Mileposts along the MTR East Rail Line

Something you don’t see on a modern rail systems are old fashioned concrete mileposts, but I stumbled upon one on the northbound platform at Mong Kok East station.

2.5 kilometre milepost at Mong Kok East station

And another south of Fo Tan station.

11.5 km post on the MTR East Rail line, south of Fo Tan

Called 里程碑 in Cantonese, over on the forums I found a thread discussing mileposts on the East Rail Line:

The East Rail line is approximately 34 kilometres in length, with mileposts found every 500 metres.

Distances are measured from Hung Hom Station.

Located to the left hand side of the track, headed northbound, existing concrete mileposts include:

  • 1
  • 1.5
  • 2.5 (Mong Kok East)
  • 3
  • 4.5 (Kowloon Tong)
  • 7.5-11.5
  • 12 (Fo Tan)
  • 14.5 (University)
  • 15
  • 18.6 (Tunnels No. 5 and 5A)
  • 21 (Tai Po Market)
  • 23.510
  • 25.5-27
  • 28.5 (Fanling)
  • 29.510
  • 30 (Sheung Shui)
  • 31-33

They also detailed how chainage is displayed along the former KCR system:

Example – A18+598 at tunnel No. 5A:

18 kilometres + 598 metres from Hung Hom.

The letter indicates:

  • A = Mainline
  • B = Racecourse branch
  • S = Siding
  • L = Lok Ma Chau Spur Line
  • M = Ma On Shan Line

The lowered marked chainage is A0+030 at Hung Hom.

The highest marked chainage is L37+471 at Lok Ma Chau Station, and A33+579 at the Shenzhen home signal.


Here is a Cantonese language page on road mileposts in Hong Kong.

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Overtaking moves on the MTR East Rail Line

Two kinds of trains share the East Rail Line in Hong Kong – ordinary stopping-all-stations MTR trains that run every few minutes, and the ‘Intercity Through Train’ that runs express from Hung Hom into Mainland China. But how do fast and slow trains coexist on a 34 kilometre long route with only two tracks?

Southbound KTT passes through Mong Kong East station, 'white head' locomotive at the rear

The first trick is to delay the all-stations MTR trains to make space for the express train to run in front of it. Here at Mong Kong East we see an empty platform and a six minute gap until the next service: the Lo Wo bound train has already departed, with a ‘not stopping’ message on the next train display indicating the track is cleared for a northbound Through Train. Immediately after the Through Train departs Hung Hom, the next all-stations train will depart hot on the tail.

The Chinese version of "Non Stopping Train" on the display

The other trick is for the fast train to overtake the slow one. Sha Tin station is located 10 kilometres north of Hung Hom station, and has four tracks.

Afternoon at Sha Tin station

Along with a short section of quad track.

Northbound train takes the 'loop' platform at Sha Tin, main line clear for a Through Train to overtake

Normally all-stations trains take the ‘inner’ platform faces – but when an overtaking move is planned, they are routed onto the ‘outer’ track.

Northbound train takes the 'loop' platform at Sha Tin, main line clear for a Through Train to overtake

They then arrive into the platform.

Northbound train takes the 'loop' platform at Sha Tin, main line clear for a Through Train to overtake

And stop as normal, but with the mainline clear.

Northbound train in the 'loop' platform at Sha Tin, main line clear for a Through Train to overtake

The Through Train appears soon after.

SS8 0181 leads a northbound Through Train express through Sha Tin station

Running through the clear platform.

SS8 0181 leads a northbound Through Train express through Sha Tin station

And continues along the line.

Someone else gets a photo of SS8 0181 leading a northbound Through Train express through Sha Tin station

The total delay to the all-stations train is around five minutes – this video shows a SS8 hauled Through Train overtaking a northbound MTR train at Sha Tin.


Overtaking moves are also possible at Fo Tan and Tai Po Market: both stations have four platforms serving three tracks. However from my research it seems overtaking moves are not timetabled at either station – Through Trains take the outside platforms, same as all-stations trains, with the centre platform only used for terminating MTR services.

Further viewing

Another northbound overtaking move at Sha Tin – this time with the double deck MTR Ktt train, and with the waiting time cut out of the video.

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Turning a MTR railcar around by crane

In normal service MTR trains are driven back and forth along the same line each day – only the driver changes cabs at the end of the line, with the carriages themselves always facing the same way. However the current remarshalling of the MTR SP1900/1950 EMU trains from a mix of 12, 7 and 4-car long trains into a uniform fleet of 8-car trains has seen the need to reverse some carriages. With no reversing loops, turntables or triangle junctions on the MTR system, this meant a heavy lift crane needed to be called in to pick up each carriage, turn it around, then place it back on the rails.

Photo from the Tai Wah Sea and Land Heavy Transportation website, July 2015

A group of railfans called the ‘Hong Kong Railway Development Group’ has a few videos on their YouTube channel showing the carriage turning operation at Pat Heung Depot:

In the SP1900/1950 train remarshalling program, more than 120 cars need to be reversed. To lift and move the weight of 37 to 51 tons is not a simple thing!

In order to secure the body so the car can be lifted, the engineering staff attach a yellow lifting frame at the ends of the carriage near the bogie, and then the crane. When the carriage is lifted, the ground personnel will pull the rope in advance of the four corners of the carriage, to assist the crane in the 180° reversal. Workers also need to ensure that eight wheels of the carriage have been placed back onto on the track.

Here we see Ma On Shan line driving carriage D514 getting turned by crane on 11 February 2017.

Followed by motor cars P509 and M509.

While this video from 13 April 2016 shows brand new intermediate carriages being shunted around the depot.

This diagram created by the Hong Kong Railway Development Group shows how a 4-car long Ma On Shan line train is remarshalled into an 8-car long train for the future East-West Corridor.

“需進行轉向” translates to “needs to be turned”.

I can see a whole lot of shuffling going on, and five out of the eight carriages needing to be turned – but I can’t see the logic in reversing both driving carriages to create a train that looks the same as before!

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Abandoned MTR locomotive running shed at Hung Hom

Following the opening of the new diesel locomotive running shed at Lo Wu in 2014, the facility at Hung Hom was taken out of use. The 無人之境 / Abandoned HK group of urban explorers paid a visit to it shortly before demolition.

機車行車室 Locomotive running shed
Photo by 無人之境 / Abandoned HK

Can can see the full series of photos on the 無人之境 / Abandoned HK Facebook page.

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Moving the East Rail locomotive running shed to Lo Wu

For over one hundred years the southern terminus of the Kowloon Canton Railway has been the home of Hong Kong’s railway motive power. Replacing steam with diesel power in the 1950s, relocating the terminus to Hung Hom in 1975, and the takeover by the MTR in 2007 didn’t diminish this. However the construction of the Shatin to Central Link finally did, with the locomotive running shed being relocated to Lo Wu in 2014.

MTR locomotive running shed at Lo Wu (photo by 水水, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by 水水, via Wikimedia Commons

The locomotive running shed at Hung Hom was located on the north side of the station, near the East Rail running lines.

Locomotive depot at Hung Hom

The Shatin to Central Link involves two new rail lines: a north-south tunnel under Victoria Harbour from Hung Hom to Admiralty station connecting to the existing East Rail line, and a east-west tunnel from Tai Wai to Hung Hom connecting to the existing West Rail line.

To make these new track connections, the tracks north of Hung Hom station have been drastically modified.

MTR East Rail train passes Shatin to Central Link works at Hung Hom station

With the locomotive running shed and freight yards having to make room for the new tracks.

Shatin to Central Link worksite beside the East Rail tracks at Hung Hom

The decision was made to move the locomotive depot to the Lo Wu freight yard, at the other end of the East Rail line, next to the border with mainland China. Work started in 2013, with the new facility opening in April 2014.

The facility at Hung Hom was then abandoned, with demolition commencing in August 2014.

More photos at Lo Wu

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