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Alishan railway earns overseas prize presented by Japan

2018/10/16 15:45:28

Tokyo, Oct. 16 (CNA) The Alishan Forest Railway has won a special "Overseas Railway Award" as part of the Japan Railway Awards presented by its Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

The railway was honored with the special prize for overseas lines, being awarded for the first time this year, for attracting many tourists from home and around the world with a unique rail engineering achievement.

Railways in Switzerland and Russia also won the new special prize for overseas rail lines as part of the awards, which have been handed out annually since 2002.

Huang Miao-hsiu (黃妙修), the head of the Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office, said at the award ceremony in Tokyo on Monday that the railway was built by Taiwan and Japan and that the honor should be shared by both.

Huang also expressed the hope that Japan will help push for the forest railway to be included on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

The Alishan Forest Railway has four of the five mountainous railway characteristics listed by UNESCO and it remains in service after starting operations 107 years ago, which is something rarely seen in the world, Huang said.

At present, however, a section of main Chiayi to Alishan rail line remains closed because of damage from landslides during Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and other storms since then. The main line is expected to fully reopen in 2022.

The Alishan Forest Railway is an 86-kilometer network of 762 millimeter (mm) narrow gauge rail lines running up to and throughout the popular mountain resort of Alishan in Chiayi County.

The railway, originally constructed for logging, has become a tourist attraction with its unique Z-shaped switchbacks, and over 50 tunnels and 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. Passenger carriages were first added to the trains in 1918.

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

The forestry railway has sisterhood ties with eight railways in four countries, including two in Japan.

(By Yang Ming-chu and Evelyn Kao)