Dummy railway track and overhead for training MTR staff

Hong Kong is a busy city and any issue with the rail network that serves it causes massive delays. For this reason heaving well trained staff is critical, but there is one problem – it can’t be safely carried out when trains are running. For this reason a number of short pieces of dummy railway track and overhead have been built across Hong Kong, allow this training to be carried out without danger.

Signals at the Tung Chung end of Sunny Bay station

Kowloon Bay depot

At the MTR Kowloon Bay depot I found this short piece of track.

Training rig at Kowloon Bay depot

It consists of a short piece of disconnected track, a set of points, and dummy overhead wiring erected lower than normal to allow for easy access by staff.

Training rig at Kowloon Bay depot

East Rail at Tai Wai

I found another length of disconnected track and overhead parallel to the East Rail line north of Tai Wai station, just off Man Lai Road.

Training track parallel to the East Rail main line at Tai Wai

Again, overhead wires have been strung above the tracks.

Mockup overhead wires close to ground level for staff training purposes

Along with a set of dummy traction power feeders and circuit breakers.

Mockup overhead wires close to ground level for staff training purposes

And an emergency overhead support post, used to hold up the overhead wires following any damage to the lineside posts.

Emergency overhead support in place on the training track at Tai Wai

East Rail at Ma Liu Shui

Another training facility on the East Rail line, this time north of University station. It consists of two short parallel tracks, linked by two sets of points and a catchpoint, but with no overhead wires.

MTR East Rail training track north of University station

Apparently both these training facilities on the East Rail line are out of use – replaced by trackage more conveniently located elsewhere at Ho Tung Lau Depot.

Light Rail at On Ting

I spotted a curious German language note on this 1996 diagram of the MTR Light Rail network, near the loop marked ‘Yau Oi’:

das gleis stuck in der schleife dient zur schulung bei der oberleitungsmontage. die hohe der oberleitung liegt hier bei etwa 1.5 meter

Which translates to:

The track within in the loop is used for training in the catenary mounting. The high of the catenary here is approximately 1.5 meter

Today the reversing loop and overhead poles is still in place, as is a rectifier station that powers the light rail network, but the wiring itself has been removed.

Rectifier station R3, overhead training facility, and abandoned reversing loop - MTR Light Rail at On Ting

Further reading

And some Google Maps links:

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Closure of Kai Tak Airport and the transfer to Chek Lap Kok

The closure of Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport in 1998 and the overnight switch to the new airport at Chek Lap Kok always intrigued me – how did they manage such a massive move?

Kai Tak airport terminal

From the Wikipedia page on Kai Tak:

The new airport officially opened on 6 July 1998. All essential airport supplies and vehicles that were left in the old airport for operation (some of the non-essential ones had already been transported to the new airport) were transported to Chek Lap Kok in one early morning with a single massive move.

On 6 July 1998 at 01:28, after the last aircraft departed for Chek Lap Kok, Kai Tak was finally retired as an airport. The final flights were:

  • The last arrival: Dragonair KA841 from Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (Airbus A320) landed runway 13 at 23:38.
  • The last scheduled commercial flight: Cathay Pacific CX251 to London Heathrow Airport (Boeing 747-400) took off from runway 13 at 00:00.
  • The last departure: Cathay Pacific CX3340 ferry flight to the new Hong Kong International Airport (Airbus A340-300) took off from runway 13 at 01:05.

A small ceremony celebrating the end of the airport was held inside the control tower after the last flight took off. Richard Siegel, then director of civil aviation of Hong Kong, gave a brief speech, ending with the words “Goodbye Kai Tak, and thank you”, before dimming the lights briefly and then turning them off.

After the last plane, a Cathay Pacific A340-300, took off from Kai Tak International Airport to new Hong Kong International Airport at 01:28 HKT, Kai Tak was closed, transferring its ICAO and IATA airport codes to the replacement airport at Chek Lap Kok.

Finding photos of the last day at Kai Tak was a difficult task, but I came across this footage from the Associated Press archives.

It features:

Kai Tak:

  • Airport staff dancing and cheering;
  • Worker: “Bye Bye Kai Tak”;
  • Convoy of lorries leaving airport with equipment;
  • Exterior airport;
  • Cathay Pacific plane taking off – last flight to leave airport;
  • Dragonair plane landing – last flight to arrive;
  • Convoy of lorries en route to Chek Lap Kok airport;

Chek Lap Kok

  • Equipment being unloaded at new terminal;
  • Cleaners washing sidewalk;
  • Painters putting final touches to exterior;
  • Interior of new terminal as final preparations made for Monday’s opening;

Kai Tak

Airport official: “The last passenger has arrived the last flight has departed, the runway is quiet – it is now time to turn the lights out that have safely guided thousand of planes…Goodbye Kai Tak and thank-you”; clapping;

After closure, the Kai Tak terminal and airport control tower lay idle – on my visit to Hong Kong in March 2004 they were still there.

Kai Tak airport control tower

Demolition soon followed, but today large parts of the site still lay idle, almost 20 years since closure.

2010 view of the approach to runway 13 at Kai Tak

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Mixing the old and new KCR trains

The MTR fleet of Metro Cammell EMUs has been conveying passengers on Hong Kong’s East Rail line for over 30 years, having originally been purchased by the Kowloon-Canton Railway in 1982 to serve the newly electrified route. In that time they received a mid-life refurbishment, which resulted in ‘new’ and ‘old’ trains running together.

Village houses beside the line at Sha Tin

As originally built, each Metro Cammell EMU was a standalone three-car train with a driving cab at each end, capable of being coupled up into trains of six cars (two EMUs), nine cars (three EMUs) to 12 cars (four EMUs).

Original KCR Metro Cammell EMU arrives into Hung Hom station (photo by Joseph K.K. Lee)
Photo by Joseph K.K. Lee / gakei.com

Refurbishment of the trains was completed between 1996 and 1999, and saw the progressive removal of these three-car trains from service and their reformation into fixed 12-car long trains.

In the shadow of Hong Kong suburbia

On at least one occasion the unusual sight of a single train made up of the two types of carriage ran – this photo by John Shum dated February 1999 shows a original EMU set coupled up to the tail end of a less than 12-car long refurbished train.

Mixed original and refurbished Metro Cammell EMU train at Hung Hom station, February 6 1999 (HKRail.NET/John Shum, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0)
HKRail.NET/John Shum, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0

I’m curious as to why the movement occurred – I’m going to assume that it was carried out without passengers.

Footnote

You can find a further photo of the two trains coupled here.

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Farewelling the first generation MTR trains

The first trains ran on Hong Kong’s MTR network way back in 1979, and almost forty years later these trains still remain in service, albeit having been refurbished and upgraded a number of times.

First generation Metro Cammell MTR train

The first batch of ‘Phase 1’ trains was delivered by British firm Metro Cammell between 1979–1982, followed by phase 2A trains in 1982–1985, phase 2B trains in 1985–1986, phase 2C in 1988–1989, and the final phase 3 trains in 1994–1998. Refurbishment of the trains by Australian firm United Goninan commenced in 1998, with the last train being outshopped in 2001.

Running along a viaduct, a northbound train arrives into Kwai Fong station

To farewell the last of the non-refurbished trains, on 19 August 2001 the MTR operate a special “Charity Ride on the Last First-Generation MTR Train” (第一代地鐵列車榮休之旅列車) with local railfans being out in force.

'Charity Ride on the Last First-Generation MTR Train' headboard - photo by HKRail.Net/John Shum, licensed under under CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo by HKRail.Net/John Shum, licensed under under CC BY-SA 4.0

A total of 93 refurbished Metro Cammell EMUs remain in serivce on the network today, but all will be replaced by new CSR Sifang-built trains to be delivered between 2018 and 2023.

Footnote

More on the ‘Charity Ride on the Last First-Generation MTR Train’ in 2001:

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Fixing failed doors on the Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong’s MTR network is known for being a fast, efficient and reliable public transport system, but it doesn’t mean they are invulnerable to simple issues such as failed doors on trains. These videos capture how they deal with such issues.

First we see a SP1900 EMU on the Ma On Shan Line stopped with a defective set of doors with two MTR staff trying to fix them – they succeed 90 seconds later, after two colleagues join in and help.

Next up, a Metro Cammell EMU on the East Rail Line. One door fails to close, so five MTR staff work to get them closed – the train eventually departing two and a half minutes late.

And finally we see what happens when platform screen doors fail, here at Lai King station on the Tung Chung line. On arrival the train doors open as expected, but MTR staff have to instruct passengers to pull the green emergency door release in order to open the platform screen doors. Once passengers have exited, staff are then required to push the doors back close, to they can be proved shut to allow the train to depart. Total dwell time – 60 seconds.

I’ve got to admit – those videos show some impressive work to avoid delayed trains!

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