The city’s unending love for the tram manifests in a new collection of products that celebrate Hong Kong Tramways in all its splendour
Since 1904, the suavely swinging double-decker carriages of Hong Kong’s trams have been travelling east to west (and vice versa) in about an hour and a half. They run the length of Hong Kong Island, making their way along a total route of 13 kilometres. Owned by the French joint venture RATP Dev Transdev Asia since 2010, Hong Kong Tramways is a public transport company unlike any other. “This 115-year-old tram network is absolutely unique on this planet,” says Cyril Aubin, the managing director of HK Tramways. “We design and build our trams on site using the same unique expertise.” The trams are in fact 100% made in Hong Kong – the factory is located inside the Whitty Street depot, adjacent to the Central business district.
Cyril Aubin, the managing director of HK Tramways
Over the years, the wooden structures of the older cars have been replaced by lighter materials. The technology, however, has changed very little and the production tools have remained unchanged for decades. “They’re very old machines that come from England and we keep them in working order – it’s very important to us,” says technical director Lam Kin-ho. “Wooden and aluminium trams are very similar. The trams have a unique, iconic look and we don’t want to change it when we build new ones. The public loves the old look of our trams; it’s identical to their childhood trams.”
This proud symbol of a bygone Hong Kong brings nostalgia for older people, but it continues to be loved by younger riders – the tram unites Hongkongers of all generations. “In the hearts of Hongkongers, trams are much more than just a transport system,” says Aubin. “They fondly call it ‘ding-ding’ – it’s a very popular and respected icon.”
In fact, the “ding-ding” nickname comes from the characteristic sound of its horn (a unique mix of the tones of a gong, a bell and a bicycle bell), which is appreciated every day by some 240,000 passengers, including Carol Kwok. “If you don’t go too far and you’re not in a hurry, the tram is the ideal solution,” she says.“It’s cheap and very easy. It’s very Hong Kong-like, very traditional – and it’s very ecological because there’s no air conditioning. I love it!”
This love story with the ding-ding has lasted for more than 115 years – and it’s one that the company wishes to amplify and expand. “We want to connect with the public on a larger scale,” says Aubin. “We offer many services and products with the promise of sparking good spirit, simplicity and above all, authenticity.” Among the new services are an interactive online map showing the arrival time for the next tram, the TramOramic tour (on which you can travel in the past and the present aboard an ancient tram), and an entire collection of gadgets, miniatures and other products that proudly convey the brand.
Whether it’s the special Memorigin Tramways 115th Anniversary watch, a key holder, a silver pendant, gin, underwear or an Octopus card holder, this unique collection(with prices of items varying from HK$15 to HK$44,800) has something for everyone. “We are a Hong Kong brand representing the spirit of Hong Kong. This is why we work with local suppliers,” says Nixon Cheung, sales manager in charge of brand development. “The illustrations on the gin bottles were made by Hong Kong artists and the gin is made locally. We even asked a local confectioner to create ding-ding sweets just for us! We also have socks for babies in order to spark interest in trams from an early age.”
Babies who, as they grow up, will undoubtedly pretend to be a driver and shout “ding-ding” with their radio-controlled tramway circuit, which is the latest addition to the collection. It’s a box containing rails, a stop sign and a 1/73 scale car that’s true to life. Hong Kong’s unending love for this unique mode of transportation seems ready to continue for the next 115 years.
Images provided to China Daily
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