Then, now and in between at Tsim Sha Tsui Exit A1

This is the story of a Hong Kong MTR exit – Exit A1 at Tsim Sha Tsui station.

December 1979: grand opening of the new station.

Information Services Department Reference No.: TA(2)1033

July 2009: much the same.

December 2013: building a temporary exit alongside.

MTR works to expand Tsim Sha Tsui station entrance A1

January 2016: the exit is now a giant glass cube.

May 2016: finished!

The story behind the upgrade

From a MTR press release dated January 2014.

From tomorrow (16 January 2014), regular users of Entrance/Exit A1 of MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station at the junction of Nathan and Haiphong roads will find their usual surroundings changed. They will be using a new temporary entrance/exit that has been put up for passengers next to the existing entrance/exit to facilitate the existing structure to be demolished and rebuilt into a brand new landmark for Tsim Sha Tsui.

When completed in 2015, the new Entrance/Exit A1 will be transformed into a giant “Crystal Cube” made of glass, a design that maximises the use of natural lighting during the day to conserve energy. Its transparent appearance will also blend in with the surrounding environment.

The distinctive and environmentally-friendly structure will include a new external lift and escalators, providing added convenience to MTR passengers, especially those with special needs. The lift will also provide a connection above street level to the entrance of Kowloon Park.

“Tsim Sha Tsui is one of our busiest stations and the new entrance, lift and escalators are designed to improve accessibility to the MTR as well as the surrounding area,” said Mr Jay Walder, Chief Executive Officer of MTR Corporation. “This is another project under our Listening ‧ Responding programme to bring direct improvements in areas that our passengers have told us they would like to see us do more.”

Footnote: another Exit A1 project

The ‘Exit A1’ project by Hong Kong photographer Helen Gray.

Hong Kong is made up of people living and working in many districts, each with a unique character, and this is what I hope to have captured in this collection of photos.

So, I set out on spare days from April 2012 to April 2013 to photograph the people and the environment around these 84 MTR stations.

To limit this otherwise overwhelming project, I have focussed on just one exit per station, that is Exit A1.

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KCR ‘Yellow Head’ train towing a KTT carriage

I’ve come across photos of many oddball KCR train consists over the years, such as a ‘mixed’ KCR Metro Cammell train , but this one takes the cake – an original ‘Yellow Head’ train towing a double deck KTT carriage.

The photo was posted with no context over at the forums, and a reverse image search hasn’t brought up the original source of the image

The crossover between the two types of train was quite short – the KCR Metro Cammell EMUs were refurbished between 1996 and 1999, while the KTT train set arrived in Hong Kong in 1997.

But why was an EMU coupled up to a single KTT carriage out of the mainline? Perhaps it early testing of the carriages before the matching Re 460 electric locomotives arrived in Hong Kong.

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Behind the scenes refurbishing the KCR Metro Cammell EMUs

Over on Bilibili I found something interesting dating back to 1999 – a video by Alstom covering the refurbishment of the KCR Metro Cammell EMU fleet.

Here is a quick synopsis:

  • 00:00: Introduction to Hong Kong
  • 00:40: Introduction to the East Rail Line
  • 02:00: Decision made to refurbish the trains
  • 02:40: overview of refurbishment program
  • 03:00: removal of unused intermediate driving cabs
  • 03:30: increased passenger capacity
  • 04:00: additional saloon doors
  • 04:50: upgraded interiors, ventilation, passenger information screens
  • 06:00: camshaft traction equipment replaced by thyristor system, new couplers, batteries, main transformer
  • 06:45: new emergency detrainment devices
  • 07:10: updated cab exterior and new livery
  • 08:00: 50% local sourcing of materials
  • 08:40: four phase testing and commissioning program
  • 10:00: train handover
  • 10:30 new trains in service

The refurbishment program was completed between 1996 and 1999, with only remaining ‘Yellow Head’ train being orphaned set E44.

Footnote: new cab and doors

Here’s a step by step look at the removal of the unused intermediate driving cabs and replacement with standard carriage ends.

And the process used to cut holes in the carriage walls for additional saloon doors.

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Garden Hill and the approach to Kai Tak Airport

‘Checkerboard Hill’ and the runway lights atop the Kowloon City rooftops were well known features along the approach to the former Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong. But they weren’t the only lights guiding planes across Kowloon and onto runway 13 – there was an illuminated warning beacon atop a hill in Sham Shui Po.

Screencap from 1990 film ‘My Hero’

Garden Hill (Chinese: 喃嘸山) is a 90 metre high hill to the west of Kai Tak Airport in Sham Shui Po.

Google Maps

The hill was named for the Garden Bakery factory below, located at the intersection of Castle Peak Road and Tai Po Road.

At the highest point was the warning beacon.

Photo by Miles Leung (CC BY-NC-ND)

The hill and warning beacon featured in the 1990 Hong Kong film ‘My Hero‘.

Which also captured the view out over Kowloon.

And west towards Kai Tak and ‘Checkerboard Hill‘.

But the scene today is quite different – the entire hill covered with trees.

And following the closure of Kai Tak Airport in 1998 the restriction on building heights was removed, so the apartment blocks of Pak Tin Estate now occupying the airspace once used by approaching aircraft.

Footnote: other warning lights

‘Checkerboard Hill’ is a famous part of the approach to Kai Tak.

Sporting ground at Kowloon Tsai Park

And it also had warning lights atop it.

Photo by Miles Leung (CC BY-NC-ND)

Along with a radio navigation tower.

Photo by Miles Leung (CC BY-NC-ND)

To the south was the hill of Woh Chai Shan (窩仔山) in Shek Kip Mei, which also had a warning beacon atop it.

Photo by Miles Leung (CC BY-NC-ND)

As did Red Light Hill (紅燈山) further south in Quarry Hill, near Ho Man Tin.

Photo by Miles Leung (CC BY-NC-ND)

More information on the warning beans and approach lighting around Kowloon, including a Jeppsen approach chart to Kai Tak at

Jeppsen chart via

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Living in a retired Hong Kong double-decker bus

The average Hong Kong resident lives in a tall apartment block, but some people are not average – such as Ah Chung, who bought a retired KMB double-decker bus and transformed it into a two-storey home.

Photo via China Motor Bus Memorial Page

He built a roof over the bus.

Photo via China Motor Bus Memorial Page

Turning the upper deck into a bedroom and living area.

Photo via China Motor Bus Memorial Page

And building a kitchen, laundry, bathroom and toilet down below.

Photo via China Motor Bus Memorial Page

HK Magazine interviewed him in 2009 on his unusual home.

HK Magazine: Why did you decide to start living in a bus?
Ah Chung: I always loved buses as a child. I admired the British-style buses and I would daydream about how cool it would be to live inside one. In 2004, my family home needed repairs as it was getting increasingly dilapidated. It did some calculations and realized that to renovate my home would cost several thousand dollars, so why not realize my dream of getting a bus and turn it into a home? I often saw old buses sitting in a dump in Kam Tin whenever I passed by, so I went there, spoke to the owner, bought an old bus and started my project.

HK: How long did the renovations take? What was the hardest part?
AC: I worked practically around the clock for an entire month,so in a way, it didn’t take that long. But getting the bus towed to the village was pretty painful. The hardest part was figuring out where to put the bathroom, but it turned out that the space next to the stairs was ideal. I just asked a technician to connect the pipes.

HK: Do you get many visitors? Has anyone ever offered to buy your bus from you?
AC: My home is right up in a really rural area of Fanling, so the only people that really see it are old folks taking a walk. The press accidentally found out about it two years ago when they were covering a story about a piranha that bit a villager in a nearby river. One reporter, a huge bus fan, actually came all the way out here—but not for an assignment; he just wanted to visit. No one’s offered to buy it yet, but they certainly enjoy peeping in through the windows.

HK: What does your wife think of your home?
AC: She’s not that impressed. She just sees it as a place to live. I managed to convince her that it’s better than living in a regular house. She did get grumpy because we went over our budget—we ended up spending around $150,000 on refurbishments. She jokes that she can’t get away from buses, as she has to take a bus to work as well as live in one.

As did the i-CABLE News Channel in July 2007.

The bus itself is a 11 metre Dennis Dragon – KMB fleet number S3N43 with registration plate DM9890, which entered service in January 1987 and was withdrawn on 7th January 2004.

Further reading

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