The Peak Tram is arguably the most enduring emblem of Hong Kong's unique past. It has seen war, been featured on films and television and played host to numerous dignitaries. On May 30, 1888 Governor Sir George William des Voeux officiated at the inauguration of this important transport for the commuters on the Peak.
At that time, a ride in the first-class section up to the Peak cost 30 cents. The charge was 20 cents for second class and 10 cents for third class. The return trip was half the price. The Peak Tram, which was operated by coal-fired steam boilers then, ended up serving 600 passengers on its first day and about 150,000 in its first year.
Between 1908 and 1949, the first two seats were reserved for the use of the Governor of Hong Kong and were not released to other passengers until 2 minutes prior to departure time. A brass plaque on the back read: "This seat is reserved for His Excellency, the Governor."
In 1926, an electrically powered system replaced the coal-fired steam boilers. However, following the Japanese occupation of Kowloon on December 11, 1941, the Peak Tram engine room was damaged in an attack. On Christmas Day in 1945, the Peak Tram service resumed but part of a Japanese shell was lodged under the main base plate of the two haulage drums.
Hollywood soon came knocking and the Peak Tram was featured in the 1950s movie, Soldier of Fortune, starring Clark Gable. The opening and closing scenes were shot inside the tramcar. The Peak Tram was also included in an episode of the Love Boat.
A 62-seat, lightweight all-metal tramcar was introduced in 1956 before the Peak Tram began service in its present form in 1989 following a HK$60-million overhaul to upgrade it to a microprocessor-controlled electric drive system. Governor Sir David Wilson officiated at the reopening on September 20, 1989.
Commemorative stamps were issued by the General Post Office to mark the Peak Tram's centenary anniversary in May 1988.
Today, more than 4 million people ride the Peak Tram annually, or an average of over 11,000 each and every day.