Old Fire Hydrant - Waterloo Rd | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Old Fire Hydrant - Waterloo Rd

Is this the one on Waterloo Road on the bend opposite the Cityview?

Yes, it is on Waterloo Rd near the Fire Station.

Wow!, my memory's not so bad after all. Any idea how old it is Moddsey?

Don't know how old it is but what I found was strange was its position very close to the slope that comes down from King's Park Rise/Yau Ma Tei Service Reservoir.

Interesting. I'm also wondering why it has so many ports.

Junction of Hollywood Rd and Lyndhurst Terrace

Old Fire Hydrant - Junction of Hollywood Rd and Lyndhurst Terrace











Junction of Boundary St and Embankment Rd

Old Fire Hydrant - Junction of Boundary St and Embankment Rd

Old Fire Hydrant - Choi Hung Road

I found the following list of "big" fire hydrants (with road junctions given and photographs) in a forum in Chinese:

1. Choi Hung Road and Yin Hing Street, San Po Kong
2. Pok Fu Lam Road and Kui Yan Lane, Sai Ying Pun
3. Hollywood Road and Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
7. Cornwall Street and Waterloo Road, Kowloon Tong
13. Boundary Street and Embankment Road, Kowloon Tong
14. Argyle Street and Waterloo Road, Ho Man Tin
16. Tai Po Road and Cheung Sha Wan Road, Sham Shui Po
17. Tai Po Road and Castle Peak Road, Sham Shui Po
18. Tonkin Street and Castle Peak Road, Cheung Sha Wan
19. Castle Peak Road and Kwong Shing Street, Cheung Sha Wan
27. Waterloo Road and Tung Fong Street, Yau Ma Tei
31. [Saltwater] Chatham Road North and To Kwa Wan Road, To Kwa Wan

Thanks for the list. Saves me the trouble of recall! Cheers.

Thanks C, that's a good resource. They also gave some explanation about why they are different, and how the location was chosen, which I found interesting. Here's the translation:

Kai Tak Airport remains: Heavy Draw-off Hydrant

Such street hydrants provide a lot of water to prepare for fire fighting purposes, more common in Kowloon, there are a few located in Hong Kong Island.

When the plane south from North Point to the Kai Tak airport, it will skim over the part of the Kowloon urban area (such as Sham Shui Po, Kowloon Tang Deng area), the area commonly referred to as flying funnel. Under the scope of this funnel, there is a crash may occur while the water supply wells to require heavy street fighting the blaze.

Heavy draw-off hydrants also located in the tragic accident prone locations and extremely heavy traffic areas (such as Mong Kok area).

The connection between the big fire hydrants and their locations under the former Kai Tak Airport arrival and departure flight paths is interesting.

I would imagine the Fire Department as part of its overall disaster response plan would have done just that to ensure there was adequater fire fighting capability on the ground in the event of a major aircraft crash in the built-up areas of Kowloon. Kai Tak had always dreaded a major aircraft crash in the city and the subsequent conflagration and havoc that it would have created.

The locations of these fire hydrants in Kowloon in relation to the flight paths  may provide a clue as to when they were erected.

For example, the big fire hydrant at Choi Hung Road, near the Kai Tak Nullah and Nga Tsin Wai Village appears to be outside the normal arrival and departure air corridors used by flights prior to the closure of Kai Tak. However, its postion in relation to pre-1958 Kai Tak runways (prior to the reclaimed runway) appears to be more relevant. Its location indicates that it was very close to the touchdown point of arriving aircraft over the old major runway at San Po Kong. It was also near to the road traffic stopping point on Choi Hung Road (formerly Clearwater Bay Road) whereby vehicles would halt on the lowering of barriers to allow planes to land as seen in this photo:


By looking at the locations of other big fire hydrants in Kowloon, it would appear there is more of a connection to the old runways at Kai Tak rather than to the subsequent reclaimed one. If the connection is genuine, these big monster fire hydrants would have been erected more than 50 years ago. Just my observation.



Moddsey, that's an interesting observation - it makes sense to me.

I often pass the one on Pok Fu Lam Road listed above. I wonder why that place deserved one of these special hydrants?

It might be worth mapping the multi-outlet fire hydrants along with squatter areas dating from the 1950s through to the 1970s.

These sites were frequently the source of large fires especially in dry winters with strong northern winds. As they were usually on hillsides and the dwellings spread out over largely congested areas, the Fire Services would have needed many outlets to cope with fast spreading fires. Many of these squatter hillsides have now been flattened to ground level or platformed, especially in Kowloon during their redevelopment to estates, but old maps and photographs will show where they were.

Also, I vaguely recall multi-outlet hydrants also being used as domestic water standpipes during water rationing periods to alleviate the long queues at single standpipes. During these periods of water shortages no doubt seawater was also being used for fire fighting.

There used to be two pressurised systems around the city, one for “towns water” and the other for “seawater.”  Seawater was certainly being used for domestic toilet flushing in many areas of the city.

In an English TV documentary or news program in the 1970s, the self appointed “Unofficial Mayor” of Tsuen Wan was showing a naive young reporter two large pipes on the Tsuen Wan town centre waterfront seawall that were about half a metre apart. One was discharging untreated domestic effluent from the toilets of Tsuen Wan into the harbour, while the other was immediately sucking it back via pumps into the intake pipe-work that was for the flushing water destined to the same toilets. The ultimate in recycling! The reporter looked incredulous.

The “Unofficial Mayor” of Tseun Wan as he called himself was a Gwailo originally from London who lived in the developing town which in pre-MTR days was very much an outpost of Kowloon. He took it upon himself to try and improve living conditions there by publicising all sorts of failings by the District Office/Urban Council or the government. He was a regular character on the TV news and in the newspapers for a period who usually conducted his missions with cynical good humour.


I am pretty sure the use of seawater in the toilet flush system has been implemented territory-wide. I've even dived around the water intake for the HKUST in Port Shelter :-) (it's a small tower located about 100m offshore).

As for the 'Unofficial Mayor' of Tsuen Wan, it wasn't Austin Coates was it? I seem to remember reading some of his anecdotes about Tsuen Wan in "Myself a Mandarin".

Great stuff anyway, glad the reason for such big hydrants is being revealed. They must be old, I can't see them being useful for fighting the fire caused by a modern plane crash.

Does this mean that the standard Fire Service had to be trained for dealing with plane crashes too? If so, are they still trained in this, or is it now the sole remit of the airport fire service?

Hi there,

I have a faint impression that a minor number of fire hydrants were also fuled by sea water.  Look for this hydrants painted in orange or mud-yellow.  I don't know how many of those are there these days.

Oh, as of flush water..... some places uses their own wells, but probably not those huge housing estates.

Best Regards,



He was definitely not Austin Coates, another era, nor was he James Hayes who worked there for the government and has written about Tsuen Wan and related communities and customs. Unfortunately I cannot recall the unofficial mayor's real name. He usually injected an amusing element into his presentation of serious issues of concern. It was a long time ago and I believe the TV images were still in Black and White from Redifussion.



It might be worth mapping the multi-outlet fire hydrants along with squatter areas dating from the 1950s through to the 1970s.

If you'd like to map them out to compare them with flight paths and squatter areas, just create a place for each hydrant, and give each one the tag: Heavy Draw-off Hydrant. That will add it to the list & map below. I've made a place for the hydrant on Pok Fu Lam Road as a start:

The map below is 'live': you can drag it around with your mouse, click the +/- buttons to zoom in and out, and click the Map/ Satellite/ Hybrid buttons to change the appearance of the map.


It was nice to see this old fire hydrant is still standing on Nathan Road near the Park Lane Shopping Area.

Old Fire Hydrant - Nathan Road

hey moddsey there's one of those on sing woo road in happy valley - any idea how old they are? do they predate the usual ones you see?

Well, I don't really know how old they are. Trying to find a fire hydrant in an old photo is just like looking for a needle in a haystack!

However, I have manged to find one (an angular one I think) from the 1930s.  Location not known, may be Des Voeux Road Central. See top left corner. Note the Darkie (or to be politically correct, Darlie these days) toothpaste advert on the tram.

1930s Trams








But if you go to a district like Kowloon Tong that was laid out in the 1920s and 1930s, you will see many of these older types of angular fire hydrants which were erected at the same time as the roads and of course postboxes (KGV).

Old and New Fire Hydrants in Kowloon Tong

Old & New Fire Hydrants - Kowloon Tong



There is also one of these older versions on Man Ming Lane where it joins Nathan Rd next to Yau Ma Tei station.

If you look at the Suzie Wong stuff on here, you will find an example on one of the screen shots (filmed in 1960).

This one is on the south-west corner of King George V park, at the junction of Eastern St and High St.

Old fire Hydrant on High Street

Here you are, been talking about it for a while and finally managed to get a snap today.


Man Ming Lane Fire Hydrant

Found this one on the corner of Ho Tung Rd and Boundary St the other day.

Old style fire hydrant - corner of Ho Tung Rd and Boundary St

Fire hydrants have been on Hong Kong streets in some form since at least as far back as the 1860s. The earliest recorded mention officially between Hong Kong and the Colonial Office seems to be a requisition for ten hydrants, sent to London in March 1869 (CO129/136, pages 315 - 320). Soon after the Great Fire of 1878, Fire Brigade Superintendent Charles Creagh wrote a report that suggests widespread use of hydrants in the 1860s. I suspect that these were more like the simple curved-pipe variety that can still be seen around town than those pictured above. An excerpt from that report, to Colonial Secretary William Marsh, dated April 23, 1879:

“ . . . soon after the Fire Brigade was first established in 1868, forty subsidiary fire posts were selected at different points throughout the lower levels of the town. The highest being I think in Bridges Street. At each of these posts a quantity of  hose was kept together with the necessary appliances for connecting it with the nearest hydrant, and turning on the water in case of fire. These articles were kept in the nearest shop and one of the shop men periodically instructed in their use. On the Queen’s Road and other streets near the sea level, the hydraulic pressure from the street plugs being sufficient to throw water over the highest houses, these stations were of great value, and fires were on several occasions extinguished by a jet from the hydrant before the arrival of the engines. As far as I remember things were much in this state when I went on furlough in 1871. But on returning from leave I found that during my absence of eighteen months, the pressure on the mains had decreased to such an extent that it was no longer of much use for the purposes of fire extinction, and besides this, the water was now so seldom turned on in the mains that the street plugs could not even be relied on for the small supply of fresh water necessary for the boilers of the steam engines.”

This was Bob Saunders. He at one time in the 70s was getting very heavy media exposure, pleading the case for disadvantaged people in the Tsuen Wan area, and was often on phone- in radio programes such as "Open Line". I believe he was ex-British Army.

Many thanks Lim-peng.

On an aside i wonder if someone can answer the following query.

I thought that HK's fire hydrants were connected to the mains system but today, wandering on Kadoorie Ave I saw a large water tank with the words "30000 litre street hydrant water tank B" emblazoned on the side.

My question is whether this is the main supply for the surrounding hydrants or just simply a backup system? I'll post a pic when i get the chance.

cheers, Phil

no sooner had I grabbed a piccy of the old hydrant, the thing has been taken down and replaced with a new one.

Such is life...

There are another two:

one at intersection of Electric Road & Yacht Street, Tin Hau
one at intersection of Leighton Road & Canal Road East, Causeway Bay


another pair:
one at intersection of Tung Lo Wan Road & Wun Sha Street, Tai Hang
one at intersection of Hennessy Road & Canal Road East, Wan Chai

three more:
three on westbound Causeway Road, Causeway Bay

We've seen several of the angular hydrants the preceded the current curvy ones. Is this the style that came before the angular hydrants?

Hydrant at Tai Tam

I saw it this weekend. It's at the Tai Tam Tuk Raw Water Pumping Station, which was built in 1908.

As far as I can recall, those huge fire hydrants with multi-port were there in mid-60s and some may be even earlier.





Sorry, not sure about the grey ones, but a couple more to add...

Is it my imagination, or have I seen blue ones too? And why do some of the red hydrants have a white stripe around?

Any water experts out there can put us out of our misery?

Hi there,

Other cities/countries are using colour codes to specify the water source and pressure of the water flow in a mixture of body colour and cap colours.  I am uncertain about if HK had been using similar systems.



Best Regards,



don't know if it serves a specific purpose, or follows/precedes the angular ones. Anyway, found it on Queens Rd W.

Another style hydrant

The 1921 Report on the Hong Kong Fire Brigade and Proposals for Increasing its Efficiency is available for viewing via the HKGRO.

The Report states that Group Fire Hydrants consisting of 3 hydrants had been provided in various parts of Victoria and in Kowloon (see Appendix D). It infers that the siting of the group hydrants was related to available water supply, size of main and water pressure.

The operation of the Group Hydrant during a fire:

"The motor pumps are worked off a dam which is kept filled by the 3 hydrants, which are close together, one hydrant being insufficient for the purpose as the draw-off by the pump is too great. Before the introduction of group hydrants much time was lost in connecting up to 2 or 3 hydrants situated some distance apart to feed the dam. It is further proposed to pump direct from the mains when possible by means of 3-way collection heads fitted direct to the suction of the pump, thus avoiding the use of a dam. as the latter entails a good deal of waste of water and loss of pressure in the mains."

The first indication of their installation is in 1918 when tests were carried out that year to see if the group hydrants met with Fire Brigade requirements. The tests were satisfactory and the group hydrants became fixed as standard type for the future.

It is interesting to note that the location of the group hydrant at the junction of Lyndhurst Terrace and Hollywood Road has not changed since 1921.


Whilst we area at it, how about mapping where the Police Pagodas were? I recall two - one was half way down Garden Road (my father told me a lorry lost it's brakes and took that one almost onto the cricket club ground at the bottom?!?) and the other one I recall was at the junction of Barker Rd and Peak Rd where it meets Guildford Rd. Hardly a busy junction, but I am sure it's placement was more to do with the 'importance' of the folk coming down and up from the Peak, than the volume of traffic!

Sure, that'll be interesting to see. You'll need to decide on a tag - police pagodas seems a likely choice - and a standard name helps, eg Police Pagoda at junction of XX and YY. Then create a new Place for each pagoda, and give each one the tag you've decided. Easy!

regards, David