Since 1904, trams have been running from East to West of Hong Kong Island. Over the last century, Hong Kong Tramways witnessed the development of Hong Kong, and the tram remains an efficient and the most economical mode of public transport in Hong Kong. Today, Hong Kong Tramways owns and operates a fleet of 163 tramcars, including 2 antique tramcars, carrying a daily average of 230,000 passengers. It is the world's largest fleet of double-deck tramcars still in service.
Hong Kong Tramways launched thetram on November 28, 2011. It is a combination of modern interior design with traditional tram body exterior. The face-lift allows tram’s iconic image to be maintained.
Hong Kong Tramways launched the “Millennium” new tram on October 24, 2000 which was designed and manufactured by our own engineering team. Aluminum alloy tram body provides both strength and durability in a more rigid structure. This tramcar marked an important milestone in the history of Hong Kong Tramways.
The "Millennium" new tram launched in 2000
Hong Kong Tramways celebrated 100 years of service.
Tram stops were upgraded.
More fully painted advertisements could be found on tram bodies.
Trams with fully painted advertisements running near Victoria Park (1990s)
Two double-deck trams made by Hong Kong Tramways were exported to Birkenhead in the U.K. Point Automation System deployed and pointsman system for altering the direction of tram manually was abolished.
In 1990s, Hong Kong Tramways carried out various improvements on tram service including:
● A new floor material introduced for the entrance/ exit platforms;
● New suspension system purchased from Australia to enhance the stability;
● New gear system and "skirt" added underneath the tram to effectively reduce noise.
A new refurnished shelter on Pennington Street, Causeway Bay (1990s)
To improve tram facilities, for all passenger trams, the height of the upper deck was increased by 1.5 inches and 5 more handrails were installed on the lower deck.
Trailers and the conductor system were abolished.
Hong Kong Tramways conducted a survey to decide the trams' future. The result was positive and the public preferred to keep the trams.
Tram cabin was re-designed with a new look and this kind of tram was categorized as the sixth-generation tram:
1. The resistor box at the rear of the lower deck was relocated to the rooftop of the front of the tram;
2. The wooden seats on the upper deck were replaced by plastic ones;
3. The front stairs were made wider;
4. The lighting had been much improved with fluorescent tubes.
A tram bounding for Percival Street
The antique tram no. 28 was built in 1986 for tram tours, private parties and promotional purposes. The tram is an open-balcony design with sofas and equipped with light bulbs which make it glitter at night.
Antique tram no. 28 at night
The red antique tram no. 128 on Des Voeux Road Central, near Bank of China Tower (1987)
The antique tram no.128 was built in 1987.
Whitty Street Depot Grand Opening Ceremony on May 27, 1989
Sharp Street depot was re-developed into a modern office/shopping complex - Times Square. 2 new depots were built - the Sai Wan Ho depot (East Depot) and the Whitty Street depot (West Depot).
8 panels on each tram body were rented out for advertising purpose. Different advertisements could be found on a tram body.
A tram on Gloucester Road, near Victoria Park
A tram on Yee Wo Street, near Sogo Department Store
A tram in Causeway Bay (1970s)
Began to employ female conductors and drivers.
Class distinction for fares was abolished and a "flat fare" system was introduced.
Hong Kong Tramways Limited was acquired by The Wharf (Holdings) Limited in 1974.
Drop-in coin-boxes were installed on the trams. For each tram, a coin-box was fitted near the driver at the front exit. Passengers are required to drop in the exact fare on leaving the tram. Rotating turnstiles were fitted at the entrance which was located at the rear of a tram. Conductors were no longer needed and most of them were trained to become motormen.
The tram decorated to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee at Sharp Street Depot (1977)
A tram was decorated to celebrate Queen's Silver Jubilee.
With the growth of economy, more and more colorful full body tram advertisements appeared on the road.
Due to passenger demand, single deck trailer was introduced. The trailer was attached to the back of ordinary tramcar and designed to serve first class passengers only. The maximum capacity was 36 persons for each trailer.
As trailers were well accepted by passengers, 22 single deck trailers were deployed in the fleet during 1966 - 67. Although trailers played a significant role in the tramways, they were finally withdrawn from the service in 1980s.
Single-deck Trailer was introduced (1960s)
A tram at Wan Chai's Johnston Road (1970s)
(The tram on the left-hand side with a trailer at the back; the tram on the right-hand side with different advertisements)
Riots in Hong Kong caused some disturbance to normal tram service.
Tram queue in front of HSBC at Queen’s Road Central (1960s)
At the junction of Percival Street and Foo Ming Street (1960s)
Hong Kong Tramways had undertaken extensive re-designing and started building its own trams. The appearance of the tram body was similar to the fourth-generation but streamlined and the tram no. 120 is still in service today. This kind of tram was categorized as the fifth-generation tram.
A tram on Des Voeux Road Central (1950s). The cake shop 敘香園 (now Hang Seng Bank) was on the left
A tram on Des Voeux Road Central, near Western Market (1950s)
A tram at today's Central Market (1950s)
The tram no. 120 with its original 1950s' double-deck design is still in service today
Russell Street Tram Depot
Hong Kong Tramways decided to build the Russell Street Depot.
One more route was introduced - North Point to Whitty Street in order to ease the traffic congestion in Shau Kei Wan.
A tram running on Wan Chai's Tin Lok Lane (1950s)
Number of tramcars increased to 146
Japanese occupation took place. Very limited tram service was provided. Only 12 tramcars were in operation daily from Causeway Bay to Western Market.
After three years and eight months of Japanese Occupation, all 109 tramcars still remained, but only 15 were operational. By October 1945, 40 tramcars were back in service.
There were 63 tramcars in service by August 1946.
Single-track system was substituted by double track system in August 1949.
Banner-like tram body advertisement made its first appearance.
The first advertisement on a third-generation tramcar
The third- and the fourth-generation trams running on Dex Voeux Road Central
Hong Kong Tramways lost the franchise to run the bus operation in Government's open tender and the eight buses were eventually sold to the China Motor Bus Company.
Air brake system was introduced to improve the tram's on-road performance and it was used to operate the turnstile afterwards.
(Left-hand side - Fire Brigade Station; Right-hand side - Central Market)
(Left-hand side - HSBC Building; Right-hand side - Prince's Building)
Tram service was extended to the Race Course in Happy Valley.
Trams of the first- and third-generation running at the same time near Des Voeux Road (1920s)
Hong Kong Tramways Limited ceased generating its own electricity and purchased power from the Hongkong Electric Co., Ltd. Also, in the same year, tramcars were fitted with permanent wooden roofs and roll-down blinds.
Hong Kong Tramways began to double-track the route between Causeway Bay and Shau Kei Wan.
The fourth-generation tram - enclosed upper deck design. Picture was taken near today's Western Market (1930s)
Newly designed tramcars with fully enclosed upper-deck were in service. The new tramcars were improved further by giving more rooms for the passengers and the upper deck carried first class passengers while the lower deck carried the third class passengers. This kind of tram was categorized as the fourth-generation tram.
The new double track between Shau Kei Wan and Quarry Bay was in use in early 1927 with the completion of the new wide road.
Hong Kong Tramways was allowed to operate bus service from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon side and vice versa.
Difficulty arose when some people could not get used to the idea of a fixed path vehicles in the beginning days of tram. Some of them were standing in the way of oncoming trams but did not realize to give way while some curious onlookers would board on the tram whenever they wished without paying the fee.
Besides, some coolies discovered that it was much easier to haul their carts along the tram track than on the road, they tried to haul their carts on the track. This caused many delays and nuisances for the tram service. Although the offenders were deterred by a $20 fine or imprisonment for one month, a further legislation in 1911 were enacted to stop the illegal use of tram track.
A first-generation tram on Queen's Road East (1908)
A first-generation tram on Des Voeux Road Central. Today's Wing On Centre is on the right (1906)
A double-deck tram with open-top (the second generation) at Queensway, near today's Chater Garden (1912)
Owing to strong passenger demand, the first double-deck tramcar was introduced in 1912. The tramcar was open-top with garden seats design. The first class occupied the upper deck and one-third of the lower deck. Ten new tramcars were constructed. This kind of tram was categorized as the second-generation tram.
A third-generation tram with double-deck and canvas cover on Jackson Road (1920s)
The open-top upper deck was not popular during rainy weather. Light canvas roof covers were then added. This kind of tram was categorized as the third-generation tram.
Due to continuous growth in population and economy in Hong Kong, residents' demand for a comprehensive transport system began in 1881. England sanctioned the building of a tramway system on Hong Kong Island on August 29, 1901.
The Hongkong Tramway Electric Company Ltd. was established in England, responsible for building and operating the tramway system for Hong Kong.
At the end of of the same year the Electric Traction Company of HongKong Limited was founded and took control of the Hongkong Tramway Electric Company Ltd. In 1910, the name of the Electric Traction Company was changed to Hong Kong Tramways Company Limited.
The construction of a single-track system began and it ran from Kennedy Town to Causeway Bay. The route was later extended to Shau Kei Wan.
Bodies of the first fleet of 26 tramcars were built in the U.K. They were then shipped in pieces to and assembled in Hong Kong. The tramcars were all single-deck, of which 10 tramcars were designed for first class passengers and the others were for third class passengers. The first class compartment was enclosed in the center with two long benches on both sides and both the front and back ends were open. Seating capacity was 32 passengers. The third class tramcars were open-sided with six sets of benches running crossways, back to back, seating 48 passengers.
Tram fares for the first and the third class were 10 cents and 5 cents respectively. Initially, the company planned to divide the trams into 3 classes, but subsequently only the first and the third class were chosen for ease of operation.
On July 2, 1904, tramcar no. 16 left the depot for its first test run. The director of Public Works Mr. Jones rode on and announced that the tram was fit for service after inspecting the system.
At 10 a.m. on July 30, 1904, the first tramcar being driven by the wife of the Director of Public Works with her son on board ringing the bell continuously appeared on the streets of Hong Kong. The tramcar was driven from the Tram Depot to Arsenal Street and returned with a party of dignitaries on board, after which normal service commenced.
A first-generation tram with single-deck design on Des Voeux Road Central. Alexandra House is on the left (1906)