Proposed Kowloon Tramway System - 1923 | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Proposed Kowloon Tramway System - 1923

Kowloon-Proposed-Tramways- 1923- Description of Scheme
Kowloon-Proposed-Tramways- 1923- Description of Scheme , by Chinarail- modified scan from The Far East Review, Nov 1925


In November 1923 The Far Eastern Review (“FER”) reported that the Government of Hong Kong had invited tenders for the construction and operation of a tramway system for the Kowloon peninsula. Construction was to be completed by December 1925 and the term would be for 25 years.

The FER described six intended routes providing a combined length of 9.2 miles. I have created a map indicating the routes which are colour-coded and these have been superimposed onto a survey map of Kowloon dispatched to the Colonial Office in London in 1926, although this appears to have been an updated map from a 1923 survey.


Map showing proposed Kowloon Tramways - 1923
Map showing proposed Kowloon Tramways - 1923, by Chinarail 


There is an external website entitled “The Kowloon Tramway That Never Was” (Link ), which shows a proposed route map purportedly dated as 1919. No source for the map is provided. There are likewise six routes suggested in this earlier map but there are significant differences to the positions of the termini. It is almost certain that the proposal being considered by the Government in 1923 had evolved since the 1919 outline and some tinkling with the destinations had been made, most notably that Route 3 would terminate further north “in the Kowloon foothills at Kowloon Tong” rather than at Kau Pui  Shek (a.k.a Kau Pai Shek) which served Kowloon City. However, I also suggest that there are errors on the 1919 map. The road marked as Waterloo Road cutting N.W. to Kowloon City has in my opinion been misidentified and should be marked as Argyle Street.  Waterloo Road’s junction with Nathan Road (ex-Coronation Rd.) is considerably further south and closer to Public Square St. in Yau Ma Tei. The creator of this 1919 map, however, portrays Waterloo Rd as commencing on the waterfront at Mong Kok.  

Yet another error, I suggest, is that the tramway would proceed westwards along “ Boundary Street” to Kowloon City” . My problem with this suggestion is that published maps between 1920 and 1927 do not yet show a street formerly named as Boundary Street. The maps from this era are marked as the “old  Frontier”. Granted that there are footpaths and a narrow roadway in parts along this boundary line but no substantial construction of a main thoroughfare. Even the 1926 map upon which I have drawn the suggested tram routes there is still not formerly named Boundary Street, although one had been pencilled in as a future development. However, Prince Edward Road,  slightly to its south, had already been extended (c.1922 -1923 ?) as a major thoroughfare leading to Kau Pui Shek. I suggest, therefore, that the 1919 map should also have shown this proposed tram route (No.4) running along Prince Edward Rd and not Boundary St.                       

The tramway system was never built and I am still searching for a definitive notice published by the Public Works Department withdrawing the tender invitation and abandonment of the plan. I surmise that the project died because in the mid-1920s Hong Kong entered a long and severe period of economic recession. It started with left-wing anti foreign strikes and demonstrations in Canton, which had spread there from the International Settlement Shanghai. Matters weren’t helped when British & French troops guarding their "Concessions" on Shameen (Shamian) island opened fire with machine guns on a rowdy crowd on the Chinese side across the Shameen bridges (the “Shakee (Shaji) Massacre”) .  In 1925 the strikes and trade boycotts spread to Hong Kong and two or three hundred thousand Chinese residents deserted the place, returning to their Mainland villages. It wasn't until about 1928 that the economy started slowly recovering but by then omnibuses were becoming the fashion. 


I invite anybody who can shed further light on the official  Government reasons for abandoning this proposal to do so here on this forum.

If tramway experts out there believe that I have erred in my interpretaion of the exact alignmnet of the tram six routes ,I am open to suggestions..

Additional information below:


1. Proposed New Tramway Service Routes here HK Telegraph 28 July 1923 refers.

2. Tenders Under Consideration here HK Telegraph 27 February 1924 refers.

3. Kowloon Tramways Proposal Shelved here HK Daily Press 7 June 1924 refers

4. Call for Tenders for an Exclusive Motor Omnibus Service in Kowloon here China Mail 27 February 1925 refers

5. Re-Tender for an Exclusive Motor Omnibus Service in Kowloon here HK Telegraph 25 February 1926 refers


Thanks for those links moddsey. Saved me a lot of searching. 

I wrote a piece on the Kowloon tram proposal at 

Thanks Tymon for alerting me to the tramways article on the Industrial  History of HK website. I see it was very recent posting in October  this year

When I first came across the Kowloon Tramways proposal ( last year) I was working on a massive "The Far Eastern Review " Index project as well as Chinese railway history for , so I put this aside intending to write about it later. At that time there was nothing about the proposed Kowloon trams on the Industrial website. So you beat me to do it. Well done ! 

Your 1923 map of the routes appears substantially similar to mine with the exception that I have route 5 ( marked in brown on my map) terminationg  a liitle further north to meet up with Route 4 ( marked in red)  near Ma Tau Wai vllage. Regrettably the industrial history website, unlike Gwulo, does not facilitate inclusion of high resolution  images so it is impossible to zoom in and see the magnified portions with clarity.

Happy New Year to all Gwulo followers,





The Industrial Histoy article was originally posted in 2016, but recently recycled!

Happy to share the original documents and maps I have on the subject.


oldhkmaps at gmail add the dot com