Opened in September, 2007, The Peak Tram Historical Gallery is like a time tunnel with more than 200 memorabilia exhibited. Divided into 15 theme sections, it will take you back to Hong Kong in the 19th and 20th century.
Many years have been spent in collecting memorabilia from all over the world and planning The Peak Tram Historical Gallery. Some of the display items are more than a hundred years old. A replica of the first generation Peak Tram carriage have been brought to life and the 1926 Haulage Room is recreated which was responsible for pulling the Trams up and down the Peak for over 60 years.
The Peak Tram Historical Gallery is a way of paying tribute to The Peak Tram, its heritage and the history of Hong Kong. Since 1888, The Peak Tram has served Hong Kong, quietly witnessing 130 years of the city's changes. The first day of commercial operation on May 30th, 1888, attracted 600 passengers. The Gallery is a place that brings back many memories for local visitors and gives overseas visitors a glimpse of how the Pearl of the Orient has come to shine.
Peak Tram Haulage Room
This section displays the Peak Tram haulage room which was located at the Peak Tram Upper Terminus building from 1926 - 1989. In 1926, with the decision made to upgrade the tram service, an iron foundry, Metropolitan Vickers was chosen to provide a new electrically powered system. From 1888 until 1926, The Peak Tram was operated by a steam-powered winding engine. Its impressive 3.5 metre drums hauled an endless steel rope along cable rollers installed between the main rails just above the track bed.
In 1926 The Peak Tramways Company completely refurbished its haulage plant, replacing the original boilers and steam engine with an electrically powered system. This was seen as a bold capital investment when many did not believe the tramway would survive the opening of Old Peak Road in 1924, which brought the first access by motorcar. However, the company was confident that demand for their service would continue.
The controller of The Peak Tram actually sits in the haulage room operating controls on a platform located immediately in front of and above the two haulage drums. The operation of the tramcars relied on close communication between the brakeman riding aboard the carriage, and the controller. Through a combination of bell signals sent from the tram, the controller adjusted the power input which wound and unwound the 1,500 meters of steel rope. The system worked flawlessly.
The First Carriages
The section shows a replica of the first Peak Tram carriage from 1888 - 1926. The carriage is one of the earliest four-axle "California" pattern cars and it seated 30 passengers in three classes. Inside the back of the first two seats in the first class section, a brass plaque was affixed which read, "This seat is reserved for His Excellency, the Governor". This seat was reserved to the Governor between 1908 and 1949.
Behind The Scenes
The section displays the scene of the office of tramway staff including the Conductor's uniform, the Bell Punch, the ticketing rack and tram tickets.
From its earliest incarnation as the Hong Kong High Level Tramway, the company used a formalised ticketing process known as the Bell Punch. Established in London in 1878, the Bell Punch Company Limited acquired the patent rights to a hand held ticket punch from America which had already been adopted by the London Tramways, as well as other transportation systems in Glasgow and Liverpool. By the time The Peak Tram introduced this method, the shape of the punch had been redesigned, becoming known as the "box" or "breast punch". This idea was well received among conductors as it could be attached to a leather strap and worn across the chest, leaving the conductor's hands free for issuing tickets and making change. Fundamental to its name and its enduring popularity among passengers was the cheerful sounding bell that chimed when the ticket was inserted and validated.
At the start of each shift a conductor was issued with a wooden ticket rack filled with stacks of pre-counted tickets arranged by fare type. In 1888, an uphill journey in the first class compartment cost 30 cents; while down hill was 15 cents. By 1945, this had risen to 60 cents for an uphill ride, and 10 cents for every dog.
A Playful Passion
This section comprises of hand made and commercially manufactured trolleys and trams which captured the hearts of generations of children and adults alike since their appearance in the early 19th century. Attractive toys include hand-made metal toy trams from Mexico and cardboard ones during America's depression years.
Perhaps no other type of transportation has enjoyed the degree of widespread popularity as have trams, trains and trolleys. For most cultures they represent the first forms of motorized transportation. Since their appearance in the early 19th century, railway toys have captured the hearts and minds of generations of children and adults alike, who have recreated nearly every famous version ever to grace a track. While many have been reproduced commercially in materials ranging from cast iron, pressed tinplate and printed paper on wood, many artists and craftsmen have also enjoyed the challenge of building their own unique versions.
Whether cut from sheet metal in a rural Mexican village, or glued together from cardboard during America's depression years - interest in rail vehicles has never waned. Representations of the Peak and The Peak Tram have been reproduced many times and in a great variety of entertaining forms. From jigsaw puzzles, books and board games, to Viewmaster disks and even playing cards, the ongoing presence of The Peak Tram in Hong Kong's popular culture has helped to remind us of its role in the city's history, and is a fitting tribute to Asia's oldest funicular tram.