Alishan Forest Railway
|Alishan Forest Railway|
The Alishan Forest Railway (阿里山森林鐵路) is an 86 km network of 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge railways running up to and throughout the popular mountain resort of Alishan in Chiayi County, Taiwan. The railway, originally constructed for logging, is itself a tourist attraction with unique Z-shaped switchbacks, 50 tunnels, and over 77 wooden bridges.
The narrow-gauge lines were originally constructed by the Japanese Colonial Government in 1912 to facilitate the logging of cypress and Taiwania wood, however today the line caters mostly to tourists. Passenger carriages were first added to the trains in 1918. The first motive power was a Shay locomotive purchased second hand from the Kiso Forest Railway in Japan. Eventually the railway acquired 20 Shay locomotives.
Eventually, diesel railcars supplemented the steam engines on the passenger services. In the 1980s, 10 Hitachi-built diesel-hydrualic locomotives were delivered and replaced the railcars and remaining steam engines.
The completion of the Alishan Highway in 1982 led to the loss of many rail passengers to faster and cheaper buses and the rail became primarily a tourist attraction.
Accidents on the line have resulted in a number of fatalities over the years. On 24 April 1981, a collapsed tunnel resulted in nine deaths and 13 injuries. On 1 March 2003, 17 people were killed and 156 injured when a train derailed near Alishan Railway Station. On 27 April 2011, five tourists, including three from mainland China, were killed and 113 people injured in a derailment.
The railway line was severely damaged by rains associated with 2009's Typhoon Morakot and, as of 2009[update], an unrepaired section from 2008 typhoons required tourists to disembark at one point and climb about 500m.
Unlike the national rail system administered by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA), the Alishan Forest Railway is managed by the Council of Agriculture's (COA) Forestry Bureau. It was privatized through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) in June 2008 and maintained by the Hungtu Alishan International Development Corporation.
However, the Forestry Bureau terminated the contract with Hungtu after damage to the railway caused by Typhoon Morakot in 2009 was not repaired to satisfaction. As of January 2011[update], the Forestry Bureau and Hungtu were still engaged in lawsuits over the issue to determine who has the right to manage the railway. In May 2011, the COA announce that it intended to transfer control of the railway to the TRA before the end of the year.
The system is currently operated using diesel locomotives, although there are occasional special public runs using the old steam powered Shay locomotives.
Taiwan's government has listed the forest railway as a potential World Heritage Site. However, Taiwan's exclusion from the United Nations means it is unlikely to be formally recognized as a WHS in the near future.
The main line runs from the city of Chiayi (elevation 30 m), to the final station of Alishan (elevation 2216 m). The vegetation along the way changes from tropical to temperate and finally alpine. The line features many switchbacks on the way up the mountain.
- Main Line (Alishan Line/阿里山線)
- Chiayi (嘉義) - Alishan (阿里山)
- Includes several steep gradients (max. 6.26%), a spiral and four switchbacks; longest line with most dramatic climate change.
- Closed indefinitely due to typhoon damage.
- Zhushan Line (祝山線)
- Alishan (阿里山) - Zhushan (祝山)
- Early morning trains, popular for viewing the sunrise over Jade Mountain (玉山).
- Mianyue Line (眠月線)
- Alishan (阿里山) - The Stone Monkey (石猴)
- Closed indefinitely due to earthquake damage.
See also 
- Deborah Kuo. "Uncertain Future for Alishan Railway". Taipei Times. 28 September 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- "Taiwan's Alpine Rail".
- Shelly Shan. "Tourists Killed in Train Derailment". Taipei Times. 28 April 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- "阿里山森林鐵路移交民營 航向新紀元".
- Shelly Shan. "TRA to Take Control of Alishan Forest Railway". Taipei Times. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- Alishan Forest Railway (Chinese)(English)(Japanese)
- Alishan Forest Railway (Hungtu Alishan)(Chinese)(English)(Japanese)
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