Railway abandonment in Hong Kong

Despite the small number of railways located in Hong Kong, with the majority less than 40 years old, there are still a decent collection of abandoned lines, stations and tunnels. Lets start with the oldest…

Sha Tau Kok Railway

The Sha Tau Kok Railway was a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge narrow gauge line in the northern New Territories, running north from the main Kowloon Canton Railway at Fanling station, to Sha Tau Kok on the border with China. Opened in 1912, the line closed 1928 when a parallel road was opened. Today one of the steam locomotives is preserved in the Hong Kong Railway Museum, and on the ground some of the line can still be traced, with one of the stations still existing (photo via Wikipedia). You can read a bit more about the line in this PDF from the Hong Kong Railway Museum.

Hung Ling Station on the Sha Tau Kok railway

Kowloon Station

The next railway to be abandoned was the tracks leading to the original KCR station at Tsim Sha Tsui, the line being closed in the mid 1970s after the opening of the replacement station at Hung Hom.

The majority of the route has since been built over, except for a short section at Ho Man Tin where the new line departed from the old. Retained as a siding to enable the unloading of livestock from freight trains, with the demise of the traffic the sidings are now disused. In this photo the tracks to the left are bound for Hung Hom, with the sidings following the cutting wall.

Slope improvement works beside the East Rail Line at Ho Man Tin

Wo Hop Shek Branch

Another short branch from the KCR served the Wo Hop Shek Public Cemetery, located outside of Fanling. Built in 1949 to transport bodies and mourners to the cemetery, the line was abandoned in 1983 after electrification of the KCR was completed.

Beacon Hill Tunnel

Another 1980s abandonment was the original Beacon Hill Tunnel on the KCR. This view shows the northern portal of the tunnel near Tai Wai, sometime between the 1957 introduction of EMD G12 No. 54 and the modernisation work of the late 1970s (photo via this blog).

Kowloon Canton Railway KCR - EMD G12 locomotive No. 54

Opened in 1912 as a single track tunnel, a double track replacement was built a short distance to the west as part of the KCR modernisation and electrification program, while the original tunnel was reused to carry a gas pipeline through the mountain.

Lai King Station

Over on the MTR network, in 1997 a short section of the Tsuen Wan line was abandoned at Lai King Station, when the northbound track was removed from the original platform and rerouted into an interchange with the newly built Tung Chung line. Today the short section of track can still be seen on the low level viaduct, with trains using the replacement high level track.

Northbound train departs Lai King station on a viaduct

Sheung Wan Station

Instead of being an abandonment, the spare platforms at Sheung Wan Station on the MTR Island Line are something that have never used. Constructed with the station in the 1980s, they were intended to form the terminus of the future MTR East Kowloon Line. About 60 metres of platform was constructed perpendicular to the rest of the station, the work being carried out to ensure that future works would not affect operations on the existing network (again, photo via Wikipedia).

Rumsey Station reserved platforms at Sheung Wan station

By the time I visited in late 2010 the Rumsey Station platforms had been boarded up as part of the construction of the West Island Line, with the MTR abandoning any plans to use the platforms, and instead using the area to construct additional escalators between the platforms and the concourse.

A few more…

A few more interesting abandoned or never used tunnels on the MTR are detailed on this website (Chinese language):

  • Diamond Hill Station on the Kwun Tong line has a number of stub tunnels leading from the main running lines, provided during construction in the 1980s to cater for the future East Kowloon Line, which is still yet to be built.
  • Kowloon Station on the Tung Chung line has a void under the main station platforms, with enough room to build an island platform.
  • Tai Koo on the Island Line has an abandoned tunnel that lead from a stub siding up to ground level, where a large railway yard was constructed. Originally constructed in the 1980s as a way to get the newly built MTR trains off a boat and into the tunnel, it has since been closed off and the yard at ground level built over.
  • Kowloon Tong Station on the Kwun Tong line was to have a tunnel leading to ground level, intended for the delivery of MTR trains into the tunnel. The plan was abandoned and the tunnel never built, it was instead decided to move the trains by road to the Kowloon Bay depot.

East Rail by Tolo Harbour

The final piece of abandonment is a decent stretch of dismantled railway, the line being pulled up a little over 15 years ago. I didn’t find out about it until I got home from my trip, stumbling upon it via the Hong Kong Place webpage when researching the Beacon Hill Tunnel (again, Chinese language).

Located just north of University station, this 1 km or so long section of the East Rail line was pulled up in 1997 after land reclamation reshaped the area along Tolo Harbour.

It appears that the railway once followed the former shoreline (the green part) with the sports stadium being built on land reclaimed for the Tolo Highway and Science Park development. With this new area of land, it seems that the opportunity was taken to straighten out the curves on the railway, with the new route for the railway running parallel to the highway, straight across the new reclamation.

The tail end of this train is about where the old line diverged from the current route.

Northbound EMU passing Science Park

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15 Responses to Railway abandonment in Hong Kong

  1. Pingback: Rail freight yards in Hong Kong | Checkerboard Hill

  2. Pingback: The charming Shau Tau Kok railway • The Industrial History of Hong Kong

  3. Eric Tan says:

    Interesting info, thanks a lot!
    Just learned about the so-called Rumsey station today (May 2014)…and I’ve been in HK for 25 years.

  4. Matthieu says:

    Wow I live on top of Kowloon station and never knew about the void underneath it!

  5. Pingback: Abandoned Railway Lines, Stations and Tunnels in Hong Kong…and more ยป The Industrial History of Hong Kong Group

  6. Yugalarex says:

    Hey, is it possible to get into the station perpendicular to Sheung Wan station?

    • I haven’t visited Sheung Wan station since the West Island line works wrapped up, but I’m guessing the former platforms are either filled in to form part of the extended concourse, or hidden away behind new walls.

      • Yugalarex says:

        Haha okay then. Which ones are still accessible? And also – what’s it like down there? I mean, it’s basically a ghost station. Is it scary?

  7. Nix says:

    I’ve been telling people for years about the section of the East Rail line located just north of University station was “straightened” out. I remember in the early 90’s riding to school and the bend of the train was very obvious on this stretch.

  8. John Peakman says:

    Regarding the stub at Kowloon Tong station. I just checked with my father, who worked for the MTR from 1981 to 1985. He told me that this stub was actually intended to be a direct link between the MTR and KCR to allow trains to run from one system to the other. However when the KCR decided to electrify at 25kv AC the plan was dropped and construction of the connection was halted.

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