ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “tram

PEAK TRAM (山頂纜車): The Oldest Public Transportation in Hong Kong

On 27th of June 2021, the fifth generation Peak Tram made its last trip up the Victoria Peak. The service would then be shut down for an extensive upgrade, laying new tracks and introducing larger funicular trains in the next six months. From the 30-seat wooden train operated by a steam engineer in 1888, to the upcoming 210-seat fully computerized and universally accessible aluminium train, the Peak Tram is about to enter its sixth generation in 133 years. The Peak Tram is, in fact, the oldest funicular system in Asia, and the first public transportation system in Hong Kong. We would occasionally hike up the Peak via Lung Fu Shan Country Park and descend by taking the Peak Tram to Kennedy Road Stop, where we would walk through the Botanical Gardens to return home. It was a 7-minute treat of lovely scenery from 28m to 368m above sea level every time we hopped onto the peak tram and sat on those inclined seats at the maximum of about 27 degrees. Before the pandemic, riding the peak tram was almost a compulsory activity for all foreign tourists. Today, the funicular is popular with local visitors during weekends.

The Peak Tram has always been a means of transportation for leisure. At 552m above sea level, the Peak is the perfect retreat from the summer heat. In 1881, Alexander Findlay Smith, who worked for the Scottish Highway Railway before, convinced Governor John Pope-Hennessy to operate a funicular route between the south of Murray Barracks (now Admiralty) and Victoria Gap on the Peak. He hoped the new transportation system would boost visitor numbers to his prestige Peak Hotel. Apart from hotel visitors and tourists, the Peak Tram also served the wealthy expatriates who lived on the Peak. Findlay Smith soon put the Peak Hotel and Peak Tram onto the market. At the end, the hotel and funicular landed in the hands of Hongkong Hotel Company, the current owner of Peninsula Hotel Group. Before 1920, the funicular was the only means of transportation connecting the Peak with Central, the downtown of Hong Kong. It has been 83 years since the Peak Hotel was burnt down in 1938. Its former site is now occupied by the shopping centre Peak Galleria (山頂廣場). Opposite to Peak Galleria now stands the Peak Tower (凌霄閣), another eye-catching retail complex that also doubles as the Upper Peak Tram Terminus. Below the Peak, the city’s skyline has changed dramatically in the past century. Perhaps the only thing that stays recognizable in the past 130 years is the funicular system itself.

The Peak Tram is the oldest public transportation in Hong Kong. Replacing the steam engineer of the first generation, the second generation Peak Tram was powered by an electric system. [Photo: Hagger F. Collection, University of Bristol, (CC BY_NC_ND 4.0), 1930’s]
The first generation Lower Peak Tram Terminus at Garden Road (花園道) appeared like an European Alpine resort. [Photo taken in 1920’s, public domain]
Built in 1983, the ground floor of St. John’s Building (聖約翰大廈) has been serving as the Lower Peak Tram Terminus in the past 38 years. The 22-storey commercial tower is the fourth generation funicular terminus. [2020]
Adjacent to the funicular terminus, St. Joseph’s College (聖若瑟書院) is the earliest Roman Catholic school in Hong Kong. [2020]
In Hong Kong, buildings are always cramped together with roads and transportation infrastructures. In the case of Garden Road Peak Tram Terminus, the train platform is sandwiched between several historical buildings (St. Joseph’s College at the back, Visitor Centre of World Wildlife Fund, The Helena May main building in front right) and the flyover of Red Cotton Road. [2020]
Some say the Visitor Centre of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at No. 1 Tramway Path was once a parking depot of funicular trams. [1 Tramway Path, 2019]
The WWF Visitor Centre is home to a coffee shop, a souvenir shop and a small interpretation/ activity space. [1 Tramway Path, 2020]
Further up Tramway Path, peaceful Tram View Cafe is tranquil retreat to enjoy afternoon tea while watching funicular trams arriving and leaving the Garden Road Terminus. [Tram View Cafe, 2 Tramway Path, 2020]
Tram View Cafe is a pleasant retreat just a stone throw away from the financial district. [Tram View Cafe, 2 Tramway Path, 2020]
The Tram View Cafe present a vintage decor to engage customers. [Tram View Cafe, 2 Tramway Path, 2021]
Beyond MacDonnell Road Station (麥當勞道站), the Peak Tram climbed towards the bridges of Magazine Gap Road and May Road. [Photo taken in 1897, public domain]
Beyond May Road Station (梅道站), the funicular route continues to climb towards the Peak. [May Road Station, 2020]
The track angle varies from 4 to 27 degrees, climbing an elevation of 368m. [2020]
Where the Peak Tram bridges over Barker Road is a popular spot for filming local movies. [Barker Road, 2020]
Opened in 1888, Barker Road Station (白加道) is the only covered station between Garden Road and the Peak. The roof was added in 1919. [Barker Road Station, 2020]
Baker Road Station is a popular spot for visitors taking selfies. [Barker Road Station, 2020]
At an elevation of 363m, Barker Road Station is the second last stop before reaching the Peak. [Barker Road Station, 2020]
Taking the Peak Tram is always a pleasant way to reach the Victoria Peak. [2019]
The fourth generation Peak Trams have been retired. The next generation funicular trains will arrive in a few months’ time. Due to the increasing demand, the new trains will significantly increase the passenger capacity. [inside the Peak Tram, 2019]
The Peak Tram on the slope of Victoria Peak has been an icon of Hong Kong for decades. [Peak Tram arriving at The Peak, 2020]
At 398m, the retail complex Peak Tower (凌霄閣) now serves as the upper terminus of Peak Tram. [The Peak, 2020]
Where the former Peak Hotel stood a century ago, the shopping centre Peak Galleria (山頂廣場) now welcomes visitors arriving on the Peak. [The Peak, 2020]
The third generation Peak Tram is now on display in front of Peak Galleria in commemoration of the centennial of the Peak Tram. [The Peak, 2020]

MULTIFACETED URBAN LIVING, North Point (北角), Hong Kong

Thanks to various influxes of immigrants from Mainland China in the 20th century, North Point (北角) was listed on the Guinness Book of Records as the most densely populated place in the world at the end of the 1960’s .  Today this may not be the case anymore, but this old neighborhood in northeast Hong Kong Island remains complex and bustling with life.  While many urban spaces in the area have gone through dramatic transformations in recent years, a number of vintage buildings and old streets remain.  From the foot of Braemar Hill (寶馬山) to the Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) along Victoria Harbour, and from the 100-feet-wide thoroughfare of King’s Road (英皇道) to the narrow market street of Chun Yeung Street (春秧街), North Point is always teeming with life.  Take a stroll through its old neighborhoods is like meandering through traces of Hong Kong’s urban and social evolution from the early 20th century to the contemporary moment.

DSC_6683The Island Eastern Corridor (東區走廊) marks the northern boundary of North Point along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour.  Opened in various phases during the 1980’s, the Island Eastern Corridor is a viaduct expressway built along the Victoria Harbour from Causeway Bay to Chai Wan.

DSC_6682Many dislike the idea of having an elevated expressway along the waterfront.  Proposals are being made to enhance the pedestrian experience along the harbour by introducing a seaside promenade.

DSC_6664Many people walk out to the pile caps of Island Eastern Corridor to take in the panoramic view of Victoria Harbour, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Kowloon Bay.

IMG_0447Quite often during the week, the pile caps of Island Eastern Corridor serve as ideal platforms for leisure fishing.

DSC_6686Perched above the sloped street of Kai Yuen Street (繼園街) is a peaceful neighborhood of old tenement houses, or tong lau (唐樓).

DSC_6691Isolated from the bustling life of North Point below, the tranquility of the Kai Yuen Street neighborhood is a rarity in the area.  Like most of Hong Kong, this hidden neighborhood is changing fast with several 30+ storey apartments are under construction at lower Kai Yuen Street.

DSC_6693Throughout the years, the peaceful ambience of Kai Yuen Street has attracted a number of celebrities, including author Eileen Chang (張愛玲) and painter Zhang Daqian (張大千).

DSC_6697Down at King’s Road (英皇道) in the heart of North Point, the Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) has been around since 1972 as the primary venue for Cantonese opera.  It was established by the Shanghainese emigrants who came to Hong Kong after the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

DSC_6702The protruding signage of the Sunbeam Theatre (新光戲院) is an iconic feature on the King’s Road (英皇道), a 100 ft wide vehicular road built in honour of  the Silver Jubilee of King George V of Britain in 1935.  Another feature on the King’s Road is undoubtedly the Hong Kong tramway, one of the earliest public transportation in the city since 1904.

DSC_6748A few blocks away from Sunbeam stands another historical building, the State Theatre (皇都戲院).  Its original functions are long gone.  In recent months, the State Theater is caught between the controversy of demolition/ preservation.

DSC_6750Converted from a former Clubhouse of the Royal Yacht Club, the Oil Art Space (油街實現) is a community art centre.

DSC_6751Built in 1908, the building served as the Clubhouse of Royal Yacht Club until 1938, when the building lost its waterfront location after numerous land reclamation.

DSC_6709There are a number of street markets remain in Hong Kong.  The one in North Point stretches along two narrow streets: stalls selling dry merchandises on Marble Road Market (馬寶道), and fresh produces, meat and seafood on Chun Yeung Street (春秧街).

DSC_6885Chun Yeung Street Market (春秧街) is the most interesting street in North Point.  Also known as Little Shanghai and Little Fujian, the street market has a high concentration of immigrants from the Mainland since the mid 20th century.

DSC_6889In late afternoon and early evening, Chun Yeung Street is full of life.

DSC_6891DSC_6897There is so much going on on Chun Yeung Street. While one side of the street is busy with grocery shoppers, the other side is packed with stalls selling clothing and toys.

DSC_6912The most iconic scenery of Chun Yeung Street Market is the moving tram along the street centre.  Since 1953, trams have been running through the Chun Yeung Street Market.  To remind pedestrians of the approaching tram, the tram drivers often make the iconic “ding ding” horn whiling driving through the market.

DSC_6926The tram terminus “North Point” is located at the end of the Chun Yeung Street Market.  Despite slower than other means of transportation, taking the tram remains one of the best ways to explore North Point.