Taiwan Sugar Railways
Train hauling sugarcane during the winter sugarmaking season.
|Locale||Taiwan proper, concentrated at Central and Southern Taiwan|
|Dates of operation||1902–present|
|Track gauge||2 ft 6 in (762 mm)|
|Headquarters||Various sugar plants around Taiwan.|
|Taiwan Sugar Railways|
The Taiwan Sugar Railways (Chinese: 臺灣糖業鐵路) were an extensive series of 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railways concentrated mostly in southern and central Taiwan which were originally built to haul sugarcane from the fields to the sugar mills, but also capable of providing limited passenger service. Some lines continue to operate as tourist railways.
Typically, most of the Sugar Railway lines centered on the many sugar mills in southern and central Taiwan, radiating outwards through sugarcane fields and small towns. Most of the lines were also linked with stations shared with the main railway lines allowing passengers to transfer to long distance trains. Trains carrying sugarcane and passengers ran along the Sugar Railway lines at relatively slow speeds of roughly 10 km/h. Locomotives were initially steam powered, but by the late 1970s the railway had converted to small diesel locomotives.
The Sugar Railways were initially constructed by Meiji Sugar Co., Ltd. during Japanese rule in the early 20th Century and continued to operate well into the 1990s under the management of the Taiwan Sugar Corporation. During its peak, the Sugar Railways included over 3000 km of track though by 2003 only 240 km remained. Regular passenger service was discontinued in 1982 as the need for train service to rural areas dwindled with the increasing urbanization of Taiwan and the dominance of highways. More lines were closed in the 1990s as the importance of the sugar industry decreased. Generally the remaining lines are only in operation during the sugarcane harvest season. With domestic sugarcane production dwindling in recent years, rail operations have been sporadic. Some short distance train services resumed in 2003, now mostly catering to tourists and residents wishing to relive childhood memories.
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