Explore your world
Peak Tram © Sjors Provoost
Peak Tram © Sjors Provoost

History Of The Peak Tram In 1 Minute

Picture of Michaela Fulton
Updated: 7 December 2016
The Hong Kong Peak Tram has long been considered an iconic institution around the world, and has been servicing locals and travelers alike for well over a century. Though the idea of being pulled up a steep slope by a single cable seems daunting, this is a favored means of reaching the top of Victoria Peak. Not only is it the most direct route, but it offers stunning views along the way.

Victoria Peak © Mattias Frenne | View From Peak Tram Track © Sjors Provoost | Peak Tram © Simon Clancy

Victoria Peak © Mattias Frenne/Flickr | View From Peak Tram Track © Sjors Provoost/Flickr | Peak Tram © Simon_sees/Flickr

Originally, the only way to reach the peak was by either walking or sedan chair. However, with population numbers growing rapidly, the concept of a new tram system was devised by Alexander Findlay Smith in 1881 to enhance the development of residential areas within the hill districts. In 1882 Smith’s idea was approved and by 1888, the Peak Tram commenced service, becoming the first cable funicular in Asia and extending 1,350 metres.

The first carriages could hold up to 30 passengers, with an enclosed central compartment reserved for first class passengers (British colonial officials and residents of Victoria Peak), and ran by coal-fired steam boilers. There were also second and third class tickets available for British military, Hong Kong Police Force personnel and other people and pets respectively. It served 600 passengers on its first day, and an estimated 150,000 in its first year.

The coal-fired steam boilers were replaced in 1926 by an electrically powered system. It was at this point in time that the Peak Tram started to gain recognition, and was frequently featured in Hollywood movies. Since then, the tram has had two design overhauls: in 1959 a 72-seat, lightweight all-metal tramcar was introduced, and finally the design that can be seen today after a $60 million HKD upgrade to its current microprocessor controlled electric drive system and ability to hold 120 passengers.

Throughout its history, the tram has been damaged by two severe floods, which washed away steep sections of the tracks. It has held a number of important dignitaries, and has been an enthralling piece of history for artists and photographers who never tire of its novelty.

Opening hours: Mon – Sun & public holidays 07:00 – 00:00