Hong Kong Tram types - entering 120 years

Submitted by Joseph on Wed, 01/24/2024 - 02:46

2024 is towards iconic Tramways' 120th years of service, over the decades trams were transitioned from single decks to double decks. One of the highlights is the resume of the tour tram #68 in September 2023, where a set of tram type plates have been revamped with comprehensive info.

tour tram
Tour tram #68 passing Pedder Street junction

HKT re-categorised as below:

  • 1st Generation - First class tram [1904]
  • 1st Generation - Third class tram [1904]
  • 2nd Generation - Open-top tram [1912]
  • 3rd Generation - Wooden-roof tram [1923]
  • 4th Generation - Pre-war tram [1925]
  • 5th Generation - Post-war tram [1949]
  • Single deck trailer [1964-1982]
  • 6th Generation - Iconic tram [1986]
  • Millennium tram [2000]
  • 7th Generation - Signature tram [2011]

The annotation with "Generation" was referred to the following diagram:

tram types
tram types, by Joseph

A. Single-deck tram (1st Generation) [1904-????]

Tram service started in 1904 with 26 single-deckers, comprising 10 1st-class 32-seat combination cars and 16 third-class 48-seat cross-bench cars. Additional order of 10 cross-bench cars (#27-36) was made in 1905.

car 17-1stClass
car 17-1stClass, by Joseph
Car 1-3rd-Class
Car 1-3rd-Class, by Joseph

B. Open-top tram (2nd Generation) [1912-????]

10 double deck trams (#37-46) were in service in 1912. Open-top design built by Hongkong & Whampoa (Kowloon) Docks.

By 1911 lifeguards were added to trams and the roof headlamps were moved to the dashes, the destination boxes were fitted in place.

Open-top tram
Open-top tram #37, 1912 by Joseph

 C. Covered top tram [1913 onwards]

After the double deckers entered service, additional cars were built (#47-80) however lacking details on the quantity of canvas roofs and later wooden roofs. So I sub-divide as:

C.1  Canvas-roof tram [1913]: canvas roofs covered for bad weather shelter

C.2  Wooden-roof tram [1923]: wooden roof with roll-down blinds were experimented on #63 for better shelter on upper decks

Open top trams (B) were progressively fitted with canvas roofs (C.1) from 1913 and some with wooden roofs (C.2) from 1923 with unidentified quantities. As many of the cars in one generation were in fact just modifications of the previous, the above sub-division would be clearer.

HKT initially defined C.1 as 3rd generation but re-named C.2 as 3rd generation based on the tram design of tour tram #68 launched in 2016 (as shown in the tram type plates). 

canvas-roof car-Praya East
canvas-roof car-Praya East, by Joseph

D. Pre-war tram (4th Generation) [1925-1955]

In 1925 double deck enclosed trams with dark green livery and white pillars in service (#81-119). Early advertising applied on trams same year according to the 1925 photo of #6, or perhaps earlier. 

1925 wooden-top tram
Wooden-top tram #6 approaching LegCo Building, 1925 by Joseph

Sided destination screens were fitted by 1927 for passengers’ easy notice, as shown in the photo of #75.

Open top cars that were later enclosed (Pre-1925 cars) could be distinguished from newly-built Pre-war trams, with slightly shorter upper deck and narrower side windows at each end; hence the lower deck was slightly protruded.

Pre-1925 style
Pre-1925 car #75, by Joseph
Pre-war car
Pre-war car 82, by Joseph

Regrettably, it is unknown whether these were some of the original single deck cars or later conversions, because both were still running at that time. Since more new bodies entered in service, the single deckers were scrapped by 1926, though few of these were run as workscars until 1950s. After the Japanese Occupation, no new cars appeared until 1948 when three (#110-112) unfinished from 1945 entered service. #113-119 following afterwards to the Pre-war design in full green livery. 

By 1948 air-operated steel panelled doors were fitted at front for 1st class and lattice gates at the rear for 3rd class with gate boys, as seen from the top view of #57 in 1954. The dashes of the cars were tapered outwards to the fenders to prevent people standing on them.

1937 free rides
People stands on trams for free rides on 1937 Coronation Week, by Joseph
1954 tram
Pre-war tram #57 near Rediffusion Building, 1954, by Joseph

E. Post-war tram (5th Generation) [1949-1991]

The 1st prototype #120 put in service on 19 October 1949 in Brunswick green livery, following by the mass production of the entire fleet (#1-119, #121-162) jointly worked with Whampoa and Taikoo Dockyards from 1950 to 1964. The last Pre-war tram #118 was replaced in 1955.

One of the features of the Post-war tram is the rattan seats on the upper deck. #120 is the only currently running which was newly-built in 1991 as a heritage tram.

Post-war 67-Central
Post-war 67-Central, by Joseph

F. Single-deck trailer [1964-1982]

The first trailer built by Taikoo Dockyard, was in service on 6 August 1964, whilst 1965 is the year for the mass production of 20 from Metal-Sections, UK to deal with increasing riders.

#1 is the 1st prototype trailer featuring half of the double decker and rebuilt as #163 in 1979. #22 is the last trailer built by HKT in 1967, although in lightweight but the noisy issue cannot solved, hence being the first "gone" in 1978.

T1 seen at Wong Nei Chong Road, 1977 by Joseph
Trailer-hauler #66 approaching Admiralty, 1970 by Joseph
T22 go west passing Admiralty, 1977 by Joseph

In 1972 class distinction was abolished, rear boarding with rearside staircase added, “one-conductor-operation” (OCO) and “pay-as-you-enter” (PAYE).

By 1976 turnstiles fitted at the rear cabin for preventing fare dodgers, and fare boxes were relocated to the front for passengers “pay-as-you-leave” (PAYL).

By 1977 “one-man-operation” (OMO) applied, tickets were abolished, and most conductors were trained as drivers.

1977 no conductors tram
1977 in "No Conductors" condition, by Joseph
rear boarding
rear boarding of tram #144, by Joseph

G. Iconic tram (6th Generation) [1987-      ]

In 1986 trams rebuilt using original underframes, relocating the resistor box from rear platform to the roof at the car front; repositioned rear staircase, fibreglass seats and fluorescent internal lighting. 15 trams were rebuilt (#6, #36, #39, #41, #46, #80, #88, #89, #121, #127, #139, #141, #143, #144, #159)

1987 iconic tram
Launch of rebuilt car #6 at Sharp Street Depot, 1987 by Joseph

Since 1987 the fleet rebodying with upper deck plastic seats, lifeguards removed and replaced by deep fenders, i.e. the current wooden trams. HKT named as "Iconic tram" based on the year of design (1986) instead of the year of entire replacement (1987).

H. Millennium tram [2000-       ]

HKT launched new design “Millennium Tram” in 2000.  Streamlined, modern outlook in aluminum structure provided both strength and durability in a more rigid structure. Only four were built (#168-171, of which #171 is the prototype air-conditioning car), and not in place of the entire fleet. #169 and #170 are the remaining of this style. #168 has modified as prototype of the Signature tram in 2011, as shown in the below alongside view with #169.

Millennium Tram
Millennium Tram at Whitty Street Depot, 2000 by Joseph


New 168 alongside Millennium tram #169, DVRC, by Joseph

Another prototype car is #172, which is a mixture of the standard car with modern features such as digital destination and stop reporting, and AC motors. #168 retained its DC motors since "Millennium era".

tram 172
tram 172 in "DingDingSmile livery, 2017 by Joseph

I. Signature tram (7th Generation) [2011]

HKT launched the Signature trams in 2011, featuring a combination of modern interior design with traditional tram body as below:

  • Aluminium framed
  • LED display with stops reporting
  • AC motors
new and 120
New Signature tram #171 and 120, Johnston Road Wanchai, 2011 by Joseph
air-con tram
Air-con tram #88 near Western Market, by Joseph

#168, #172 and the 1st air-conditioned tram #88 launched in 2016 are under the Signature model. The breakdown summary of the fleet is as follows:

  • Signature - 84
  • Iconic - 71

Iconic trams have been replaced by Signature ones since 2011 and the proportion between old and new, together with a few special types, can be referred to the table.

HKtram list 2023
HKtram list 2023, by Joseph


Special trams

For those non-passenger trams such as party trams and maintenance trams are in this list. Party trams #28 and #128 were rebuilt from Post-war #119 and #59 in 1986 and 1987, tour tram #68 and Tram 18 also rebuilt from Iconic trams #30 and #48. Hence, they are named “as is”.

Tram 18
Tram 18 and two party trams #28, #128 on Free Ride Day parade, 2023 by Joseph


workscar 200
workscar 200 rushing back to depot, by Joseph


I have filled in some of the "out of service" dates and hope the above info are of interest.

Best regards,

Hong Kong Trams Culture Preservation Society