When I was at a writing conference a couple years ago, a presenter jumped off his desk after I read from the first page of my manuscript.
“I love train stations,” he exclaimed. “But you have to bring us to China. Let us see, hear, and smell it.”
I’ve since scrapped that introduction (at the advice of editors) and tried out several more, searching for the perfect opening.
But I’ll always remember his enthusiasm for my Chinese train station scene.
I love looking at photos of the Kowloon-Canton Railway before the station was moved from the Star Ferry to Hung Hom. Although plans for this railway had been in the works, more or less, since the time of the US Civil War, it didn’t officially open until 1910 (photo on right).
Sometimes I think back to a leisurely spring day 14 years ago, strolling with my mom and uncle along the Kowloon waterfront.
“Remember when the train station was near the Star Ferry?” my mom asked her brother.
“Yes, and the waterfront here was just old, beat-up warehouses,” he replied. “Godowns.” (A Malay word used for warehouses in Asia, especially those along the waterfront.)
I couldn’t imagine what the beautiful promenade looked like with trains running up to the tip of Kowloon. Now when I come across photos like these (especially the one on the left), I try to picture what my mom and her family experienced in Hong Kong in the 60s.
Although the train station in Tsim Sha Tsui was demolished in the 1970s, the clock tower was preserved and still stands as a reminder of an earlier era.