The hammerhead crane | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

The hammerhead crane

The hammerhead crane


This hammerhead crane erected circa 1937 belonged  to the Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard in Hung Hom. From the photo sequence, a diversionary railway line was built to connect the main KCR line with the Dockyard.

I'm not sure if the railway spur to the dockyard was built or not. On the one hand it would have made a lot of sense to be able to put heavy loads straight onto a wagon on the railway line. On the other hand I don't see any sign of it on maps from that time. Is it something you've seen in other photos or maps?

If there wasn't a spur there, I wonder how they'd get the tanks across to the sidings in Hung Hom. Would they have started them up at the dockyard and driven them? I'll have to ask Fred next time I see him.

A few of Fred's other photos show tanks loaded onto KCR wagons (eg this one). He mentioned they were the older Comet tanks, on the way into Kowloon for a parade.

As far as I know, the KCR had diversionary railway spurs built to Holts Wharf (now TST East) and to the Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard at Hung Hom. 

From the book 'Port of Hong Kong' as viewed here Holt's Wharf is served by steam and diesel cranes with lifting capacities from 2 to 5 tons. No. 1 Wharf at the eastern end is connected by railway to the KCR. The use of this facility is restricted by the lifting capacity of the cranes of the wharf. Floating cranes of 20 tons capacity are provided by the Company. The siding to Holts Wharf can be viewed here

For heavy loads, which are extremely rare at Holt's Wharf, ships have to be berthed at the electric cantilever (hammer head) cranes of 100-150 tons capacity at the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock on the mainland or at the Taikoo Dockyard on Hong Kong Island. The branch-off from the KCR main line can be viewed here and here .

Hi there,

Some suppliments.  When I was a kid and before the Hung Hum Terminus was inaugurated, there seem to be a cargo depot between  the Chatham Barracks and  Hung Hom. The main track went through the modern day Poly U campus, very close to Chatham Road.  I still remember going from Chatham Road through all the tracks/depot towards Hunghom as a shortcut.  The KRC was only running on a single track for the main traffic back then. 

Back then there was another depot for livestocks at Gasgoine Road down the slope at Princess Margaret Road.  The livestock depote site still exist but had not been used for a few decades.

Best Regards,


I was having my suspicions about the KCR track to the Hong Kong & Whampoa Dockyard and to the hammerhead crane. I recalled reading the following extract awhile ago.

From the KCR 1937 Archive:

'The Hong Kong & Whampoa Dock Company's premises were linked to the main railway system in November by means of a track laid down at Baker Street. This connection affords rail access to a 100-ton tower crane which will be completed in early 1938. This crane is located alongside water which is deep enough to accommodate the largest ocean-going ships'.

As mentioned, it is difficult to find maps that show the diversionary track to the Dockyard but will nevertheless attempt to look out for one.


A 1955 government publication states "There is also a link from the railway workshops into the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company with access to the Dock company's 100 ton crane. There are approximately ten miles of sidings between Kowloon and Hung Hom where the workshops are situated." However postwar pictures show KCR steam locomotives being unloaded from barges at Kowloon Public Pier next to the station using a floating crane rather than at the dockyard.


Looking at the 1947 map, there are railway lines shown running around the dockyard. I think they'd be the internal railway for the dockyard. But there's also one long, straight section of line shown above the 'H H M L 1' text, that if continued would run straight into Baker Street. Maybe that was part of the connecting line?

My Dad would never stop the car to let me really explore, well I was only seven, but it was there, stretching out towards the huge crane, ran across the road imbedded in the tarmac.......

Not conclusive I know but its a frim memeory for me

Was in HK from '62 to 73

Good stuff, it all helps flesh out the story.

When you say "ran across the road", and chance you remember which road it was?

Thanks & regards, David

1938 HK & Whampoa Dockyad KCR Extension.jpg

1938 HK & Whampoa Dockyard KCR Extension.jpg, by Moddsey


That's a good find. 5 years after we first spoke about it too - sometimes it takes a while for the right information to surface.

Regards, David

I do not believe this unidentified sketch map to be accurate. The pre-war rail link from Hongkong & Whampoa Dockyard premises  ran  from their Gillies Avenue entrance. This is documented in KCR Archives correspondence. Most pre-war survey maps do not show this railway connection and there might have been  defence security reasons for not showing them. A post war military map showing Army 'Cordon Points' in the late 1950s indicates that the track  from the Hum Hong KCR Depot ( this would have been a "grooved rail" , like tramway  lines)  was still embedded across Chatham Road. The entrance to the dockyard on Gillies Avenue still shows the internal light railway line reaching the  company's gate,

This track shown in this 1938 sketch map is completely different. It is a spur line leading southeast from the KCR's main track north of Hung  Hom. It then cuts across (north of the dockyard) east towards Tai Wan, past the location of the Cement Works and then to a terminus near the China Light & Power Station. The source of the sketch is not identified but it might well have been a proposed freight spur line to the power station. To date I have not found any documentary evidence to substantiate this spur line was ever built. 

I shall be posting some more information about this rail link soon in a forum topic about the Hongkong & Whampoa Dockyard Company 

Thanks for the comments. You are right up about the 'proposed' spur line proceeding to the Power Station and not to the Docks. Further comments/notes about the hammerhead crane have been made here

There was indeed a railroad line connecting Hung Hom Depot and Whampoa dock. It crossed Chatham Road North and went along Baker Street. The line then entered the dock area and connected with the internal rail network. Built in 1938. The line was abandoned following the transfer of the depot to Ho Tung Lau in 1968.

More information:

Following three maps show clearly the rail tracks going from the hunghom depot along baker street before entering the dockyard.


1958_kcr_hunghom_rail_siding.jpg, by simtang


1959_kcr_hunghom_rail_siding.jpg, by simtang


1960_kcr_hunghom_rail_siding.jpg, by simtang


@ "simtang" ....  There were earlier postings including a map of this rail link on Gwulo in 2020   See: Shipbuilding in Hong Kong – Hongkong & Whampoa Dock Company  ( scroll to near the bottom of the Forum Topic)