Rail accidents in Hong Kong

Railway accidents in Hong Kong are extremely uncommon, and scrapping of rolling stock due to collision damage is even rarer. From what I have been able to find, the most recent rail accident to occur in Hong Kong was all the way back in 1984. Here is a contemporary news report:

Some additional photos of the wreckage can be found on the blog of a local railfan

The Wikipedia article on the East Rail line has the following to say about the accident:

On 25 November 1984, a train derailed between Sheung Shui and Lo Wu station. The incident occurred when the driver, preparing to back the train up to Sheung Shui station, failed to follow a speed/stop signal while the train was exceeding the speed limit. The train crashed into a boulder buffer with the first two cars piling on top of each other. The degree of damage was so extensive that the cars never returned to service. Passengers were unloaded prior to the crash, while the driver sustained only minor injuries.

Given that that details in Wikipedia sounds like poorly translated English, I went over to the Chinese version of the same article, and ran it through Google Translate.

My interpretation:

  • Sheung Shui station was the terminus of a northbound service,
  • All passengers leave the train so that the train can change direction,
  • To head back towards Hung Hom, trains proceed into a turnback siding at the north end of the station,
  • After changing ends the driver brought his train back towards Sheung Shui station,
  • The train failed to negotiate the crossover back to the main line, instead continuing along the siding into a dead end,
  • The train hit the buffers at a high speed, with the leading two carriages being written off due to the damage inflicted.

Unfortunately I can’t find a diagram showing the track layout of Sheung Shui station circa 1984 – presumably the turnback siding was removed when the Lok Ma Chau spur line was opened in 2008. From what the news footage shows, the turnback siding was located on the eastern side of the line at the north end of the station.

Finding out which carriages were scrapped as a result of the collision is also difficult – Google Translate and the HKRail.net website says the following:

E45 (145-245-445) scrapped after the accident at Sheung Shui in 1984

It appears that the remaining good carriages were shuffled around, with the remains of carriage 272 were used to build a display at the Hong Kong Railway Museum. Unfortunately but by the time I visited in 2010 it was gone – so here is an older photo of the mockup by Gordon Graham.

Other accidents

The Chinese version of Wikipedia lists two other major accidents on the East Rail line page. They are, via Google Translate:

1923 Ma Liu Shui derailment

On June 14, 1923 at 11:00 am a southbound train encountered a landslip at Ma Liu Shui, the locomotive and first car derailed, fortunately no one was injured. The locomotive was repaired and re-entered service, but was scrapped after it was involved in a second accident in 1931.

1931 Ma Liu Shui derailment

In the afternoon of April 20, 1931 heavy rain caused streams to burst near No. 22 bridge south of University Station. About 17:10 a Kowloon-bound train approached the damaged bridge which overloaded and collapsed, leading to the locomotive and the first four passenger carriages derailing and falling 20 feet below the roadbed. Carriages 3 and 4 telescoped into each other.

After the incident, railway bureau, police and the fire brigade were immediately deployed to carry out the rescue, nearby residents have rushed to help, but because of the remote location, the lack of suitable tools and inclement weather, the work is very arduous. The accident caused a total of 12 people were killed, the highest death toll of any Hong Kong railway accident.

The locomotive involved was the same one as the 1923 derailment, and was scrapped as a result of the accident. Damage to the railway resulted in the service not resuming until June.

With only one fatal accident in the 100 years of railways in Hong Kong, I reckon their safety record is very good.

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17 Responses to Rail accidents in Hong Kong

  1. Alan says:

    There’s more then that. besides the 1931 and 1984 accident; there was the famous 1955 accident. in NOV 1955, the new diesel locomotive no.51 “Sir Alexander” (the one in the Railway Mueseum now) led a full loaded passenger service north bound through from Tai Po to Fan Ling. At the same time, a tank from the British Army was passing through this level crossing on the military road. (cuz its a military road, it does not have boom gates or any thing) The tank was at the middle of the crossing when the diesel train stuck it at high speed. The locomotive went over the tank and took it some 100 meters before coming to a stop. Few were killed with many injured on the train and all crews on the tank was killed. All the carriages was scrapped, the tank was a write-off and the locomotive was rebuilt and out of service for 3 months. The commander of the tank was later charged with manslaughter.

  2. tony says:

    I was stationed at Lo Wu when the tank was hit by the train in 1955 but did not witness the accident and have a picture of train astride the tank. if my mememory serves me right there was one member of the tank crew killed.

  3. Myrtonos says:

    Although most certainly a recent addition to the underground stations, platform screen doors ought to help keep things safe.

  4. Jamie Kiang says:

    The up direction for East rail line is towards Lo Wu / Lok Ma Chau, while the down direction is towards Hung Hom. I think you have mixed them up.

    Also, as far as I know, carriage 145 have never been in the Railway Meseum. They are scrapped instead. However, the remainder of the incident train set in 1984, E44, is reserved in depot without conducting modernization work in the late 90s because the remainder set E44 is only 3 cars and cannot form a 12 car set train like other trains after modernization. There are recommendations to put the non modernized E44 into the railway museum from rail enthusiasts but no official decisions made.

  5. Daniel says:

    There was a new derailment today during the morning at Hung Hom if you don’t know.

  6. Pingback: Revisited: rail accidents in Hong Kong - Checkerboard Hill

  7. Ryan Lam (LP) says:

    As far as I know about the E45 after the crash (really confusing though because it is 233-234-235 instead of the normal 145-245-3 (or 4) 45), 235 and 234 were written off while 233 was placed in storage for a while. It was only after the damage of 272 at Ho Tung Lau Depot before it could come out of storage. Today it is 458 (first class coach) and still working to this day.

    The crash, however, I found it misreading all the time. Only the first car (235) was severely damaged by being split in half, while 234 was derailed instead of “crushing the first car” (reporters said that).

    I hope this information will be useful.

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