Hong Kong has been the home of the busiest container port in the world for many years, seeing vessels from many countries. Here we see the Australian National Line’s “Australian Enterprise” underway on Victoria Harbour, with a 1970s Hong Kong skyline in the background.
From the Australian National Line 1978 Annual Report
Owners: Australian Shipping Commission
Port Registry: AUS Melbourne
Date of completion: 27.8.69
Yard No: 1127
Length overall: 181.7
Country of build: JPN
Location of yard: Kobe
BU Kaohsiung 23.1.86, work began 1.2.86 [Gwo Feng Steel Enterprise Co]
Double decked ferry 民安（Man On）entered service with the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Company in 1951 carrying passengers across Victoria Harbour, before being converted into a car ferry in 1966. With the opening of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in the 1970s this traffic collapsed, leaving the fleet of car ferries underused.
Meanwhile thousands of kilometres away in the Australia city of Hobart, Tasmania something dramatic happened – bulk carrier SS Lake Illawarra was headed up the Derwent River, when it veered off course and rammed into the Tasman Bridge, causing it to collapse, and cutting the city in half.
Private enterprise got on with shifting people while the State Government got on with buck passing, indecision and then making some quite weird decisions.
One such was to buy from Hong Kong a two-decked 30 year old car ferry and have it towed to Hobart. When Man On arrived it was quickly found out that her design as a car ferry made her use as a passenger ferry very dubious. Much extra money was expended before she was any use.
Following the opening of the reconstructed Tasman Bridge in 1977 the Man On was now redundant, but a third life was calling – carrying vehicles and passengers between Bruny Island and the Tasmanian mainland.
Renamed the Harry O’May and with the lower deck converted back to carry vehicles, the ferry started on this route in 1978, and continued in this role until replaced by newer ferry Mirambeena in 1991.
How is this for an unusual sight – a Kowloon Motor Bus double decker driving along the shores of Sydney Harbour! The story of how this bus, along with two more from Hong Kong, ended up in Australia is thanks to the efforts of bus enthusiasts.
Mr. Chan, an accountant, is one of Hong Kong’s thousands of bus fans, ranging from young students to retirees, who are enthralled by the city’s some 6,000 buses. They linger by bus depots and lurk near highway ramps, angling for the best shots. They form fan clubs, eagerly swap the latest gossip about changes in bus models and film their own rides, which they share online with anyone who wants to follow along (spoiler alert: they aren’t always scintillating).
When it comes to pastimes, Hongkongers run to the usual suspects: karaoke, video games, television and football. They also have their share of unusual ones.
Tony Ng Cheuk-ho, 20, falls into the second category. Every weekend, his hobby takes him to a Tin Shui Wai car park and a rendezvous with his pride and joy: a big yellow double-decker bus. He washes it, drives it and admires it.
‘The bus has its own life,’ Ng says. ‘Sometimes it’s grumpy. Sometimes when I drive it to the other side to wash it, it’s very happy and moves smoothly.’ Whatever its ‘mood’, he treats his bus as a friend.
His interest may sound weird, but he’s not alone. There are about 15 private bus owners in Hong Kong, according to 22-year-old salesman Eddie Wong King-him, who owns an ex-China Motor Bus.
So how did the buses end up in Australia?
The first ex-Hong Kong buses to arrive in Australia were imported for use on open top tourist services, but the plan fell through, with a local bus enthusiast snapping one up.
After ML1 (CM8935) retired from NWFB, it was purchased by City Sightseeing with ML2 and dozens of other MLs, and was shipped to Australia as part of the local tour bus fleet. The company originally arranged ML1 to travel on the Gold Coast and Brisbane tour bus routes, but the plan was eventually cancelled.
In 2005, Australian bus fans with BL66 and ME30 purchased ML1 from CitySightseeing and repaired it on a large scale. Fortunately, the company did not replace the engine, open the top, and refit the stairs, and the original CMB seats and high-quality paintwork removed from the ML2 made the entire bus a new look. It was also very similar to the original bus. Proximity is a very high quality repair.
The “new car” was carefully cared for by the owners and joined with the former KMB BL66, also from Hong Kong, to participate in many local activities in Australia and attract the attention of many passers-by.
A second bus was purchased in Hong Kong from the scrap yard by an Australian bus fan.
After being retired, the BL66 was purchased at the scrap yard. The current owner purchased the container in time and was initially parked at the Shangcun scrap yard and then moved to a parking lot in Hangwei Village, Tin Shui Wai for many years.
Since the owner is an Australian bus fan and does not live in Hong Kong for a long time, the ME30 purchased with the owner of the car can only wait for the owner to get to Hong Kong to get a chance to go out. After waiting about seven years in Hong Kong, the owner finally returned the two vehicles to Australia in March 2009 and repaired the two vehicles.
Just completed the BL66 article, it is better to take the opportunity to complete the ME30 story purchased by the same owner. ME30 joined KMB in September 1985 and retired in November 2002.
After being parked and waiting at various locations in Hong Kong for a period of seven years, the ME30 and BL66 finally started their new page in March 2009 – transported by container ship to Australia.
The owner repaired the ME30, successfully issued the license, and participated in local activities in Australia.
They draw the attention of crowds, as well as people back in Hong Kong, with newspaper Apple Daily running this piece in 2015 on their outing.
A retired KMB double-decker bus, preserved in Australia, attended local public events and the photographs were circulated on the Internet. Hong Kong people appreciate photos Aftertaste This bus, known as the “Car Emperor,” was a sigh in Hong Kong on the roads of Hong Kong. It was a sigh for Hong Kong to lose these historical artifacts.
Some more photos
The trio of ex-Hong Kong buses ready to run the 2018 Australia Day vintage bus service.
Bus ME30 alongside a similar vintage Sydney double decker bus.
Buses ME30 and ML1 out in the Australian countryside.
The trio of buses in the sheds at the Sydney Bus Museum.
Bus ME30 beside Sydney Harbour.
Bus ME30 departs the Sydney Opera House.
ML1 is passed by a modern Sydney double decker bus.
And some videos
Here we see KMB bus BL66 being loaded onto a ro-ro cargo ship bound for Australia.
And KMB bus ME30 being parked aboard the ship.
And finally, the trio of ex-Hong Kong buses in action in Sydney.
And another visitor from Hong Kong
In early 2008 another Hong Kong double decker bus paid a visit to Australia – this time brand new Dennis Enviro500 as a demonstrator – New World First Bus #5504.
New World First Bus ordered 18 Enviro500 buses with Euro IV engine in early 2007. 17 buses entered service in early/mid-2008, another one (fleet number 5504) was shipped to Australia in March 2008, after body assembly, for demonstration in several cities between April and May 2008, it finally entered service in June 2008.
Here it is crossing over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Hong Kong is known for streets full of air conditioned double decker buses, spewing diesel exhaust onto the crowded streets. But back in the 2000s bus operator Citybus tested something a lot cleaner – electrically powered trolleybuses.
TVB news report, June 2001
Trolleybuses existed before diesel powered buses, and are quite simple – they draw power from overhead wires (generally suspended from roadside posts) using spring-loaded trolley poles to power their electric motor. Unlike trams, they don’t need tracks and are able to manoeuvre around stopped vehicles.
Citybus first announced in March 1999 that they would invest HK$5 million to conduct a trolleybus trial, to study its feasibility for Hong Kong.
The trial involves two main elements: (1) the construction of a test track with an overhead wire network at the Citybus Wong Chuk Hang depot; (2) the conversion of a regular diesel bus into the world’s first double-deck air-conditioned trolleybus.
The trolleybus is converted from 701 (GD 1492), a 10.6m Dennis Dragon with a Duple Metsec body assembled by Caetano of Portugal. The roof structure had to be strengthened to take the extra load from the boom equipment and the brake resistors. As much as possible of the original bus had been retained.
Trolleybuses would be technically and operationally feasible in most circumstances in Hong Kong, but the feasibility of their operation in busy urban areas and in tunnels has yet to be established. There are important technical and operational issues to be resolved for trolleybus operation in these areas, in particular –
(i) trolley vehicles: the preferred vehicle type for Hong Kong is an air-conditioned, low-floor double-deck trolleybus. This new vehicle type would need to be designed. For manufacturers to be sufficiently interested to develop a new vehicle type, a minimum order of about 40-50 buses would be necessary;
(ii) vertical clearance: the recommended normal height for trolley wires is 6 metres. This exceeds the vertical clearance of many over-bridges constructed in accordance with Government standard clearance of 5.1 metres. There is a possible need for speed restrictions under this clearance in order to reduce the risk of dewirements. As for temporary structures and overbridges which provide Government standard clearance of 4.7 metres, the operation of double-deck trolleybuses would not be possible. Measures like temporary diversion, use of auxiliary engines, or temporary substitution by diesel buses would be required and these measures could be difficult and costly;
(iii) traffic impact: the constraint that trolleybuses could operate only within the reach of their trolley booms from the trolley wires, their inability to overtake one another without passing loops, and the possibility of dewirement would contribute to potential traffic delays especially in congested urban corridors;
(iv) depot location: trolleybus depots should be as close to the trolleybus network as possible to avoid the stringing of wires with no revenue-earning operation, thereby adding to the cost;
(v) hanging signs: repair or construction work on hanging signs directly above trolleybus wires (which, unlike tram wires, have both positive and negative overhead wires) would be dangerous. Legislation for relocating or removing such signs and compensation of owners would have to be considered;
(vi) fire-fighting: solutions have to be developed to prevent the trolley wires and traction poles from blocking the access of aerial ladders; and
(vii) infrastructure support: the planting of traction poles and underground feeder cables in busy urban areas could cause problems and solutions to them could be costly and time-consuming.
No single issue would stand in the way of trolleybus operation. However taken together they present important risks which would be greatest if trolleybuses were to be introduced in busy urban areas.
After the initial trials in 2001 little happened, an exception being a public display in 2003. The trolleybus itself was later stripped for parts, then scrapped in 2014.