Friday, 12 August 2016

The Dragon Centre and its indoor roller coaster

I'm not sure why, perhaps just curiosity, but during my inaugural Nov 95 HK trip I decided to head into Sham Shui Po and check out the Dragon Centre on Yen Chow Street. The object of my curiosity was actually the indoor roller coaster. Being a child of the UK in the 70's and 80's my expectations concerning roller coasters was coloured by school trips to Alton Towers (before the accidents) and watching chubby cub scouts trying to drink milkshake on the Revolution at Blackpool Pleasure Beach courtesy of Jim'll Fix It (and boy did some kids get fixed, it turns out). It turns out the roller coaster at the Dragon Centre wasn't on quite that scale (pardon the pun) but there was still enough novelty for me to stay and watch it running for a while.

Dragon Centre
My one remaining vivid memory of this little excursion (and I don't have that many vivid memories these days) was being told I was too old to play on the various entertainment machines by a rather embarrassed assistant when I attempted to get some change/tokens for the machines. So, I had nothing better to do than watch the various families board the roller coaster for their 1 minute of top- floor-of-the-mall fun.

It never really occurred to me back then that I would one day be living just up the road from this place, so on a hot sweaty summer afternoon (and having dropped my youngest off at school just around the corner) I went back to the mall to relive some of my youth. Back in 1995, the Dragon Centre was still a fairly new building and was nice and shiny. These days it has lost some of its shine but remains steadfastly aimed at the local demographic (i.e. not dripping-rich Mainlanders) and is therefore stacked full of local businesses selling reasonably priced stuff rather than floor after floor of high end boutiques and jewellery stores. In other words it's a nice change.

After looking up through the mall atrium I was a bit disappointed to note that although the roller coaster tracks are still there there was no rumbling noise or movement coming from that direction and heading up to the top floor confirmed that the thing had - very disappointingly - been decommissioned several years before.

The entertainment zone (one of those places where you feed in lots of tokens, play a game in the hope of winning a gazillion tickets just so you can exchange them for a tiny plushy toy) was still there, as well as a very popular ice rink, but the roller coaster was sort of just sitting there unused and a bit sad. The cars were still parked on the track but the ticket booth had been closed and access was now pretty much off limits because the mall management company was using it as a sort of open storage area.


The roller coaster was called the Sky Train (the Chinese name was: 天龍過山車 or the "sky dragon passing the mountains" - things are always more poetic in Chinese) and was one of the several previously mentioned attractions on the top floor of the mall. It seems to have been quite famous at the time although I can't quite remember where I heard about it at the time (I can only guess it was mentioned in one of the many guide books I was perusing).

Anyway, after coming home and doing a bit of digging, it turns out that the roller coaster was permanently shut down about 10 years ago. I can't find the exact reason for it's shutdown but it looks to be in part due to safety concerns. This isn't surprising given its location and, I guess, to keep everyone safe would mean a lot of maintenance. An accident on here wouldn't just impact the people in the ride but also everyone wandering around the mall below so I perhaps the cost of maintenance started to make it uneconomical? I can't find any mention of it being involved in any accidents, so while it was running it seems to have been perfectly safe. The only mention of any unfortunate incidents involving the Dragon Centre is one (I can remember reading it in the paper) from a few years back. Some nutty school-obsessed woman decided it was better to kill her daughter rather than have her suffer the ignominy of attending a normal school (as opposed to a more prestigious one) and threw her off the 7th floor. Luckily, the girl was saved by the safety netting (see below). The mum also jumped but because the netting wasn't strong enough she plunged to her death. This incident occurred several years after the closure of the ride though so it had no bearing on its fate.


I did find another mention of the roller coaster on the famous local Golden Forum. I'm not sure if my Chinese is correct but it appeared that someone has a relative who works at the mall and was saying that despite the roller coaster no longer being in use they still let it run once a month, after hours, when the mall has closed. I guess it's a good way to keep the dust off but maybe the closure was never meant to be permanent and they keep it moving just in case?

If anyone knows any more information about it, please feel free to leave a comment because I personally would love to see this thing up and running again. In the meantime, here are some pictures of the track. Sadly I don't have any from 1995 with me.

2 comments:

  1. I used to live in HK when I was younger and I remember my parents telling me that it was shut down after a person fell off and died or something. They added in safety nets after that.
    Also, the Dragon Centre is good spot to go if you want to find anime merch!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Anon. I think the mall is undergoing some revamping with lots more large chain stores appearing, so I'm not so sure about the anime stuff anymore. Will have a look the next time i wander down. Cheers, Phil

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