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Alishan Forest Railway

Alishan Forest Railway

  • Chinese Name: 阿里山森林鐵路
  • Located At: Chiayi (Southern Taiwan)
  • Renowned For: An approximately 72-kilometer railway that starts rising from Chiayi Station, which lies at 30 meters above sea level, and runs up to the Jhushan Station, which is at a height of 2,274 meters.
  • Did You Know that …?
  • The Alishan Forest Railway was originally constructed for logging activities during the Japanese colonial period. It has become a popular tourist attraction over the years, because of its unique Z-shaped switchbacks, 50 tunnels and over 77 wooden bridges.

Being one of the few major mountain railways in the world, the Alishan Forest Railway has four of the five mountainous railway characteristics listed by UNESCO - using Shay style steam locomotives with "umbrella-like” gears and vertical cylinders, horseshoe curve and u-turn style railway tracks, a spiraling mountainous section (the Duli Mountain route), and a switchback mountain rail.

These characteristics are similar to those of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which was listed as a mountain railway on the India World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.

On its journey running from the plain to high mountains, the railway passes through 15 stations as well as three different climate zones: tropical, subtropical, and temperate. The vegetation along the circuitous route also changes from tropical to temperate and to finally alpine.

Alisan Forest Railway's 762 mm narrow-gauge tracks, the only one of its kind in the world, combines three types of railways - the forest, mountain ascending and high mountain.

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.

Unlike the national rail system administered by the Taiwan Railway Administration, the mountain railway is operated by the Forestry Bureau under the Council of Agriculture. The system is currently operated using diesel locomotives. However, there are occasional special public runs using the old steam-powered Shay locomotives.