Tram spotting

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am

A French giant buying control of Hong Kong's trams in April has drawn public attention to the grand old dames of the street, leading to a public exhibition of tram paraphernalia at Hollywood Plaza in Central.

Alan Cheung Shun-kwong, 52, collects anything related to trams - postcards, stamps, models, as well as old tram tickets - and will exhibit more than 100 items from his collections at the exhibition.

Mr Cheung started his tram paraphernalia collection with a beautiful postcard about 20 years ago.

'The tram and the buildings printed on the postcard were so beautiful and elegant, I thought it was a scene of somewhere in Europe but surprisingly, it was taken in Central,' he said.

From then on, Mr Cheung was addicted to trams.

'The tram has a long history. It witnessed the changes of Hong Kong. Its historical value and uniqueness is non-replaceable,' said Mr Cheung.

He said a tram ticket he believes was issued around 1905 is one of his favourites. It has the names of all the stations printed on it, in both Chinese and English, and was issued 'only one year after the tram started operation. No matter how much they offer, I wouldn't sell it'.

Eric Lee Tsun-lung, 25, is another tram fan. 'I always have a very special feeling towards trams. My Mum told me that when I was still a baby, I stopped crying if she brought me downstairs to see the trams,' he said.

Mr Lee is more into models than memorabilia. 'It's a pity that there are no tram sets available on the market,' he said. 'When I was small, I often modified my train sets into trams.'

He said he wanted to have his own model tram set so much, he began making one about 10 years ago. He made the carriages out of cardboard and other materials.

Later, he imported electrical parts from overseas so that the tram could move on its rails.

He has also made a model of his imaginary dream tram. 'It's a cafe tram. People can have coffee and snacks on the tram while enjoying the relaxing ride,' he said.

A French multinational, Veolia Transport, which operates transport systems around the world including tramways in 10 European countries, took over the running of Hong Kong's famed tramways after buying a 50 per cent stake in the business from the Wharf Holdings conglomerate. Both Mr Cheung and Mr Lee are optimistic about a bright future for Hong Kong's trams under the French company. 'The tram is a signature of Hong Kong,' said Mr Cheung. 'It is a cultural icon. The French company is a very experienced tramways operator and I believe it will keep the tram as it is. There won't be any big changes.'

But Mr Lee said he hoped the new company can inject creativity into the local tram culture.

Their collections will be exhibited at Hollywood Plaza from June 10 to 21. Both of them will be present to talk about their passion.