Hong Kong Travel Guide
the Peak Tram
The Peak Tramway is a funicular railway in Hong Kong, which carries both tourists and residents to the upper levels of Hong Kong Island. Running from Central district to Victoria Peak via the Mid-Levels, it provides the most direct route and offers good views over the harbour and skyscrapers of Hong Kong.
The Peak Tram is owned and operated by the Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels group (HSH), the owner of Hong Kong's famous Peninsula Hotel along with many other properties. The line, along with HSH's Peak Tower leisure complex at the line's summit, is promoted using the brand The Peak.
The Peak Tram's route from Central district to Victoria Peak covers a distance of about 1.4 kilometres and a height difference of just under 400 metres. The line has two pronounced curves, one to the left immediately after leaving the lower terminus, and the other to the right in the upper half of the ascent. The gradient also varies considerably throughout the ascent. It is a single track route and a passing loop, with two trams.
The lower terminus station, Garden Road, is located on Garden Road near St. John's Cathedral. The original station was incorporated into St. John's Building, an office tower, with the tram terminus at the ground level. The station comprises a single track, with platforms on both sides. One platform is used for boarding, the other for exiting the tram.
The upper terminus, The Peak is located below the Peak Tower shopping and leisure complex at Victoria Gap, some 150 metres below the summit of Victoria Peak. The station has the same arrangement of boarding and alighting platforms as the lower terminus. The haulage and control equipment for the funicular is located in a basement below the station.
There are also four intermediate stations, each of which consists of a single stepped platform and a shelter:
- Kennedy Road. Located on Kennedy Road, named after Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy, a former Governor of Hong Kong.
- Macdonnell Road. Located on Macdonnell Road, named after Sir Richard MacDonnell, a former Governor of Hong Kong; depot located here and storage of historic car
- May Road. Located on May Road, named after Sir Francis Henry May, a former Governor of Hong Kong.
- Barker Road. Located on Barker Road, named after General George Digby Barker, a former military commander and acting administrator of Hong Kong.
In 1881, Alexander Findlay Smith, who owned a hotel on the Peak, petitioned for the right to introduce a funicular railway to Hong Kong. It took three years to build, as much of the heavy equipment and rails had to be hauled uphill by the workers, who had no mechanical support. The Peak Tram was a revolutionary new form of transport to Asia at the time, and when the tramway was finally completed it was considered a marvel in engineering. A wooden structure was built for the terminal. According to photographs, the Garden Road terminus was originally an unadorned building, a large clock face was added to the edifice probably between the 1910s and 1920s.
The Peak Tram was opened for public service on 28 May 1888 by the then Governor Sir George William des Voeux. As built, the line used a static steam engine to power the haulage cable. It was at first used only for residents of Victoria Peak, although despite this it carried 800 passengers on its first day of operation, and about 150,000 in its first year. These passengers were carried in the line's wooden bodied cars. Its existence accelerated the residential development of Victoria Peak and the Mid Levels.
In the course of its history, the tram has been victim of two natural disasters, caused by floods from heavy rainfall, which washed away steep sections of the track between Bowen Road and Kennedy Road. The first was in 1899, and the second occurred on 12 June 1966.
In 1926, the steam engine was replaced by an electric motor. On 11 December 1941, during the Battle of Hong Kong, the engine room was damaged in an attack. Service was not resumed until 25 December 1945, after the end of the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.
In 1956, the Peak Tram was equipped with a new generation of lightweight metal bodied cars, each of which seated 62-seat passengers. Unusually for a funicular line, three such cars were provided, only two of which were in use at any one time. The third spare car was kept in a car shed near Kennedy Road station.
The system was comprehensively rebuilt in 1989 by the Swiss company, Von Roll, with new track, a computerized control system and two new two-car trams with a capacity of 120 passengers per tram. By the time of the handover in 1997, it carried some 2 million passengers annually. Today, more than 4 million people ride the Peak Tram annually, or an average of over 11,000 every day.
The Tramways operated on the principle of two coaches moving in opposite directions balancing each other; at the same time they were aided by a motor driven cable. Except for the middle section, where the two coaches pass each other in a dual-track configuration, there is a single track for most of the length of the tramway.
The line has the following technical parameters:
- Length: 1364 metres
- Height: 368 metres
- Maximum Steepness: 48%
- Track Gradient: 4 ~ 27 degrees
- Cars: 2 2-car train sets
- Capacity: 120 passengers per train set
- Configuration: Single track with passing loop
- Journey time: 4.9 minutes
- Maximum speed: 6 metres per second
- Track gauge: 4'11.85" foot (1520 mm)
- Traction: Electricity