Recreating Hong Kong scenes in Lego

Over the years I’ve stumbled upon a number of Hong Kong scenes recreated in Lego.

Nathan Road reproduced in Lego at the Hong Kong LEGO Store

Back in 2010 this collection of Lego scenes from the “Lego Architects – Features of Hong Kong” competition was on display at the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park.

A series of Lego displays showing various Hong Kong scenes

The first scene to catch my eye was a Lego model of the Hong Kong Railway Museum.

Lego model of the Hong Kong Railway Museum

Created by Benny Chow Chung Yan, it featured a pair of KCR diesel locomotives and an array of museum visitors.

Lego model of the Hong Kong Railway Museum

Alongside was a model by Tsang Yiu Keung titled 香港魅力之都 (“The Capital of Glamour in Hong Kong”) featuring trains, trams, boats, a cable car and a roller coaster!

Lego model of Hong Kong icons

However the Lego Store located at Langham Place has an even larger Hong Kong scene – a two block section of Mong Kok.

Nathan Road reproduced in Lego at the Hong Kong LEGO Store

The footpaths are crowed with shoppers.

Nathan Road reproduced in Lego at the Hong Kong LEGO Store

As double decker buses make their way down Nathan Road.

Nathan Road reproduced in Lego at the Hong Kong LEGO Store

There is even a staircase down the MTR station on a street corner.

Nathan Road reproduced in Lego at the Hong Kong LEGO Store

The final Lego model I found was at the Regal Airport Hotel, next door to Hong Kong International Airport.

Lego model of Hong Kong International Airport

The airport is centre stage, with the New Town of Tung Chung and the mountains of Lantau Island forming the backdrop.

Lego model of Hong Kong International Airport

Further reading

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Public toilets in MTR stations

Every MTR station seems to be full of shops and other commercial services, but there is one thing that is often lacking – public toilets!

Station concourse at Tuen Mun

The reason for this goes back to the original design of the system in the 1970s.

Most MTR stations were built in the 1970s and 1980s. In view of the short travelling time and availability of public toilets in most commercial buildings or shopping arcades in the surrounding urban areas, public toilets were not a built-in feature for those MTR stations.

But the expectations of the travelling public have risen in the years since.

With continual expansion of the MTR system and taking into account feedback received from the public, the Corporation has reviewed from time to time the feasibility of providing toilet facilities at new stations for passengers.

So toilets started to be built at new stations.

In this regard, the Corporation has identified appropriate locations, after consulting the relevant Government departments, for building public toilets at street level near some of the new stations. These include toilet facilities built by the Corporation at Public Transport Interchanges at Hang Hau, Tiu Keng Leng and Tseung Kwan O stations of the Tseung Kwan O Line.

As regards the Airport Express Line, in view of the long journey for international travellers with luggage, public toilets were designed as a built-in feature at Hong Kong, Kowloon and Tsing Yi stations.

Similarly, for Disneyland Resort Line, in view of the fact that the Theme Park’s visitors would mostly be families with children, public toilets were designed as a built-in feature at both Sunny Bay and Disneyland Resort stations.

In 2007 the Legislative Council requested the MTR Corporation look at the retrofitting of public toilets at railway stations. A number of technical issues were raised:

  • The current station sewage capacities were designed for low usage. Substantial modifications would be needed to meet a comparatively larger volume of foul sewage if public toilets were to be provided. For underground stations, such modifications would be even more difficult as there are only three types of possible connections between the underground station box and the ground level, namely station entrances, vent shafts and service manhole for drainage.
  • Installing sewage pipes through station entrances is not desirable due to possible unpleasant smell and appearance. There is also limited ceiling space for installing such pipes all the way leading to the vent shafts. As for service manhole and sewage pipes, modifications to increase their capacity may cause serious impact on road traffic given that these facilities are usually located beneath the surface of busy roads.
  • Toilet drains should not be located in the vicinity of the cables, particularly high voltage power supply equipment or overhead line equipment, in order to minimise the risk of their possible impact on railway operation and to avoid corrosion or electrical insulation breakdown that may lead to disruption of railway service.
  • In most underground stations, the concourse level is located above the platform level where overhead line wires are located on top of the running tracks with a lot of electrical installations at both platform ends. Hence, it is difficult to identify suitable locations for retrofitting public toilets at the concourse level of underground stations.
  • To maintain a hygienic and pleasant travelling environment, an efficient ventilation system is necessary for all railway stations. If public toilets were to be provided in the stations, a separate ventilation system from the station main ventilation system would be required.
  • For underground stations, there is little room left for building a separate ventilation system as most of the station areas are already fully occupied. The long path of the ventilation system would need to go through the busy areas filled with cables, piping and ducting before reaching the vent shaft.
  • The spatial requirement for station passenger facilities such as staircases, escalators, entry/exit gates, platform supervision booths, and customer service centres, and the requirement of adequate room for passenger flow and emergency evacuation impose substantial constraints in finding suitable locations for retrofitting toilets.

This review resulted in three decisions:

  • Retrofitting toilets in underground stations is not feasible.
  • For existing aboveground/at-grade stations, the Corporation will continue to examine the feasibility of retrofitting toilets at or in the vicinity of such stations.
  • For future new lines and extensions, the Corporation will include the provision of public toilets within stations, subject to geographical constraints.

As well as the MTR publishing a list of the nearest public toilets to each railway station.

As of 2012 ten out of 20 interchange stations in the MTR network have public toilets, with toilets retrofitted to all 20 interchange stations by 2020.

Sources

The above quotes are all from a July 2007 report by the Legislative Council Panel on Transport titled ‘Provision of Public Toilets in MTR Railway Stations‘.

Footnote

The lack of public toilets on the MTR system parallels the lack of disabled access to stations – thankfully that omission has almost been corrected, after decades of work retrofitting lifts to every MTR stations.

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Photos from my 2016 trip to Hong Kong

It has taken me almost 18 months, but I have finally finished uploading the photographs I took on my 2016 trip to Hong Kong.

Ferry departs Central for Peng Chau

My itinerary.

  • Day 1: arrival
  • Day 2: Kowloon
  • Day 3: Peng Chau and Kowloon
  • Day 4: Kowloon and Hong Kong Island
  • Day 5: Lamma Island and Tai O
  • Day 6: Shek O
  • Day 7: MTR Light Rail
  • Day 8: Hong Kong Island
  • Day 9: Sha Tin and Ma On Shan
  • Day 10: Macau
  • Day 11: Mong Kok
  • Day 12: Hong Kong Airport

I also spent another 24 hours in Hong Kong, staying overnight at the Regal Airport Hotel overlooking Hong Kong Airport.

Looking across to the North Satellite Concourse at

You can view the complete set of photos on Flickr – a total of 2,067 photos, – 100% captioned, and mostly geotagged.

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Flood doors at MTR station entrances

You will find MTR station entrances all across Hong Kong – but there is one important thing that all of these have in common – a way to keep floodwaters out.

Entrance A3 at Shau Kei Wan station

When entrances reach ground level, whether in the middle of the street, or tucked between shops, the easiest way to keep water out is to elevate the entrance, with pedestrians having to climb a short flight of stairs before descending into the station.

Exit 'C' at Yau Ma Tei station

But when a MTR station is directly connected to the basement of neighbouring buildings, this isn’t always possible.

MTR North Point station Exit B2 to McDonald's
Photo by Wpcpey via Wikimedia Commons

The solution – massive waterproof doors. Over at the Gwulo: Old Hong Kong website someone noticed a set at North Point station.

I recently moved to North Point and couldn’t help notice that MTR exit B2 (the one leading to MacDonalds) has a massive metallic door (about ten inches thick!). That’s totally odd, considering that other exits are protected with a simple metallic curtain, one of which is even installed behind the big door…

My first assumption was that there might have been a bank on the other side and this could have been a vault’s door, but then I realised that the lock is apparently on the MTR side, not on the shop’s side.

Does anyone know the story of that door?

With another contributor providing the story behind them.

The MTR confirmed that the door is a “a flood gate which is in place to prevent possible flooding situation”.

Come to think of it it is logical: other entrances are under MTR’s supervision and control, and are at ground level (plus the usual few steps); in case of flooding, the MTR can quickly reinforce them… but if McDonalds fails to contain the water they will get flooded up to the ceiling. The MTR needs to protect themselves from that risk, thus the door.

Wong Tai Sin Exit D2 is the same situation: the exit is underground and leads to a mall that is not an MTR mall. The door limits the MTR’s risk at their doorstep literally.

Flooding caused by a burst water pipe is bad enough – as seen at South Horizons and Sai Ying Pun MTR stations in 2017 – but a typhoon could cause far more damage, as the storm surge that hit the New York Subway in 2012 showed.

Footnote

A photo of the waterproof door at Wong Tai Sin exit D2.

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Finding the last KCR ‘Yellow Head’ train

For almost two decades, the mainstay of the Kowloon Canton Railway was their fleet of Metro Cammell EMUs, nicknamed ‘Yellow Head’ (黃頭) for the colour of their driving cabs.


Photo by Joseph K.K. Lee / gakei.com

As originally built, each Metro Cammell EMU was a standalone three-car train with a driving cab at each end, capable of being coupled up into trains of six cars (two EMUs), nine cars (three EMUs) to 12 cars (four EMUs).

Refurbishment of the trains was completed between 1996 and 1999, and saw the progressive removal of these three-car trains from service and their reformation into fixed 12-car long trains.

Sun going down of an evening

But there was one problem – there was one three-car train left over!

The orphaned set was E44, made up of carriages 144-244-444, and last made a public appearance on 27 July 2002 when the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation held a “East Rail Nostalgic Train Trip & Charity Fun Fair” to mark the retirement of the last ‘Yellow Head’ train, with over 3,000 members of the public attended the event.

The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) will organise an East Rail Nostalgic Train Trip & Charity Fun Fair on 27 July 2002 (Saturday) at KCRC Shatin Freight Yard. A retired first generation train will be exhibited at Shatin Freight Yard and opened for visit by the public.

Apart from a Giant Painting Competition, on stage performance, exhibitions, game booths and charity sale of artifacts will be organized on that day. KCRC will donate all the proceeds of the charity sale to ‘Senior Citizen Home Safety Association’ for the installation of personal emergency links for the elderly living along East Rail.

Admission tickets of East Rail Nostalgic Train Trip & Charity Fun Fair are distributed free of charge at four East Rail Customer Services Centres (Hung Hom, Sha Tin, Tai Po Market and Sheung Shui) starting from 18 July 2002 (Thursday). A maximum of four tickets will be given to each person on a first-come first-served basis.

The train was then put into storage at Ho Tung Lau Depot, next door to Fo Tan station.

Train depot under apartment towers

And there the train has sat, for 17 years and counting.


Photo by 無人之境 | Abandoned HK

The future for Metro Cammell EMU set E44 is uncertain, but by 2020 the last of the refurbished classmate will be retired, replaced by the incoming MTR Hyundai Rotem EMU fleet.

Further reading

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