Riding the MTR circa 1979

Continuing with my theme of finding railway related Youtube clips and describing what’s in ’em – here is a documentary from 1979 that describes Hong Kong’s brand new MTR system and how to use it.

Here is a quick synopsis:

  • 00:01 – footage of Hong Kong traffic jams,
  • 01:00 – overview of the new MTR network,
  • 01:40 – MTR train departing a station,
  • 01:45 – cab footage of a citybound train departing Kwun Tong station, running over the viaducts of Kowloon Bay,
  • 02:00 – a look inside the MTR control room, a mix CRT displays and old fashioned pushbutton signalling panels,
  • 02:25 – more cab footage, entering the tunnels at Choi Hung and a summary of the stations along the way,
  • 03:58 – a look at the original station entrances and concourses,
  • 04:30 – how to buy tickets from the automated vending machines,
  • 05:00 – using the turnstiles to enter the platform,
  • 05:30 – how to find your platform,
  • 06:00 – make sure you stand behind the yellow line,
  • 06:20 – interior shows of the unrefurbished Metro Cammell EMUs
  • 06:30 – more cab footage inside the tunnels,
  • 07:00 – how to exit the platform,
  • 07:30 – using the turnstiles to exit the station

Given that there was never anything like the MTR in Hong Kong before it opened, the amount of handholding seen in the documentary can be expected.

Historical footnotes

The first section of the MTR opened on 1 October 1979 when trains commenced running between Kwun Tong and Shek Kip Mei, with an extension down Nathan Road to Tsim Sha Tsui opening on 16 December 1979, and under Victoria Harbour to the terminus at Chater Station (since renamed Central) on Hong Kong Island on 12 February 1980. Today forming the core of the Kwun Tong Line and Tsuen Wan Lines, this single line was officially known as the “Modified Initial System” (map from Wikipedia).

All of these stations remain open today, but some have different names – Argyle is now Mong Kok, Waterloo is Yau Ma Tei, and Chater is now Central – and Prince Edward didn’t open until the Tsuen Wan Line opened in 1982.

2022 update

Turns out the original video I posted is now private, but I’ve found a working version – I’ve updated the link above.

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11 Responses to Riding the MTR circa 1979

  1. Mark says:

    Fantastic use of eurodisco music in the YouTube clip – specifically Giorgio Moroder’s “The Chase”!

  2. Mike says:

    And 32 years later, I’m enjoying the still expanding MTR over here in Hong Kong. Loving the service frequencies, the reliability, the cleanliness, etc. I don’t even mind the crowds!

  3. xahldera says:

    Still remember the old unrefurbished EMUs on the original MTR lines as they were still in service in the mid-90’s when I visited Hong Kong as a youngster. Really strange to think underneath the refreshed interior is the same old train.

    • Marcus says:

      My memories of the unrefurbished trains are rather hazy – my first visit to Hong Kong was in early 1998 (before the refurbishment) but all I can remember are the stations minus platform screen doors.

      • xahldera says:

        That was pretty much the MTR in a nutshell at the time. I even still recall the old “Common Stored Value” Tickets, the predecessor to the Octopus cards. 🙂

        • Marcus says:

          On the ticketing front the main thing I remember is having to pay a higher fare for air conditioned buses. You would have exact change worked out for one fare, only for the other type to turn up, forcing you to dig out more coins!

          • xahldera says:

            Hehe. 🙂 That is still the case, in theory. I was there a few months ago and they still advertised the fares for a “Non-Air Conditioned” bus. Mind you we only rode on one once. And the driver acted as though it was on fire! Missed one stop and caught us by surprise when our stop came up earlier than expected! XD

  4. Mateusz says:

    Hey! do you still own the video? the original on yt was taken down and its not possible to find it anywhere :/

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