease their heartaches as well as their overworked bodies, many turned to opium. Until 1904, all the rickshaws were two-seaters, which were heavy and often used to transport whole families and commercial goods; the weight was almost unbearable for the rickshaw pullers.
In 1911, the government tried to ban the two-seater rickshaw, but opposition delayed the passing of this law for another three years. However, when it was finally implemented, it proved ineffective. Fortunately, the single-seater soon emerged as the more popular rickshaw and the two-seater faded into disuse.
Rickshaws were gradually replaced by other means of transport: the trishaw, the electric tram, the bus and the car. After World War II (1942-1945), they were phased out by government legislation and the once familiar sight of rickshaws and rickshaw pullers disappeared forever from the streets of Singapore.
At one time the Jinrikisha Station was used as a family planning clinic. In 1987 it was one of the first buildings in Tanjong Pagar restored by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). It was refurbished into a shopping and recreational centre. There are a seafood restaurant, shops, offices and nightclubs in the present building.
Samuel Tomlinson was Municipal Engineer from 1896 to 1902, during which time D.M. Craik was Municipal Architect. The date on the Jinrikisha Station building responds well to the triangular corner site and is typical of many other ornate buildings of the early 1900s.
However, originally, the building had exposed brickwork, now painted, and this must have been somewhat unique at the time. The Ionic pilasters and curved pediment on the corner and the square tower with its octagonal cupola are pleasing and important elements of Tanjong Pagar Road and surroundings.