c.1955 Star Ferry | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

c.1955 Star Ferry

c.1955 Star Ferry

What: The 'Solar Star', one of the Star Ferries.

Who: People heading across the harbour to Kowloon. Today we can take the MTR or a cross-harbour tunnel bus, but in the 1950s a boat was your only option.

Where: On the right of the photo we can just see the end of the Star Ferry Pier:

Star Ferry Pier

This generation of Star Ferry Pier was on the north side of Connaught Road (then the seafront), opposite the junction with Ice House Street. Opposite where the Mandarin Hotel and St George's Building are today, and much closer to Central than the current pier!

In the distance beyond the pier are the cranes and buildings of the Navy's dockyard.

When: The ferry gives the first clue. Wikipedia says that the ferry named Solar Star was completed in 1958 [1]. But compare the photo above with Wikipedia's photo of the Solar Star:

They're different boats, built to a different layout. eg the older style's first class had the enclosed areas in the middle, and open sections at each end - the opposite of the modern boat's layout. So the old photo shows an earlier Solar Star, and would have been taken in 1958 or earlier.

But the real giveaway is the brand new seawall running across the centre of the photo. That enclosed a new reclamation, described in the 1955 Hong Kong Annual Report:

The reclamation, begun in 1951, of nine acres of land in a central position on the Victoria waterfront was completed in August. This reclamation will provide a site for a City Hall [2], as well as a concourse area for a large new passenger ferry pier [3].

The reclamation looks like it is about finished - we can see cars parked on it, but there are also piles of rubble. I'll date this to 1955, the year the reclamation was completed. And probably around the middle of the year, as the passengers are dressed for summer.

Corrections welcome!

Regards, David

Trivia: There wasn't much of a barrier between you and the sea. I wonder how many people fell in each year?

Star Ferry

And can any ferry experts tell us more about this older Solar Star, eg when & where it was built?


  1. "Star Ferry" page on Wikipedia
  2. The current City Hall
  3. Star Ferry pier at Edinburgh Place

Reference: A147

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Wednesday, June 1, 1955


Hi there,

I am no ferry expert, however I remember the Star Ferry has quite a few of their boats built in the 1950's.  I also remember seeing the brass plate of the current Solar Star and it was built in the 1950's.  In this respect, I would suggest the two photos are actually showing the same boat.  The current look was most likely a revempt done either in the 1960's or 1970's.  

I'll check again for the brass plate the next time I set foot onto the Solar Star.

This list on Wiki listed the Solar Star was built in 1958, however.

Best Regards,


I believe there are still 3 boats in use that are 50's vintage: Celestial Star (天星 1956), Meridian Star (二代 1958) and Solar Star (日星 1958).

I'm not sure I agree with T about a later revamp. If you watch the World of Suzie Wong (filmed 1959) you can see that the Radiant star - featured in the early scenes - was already of the current design (as shown in David's contemporary snap of the ferry). Radiant Star was launched in 1956 which puts the current design as a product of the 50's rather than later.

Of course I'm just guessing, I'm certainly no expert.

From the USC site (it's hard to find it in there).

One of the boats with a high funnel, BUT with the upper deck enclosed at the ends. supposed to be late 40's.


The vessel in the picture from the 1950s is the earlier design of ferry, from the 1920s. 


In the Kowloon Terminal there is a collection of photographs that illustrate the history of the Star Ferries, and this is one of the photos which shows a ferry like the one you describe. Anyone in Kowloon will be able to find this and give more details than I can remember. There was also a bookstore nearby where you could buy postcards of this photograph. 


Hope this helps, Gemma 


I hope the image works. Sorry, it didn't. I don't know what is up but I can't get the image to load. I will try again later, or perhaps one of the administrators could email me and I can send it as an attachment? 

Hi Gemma, your picture is loaded to the site, just to a different page.  It is here: http://gwulo.com/node/12642

There is a specific way to get the picture to load within the text of the response, which David and co have been trying to teach me in the past week, but the way you did it (which is what I did too) the picture has its own page created.  




Hi Breskvar


thanks for your help! I had no idea that adding a photo into a comment would make a new page ... that was not expected. Nor intended! 

Have you any ideas how to add an image to a comment? 


Anyway, I hope the piccie helps the argument. Gem xxx

Two photos of Star ferries on display at the Kowloon terminal. (This is the original one that Breskvar said had been posted elsewhere!) This seems to have worked now - I scaled the images back to fit in the 600x400 limits. I will manage better next time, guys! 

Another photo of a 20s/30s ferry

Star Ferry in the 1950s

Agree with other posters that this was probably the same ferry. It was quite usual for the Star Ferry Company to re-engine and rebuilt the superstructures. The hull looks the same shape and comparative size.


 read all " bout-it"



Which Star Ferry does my photo show then?   Definitely dated 1954.



Thanks for all the comments & photos. IDJ posted this list showing the various ferries over the years:

Star Ferry Fleet List

Since the length of the new Solar Star is different from the old one, I guess they were two different boats rather than the same boat refitted.

Here's the 1954 photo Pauline mentioned:

Hong Kong harbour, Star Ferry

You can click it to see a larger version, but even zoomed in the lettering on the name is just too small for me to make out. It's one of the crossover designs mentioned above - high chimney of the older boats, but enclosed first-class accommodation at the ends like the newer boats.

A search for 'Solar Star' in the newspapers turned up a mention on page 5 of the Hongkong Telegraph for 21 May 1926:

The "Solar Star"

New ferry on trial trip

One of the two new ferries building for the Star Ferry Company will be on the run next week. This is the "Solar Star" which has just been completed by the Hongkong and Whampoa Dock company. On Wednesday she was out on a trial trip and behaved in a very satisfactory manner.

Her sister ship, the "Night Star" is well on the way to completion. Both these ferries are similar to the new ones already on the run. Their upper decks are slightly longer than in the case of the "Golden Star" and "Meridian Star". When the "Solar" and "Night Stars" get on the run the service across the harbour will be much more expeditious and in the rush hours it will be possible to give a practically continuous service with ferrirs at each side the wharves.

Regards, David

Sorry about the resolution on this photo David,  I will enlist my son's help to upload a better version over the weekend.  He thought we'd replaced the early photos but obviously we haven't,  oops!



Thanks Pauline, I'll look forward to that.

Regards, David

Barbara Anslow writes:

About the Star Ferries, all the time I used them, the enclosed area on the top deck was in the middle, and the seats on the open deck both fore and aft.    I remember so many very hot evenings, boarding the ferry and just revelling in the lovely breeze on the (adjustable either way) seats on the open deck.   I think it was post-war that I saw one of these ferries lying in the water on its side,  by the Hong Kong terminal - can't remember now if that was caused by a typhoon, but I'm pretty sure there were no casualties.

I don't know if it's the same now, but up to 1959 when we left HK, travellers on the ferries were always in a hurry to get off, and the ones in front (on upper deck) used to tread down the landing board as the ferrymen released it.  I don't think the occupants of the lower deck - mainly Chinese had a landing board, they just jumped on to a lower part of the terminal.

One day in 1928/9, I was with my mother on the ferry and as it pulled into the terminal, an eager Chinese peasant lady with a baby tied to her back, leapt across the gap and fell into the very narrow strip of water; there was not only the risk of drowning, but also of being crushed as the ferry inched its way alongside.    While we all watched in horror, one of the Star Ferry (Chinese) sailors immediately jumped into the water and brought woman and baby safely up hefore any damage was done.

My memories tell me that in the early years, the lower deck did not have hinged landing board.  Rather, they had a large and wide plank on the dock landing and ferrymen would pull its ropes to rest it on the ferry.  You've got to watch your feet when stepping on it.  Last year, I had the opportunity to ride on a Star ferry which has seat back support that can swing in either direction just like the good old days.  The waiting area in the TST terminal still has the same partition and the same kind of  seats that I used more than 50 years ago.  Another thing that impressed me was old street signs still adorn many modern corner buildings.