Alishan Forest Railway

Coordinates: 23°30′36″N 120°48′15″E / 23.510092°N 120.804239°E / 23.510092; 120.804239
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Alishan Forest Railway
LocaleChiayi County, Taiwan
Coordinates23°30′36″N 120°48′15″E / 23.510092°N 120.804239°E / 23.510092; 120.804239
Connecting linesChiayi Station: TRA Western Line
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Operator(s)Forestry and Nature Conservation Agency
Daily ridership5,500[1]
Opened1912 (1912)
Line length86 km (53 mi)
Track gauge762 mm (2 ft 6 in)
Highest elevation2,216 m (7,270 ft)
Route map

Chiayi Taiwan Railways Administration
First Reverse
Second Reverse
Alishan Forest Railway
Traditional Chinese阿里山森林鐵路
Simplified Chinese阿里山森林铁路

Alishan Forest Railway (Chinese: 阿里山森林鐵路; pinyin: Ālǐshān Sēnlín Tiělù; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: A-lí-san Sim-lîm Thih-lō͘) 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, has become a tourist attraction with its rare Z-shaped switchbacks, and over 50 tunnels and 77 wooden bridges.[2] Taiwan's Ministry of Culture has listed the forest railway as a potential World Heritage Site.[3]


Japanese era[edit]

Class B 28t Shay locomotive No.31

The narrow gauge lines were originally constructed by the Japanese Colonial Government to facilitate the logging of cypress and Taiwania wood.[4] Preliminary surveying was conducted in 1900 and route planning began in 1903, but the project was shelved in 1904 due to the Russo-Japanese War. In 1906, the Japanese Government contracted the Osaka-based Fujita-gumi to build the railroad. The company laid tracks from Kagi (Chiayi) to Rienryō (Liyuanliao) and imported 13-ton Shay locomotives to run on the tracks, but financial troubles and technical difficulties in construction in the mountainous terrain forced them to abandon the project in 1908. In 1910, the Japanese Government took interest in the abandoned railroad and decided to finish it themselves, also importing 18-ton Shays for the job. The tracks were extended to Alisan (Zhaoping) in 1913, marking the completion of the main line.[5]

The Alishan Forest Railway became a major tourist railway when the tracks were extended to Niitakaguchi (新高口) in 1933. The station was located very close to Mount Niitaka (now Yu Shan), the highest mountain in Taiwan and the Japanese Empire, and the hike to the summit could be completed in seven to eleven hours, depending on the health of the individual. To cater to hikers, the railway operated an express service from Kagi to Niitakaguchi that only stopped at Shōhei; hikers would stay overnight at a lodge at Niitakaguchi and summit the next day.[6][7]

Since 1945[edit]

Diesel railcars supplemented the steam engines on the passenger services. In the 1980s, 10 Hitachi-built diesel-hydraulic 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.[2]

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.[8] On 27 April 2011, five tourists, including three from mainland China, were killed and 113 people injured in a derailment.[9]

A damaged portion of the Alishan Line visible from Alishan National Scenic Area.

In addition, services have been repeatedly disrupted due to damages from landslides. The main line from Chiayi to Alishan has been partially closed since 2009 due to damages cause by landslides during Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and Typhoon Dujuan (2015). The line is undergoing repairs and is expected to be fully opened in 2023.[10] In August 2015, the Chiayi-Fenqihu section was briefly closed due to damages during Typhoon Soudelor.[11]

In order to further boost tourism in the region, on 5 December 2018 the Alishan Forest Railway commenced a "sister railway" partnership with Čierny Hron Railway in Slovakia;[12] the Alishan Forest Railway has since partnered with nine other companies across five different countries.[13]


The railway was privatized through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) in June 2008[14] and maintained by the Hungtu Alishan International Development Corporation.[15] On 1 May 2013, the management of the railway was taken over by Taiwan Railways Administration. On 1 July 2018, the railway was taken over by the newly established Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office of the Forestry Bureau.[16]

The system is currently operated using diesel locomotives, although there are occasional special public runs using the old steam powered Shay locomotives.[17]


Spiral loop in the Alishan Line at Dulishan
Alishan Station

The main line originally ran from the city of Chiayi (elevation 30 m), to Alishan (elevation 2,216 m), but is currently partially closed past Shizilu. The vegetation along the way changes from tropical to temperate and finally alpine. The line features many switchbacks on the way up the mountain.[18]

  • Main line
Includes several steep gradients (max. 6.26%), a spiral and four switchbacks, known as the Dulishan Spiral. The longest line with most dramatic climate change.
Reopened between Chiayi and Fenqihu (approximately the halfway point) following typhoon damage repairs in January 2014,[19] and to Shizilu in 2017. The full line is expected to reopen by the end of 2023.
  • Shenmu line
Alishan–First Reverse via Shenmu
Runs frequently all day, a short (5-minute) ride downhill to Shenmu station.
  • Chushan line
Early morning trains, popular for viewing the sunrise over Jade Mountain
  • Zhaoping line
Runs frequently all day, a short (5-minute) ride uphill to Zhaoping station
  • Mianyue line
Closed due to earthquake damage and typhoon, currently turned to mountain trail, reconstruction plans under discussion.
  • Shuishan line
No passenger service, mountain trail only

List of stations[edit]

Alishan line (Main line)[edit]

Name Chinese Taiwanese Hakka Tsou Elevation
Transfers and Notes Location
Chiayi 嘉義 Ka-gī Kâ-ngi 30 0.0 Taiwan Railways Administration West Coast line: Chiayi West Chiayi
Beimen 北門 Pak-mn̂g Pet-mùn 31 1.6 East
Lumachan 鹿麻產 Lo̍k-môa-sán Lu̍k-mà-sán 82 10.8 Zhuqi Chiayi
Zhuqi 竹崎 Tek-kiā Chuk-khì 127 14.2
Mulüliao 木履寮 Ba̍k-kia̍h-liàu Muk-kiak-liàu 324 18.9
Zhangnaoliao 樟腦寮 Chiuⁿ-ló͘-liâu Chông-nó-liàu 543 23.3
Dulishan 獨立山 To̍k-li̍p-soaⁿ Thu̍k-li̍p-sân 743 27.4
Liyuanliao 梨園寮 Lê-hn̂g-liâu Lài-yèn-liàu 905 31.4 Meishan
Jiaoliping 交力坪 Ka-le̍k-pêⁿ Kâu-li̍t-phiàng 997 34.9 Zhuqi
Shuisheliao 水社寮 Chúi-siā-liâu Súi-sa-liàu 1,186 40.5
Fenqihu 奮起湖 Pùn-ki-ô͘ Fun-hí-fù 1,403 45.8
Duolin 多林 To-lîm Tô-lìm Ngungutu 1,516 50.9 Alishan
Shizilu 十字路 Si̍p-jī-lō͘ Sṳ̍p-sṳ-lu Sʉa’fʉnʉ 1,534 55.3
Pingzhena 屏遮那 Hè-sen-ná Phìn-châ-nâ Heesiana 1,711 60.5
First Switch 第一分道 Tē-it-pun-tō Thi-yit-fûn-tho 1,827 63.0
Erwanping 二萬坪 Jī-bān-pêⁿ Ngi-van-phìn Hehesiana 2,000 66.8
Shenmu 神木 Sîn-bo̍k Sṳ̀n-muk Ak’e fahei 2,138 69.6 → Shenmu line
Alishan 阿里山 A-lí-san Â-lî-sân Psoseongana 2,216 71.4
Zhaoping 沼平 Chau-pêng Cheu-phiàng Chuchumuana 2,274 72.7 → Mianyue line
→ Chushan line

Chushan line[edit]

Name Chinese Taiwanese Hakka Tsou Elevation
Transfers and Notes Location
Alishan 阿里山 A-lí-san Â-lî-sân Psoseongana 2,216 0 Alishan Chiayi
Zhaoping 沼平 Chau-pêng Cheu-phiàng Chuchumuana 2,274 1.3 → Alishan line
→ Mianyue line
Shizifendao 十字分道 Si̍p-jī-pun-tō Sṳ̍p-sṳ-fûn-tho 2,310 2.9
Duigaoyue 對高岳 Tuì-ko-ga̍k Tui-kô-ngo̍k P’oocva 2,350 4.9 Xinyi Nantou
Chushan 祝山 Chiok-soaⁿ Chuk-sân Yuafeofeo 2,451 6.25 Highest railway station in Taiwan

Mianyue line[edit]

Name Chinese Taiwanese Hakka Elevation
Transfers and Notes Location
Alishan 阿里山 A-lí-san Â-lî-sân 2,216 0 Alishan Chiayi
Zhaoping 沼平 Chau-pêng Cheu-phiàng 2,274 1.3 → Alishan line
→ Zhushan line
Shizifendao 十字分道 Si̍p-jī-pun-tō Sṳ̍p-sṳ-fûn-tho 2,310 2.9
Tashan 塔山 Thah-san Thap-sân 2,344 5.5 Was the highest railway station in the Empire of Japan
Mianyue 眠月 Biân-goa̍t Mìn-ngie̍t 2,303 8.0
Shihou 石猴 Chio̍h-kâu Sa̍k-hèu 2,318 9.26


On 10 March 2018, Google celebrated the Alishan Forest Railway with a Google Doodle.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shelley Shan (4 April 2016). "Alishan Forest Railway ticket prices to go up". The Taipei Times. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b Deborah Kuo. "Uncertain Future for Alishan Railway". Taipei Times. 28 September 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  3. ^ "Alishan Forest Railway". Ministry of Culture. 17 March 2023. With these unique features, the railway has been listed by the Ministry of Culture as one of the 18 potential World Heritage Sites within R.O.C. territories.
  4. ^ Railway island paradise Trains June 2018 page 34
  5. ^ "用途的轉變". 阿里山林業鐵路及文化資產管理處 (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Forestry Bureau. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  6. ^ 蘇昭旭 (20 May 2012). "阿里山歷史文件回顧三: 阿里山森林鐵路的百年興衰". 蘇昭旭老師的全球鐵道視野部落格 (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  7. ^ "登玉山之巔 溯歷史之源" (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Liberty Times. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  8. ^ "Taiwan's Alpine Rail". Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  9. ^ Shelly Shan. "Tourists Killed in Train Derailment". Taipei Times. 28 April 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  10. ^ "阿里山森鐵剩42號隧道卡關 原地復建難". 公視新聞網 (in Traditional Chinese). 28 August 2019. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Alishan Railway to resume its normal operations Wednesday - The China Post". Archived from the original on 3 October 2015.
  12. ^ "Alishan signs sister deal with fellow Slovakian railway". Taipei Times. 8 December 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  13. ^ "阿里山蒸汽火車 108年起每兩周行駛一天". 6 December 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  14. ^ "阿里山森林鐵路移交民營 航向新紀元". Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2008.
  15. ^ Shelly Shan. "TRA to Take Control of Alishan Forest Railway". Taipei Times. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  16. ^ Huang, Kuo-fang; Lee, Hsin-yin (23 June 2018). "Forestry Bureau to take over operation of Alishan railway". Focus Taiwan. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  17. ^ "阿里山SL-31號蒸汽機車運行記錄". Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2007.
  18. ^ "歡迎光臨阿里山森林鐵道". Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Alishan tain goes to Fenqi Lake again".
  20. ^ "Celebrating the Alishan Forest Railway". Google. 10 March 2018.

External links[edit]