Saturday, May 7, 2016

A trip back in time courtesy of the Hong Kong Railway Museum

The only railway station in Hong Kong built in 
a traditional Chinese style

A circa 1964 first class compartment on the old

Trains have been one of my favorite modes of transportation ever since I was a kid.  Although I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a trainspotter, I will admit to having gone out of my way at various times in my life to do such as ride the steam train to (and from) the Welsh village of Blaenau Ffestiniog and eschew going on a plane so that I could do such as take the shinkansen from Tokyo all the way to Kokura in Kyushu

So I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to go visit the Hong Kong Railway Museum, particularly since I got intriguing glimpses of it whenever I've travelled north beyond Tai Po Market station on what used to be known as the KCR (but has been renamed the MTR's East Rail Line since December 2007).  But now that I've finally checked out this branch museum of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, I am indeed glad that I did; not least because it helped me to better imagine a time when travelling to, and through, this part of Hong Kong felt -- and was -- so much more of a big deal.

Just a few minutes walk from Tai Po Market station, the largely open-air museum includes the visually striking Old Tai Po Market Railway Station building.  Completed in 1913, it is unique among Hong Kong railway stations in being the only one to have been built in the traditional Chinese style: with such as a pitched roof, and a ridge and gables that are adorned with the type of auspicious Chinese motifs (such as red bats, peonies and magpies) characteristically found on old Chinese residences.      

Declared a monument in 1984, the Old Tai Po Market Railway Station building now houses exhibitions and displays, including a re-creation of an old booking office (with not even a typewriter, never mind a computer, in sight!) and a small video kiosk on whose screen I enjoyed watching a selection of evocative scenes from old Hong Kong movies in which old KCR trains and stations feature.  And while I must admit to not being able to get all that excited at the sight of the diesel electrical engine or even the steam locomotive on show in the museum grounds, I did have fun checking out the five historical coaches that one can enter to see and feel for oneself how very differently furnished the first and other class compartments were!

One of Hong Kong's smallest museums, the Hong Kong Railway Museum may not be worth going all the way to Tai Po to see alone.  But when combined with, say, a visit to the nearby Man Mo Temple (which I found more atmospheric than the better known -- and frequently tourist-filled -- Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road), a general exploratory stroll around Tai Po town, and a roast goose and rice meal at Yat Lok, it can make for a pretty cool half day out in a cultural heritage-filled section of the New Territories! :)


eastcoastlife said...

Didn't expect Hong Kong to have a railway system. I love taking photos of railway station and tracks.

YTSL said...

Hi Ecl Tan --

Wait, you've been in Hong Kong before but never known about or taken the train (KCR or MTR) here?? Really??? :O

Carver said...

I've always liked trains too although rarely take them where I live.

YTSL said...

Hi Carver --

From my experience of the US, there are too many parts of the country where the car's king and public transportation isn't as accessible as I feel that it ought to be. That's the case with my home country of Malaysia too -- but happily not the case in places like Hong Kong.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I guess that was why my colleagues was laughing at me when I took a two way Amtrak trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco back in April 2000. (I was the only one without a driver's licence in the office)

A single trip took around 11 hours, slower than going by one of the highways linking the two cities. Anyway I found I quite enjoy the slower trip.

I remember that was the 'Coast Starlight' route of Amtrak. (


YTSL said...

Hi T --

Amtrak trains are indeed on the slow side -- and not all that popular among many Americans outside of the northeast. But I, too, often enjoyed riding on them -- to the amusement of some of my friends. E.g., once I took the train from Philadelphia down to Atlanta. My friends who picked me up at the train station in Atlanta told me they had not known that their home city had a train station until I told them about it! ;b