The Sha Tau Kok railway
Tymon Mellor has sent this photograph of the railway line and station at Fanling. This shows proper passenger carriages unlike the flat, open waggons shown in the image below.
HF I had heard about this almost forgotten branch of the Kowloon Canton Railway but knew almost nothing about it. The line operated for exactly 16 years from 1 Apr 1912 to 1 Apr 1928, unless the source is pulling my leg, twice. It ran from Fanling Station to Sha Tau Kok.
Apparently the area formerly occupied by the terminus in the latter place is still called the train station or fo cha teu in the local dialects (火車頭 huochetou). Gau Keung says in the comment below this article that “the characters 火車頭 do not mean train station. It means literally “train head” or the first car in a train, which is usually the locomotive, or the car that contains the engine of the train.”
I think I read at the Tai Po Railway Museum that the railway line preceded a road. A quick check on the surprisingly detailed Wikipedia page suggests, “In 1924 the Hong Kong Government decided to extend the existing motor road from Au Ha to Sha Tau Kok. The line ceased operation … due to competition from motor vehicles using the recently completed Fanling to Sha Tau Kok Road.” The webpage below suggests some of the old rails and a tunnel can still be traced through the dense foliage of the countryside today. Where exactly? The tunnel shouldn’t be hard to locate if still there.
IDJ has very kindly sent his own photographs and this information:
“These are images I took of the surviving KCR Fanling-Sha Tau Kok narrow gauge railway locomotives when repatriated to Hong Kong from the Philippines. The location was the Fo Tan depot one Sunday in 1995.
The locomotives had been in use on sugar plantations in PI for decades and were accompanied by their ‘balloon’ smoke-stacks which had been used to catch sparks from the Bagasse waste they burnt as fuel. Their very large tenders designed for Bagasse also came with them. These had not been used on the railway in HK and were probably scrapped by the KCR. It was interesting that the locomotives and their accompanying bits and pieces were not strapped down in the containers in any way. I understand that the consignment was listed as scrap metal on the shipping manifests rather than what they really were.
There was an intention to restore one to working order in HK and the other for static display. With subsequent management changes at the KCR, the restoration to working order never happened. After languishing at Fo Tan for several years it was donated to a narrow gauge railway in Wales catering for tourists. Of course the other is in the Railway Museum at Tai Po stuffed and mounted.”
Unloading from a truck inside Fo Tan depot 1995
HF: From HK Museum of History 6/2/14: The Line officially opened on 20th Dec 1911 and fully opened in Apr 1912. It traveled “through” 5 stations, Fanling, Hung Leng, Wo Hang, Shek Chung (?) and Sha Tau Kok taking 55 minutes for the 12kms route.
HF: This extract comes fom A look back : Civil Engineering in Hong Kong 1841-1941, by C Michael Guilford, originally published in three parts in Asia Engineer, the Journal of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers in July, August and September 1997.
This article was first posted on 8th September 2014.
- Sha Tau Kok branch railway – Absorbing 1986 account by RJ Phillips
- The Sha Tau Kok railway- further information
- Abandoned Railway Lines, Stations and Tunnels in Hong Kong…and more
For more information see:
- http://www.checkerboardhill.com/2011/04/railway-abandonment-in-hong-kong/ interesting notes on several disused railways in Hong Kong including one serving the cemetery in Wo Hop Shek!
- Kowloon-Canton Railway (British Section) A History by Robert J Phillips, Urban Council, 1990. Chapter 6 is about the Fanling-Sha Tau Kok railway and includes 10 pages and a number of pictures. Probably not in print but almost certainly available in HK public libraries.