The new Peak Tram & attractions at Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak is one of the most popular and famous tourist attractions of Hong Kong and the best ways to get there is to take the historic Peak Tram.

The Peak Tram (山頂纜車) is a funicular railway, which in simple terms, operates by cable with ascending and descending counterbalanced tram cars. Since 1888, it has been carrying passengers up and down the 1.4km route between Garden Road in Admiralty to the top of Victoria Peak.

It’s a pleasant eight-minute journey that offers slowly unfolding views over Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and Victoria Harbour.

Departing within 10 to 15-minute intervals from the Lower Peak Tram Terminus, the Peak Tram operates from 07:00am to Midnight daily.

At Victoria Peak

At the top, there are numerous attractions including shopping, dining, observation decks, and more

  • The Peak Tower – shopping mall & terminus – 10 am to 11 pm (Mon – Fri)  8 am to 11 pm (Sat, Sun & Public Holidays)
  • The Peak Galleria – shopping mall – 10 am to 10 pm daily
  • Sky Terrace 428 – The highest viewing platform in HK – 10 am to 11 pm (Mon-Fri) 8 am to 11 pm (Sat, Sun & Public Holidays)
  • Madame Tussauds Hong Kong – the famous wax museum – 10 am to 10 pm (Mon-Sun & Public Holidays)
  • Madness 3D Adventure – 3D artworks for fun selfies (free entry) – 10 am to 11 pm (Mon-Sun & Public Holidays)
  • The Peak Lookout – Heritage restaurant with views – 10:30am to Midnight (Mon-Thurs), 10:30am-1am (Fri) 8.30am-1am (Sat) 8.30am to Midnight (Sun&PH)
  • 1956 fourth-generation all-aluminum tram car display
  • Victoria Peak’s Lions Pavilion – free lookout spot – open 24hr
  • Lions Club of Tai Ping Shan Pavilion – free lookout spot – open 24hr
  • Peak Circle Walk – a casual 3.5km hiking trail that takes in Pok Fu Lam Country Park, nature views, and many urban views.

Gallery

Address: You can take the tram from Peak Tram Lower Terminus at 33 Garden Road, Central.

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station and then take Bus 15C to the Peak Tram Lower Terminus.

Tickets: You can buy tickets for the tram journey only, or as a combo ticket with entry to Madame Tussauds, Sky Terrace 428, etc. See here for tickets, current offers and specials which begin at HK$14.

Special Note: The system is currently in stages of upgrade again with completion expected in 2021. During the upgrade process, there are expected to be service suspensions which will be notified via the official website thepeak.com.hk

History of the Peak Tram

Route

The Peak Tram’s route from Central district to Victoria Peak covers a distance of about 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) and an elevation of just under 400 metres (1,312 ft). 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 meters 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 stops, each of which is a request stop consisting of a single stepped platform and a shelter:

  • Kennedy Road. Located on Kennedy Road, named after Arthur Edward Kennedy, a former Governor of Hong Kong.
  • MacDonnell Road. Located on MacDonnell Road, named after Richard Graves MacDonnell, a former Governor of Hong Kong; depot storing historic car is next to the stop.
  • May Road. Located on May Road, named after Francis Henry May, a former Governor of Hong Kong.
  • Barker Road. Located on Barker Road, named after George Digby Barker, a former military commander and acting administrator of Hong Kong.
History

In 1881 Alexander Findlay Smith first put the project of a Peak Railway into shape and presented a petition for a concession to the governor of Hong Kong. The necessary legislation was passed two years later.

Findlay Smith did not approach the project rashly. Travelling extensively in Europe and America, he made himself conversant with nearly every existing method of railway employed for mountain ascent — San Francisco, Scarborough, Rigi, Monterey, Lucerne, the Rhine, Mount Vesuvius — and returned to Hong Kong thoroughly convinced of the feasibility of his idea. The actual construction was begun in September 1885 and in May 1888 the line was officially opened.

Smith’s business partner, N. J. Ede, owned and lived in the house next to the Upper Terminus, originally named Dunheved, which they converted into the original Peak Hotel.

It took three years to build the Peak Tram. Most of the heavy equipment and rails needed for the construction were hauled uphill by the workers with no mechanical support. As a revolutionary new form of transport for Asia at the time, the tramway was considered a marvel of engineering upon its completion. 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. Despite that, it carried 800 passengers on its first day of operation, and about 150,000 in its first year, transported in the line’s original wooden-bodied cars. The tram’s existence accelerated the residential development of Victoria Peak and the Mid Levels.

From its opening in 1888 until 1926, the Peak Tram divided into three classes:

  • First Class: British colonial officials and residents of Victoria Peak
  • Second Class: British military and the Hong Kong Police Force personnel
  • Third Class: Other people and animals

The initial round trip charges, HKD 30 cents (First Class), 20 cents (Second Class) and 10 cents (Third Class), had risen 50 per cent by 1926.

From 1908 to 1949, the first two seats in the front of the tram were reserved for the governor of Hong Kong, to which was attached a bronze plaque reading: “This seat is reserved for His Excellency the Governor”. The seats were not available to ordinary passengers until two minutes before departure.

In the course of its history, the tram has been a 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. Services were 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 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.

Only a 1956 fourth-generation all-aluminum car survives and is displayed at the upper terminal. All original cars, as well as second and third-generation cars, no longer exist. A replica of the first car is displayed in the Peak Tram Historical Gallery. Another fourth-generation all-aluminum car also survives and can be seen after leaving Garden Road.

The system was comprehensively rebuilt in 1989 by the Swiss company, Von Roll, with a 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, the system 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 system is currently in stages of upgrade again with completion expected in 2021. During the upgrade process, there are expected to be service suspensions which will be notified via the official website thepeak.com.hk

Source: Wikipedia

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