Taipei, Oct. 4 (CNA) Damage to the Alishan forest railway caused by Typhoon Dujuan in late September has ruined plans by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) to reopen the full length of the 71.4-kilometer mountain railway on Dec. 25, so tourists travelling on the railway can only reach the Fenchihu relay station (奮起湖站).
It took the Chiayi Forest District Office and the TRA six years to reconstruct damaged sections of the forest railway in central Taiwan after torrential rain and mudslides brought by Typhoon Morakot in August 2009 damaged rail sections between Fenchihu and the terminal Alishan station (阿里山站), 2,216 meters above sea level.
After a successful trial run of the steam locomotive from Chiayi Beimen station (嘉義北門站) to Alishan station Sept. 16, the TRA announced that the mountain railway would open fully Dec. 25.
However, heavy rainfall brought by Typhoon Dujuan Sept. 28-29 led to serious rockslides at tunnel entrances some 58 km from Beimen station, where reconstruction had just completed.
In order to enable tourists to travel to Alishan station, the Chiayi Forest District Office is studying the feasibility of using shuttle buses, according to a forest administration source.
Alishan mountain resort is among the top five destinations for international tourists to Taiwan, most of whom expect to appreciate the magnificent views of ancient Formosan red cypress and misty forests from the windows of a nostalgic steam locomotive.
The Alishan mountain railway was opened in 1911 as transportation route for timber. In 1963, the Chiayi Forest District Office stopped the timber transporting operations and turned the mountain railway into a tourist attraction. The TRA will take over its operations in 2016.
In addition to the main Beimen-Alishan line, the forest railway system has a 6.25-km spur line from the Zhaoping station (沼平站) (2,216 meters above sea level) to Zhushan station (祝山站) (2,451 meters above sea level) which carries tourists to watch the sunrise over the mountains.
(By K.F. Huang and Lillian Lin) ENDITEM/J