Taikoo Ropeway [1891-1932]

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Date Place completed: 
1891-01-01
Date Place demolished: 
1932-12-31

This used to run from the Quarry Bay area at the bottom of the hill, up the valley to Quarry Gap.

When the ropeway (another name for 'cable-car') was running, Quarry Bay held the Taikoo Dockyard and Taikoo Sugar Refinery, while Quarry Gap was known as Sanitarium Gap, and was the site of the Taikoo Sanitarium.

When did it run?

But when did the ropeway run? The 'Mapping Hong Kong' book shows the 'Tai-Koo Sanitarium' on plate 7-1,  a tourist guide map from 1896. It also mentions the building in one of the guide's suggested sight-seeing routes:

PROGRAMME No. 7
Proceed by ricksha to Bay View [a building that stood near where Tin Hau MTR is today], as the road is too long and uninteresting up to this point; thence walk to Quarry Bay, where, after having passed the entrance to the Sugar Refinery, about one hundred yards further on, just before crossing a bridge, you will see on your right hand, the pathway up the hill [the pathway is today's Mount Parker Road]. Something under one hour should bring you to the top, which is only a gap about feet 1,000 [sic.] above sea level. Here are the Sanatorium buildings of the Taikooo Sugar Refinery, Messrs. Butterfield & Swire. [The walk continues down to Ty Tam reservoir, up to Wongnai Chung Road, then down to Happy Valley, where 'we can obtain a ricksha to convey us to town.']

That same map shows a dotted line that runs from near the 'Tai-koo Sugar works' up to the Sanitarium. I wonder if this was already the cable car in place?

Plate 2-12 in the same book is a wartime map, dated 1939-40, and overprinted with Japanese. It shows the 'TaiKoo Sanitarium' building, connected to the 'Sugar Refinery' by an 'Aerial Ropeway', so it was in use then.

Plate 2-13 is a 1949 map. It still shows a dotted line along the course of the ropeway, and the outline of the sanatorium building is there too. Neither are labelled though, and the Gap is now labelled 'Quarry Gap'. So, perhaps the building and the ropeway were damaged during the war, and were never repaired afterwards?

What did it look like?

The ropeway can be seen in several photos from the G. Warren Swire collection (click the thumbnail to see a larger view of the photo):

Reader IDJ has sent in this photo of a cable car at the loading bay:

Are there any remains?

We've also been sent the following notes and photograph by Rob Weir, suggesting that some signs of the ropeway remain:

Some time ago, when I was scouring the side of the Mt Parker/Quarry Gap area looking for PB 45, I noticed two small squares marked on one map . Although they didn't appear to be anywhere near the expected PB area, I can never ignore something apparently man-made. Having fought my way down from Mt Parker Road through some distinctly unfriendly vegetation, I eventually bumped into them.

They seem to be the base of one of the stanchions for the ropeway to the Sanatorium/Sanatarium. Why these two should be marked, I have no idea


Please leave a comment below if you can help provide any more information about this.

Regards, David

Comments

Re: Taikoo Ropeway

Plate 2-5 dated 1895 from the Mapping Hong Kong book also shows the aerial ropeway (which is identified, however, as an overhead tram) running from Quarry Gap to a position near the Taikoo Sugar Refinery.

As the ropeway was run by a private company, not much information is available through the public archives. However, the only item that is worth sharing is that an entry has been made for 1904 that the cable car route of the Mount Parker Tramway was doubled-lined that year. Cheers.

Re: Taikoo Ropeway

Thanks Moddsey, I hadn't noticed it shown on that other map.

Here's the quote Moddsey mentioned, taken from the Report of the Director of Public Works, for the year 1904:

Duplication of the Mount Parker Tramway

This cable car route at the Tai Koo Sugar Refinery has been doubled during the year.

That led to this quote from the 'Nature Touch' website:

In 1881, Taikoo Sugar Company acquired land along the coast of Quarry Bay to develop the Taikoo Sugar Factory. Since the company built staff quarters in the Mount Parker area, to facilitate movement, it also developed Hong Kong's first ever cable car system in 1892.

C. M. Guildford's summary of Civil engineering in Hong Kong also gives it a couple of mentions. First he guesses it may have been related to the Tai Tam reservoir:

On an uncontoured 1895 version of Collinson's plan (1845), there
is an interesting feature clearly marked "overhead tram" extending 2.3
kilometres between Quarry Bay and Quarry Gap. It seems likely that it
would have been used to transport materials and, perhaps, workmen
associated with the early Tai Tarn reservoir works.

But in an addendum he adds the following correction:

Since this article was first published, a reader has kindly advised
that the purpose of the "overhead tram" referred to in the section on
Water Supply was not as suggested but to provide access to two blocks
of flats used in the summer by the Tai Koo sugar refinery staff. It was
probably erected in 1891 and survived until 1932 when both the flats
and cableway were dismantled.

I walked up to Quarry Gap yesterday. On the north side of the gap, just below the ridge, is a small flat, grassy area. I wondered if there is still any sign of the cablecar platform shown in the photos above. There is a small section of bricks and concrete in about the right place, but nothing I could see that would prove what it was built for.

Memories of the Taikoo Ropeway

This from Dick Worrall:

I remember the foundations of the buildings in the gap (some are still there) as well as the mounts for the pylons. I even used to know a man (former Taikoo Dockyard Manager called Bell) who had travelled up and down the cable car when he was a lad. They were never referred to as a sanitorium in my day but spoken of as accomodation to which the Taikoo families would go up to for the summer months.

Dick was born & raised in Quarry Bay, and is the son of the last Master of the Taikoo tug. Thanks to Dick for his comments, and to Guy for the introduction.

Regards, David

Re: Taikoo Ropeway

Follow-up comments from Dick:

You call it the ropeway, my old man always called it the "cable car". I also remember (down at the "Woodside" (Taikoo Sugar's Manager's House)/Quarry Bay end) some of the metal supports for the cable as being much more substantial that the ones shown in the photographs - possibly because the "drop" in that area was quite sheer as it ran alongside the Taikoo Sugar Refinery's reservoir which was at the entrance to the valley.

Dick's right, 'Cable car' is the usual way to describe it these days. 'Ropeway' is the word that appears on the old maps, and I guess is the old-fashioned way to describe it, along with railway, tramway, etc. 'Ropeway' is still used in some formal documents, eg Hong Kong has an 'Aerial Ropeways (Safety) Ordinance'.

Abandoned railways in Hong Kong

Dear David,

I discovered your website completely by chance and it would be an understatement to say that I am thrilled by what I can see.

I have been, for some years now, conducting research into abandoned railways in Hong Kong (and some other cities in China, eg Peking), and this includes proposed projects that were never materialised. I have almost exhausted the collection held by Public Records Office and the Lands Department, and apparently what excites me about this website is that you seem to have access to a different set of resources that I never knew existed. I have, for example, never heard of the Queensway cable car, although I have heard of the railway systems in the Admiralty magazine and Whitfield Barracks in Kowloon. The Public Records Office was more helpful in matters such as the Wo Hop Shek railway, but on military and private (eg Whampoa, Kai Tak, Morrison Hill) systems, and on railways already disused before the war (eg the Sha Tau Kok branch line) it is completely hopeless.

I am looking for photographs of the Baker Street link between the Hung Hom depot and the Whampoa railways. It crossed Chatham Road North so certainly would be present in photographs of the area. I wonder if one exists in your collection?

If you are interested, I can send you two articles that I have written so far, one on the Wo Hop Shek Railway and the other on the Mount Parker Ropeway. They were written some years ago and were planned to become eventually part of a book that would cover all disused railways in the city. Upon rethink I now believe a book on the history of railway planning would be of more interest to the general public (and the publishers!).

I am interested in all things about old Hong Kong, it just happens that I am attracted to railways (and colonial politics) more than anything else!

Best regards

Ernest Leung

re: Abandoned railways in Hong Kong

Hello Ernest,

You mention several railways I've never heard of, so I hope you'll share more with us over time. And yes, I'd be very interested to read your articles - my email address is: . (I'm sure other readers will be interested to see them too, so if you're willing to publish some or all of their content here, that will be even better.)

Here's a conversation we had about the Baker street link back in April. Moddsey found the text dating when the link was built (Nov. 1937), but we're not sure when it went out of service, and have yet to find any photographs of it.

Thanks for getting in touch,

David

Photos of the Taikoo Ropeway

Thanks to Geoff Douglas for pointing out these two photos, one showing the lower station of the ropeway, and one showing the Sanitarium / Summer Flats up at the gap: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3064690174788&set=o.21271626725&t...

Regards, David

Bertie Bell

Dear David

Im trying to find out more information on Bertie Bell (Robert Barr Bell) ...

[Admin, I've moved this question to a page for Bertie Bell.]

The Taikoo ropeway

It got a mention in this 1914 article:

The proprietors of a sugar-mill in Hong Kong acquired a site upon the elevated plateau overlooking the coast for the housing of their European staff, the level of the works being somewhat unhealthy. In order to expedite and facilitate movement between the two points, the London firm of Bullivant, which had previously completed several aerial railways for the transport of merchandise, was requested to instal a similar line between the mill and the residential centre. It was completed at a cost of some £5,000, and met the situation very completely.

The line is carried upon lattice steel towers, the track being a single steel rope, along which runs a two-wheeled truck, from which is suspended the travelling carriage, resembling a light double deck seat with the passengers sitting back to back. An endless rope attached to the car hauls it up and down at a maximum speed of 8 miles per hour.

Thanks to IDJ for the link,

Regards, David

Taikoo Ropeway

I was up at Quarry Gap last weekend and noticed some possible remnants of the old Taikoo Ropeway. They may be the ones mentioned by Dick Worrall in David’s post of 30-8-2009.

On the northern side of the Gap are newish public toilets. Behind them, i.e. on the Quarry Bay side, the land drops steeply to a flat seating &  play area. Just to the west of the toilets a large "indentation" seems to have been cut into the contour at the top of the slope. From the mouth of the indentation a steep "ramp" runs down to the seating/play area. The slope and "ramp" have been “shot-creted” in recent years, covering most of the features beneath, but older concrete and metal structures poke through the concrete on the margins of the “ramp”.

The "indentation"/"ramp": From the seating/play areaThe "indentation"/"ramp": From the seating/play area 

I'm thinking that the "indentation" and "ramp" may represent the old "docking bay" for the cable cars at the upper terminus of the Taikoo Ropeway, i.e. the space the cable cars slide into where passengers embark and alight at the sides onto concrete platforms and steps, some of which are still there. The first photo in David’s post on the Ropeway, dated 25-8-2009, clearly shows that a docking bay existed.

The "indentation"/"ramp".: Looking down from the toiletThe "indentation"/"ramp".: Looking down from the toilet

An indicator that this may not be the docking bay is the width of the “indentation” which measures about 14 to 15 feet across, which is surely much wider than the docking station in the photo and much wider than would be necessary to house one of the relatively narrow cable cars seen.

David’s post of 27-8-2009 mentions that the tramway was “doubled” in 1904. I’m not sure what that term means, but wonder if it could have led to bigger, i.e. wider, cable cars being used, necessitating the widening of the original docking bay?

Arguments “for” it being the old docking bay are that it’s in roughly the correct position, of generally the expected shape and faces the correct way. Also, if it’s not the old docking station, then what is it?

 

re:Taikoo Ropeway

GW,

Thanks for posting. I agree the slope and walls look like they belonged to the ropeway. I'm not sure exactly what the connection was though - I'm still hoping some more old photos will turn up and show us more views of what the top of the ropeway looked like.

Regards, David