Scale model of a MTR works train

Found over at Wikipedia – a scale model of a MTR works train, located in their head office in Kowloon Bay, photographed by TeaLaiumens.

Scale model of a MTR works train (photo by TeaLaiumens, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by TeaLaiumens, via Wikimedia Commons

Both are hauled by Brush Traction battery-electric locomotives, the plaque on the display case indicating that the foreground train is for overhead line maintenance, the train behind for track cleaning.

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MTR freight train across the border at Shenzhen

Here is an interesting find on Wikipedia – a MTR diesel locomotive hauling a freight train on the Chinese side of the border at Shenzhen, photographed by Baycrest back in February 2010.

MTR Freight Train & Diesel Locomotive at Jianshe Road Shenzhen (photo by Baycrest, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Baycrest, via Wikimedia Commons

The resolution of the photo is quite low, but I can just make out the locomotive identity – KCR #61, a 2000hp EMD G26CU diesel-electric locomotive that entered service in 1976.

As for the reason for the MTR crossing the border into mainland China, I previously believed that freight trains from the Mainland usually stopped at Lo Wu to swap their locomotives, and to rearrange the wagons into the correct order for the trip south, but these photos from 2001 suggest the exchange could also occur on the Chinese side, in the freight yard approximately three and a half kilometers north of Shenzhen railway station.


June 2010 marked the final freight train in Hong Kong. The diesel locomotives once used on these services are now only used to operate works trains on the MTR East Rail line.

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KCR EMD G12 diesel locomotives in Australia

I’ve written about the story of the Kowloon-Canton Railway EMD G12 diesel locomotives before – but what about a closer look at their Australian connection?

TL154 stabled at the Creek Siding

We start with my history of their time in Hong Kong.

The former Kowloon-Canton Railway owned a number of diesel locomotives for use on their railway between Kowloon and the border with China at Lo Wu. The two first diesels (numbers 51 and 52) entered service in 1955, being EMD G12s ordered from Clyde Engineering in Australia. Three more locomotives (numbered 53-55) soon followed, enabling the end of the regular steam locomotives use on passenger trains in 1957.

The October 1955 edition of Railway Transportation covered the construction of the first two locomotives – you can find the full article on the ‘KCR Information Station’ website:

Australian-Built Diesel Locomotives Enter Service on Hong Kong Railway

Two general-purpose, diesel-electric locomotives built by the Clyde Engineering Co. Pty Ltd., of Granville, NSW, for the British section of the Kowloon Canton Railway, arrived recently in Hong Kong in the vessel “Eastern” and placed in service early in September.

The vessel was met on the arrival by the Australian government Trade Commissioner (Mr. H. C. Menzies) and Mr. I. B. Trevor, C.B.E., M.C., General Manager of the British Section of the Kowloon Canton Railway. A number of press representatives and photographers were also present to record the arrival of the first diesel electric locomotives ever seen in Hong Kong.

Before being shipped to Hong Kong, these two locomotives underwent testing on the NSW Government Railways system. This photo from the John Buckland collection shows one of these test trains, the double headed locomotives hauling a short freight train on the steeply graded Illawarra line.

Buckland collection, PIC P861/1227 LOC Box N2 Folder 1/nla.obj-155370035

The new diesels then went to work in Hong Kong, hauling both freight and passenger trains.

Kowloon Canton Railway KCR - EMD G12 locomotive No. 54
No. 54 at the northern Beacon Hill Tunnel portal near Tai Wai, sometime between the 1957 and the modernisation work of the late 1970s (photo via this blog).

With electrification of the KCR line being commissioned in 1983 the diesel fleet no longer hauled passenger trains, instead being used to move freight to and from the border with China, as well as hauling maintenance trains on the line.

Overhead wire repair train stabled at the Sha Tin freight yard

By the late 1990s the EMD G12 fleet had been retired: in 2004 locomotive KCR 51 was restored and placed into the Hong Kong Railway Museum, the other four classmates being purchased by Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia (CFCLA). The four locomotives were loaded onto an Australian-bound ship at Hung Hom in October 2005.

Tai Wah Sea & Land Heavy Transportation photo

They arrived in the Australian city of Adelaide in December 2005, where they were sent to the Islington Workshops to be refurbished.

They re-entered service as TL class, numbered TL152 through TL155.

I photographed TL154 in my home town of Melbourne in 2008, shunting freight wagons around a workshop.

TL154 at the Creek Siding, alongside some wagons for repair

Quite often they played ‘yard ornament’ beside the turntable.

S311, T392, S300, J102 and TL154 stabled at the South Dynon SG turntable

While other classmates were hired out to freight operator EL Zorro, who used to to haul their containerised mineral sands trains.

Three flats tops?! T342, TL155 and TL152 lead the down mineral sands through North Geelong

As well as grain services.

T385, TL154, TL155 and GM36 waiting line at Benalla on an up Oaklands train

Following the collapse of El Zorro in 2013 the TL class now see little use, having been worked hard and in need of heavy overhaul.

The exception is TL152 – now owned by a private group called K&AB Rail, it has been seen hauling railfan specials in western Victoria.

TL152 up front on arrival at Kaniva


If you take a look inside the cab of a TL class, you can see the Hong Kong heritage thanks to Chinese text on the control stand.

Chinese text still in place inside the cab of TL152

More photos

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MTR train cliffhanger?

Browsing the South China Morning Post website recently I came across a strange sight – what looked to be a MTR train overhanging a building!

Thankfully the photo caption explained what was actually happening:

A mock-up of an MTR train, part of a promotion by Mitsukoshi department store in Causeway Bay in 1985, to coincide with the opening of the MTR’s Island Line. Photo: P Y Tang



The best known example of a train crashing through a wall and onto the ground below is the Montparnasse derailment of 1895 – better known as the ‘Oh Shit!’ poster.

There are actually a few places in Hong Kong where a MTR train could do the same thing. The first is Tuen Mun station, where the elevated West Rail line ends above a nullah (canal).

End of the line at Tuen Mun station: it is over the top of a nullah (canal)

The other being the elevated Chai Wan station, eastern terminus of the Island Line.

Overrun tracks at Chai Wan

Both tracks don’t see trains run on them – they exist for the sole purpose of providing an overrun zone for trains that fail to stop at the terminating stations.

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Above ground tracks on the Hong Kong MTR

Most of the Hong Kong MTR runs underground in tunnels, but there are sections of track open to the outside world. Here is a list.

Northbound train departs Lai King station on a viaduct

Island Line

Chai Wan Depot

Entirely in tunnel, except for:

  • viaduct Heng Fa Chuen to Chai Wan
  • Chai Wan depot at grade

Tsuen Wan Line

Running along a viaduct, a northbound train arrives into Kwai Fong station

Entirely in tunnel, except for:

  • viaduct Lai King to Kwai Hing
  • Tsuen Wan station and depot at grade

Kwun Tong Line

MTR Kwun Tong line train passes the Kowloon Bay Depot yard lead

Entirely in tunnel, except for:

  • viaduct Kowloon Bay to Lam Tin
  • Kowloon Bay depot at grade
  • short cutting between Lam Tin and Eastern Harbour Tunnel

Tseung Kwan O Line

Entirely in tunnel, except for:

  • LOHAS Park station at grade
  • Tseung Kwan O depot at grade

South Island Line

Entirely in tunnel, except for:

  • viaduct between Nam Fung Tunnel and Ap Lei Chau

Tung Chung Line and Airport Express

Hong Kong bound Airport Express train runs through Sunny Bay station

Entire line above ground, except for:

  • tunnel between Hong Kong and Kowloon stations
  • short tunnel at Lai King station
  • tunnel through Tsing Yi
  • tunnel at eastern end of Lantau Island
  • underground station at Tung Chung

Disneyland Resort Line

Passing a northbound train for Sunny Bay at the crossing loop

Entire line at grade except for short tunnel south of Sunny Bay station.

West Rail Line

Viaducts carrying the West Rail line

At grade after exiting the Tai Lam Tunnel in the New Territories, continues on viaduct to terminus at Tuen Mun.

East Rail Line

Set 114 soundbound under the freeway viaducts at Tung Lo Wan

Entire line at grade, on embankments or in cuttings, except for:

  • Tunnel No. 1A in Hung Hom
  • Beacon Hill Tunnel between Kowloon and the New Territories
  • Tunnels No. 5 and 5A at Tai Po Kau
  • Long twin tunnel between Sheung Shui and Lok Ma Chau

Ma On Shan Line

Wu Kai Sha bound train running down the middle of Tate's Cairn Highway

Entire line is either viaduct or at grade.

Further reading

The MTR之今昔 website has a full track diagram of the MTR network, including detail of where tracks are in tunnels.

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