- Posted September 14, 2012 by
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
The Hong Kong tram celebrates its 100th year on the tracks
The iconic double-decker tram celebrates its 100th year on the tracks in 2012. To mark the occasion a group of Hong Kong photographers took to the streets to capture images of this wonderfully historic form of transport.
“Ding ding, ding ding” if you’ve spent any time in Hong Kong, you’ll recognise that this is the sound of the double decker, electric tram and it’s trying to tell you to get out of it’s way.
As a grandfather to Hong Kong’s world renowned public transport system, it’s neither fast nor air conditioned, but it’s position as a living legacy is unsurpassed. Single-decker trams were first introduced to Hong Kong in 1904, follwed by open-air double-decker trams in 1912, and then finally the closed double-decker trams we know today arrived in 1925.
There are 163 double-decker trams in service today, making them the largest tram fleet in the world. They run the 85-minute 13km along the north side of Hong Kong Island from Kennedy Town at the western end to Shau Kei Wan on the north east coast with a 3km single-track “loop” running through Happy Valley. The trams are numbered from 1 to 170 but several are missing (such as 44, 134 and 144) through either accident or superstition. Number 50 was withdrawn from service in 1991 and can now be seen on display in the its original 1950s condition in the Hong Kong Museum of History. In 2010, the government introduced a new generation of trams replacing the wood-frame tram bodies with aluminium ones. Tram 168 was the prototype.
One may ask what role the tram has in Hong Kong’s fast paced lifestyle. The routes it serves are duplicated by buses and an underground train which are efficient, comfortable and fast. The trams also take up dedicated lanes in already over-crowded streets. One wonders why the tram hasn’t been made obsolete, just as old colonial buildings have been demolished to make way for skyscrapers.
As you sit inside this piece of history, looking out the window at the buildings and the hurried footsteps of people going about their business, feeling the rhythmic chugging of the engines below, you suddenly feel the significance of the oasis of calm and nostalgia offered by the ding ding, as it meanders its way around the streets of Hong Kong. Testament to time, acting as a gentle reminder that things come and go.
Maybe this counter balance is what busy Hong Kong secretly yearns. Maybe because of this, despite its shortcomings, the tram is an extremely popular means of transportation among locals as well as tourists.
As Hong Kong tramways celebrates its 100 years of the double decker tram, the current and future generations of Hong Kong look forwards to sharing many more journeys to come.
Text by Sam Chadwick and Suzanne Wong. Images by Sam Chadwick, PH Yang and Md. Mehran Hussain, selected as part of a collaborative effort by members of the Hong Kong Photography Club (www.hongkongphotographyclub.com).