Maintenance trains on the MTR East Rail Line

Every railway needs a fleet of equipment to keep trains running smoothly, usually emerging at night-time after the normal revenue services have finished running. The MTR East Rail line is no different, but unlike the trains seen on the maintenance trains used on the MTR underground lines, the works trains for the East Rail line are a little bit more visible to railfans between jobs.

Ballast wagons at Fo Tan Depot

Fo Tan Depot is the main workshops for the trains that operate on the East Rail line, and also serves as the base of operations for the maintenance trains. The most visible section of the depot is at the south end, where the main storage area for new rail, points and crossings is located, along with sidings used to stable diesel locomotives and various wagons. Thankfully for railfans a footbridge passes over the top, located only a short walk from the southern exit of Fo Tan Station.

Loco 59 at Fo Tan Depot

The rest of the depot is hidden beneath the concrete deck that supports a large housing development, so the contents of the sidings are difficult to photograph, the only access being the platform at Racecourse Station. When speeding past by train a number of maintenance trains can be seen stabled in the labyrinth of tracks, but the more common EMU fleet fills the majority of the yard.

Train depot under apartment towers

Another location that maintenance trains once called home was the goods yard at Sha Tin Station, which was used in the late 2000s during the reconstruction of Fo Tan Depot. During this period it was normal to see a large collection of track machines and way and works wagons stabled during the day (photo via
Wikipedia).

Platform No.1 of Sha Tin Station, maintenance trains in the foreground

The final location to find maintenance trains on the East Rail line is the yard at Hung Hom, where further track machines are stabled in the former livestock siding.

Miscellaneous track machines at Hung Hom yard

A number of other sidings around the area are also used to stable non-revenue wagons such as rail flatcars.

Rail flat wagons at Hung Hom yard

Among the maintenance trains I was unable to photograph was the set of wagons used to maintain the overhead wires along the railway. Made up of 7 vehicles and usually hidden in the dark at Fo Tan Depot, at one end of the train is an flat wagon loaded with drums of cable, with the rest of the train being box vans with a rooftop catwalk for the use of the workers stringing up the wires. This video from YouTube shows the consist being shunted around the yard at Hong Hom.

Track machines were something else I missed out on, which this YouTube video makes up for, showing a number of different types being shunted into the goods yard at Sha Tin, including one labelled “Plasser Australia”.

However the most interesting piece of gear is the Kirow KCR 250 railway crane: it can lift up to 25 tonnes with a 16 metre working radius, and head solo along the tracks at 30 km/h.

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