Trains in Hong Kong don’t have very much character – they all look much the same, with only their fleet numbers setting them apart. But on the MTR Light Rail network, there was an exception – a pair of light rail vehicles that were given their own names.
The first LRV to be named was Phase I unit 1004: 輕鐵先鋒 – LRV Pioneer.
Chinese language Wikipedia has the backstory.
In 1985, the first phase of the LRT contract was also approved in the same year, and the construction of the LRT system was officially started. In 1987, the first light rail vehicle (fleet number 1004) arrived in Hong Kong, and following the installation of equipment, a comprehensive inspection and performance testing process was commenced.
On December 10, 1987 the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation held a light rail vehicles commissioning ceremony at Shan King North Stop, where the chairman of the company named the first light rail vehicle 輕鐵先鋒 – LRV Pioneer.
Final Phase I vehicle 1070 was also named: 史禮賢 – F.D. Snell.
Again to Chinese language Wikipedia for the backstory.
The first phase of the Tuen Mun Light Rail system opened to the public on 18 September 1988. In December 1988 Leighton Holdings engineering manager Dudley Snell died, a key part of the team who constructed the first phase of the LRT system from Tuen Mun to Yuen Long.
On September 18, 1989 the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) celebrated the anniversary of the opening of the light rail system at the LRT Depot. At this ceremony company chairman Peter Quick, with Mr Snell’s widow Joan in attendance, named the final light rail vehicle 史禮賢 – F.D. Snell, and placed a plaque inside the vehicle.
A photo of the plaque can be found here – it read.
This Light Rail Vehicle No.1070 is named after Mr. F.D. Snell in memory of his contribution to the planning, construction and commissioning of the Phase 1 Light Rail Transit System.
KCRC – Light Rail Division
Today no sign remains of the names: the plaque onboard 1070 was removed some time before the MTR-KCR rail merger of 2007, and the names on the exterior of 1004 and 1070 were removed as part of their 2011 refurbishments.
Today they look just the same as the rest of the fleet.
Why was 1004 the ‘pioneer’?
The fleet of Phase I LRVs in Hong Kong is numbered 1001 to 1070. So why did 1004 get the gong as first LRV to run in Hong Kong?
Design issues and industrial action at Australian manufacturer Comeng slowed the entire project, delaying the completion of the first light rail vehicles, resulting in 1004 being the first LRV to depart the factory on 26 August 1987. it arrived in Tuen Mun on 5 October 1987, and first moved under power on 5 November 1987.
And who was F.D. Snell?
Frederick Dudley Snell (14 December 1924 – 14 December 1988) was an Australian electrical engineer and tramways administrator. He grew up in Bendigo and following his education worked for the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, and served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II.
He commenced work at the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) in 1953, being appointed the MMTB’s fifth and last Chairman in 1976. Following the dissolving of the MMTB into the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in 1983, he became General Manager of the MTA Bus and Tram Division. Snell worked for the MMTB, MTA, and Leighton on Hong Kong’s Tuen Mun light rail system, and died in Hong Kong in 1988.