Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Old KCR Warning Sign, Shatin

The next post is short and sweet - in my case that's usually for the best - but it's one that illustrates just how different the KCR rail line used to be. It involves a (rather striking) old warning sign located on a pedestrian bridge that crosses the track near in Sheung Wo Che in Shatin.





The sign has an immediate visual impact, not just because it shows a skeleton and its death-related implications, but also because of the amount of detail in the picture. I don't think I have ever seen so much attention to detail in any of Hong Kong's public signage, ever.

Anyway, the topic of the sign gives us a good clue to its age - no earlier than 1983. This is the year that the KCR line was electrified. It was a massive project that saw the demise of some nice old station buildings and rolling stock (though great examples of both still on display at the Tai Po Railway Museum) but most importantly - and this is the reason for the sign - it meant the track could no longer be used as a convenient way of walking from one place to the other.

It sounds odd now but before the electrification the track was open on all sides and aside from the obvious need of crossing the track every now and again, it was often used by local villagers who wanted to walk to places further up and down the line. It makes perfect sense really, if you had a choice between walking along an unstable village path or trail, up and down lots of slopes and hills, or using the sturdy and level rail line which one would you choose? (heck, even Robert Culp and Bill Cosby managed to walk along the track in I Spy)

So anyway, what does the sign say? It’s actually warning about two things: the overhead power lines containing 25,000 fuk dak (i.e. volts) and the fact that the train travels at 120kmph. It's only written in Chinese because even until recently I suspect that foreigners were few and far between here. We're not out in the sticks quite yet, but in 1983 this area was a vastly different place and was more than likely had many more villagers who were not wise to the potential for disaster on an electrified high speed train line.

When I first published this post back in 2012, a helpful comment was posted by Marcus (see his great blog here: http://www.checkerboardhill.com/) along with a link to a video on Youtube.
The ‘no walking along the tracks’ message towards the local residents was given a lot of airplay back in the early 1980s when the KCR was upgraded and electrified. Here is a public service announcement from 1983 which drove the point home:

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