If you grew up in Hong Kong prior to 1983 you may have fond memories of taking the Kowloon Canton Railway train up to Fanling to have lunch, or dinner, at a restaurant called “The Better ‘Ole”.
The restaurant catered to all comers and was popular with the British servicemen from the nearby camps. It was also frequented by Hong Kong Government civil servants, both off duty and otherwise. The Western style food was always excellent and, more importantly, the prices were affordable. I remember going there for the first time in 1977 and being amazed that I could afford a steak lunch! I recall my last visit was sometime in 1981. I promised myself I would return soon, but sadly, never managed to do so.
The original restaurant closed its doors in January of 2007 and another piece of local history was lost to progress. Fortunately, it is still operating, with all the traditions and excellence of the original restaurant at its new location in Fu Hing Street in Sheung Shui. More information on the Better ‘Ole can be found on the internet and on their Facebook page.
Prior to the electrification of the KCR the trains were much more exciting to travel on. In some of the older carriages, the floors were repaired with concrete and at the end of some of the carriages there was always an old Chinese lady, or gentleman, with a tub full of melting ice and tins of Hong Kong San Miguel for sale. Of course, if you were using the train for a daily commute it was another matter. They was no air-conditioning and the older, 3rd class carriages were open to the elements, noisy and dusty.
This is a comment from an old friend of mine who used to make the journey up to Fanling as a child with her parents every weekend: “What exciting lives we used to live in our youth… loved every minute, including the train rides to and from Fanling sitting in the cattle cars with our legs and most of our bodies on the outside of the train. The youth of today don’t know what they are missing do they?”
Located in Shung Tak Street, the Railway Museum is run by the Leisure and Cultural Service Department and opened in December, 1985. It is located at the site of the original Taipo Market station which was built in 1913. Admission to the museum is free and it is well worth a visit. It is a ten minute walk from the Taiwo MTR, which, interestingly, was opened after the electrification of the KCR to replace the original Taipo Market station.
If you are traveling to Taipo from afar you can alight at either Taipo Hui or Taiwo. The walk from Taiwo is slightly shorter and more pleasant in that you can avoid most of the traffic.
Taking Exit A turn left and continue until you come to a corridor on your left. You will see a sign advertising MacDonalds and you should follow the directions as the short walk to the museum starts immediately outside.
Carry on past MacDonalds, if you can resist the temptation, and walk along the road until you come to the Lam Tsuen River and the Tai Wo Bridge, seen here underneath the railway.
As you reach the opposite side of the bridge this sign almost jumps out at you. From this point on you can’t go wrong. At the junction with Yan Hing Street there is another sign directing you to the museum. Turn right up Yan Hing Street and after a short distance you will have arrived.
The Time Table and the Ticketing Office – no electronic ticket machines in those days.
As you exit the ticketing hall to what would have been the track and the waiting trains, you come to the engine and carriage displays.
The engine was so long I couldn’t step far enough back to get the entire thing in the photo.
Two views of an old steam engine, there was no information about the date it was in service.
Boarding and alighting could be quite exciting and I recall hearing about more than one accident (one fatal). You will notice the lack of wheelchair access.
Behold! the unequaled luxury of First Class. Ceiling fans, comfy seats and tables. “EE lad, tha’s luxury for ya!”
The museum gift shop, unfortunately it was closed on the day of the visit. I tried to find out what this building was originally used for but there was no information.
As I had seen just about everything it was time to leave and I couldn’t help but notice this sign. It was supposed to ensure that you boarded the correct train as otherwise, you’d end up in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The only thing I have not mentioned was the displays in the side rooms of the ticketing office. Photography is not permitted in these rooms which is a shame because they contain a lot of interesting history about the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation including samples of the old tickets.
I hope you enjoyed the presentation. The Railway Museum is well worth a visit and you can see everything in about an hour.
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