Conversion of images with text to word files | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Conversion of images with text to word files

Many documents from old Hong Kong, e.g. Governmental Reports, have been digitized and are available online. Unfortunately, most of them are only photos of the old books/pages. Although available as pdf-files, they are just images. So re-typing is necessary.

The only way to convert theses images to text (e.g. word) is the use of an Optical Character Recognition software (OCR). On the internet, I found one than can be used free of charge (of course, it's full of adverts). The website is FREE ONLINE OCR SERVICE. I tested it and it works quite satisfactorily. Just upload a file (pdf or jpg), select language and desired product (Microsoft word, excel, or text), start and wait some ten seconds for the result. The converted files can be downloaded and further processed. The website allows you 15 texts per hour without any registration necessary. Here are two examples.

Straight text is quite easy. This is a jpg file from the 1891 Public Works Report.

And this is the converted word-file:

  1. Re-construction of Praya Bridge over Bowrington Canal.—The necessary wrought-iron girders for the reconstruction of this bridge having been obtained from England, a contract was entered into with Messrs. CIIAN A TONG & CO. for their erection and for the. masonry work required ; and with Messrs. FENWICK & CO. for the construction of cast and wrought-iron railings in November last.
  2. This bridge is 19 feet wide and has three spans of 29 feet 6 inches.
  3. On examination it was found that the foundations of the piers and abutments of the old bridge had been considerably undermined. These have now been protected with sheet piling and a concrete apron laid.
  4. The tops of the piers have been levelled ready to receive the girders.
  5. Satisfactory progress has been made by Messrs. FENWICK & CO. with the iron railings.


Almost perfect, only one correction necessary (CIIAN is CHAN).


More complicated texts are not that easy, but still faster than re-typing. See this one:

After conversion, the resulting word file is this one: (just for this presentation, it's a screen shot of the word file only, because there are many layout and format markers that couldn't uploaded to Gwulo without creating too much confusion)

Quite ok, but the program has some problems processing the two columns of text and reading some characters. Interesting to note that even the stains on the paper are converted (consequently to stains again that can be deleted easily). Some rearrangement was necessary, I made a table for the two columns of text. And here's the result:




The following Regulations under The Tramways Ordinance, 1883, are published for general information.

By Command,                                                                                                                 A. LISTER,
                                                                                                                                           Acting Colonial Secretary.

Colonial Secretary's Office, Hongkong, 21st December, 1889.      



,Made the 16th day of December, 1889, by the Governor in

Council., under The Tramways Ordinance, 1883,

Section 42.


  1. These Regulations shall apply to the High Level Tramway described as Tramway No. 6 in The Tramways Ordinance 1883 and the expression the Com­pany shall mean The Hongkong High Level Tramways Company Limited.

Number of passengers to be carried on tram car

  1. No passenger carriage of the Company now in use shall carry at one time more than forty passengers, but in reckoning the number of passengers two children under the age of 12 years not in arms shall count as one passenger and babies in arms and the servants of the Company not exceeding two in number actually employed on any such carriage shall not be included.

Luggage, only to be carried on passenger car, under certain conditions

  1. The weight or any luggage goods or merchandize of any description what-ever conveyed by any passenger carriage together with the weight of the passengers in such carriage (who for this purpose shall be held to weigh 140 tbs. each) shall not exceed 2½ tons. Nor shall any luggage goods or merchandize be conveyed in any truck or waggon attached to any passenger carriage.

No stoppage for Passengers except at authorised Stations

  1. Except at the terminus at St. John's Place and at Victoria Gap, no carriage shall stop at any place nor shall any place be used for the purpose of taking up-or depositing passengers unless such place has been certified by the Surveyor General as safe and suitable for the purpose, and any such place when so certified shall be kept and maintained by the Company in constant good order and condition.

Watchmen to be employed to prevent obstructions.

  1. The Company shall keep one or more competent watchmen employed at all times when the carriages are running to prevent any stones dirt wood refuse or other materials or any obstruction from being placed on the permanent way and rails and to remove any such materials or obstructions therefrom.

Time of Inspection and Testing of carriages &c., of Machinery &c.

  1. The carriages trucks and waggons of the Company and the machinery therein now in use shall hereafter be inspected and tested by the Surveyor General or any officer or Officers appointed for the purpose by the Governor in Council in the month of January and the month of June in every year and the engines ropes and other machinery of the Tramway shall be also inspected and tested as aforesaid in the month of June in every year.

Notice of alterations or changes in Machinery &c.

  1. The Company shall give one month's notice in writing to the Surveyor General of every intended change or alteration of or in any engine or carriage used on the said Tramway or any machinery therein or of or in the permanent way and rails and the Surveyor General may if he think fit require the same to be tested and may where the circumstances of the case permit allow any such change or alteration to be made prior to the expiration of such notice as aforesaid.

Velocity of carriages

  1. No carriage truck or waggon shall travel at a greater speed than 8 miles an hour and the Company shall as soon as practicable and not later than six months from the date of these regulations fix and maintain on every carriage truck or waggon in use on the line an automatic brake for the purpose of regulating the speed thereof.

Penalty for Breach of regulations

  1. Every breach of any of these regulations shall be an offence against the said Ordinance and shall render the Company liable to a penalty not exceeding $10 and for any continuing offence to a penalty not exceeding $5 for every day during which the offence continues.





Clerk of Councils



This could be a helpful tool. Certainly more programs are available on the internet. I would be glad to hear the experiences others made using this or a similar tool.


Very impressive - especially when the OCR app is free!

Thank you.