Hong Kong’s Old Fire Hydrants
At the risk of sounding like a bit of an anorak (let’s face it, I’ve been called worse, and also there is probably a small ring of truth to it) I thought I would bring to your attention the various old fire hydrants that still exist in various parts of the territory.
Coming from the UK, the first time I ever saw a fire hydrant was on a trip to the US. I seem to remember finding them quite odd because as far as I am aware the UK doesn’t have them (I can only talk from my experience of living in Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, London and Chelmsford) . Instead the UK has a system of underground pipes that the fire services can connect to when they need to tap the mains for some fire fighting. Likewise, it wasn’t something I expected to see when I first came to Hong Kong (not sure what I expected really) but there you go. The place is full of them.
For the most part they are nice and shiny and round with what looks like three ports for attaching hoses (see above). But pay a bit more attention and you will see some relics from the past that are still standing and, presumably, still functioning well enough to still be useful in an emergency.
There are two types of older hydrant. The first is the small version that can be found on virtually all road sides, but the older ones have an angled head as can be seen below. These are harder to find and when I eventually did see one on the corner of Man Ming Lane and Nathan Road in Yau Ma Tei I grabbed a quick snap (see below).
Unfortunately, perhaps I am some sort of jinx because no sooner had I taken a photo for posterity the powers that be saw fit to remove the old one and replace it with a brand new shiny round modern version. Such a shame, no doubt the old one has gone to the great hydrant cemetery in the sky as another piece of HK history gets swept under the carpet. Luckily I recently found another one over in Kowloon Tong (on the corner of Ho Tung Road). So I am sure there must still be others.
Actually, when I first posted this entry I forgot to put in a snap from 1960′s “The World of Suzie Wong” which shows one example of this angular type of hydrant that used to be next to Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road.
Look closely and you will see it next to the person sitting on the pavement (on a side note, the red pillar box has also long gone). So although I can’t say for sure when these hydrants were first used, we can see from this film that they were in use in 1960 at the very least. That would put the remaining ones we can still see perhaps approaching (if not exceeding) 50 years of age. Not bad for a society where ‘out with the old and in with the new’ is very much a local mantra.
Here’s another one I found the other day – just outside of Kowloon Tong MTR station – it seems that Kowloon Tong is definitely the place to still find these things in-situ.
The other type of hydrant that tells a bit of HK’s past are the heavy draw-off variety. These are actually only found in various spots of Kowloon, but there is a good reason for that. Apparently they are a bit of a throwback to when Kai Tak was at full operation and the flight path was directly above a large swathe of Kowloon.
These heavy draw-off hydrants (as you can see below, they are heavy draw off because they have slightly more ports than the standard 3) were placed in strategic places under the flight path in preparation for the event of a plane crashing into Kowloon during takeoff or landing. The extra oomph these hydrants are supposed to have been able to supply, would be able to deal with the intense heat and fire caused by an aircraft crash.
Obviously they are a bit of an anachronism since Kai Tak close down in 1998, but they still are in place and you can find several examples as you wander around Yau Tsim Mong and Kowloon City districts. The obvious ones I can think of are at the far end of Waterloo Road (in front of the ambulance station near to the junction with Nathan Road) and there is another large one directly in front of the CLP HQ on Argyle Street. Sadly no personal photos of these yet but here are a couple of grabs from GoogleEarth (oh Streetview, how I love thee).
Anyway, now I’ve got that over with I am putting on my anorak and heading over to the station to get some Chinese train numbers…