A question for you - how many railways and ropeways have there been in Hong Kong?
For 'railway' I'll include any place where there were wheeled vehicles running on metal tracks. A 'ropeway' is what we call a cable-car today. And let's say they had to have been built before 1950, to exclude more recent constructions like the MTR, or the Tung Chung cable car.
How many did you count?
I came up with eight railways, and three ropeways. Railways first:
- The Peak Tram. An obvious first choice, with public service starting on 30 May 1888. More...
- Hong Kong Tramways. The trams along the north shore of Hong Kong island started public service in 1904. More...
- The Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR). This opened a few years later, in 1910, though services to Canton didn't begin until the following year. More...
- The Fan Ling-Sha Tau Kok Railway. You might say this was just part of the KCR, but since it used a different width of railway tracks (it was a narrow-gauge railway), I'll count it separately. It was relatively short-lived, only running from 1912 until 1928. More...
- Kowloon Wharves. These tracks were laid along the wharves, and used by the labourers to move goods around on small wagons.
Moddsey notes there was also permission granted for lines to extend onto nearby roads, but so far we haven't seen any photographic evidence of them.
- Hong Kong and Whampoa Docks, and
- Dockyards at HMS Tamar. Maps from the 1940s show tracks running through both sites. I imagine there would be shunting engines to move heavy items around, but I haven't seen any photos as proof.
- Victoria Barracks. The book, " VICTORIA BARRACKS 1842 - 1979" published by: Headquarters British Forces, Hong Kong describes a railway used to move material between the magazine up near Kennedy Road, and the Wellington Barracks (though as we'll see later, its destination may have been the Navy's land, rather than the army barracks.)
The first mention is on pg 56: [...], the steep lane by the side of the 'A' Block, known as "Six and Sevenpenny Hill", down which ran the railway from the arsenal at the top of the Barracks, [...]. Then on pg 102 is a caption to a photograph: Inside the old magazine yard. The trucks were pulled by a winding engine on lines which ran down through Victoria Barracks across Queen's Road into Wellington Barracks.
You can see there were still some tracks remaining in the magazine yard in 1977 - scroll down to the black & white photos in the 'Magazine' section of this article.
Now on to the ropeways:
- Victoria Barracks. The full quote from pg 102 of the Victoria Barracks is: Inside the old magazine yard. The trucks were pulled by a winding engine on lines which ran down through Victoria Barracks across Queen's Road into Wellington Barracks. When traffic increased, an aerial ropeway was used instead to connect with Wellington Barracks.
There's also a map of the Victoria Cantonment dated 'c.1924', which shows the aerial ropeway extending from the shoreline, through the Arsenal yard (ie not through Wellington Barracks), across Queen's Road, then up the hill to the magazine. The path of the ropeway forks at one point, with a second branch leading up to a building marked 'Laboratory', roughly where 'Regent on the Park' stands today.
The map shows both of these southern areas to be Naval lots. It makes me wonder whether one reason for the aerial ropeway was to allow materials to pass between these naval lots and the Arsenal Yard (another naval lot), without touching the army's land that divided them.
- Taikoo Sanitarium. Maps from the 1930s and 40s show an aerial ropeway connecting the TaiKoo factory area near the sea with the TaiKoo Sanitarium up on the hill. Geoff also found this photo of the Taikoo ropeway, so at last we can get an idea what to be looking for.
- Dairy Farm. A 1957 map shows an Aerial Ropeway running from the Dairy Farm buildings near Pok Fu Lam Road, down the hillside and ending near a pier on the seafront, roughly where Bel-Air in Cyberport is today.
As you can see, I haven't got much background information on several of these. If you know any more about them, and especially if you find any photographs that show them, please leave a comment below.
And if I've missed any, let me know!