Meet the Train Enthusiast who nicknamed a train Snow White, and even scored his dream job

By December 28, 2019People

TL;DR – He found a way to make his passion pay for his bills in 2019.

Since young, he had wanted to become a Train Captain. Holding this goal clearly and dearly before him, he worked towards achieving it. In 2019, he landed his dream job and became a Train Service Controller. This is Leonard’s story.

I first knew of Leonard for his answer to a (now deleted) question on Quora asking, “Why do most Singaporean Chinese support the Hong Kong protests?”.

He had come across as someone who’s interested in current affairs and regional news. In fact, because he was talking about the 1965 riots in Singapore and also the 2013 Little India riot in his Quora answer, I was so surprised to find out that Leonard’s only 23 years old!

Our first meeting in person was quite awkward since yours truly is an introvert. But oh boy, how things changed when the topic changed to trains! You see, this young man has been a train enthusiast since he was a little boy! In fact, he grew up with a dream to be Train Captain!

Now I’ve only heard and read of train and bus enthusiasts but never met one in real life. But I have always been fascinated by how fascinated some people are with trains and buses, hehe! I begged asked Leonard to share with me his love story with trains.

How long have you been this interested in trains?

For as long as I can remember! When I was little, my mother would take me around Singapore in trains, and I remember how as a little boy, I would be so mesmerized by the colourful advertisements on the interior and exterior of the trains.

And of course, I absolutely loved the scenic views outside the trains’ windows when they’re above ground.

I also found myself attracted to the accelerating and braking sounds of the trains.

It grew from a compulsion to check out all the advertisements to paying more attention to the other parts of trains and our train stations, and even the overall rail system.

Little Leonard at the train station

Tell me more about your love for trains

Basically I spend time trying to learn as much as I can about our trains and train system. I’m also interested in how other countries operate their train system.

I even started going into the details of the different train models, the decelerating sounds and all the more technical details. I think I probably can identify the train model from just listening to the decelerating sound.

And oh, I’ve a Youtube channel where I upload my train videos, and my first videos dated back to 10 years ago.

This is one of Leonard’s earliest videos from nearly a decade ago. It’s a Joo Koon bound train on the East-West line and he had taken it to showcase the exclusive advertising from NTUC Income.

Here’s a video from 2015 from the Downtown Line 2 Open House, from Rochor to Bukit Panjang.

And there’s a more recent tunnel view video from this year, of a SMRT train ride from Pasir Panjang to Buona Vista.

Do you have any special train story to share with us?

There was this once in 2017, I woke up at 6am and travelled to Ang Mo Kio from Pasir Ris where I was staying at that time, just to witness the launch of the new Kawasaki-CRRC Qingdao Sifang C151B train. This train was the first of 45 trains to be launched.

Once at Ang Mo Kio, I got on to this train and rode to Jurong East.

Hehe, I nicknamed this train “Snow White” because of the white livery.

Leonard’s “Snow White” train


So interesting! I had thought all the trains looked the same! So anyone can just turn up at  these train launches?

No no, this train launch was organised by the Friends of SMRT where they invited members to witness the launch. Other than the Friends of SMRT fan club, I’m also in the Friends of LTA  (FOLTA) club.

Leonard’s Friends of SMRT card


Anyway, as I got to know Leonard better over the months, I learnt how the year 2019 is quite the milestone in Leonard’s life. The freshly ORD’ed young man has just stepped into the working world, into his first job after serving national service.

Let’s walk through with Leonard how the NS-man-to-working-adult journey has been, and also how he landed in his dream job.

Was it difficult for you to find a job after NS?

For me, I knew what I was looking for, so I just worked from there and narrowed down the options. Since I am very certain about working in the rail industry, I just had to narrow down all my searches to railway transport.

Back then, I was browsing through the e2i website when I came across a job fair on the website. Curious, I went to check out job opportunities, selected a few positions that I was interested in and submitted my application online. On the day of the job fair, I went down to interview for the positions that I applied for. Subsequently, I was contacted by the company for a few more rounds of interviews before I was shortlisted for one of the positions.

I don’t think it’s difficult to look for a job because there are a lot of platforms and avenues out there that people can go to.

What made you decide to work in the rail industry?

Because that’s where my passion lies. Even when I was a little boy, I had wanted to be a Train Captain!

And now, I’m actually a Train Service Controller. You could say it’s a dream job for me.

Leonard Tan, 23, whose ambition as a child was to be a Train Captain.


Now that you’ve started working, how’s working in the “real” world for you? How does life look now compared to when you were still in school or serving the NS?

There’s a whole lot of difference!

I mean, when you’re in school, you’re just learning. The teachers in school will just spoonfeed you along the way. But coming out to work is a totally different thing. You’d suddenly feel like most of what you’ve learned in school may not be applicable, to be very honest.

For myself, I did my Diploma in Electrical & Electronic Engineering in Singapore Polytechnic and I specialised in Rapid Transit Technology which has got to do with railway systems.

The railway system that I’ve studied in school a few years back was the older system and it was totally different from what we have in our system right now. So, there’s a bit of a learning curve as I have to unlearn all those things and relearn the new stuff, which can be quite tedious.

Secondly, coming out into the workforce means that you’re now an adult and you just have to learn how to adult lah. And adulting can be quite daunting sometimes.

Leonard with his coursemates from Singapore Polytechnic

As a millennial, we’re all digital natives. Do you worry about digital disruption taking away your job? 

In this day and age, technology is ever-changing and is changing very quickly. The next thing you know, whatever you’ve learned before may not be relevant anymore. So, it is important to continuously upgrade ourselves and keep ourselves updated.

As for whether I am afraid if the digital disruption will take away my job… Probably not.

Of course, there may be some form of disruption which may change the way we do things, but I feel technologies are here to help us do our work more productively and efficiently. They may not necessarily be able to fully substitute humans because there are also certain tasks that require some form of human touch that cannot be done by machines.

Put it in another way, when a job is taken away or automated by technology, there will also be another job that will be created for humans. For instance, someone to manage the technology or automation process. So we just need to continue to upskill ourselves and learn how to operate these machines so that we can use them to make our work easier.

Now that you are in a job where your passion lies, do you like what you are doing? Is there any case of Expectation vs Reality for you?

I do feel a bit of the Expectation vs. Reality.

After stepping into my current job, I realised that there’s just a lot a lot a lot of things to learn. There are way too many things that I have to understand as well, and they are not as simple as I thought.

That said, I have no regrets coming into this industry, but this is just the reality lor. I just have to adjust myself to the new reality and it can take quite some time for me to adjust and adapt.

Did stepping into the working world change your perspective about anything in life?

钱很难赚 ! (Translation: It’s not easy to make/earn money)

I realised that financial planning can be quite tedious. I have to find a balance between saving and spending.

I can’t spend too much, and neither can I save too little because it might be detrimental to my future self. Now I’m 23 years old, I do not want my 63-year-old self to look back and ask myself, “Why didn’t I do this/that? Why didn’t I plan better?”

That’s how I got woke and I now firmly believe that it is important to start my financial planning as early as possible. I subscribe to Seedly, The Woke Salaryman and MoneySmart for financial advice as well as career advice.

Leonard with fellow train enthusiasts on one of their train-related outings

If you were given a chance to choose again, would you still choose to work in the rail or transport industry?

Yes, of course!

Because that’s where my passion and interest are. And I would want to stay in this industry for as long as I can so that I can learn new things and pass on my knowledge to the future generation. I want to witness how the industry evolves and changes through the years and I want to be involved in the revolution myself.

Thomson-East Coast MRT Line Stage 1 (TEL1) opens for passenger service

So you think you will still be in the rail industry in five years’ time?

Why stop at five? I think I will still be in this industry in 30, 40 or more years!

Your goals For 2020?

I want to remain fit and healthy!

I also hope to become more financially savvy as I plan to save my first $10,000 by 31 December 2020.


More stories of how fellow Singaporeans’ lives took a drastic turn in 2019

First cancer, then an unknown disease: one lady’s journey

The Man Who Used Emotional Intelligence To Change His Life

How this man made his failing business great again



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Ji Mei

Author Ji Mei

Ji Mei is a working adult by day and a fangirl by night (don't judge). Has great interest in labour-related issues, loves ghost stories and bubble tea!

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