Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Remnants of the old KCR Terminus, East TST

It may not be immediately obvious to the tourist in HK but along the TST waterfront – where now there stands a windowless, cream-tiled development that encompasses the Cultural Centre, Museum of Art and Planetarium – there stood a rather glorious colonial edifice: the KCR Railway Terminus. The following picture is courtesy of Hong Wrong (original link here).



I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking the old terminus building was a lot nicer to look at than the current Cultural Centre building, although I am all for the promenade along the waterfront - even if it has since been ruined by the Avenue of Stars.

The original terminus was completed in 1910 and started operations in October the same year and it was used almost continuously up to its closure in 1974 when it was superseded by the new Kowloon Station over in Hung Hom (now Hung Hom East Rail station). Even after its closure there was immense support for it to be preserved, and even a letter of appeal/petition was sent to Queen Elizabeth II.  Alas, in a fashion people in HK are probably all too familiar with, calls for its preservation fell on deaf ears and the place was demolished save for the famous clock tower that still stands there.

It's easy to be critical in hindsight, I suppose, but its demolition appears to have slightly shortsighted because just a few years after the terminus moved to Hung Hom, the planners realised they would need to extend the line once again back into Tsim Sha Tsui and a new terminus was built under the ground further up Salisbury Road. This was the situation when I first visited Hong Kong in the mid-90's and remained so until just a few years ago in 2009 when things changed again.

In 2009, the KCR company's operations were taken over by the MTR, the old KCR rail became the MTR East Rail and the terminus was once again moved back to Hung Hom and East Tsim Sha Tsui station - as it is now known - became the penultimate stop on the newer West Rail line. To be honest it really messed up (perhaps deliberately) the commute along the East Rail into TST or beyond to the island, but as I rarely use it now I no longer care either way.

Anyway, I digress because this post is about remnants of the former station and if you had assumed that the sole remaining piece of the old terminus building was the clock tower you would be wrong. Just a few hundred metres up Chatham Road South in East TST is a small piece of Colonial Rail History in the form of several saved columns from the old building. It's probably a familiar site to many a tourist in this part of Kowloon but its strange in that there seems to be no plaque or information board marking where these columns came from.


I believe, although I am guessing because of aforementioned lack of information, that this small Classical assembly - at least the columns - was part of the curved canopy seen in the bottom right of this postcard which once stood until it was removed to make way for a road project sometime in the 50’s (you'll see it was already gone from the wiki picture posted at the top of this article).

4 comments:

  1. Every time I see a picture of the old station, I feel so sad that it's no longer there. What a fantastic icon it would be on the waterfront today if it were still there... Impossible to understand how anyone in their right mind could pull it down. And it's interesting to learn about those recycled columns near Chatham Road - I walked right past them the other day and would never have guessed. thank you for this little article on a lovely part of TST history.

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    1. Hi Liz - Many thanks, this is exactly what I like to hear. This is what I find fascinating - sometimes history is right next to us and we don't even realise.
      Cheers
      Phil

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  2. Hi Phil,

    It's Arthur again.
    I think I have seen several other columns from the TST Railway Station preserved in Kadoorie Farm, with a plaque saying that where they were from. You may look for them while visiting the farm. It's somewhere up the hillside if I remember correctly.

    Arthur

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    1. Hi Arthur - I know the columns you are referring to and those ones at Kadoorie are actually from the GPO in Central. I will try and do a post about them in the future.
      Cheers
      Phil

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