For tonight’s museum cum nostalgia post I decided to go back to exactly one year ago, today. At Hong Kong Station the MTR was showing an exhibit of its history, and this was one of the tickets on display.
Last month, it was announced that the remaining Metro-Cammell MTR trains in Hong Kong will be replaced after 30+ years of service. Knowing this, I’m glad I spent a year in Hong Kong riding the MTR to work every day. I rode the Island Line so it was always this model train, the ones that I remember from early childhood in the late 70s and early 80s, with the same sounds and even smells today that they had back then.
As I mentioned in some previous updates, I was pissed at first from the crowds and the disingenuous politicians stating that the MTR was still under-capacity.
Once I grew accustomed to the crowds and the disingenuity in general of Hong Kong people, I started noticing things other than my own annoyance, which in turn led me to truly experience the nicer aspects of the MTR. Number one has to be predictability. You know that another train is never far behind, sometimes seconds behind during peak periods, so when a train does arrive but I’m not yet at the spot on the platform where I can get onto a car with less people, I can just continue on calmly if I’m not in the mood for sardines. The trains are all the same length. The cars are always well-air-conditioned and never stuffy. The staff in general are pretty helpful. And I just learned that the MTR has a 99.9% on-time rate.
When I was a kid, I loved getting on at Central (where we were guaranteed a seat) and peering out the window as the train started moving, cupping my hands around my eyes to keep the light out. There were pipes in the tunnel that I could see, and as the train passed them it looked like they were bouncing up and down. Once we got to Mong Kok to transfer, I hoped that both trains would depart at the same time, because for a very brief period you could see the train you were just on. It was sort of ethereal, a rectangle of light containing faces and bodies floating outside, looking like it was following us, the angle changing as the train changed direction, vanishing finally as the tunnels separated.
As a grownup, after taking the MTR every single day, I just automatically developed a routine. First of course is the zombie walk from home to the station (because not long prior I was still in bed). Then, it’s the walk down the stairs, knowing to watch for people who are coming up. Next is passing through the fare gate, knowing where the trouble areas are (tourists, mainlanders with big suitcases). Same thing with the escalators. If two are available, there’s always the one with less people because they’re too lazy to walk a couple of steps further. Then, the aforementioned best place on the platform to get on. As the train rolls in to the station and slows to a stop, I watch for openings and sometimes move one or two doors down so I can get to my favorite spot on the train: the doors on the opposite side.
Many people have their favorite spot on the train, especially if they’re a daily commuter. After a while, I realized my favorite place on the train was right next to the train doors, but not the place you might think. Most people like the spots at either ends of the doors, with your butt on the glass, right next to the face of someone who might be sitting down (see far left in “pissed” photo above). I never liked being the one with someone’s butt near my face, so I prefer to stay away from those spots. Instead, I choose to lean against one of the doors on the left side of the train. First, this spot is usually open because it’s not popular and is between those two popular ones. Second, for my journey to work the left doors open at only one station. Third, not many people get on or off at that station, so I can basically hang out at my spot indefinitely. Lastly, I can leave both hands free for electronic device usage by leaning back and spreading my feet to steady myself. In 30+ years I’ve never heard of anyone falling out due to the doors suddenly opening (gotta give it up to those British engineers), so I figure if it’s my turn to go, then I’d be okay with it.
It seems sort of appropriate that they would announce the end of these trains after we left Hong Kong. I already got a chance to experience them for real, develop a routine, rather than just take the MTR once or twice during a short vacation trip. If we don’t get another chance to ride these Metro Cammell trains, I think I’d also be okay with it.
As always, hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.