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Changhua Roundhouse

  • Date:2023-05-29
Changhua Roundhouse

Chinese Name: 彰化扇形車庫

Constructed: 1922

Location: Changhua County (Central Taiwan)

Did You Know?

The Changhua Roundhouse in Taiwan is a must-see historic site that's been dubbed "the last steam train paradise in the country!" This living monument is the only operating steam locomotive roundhouse in the country, and it's dedicated to preserving the fascinating evolution of Taiwan's railway history.

The Changhua Roundhouse is located in Changhua City, Taiwan, just north of the Changhua Train Station. It is managed by the Taiwan Railway Administration under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The roundhouse was built in 1922, the same year the coastal railway was completed and the Changhua Station became a major hub for train maintenance and dispatch. During the Japanese colonial period, the government decided to build the roundhouse to accommodate the increasing number of trains. Originally, it only had three to eight station tracks, but it was expanded to twelve as more vehicles were added. The name "roundhouse" comes from the circular design of the facility, with a turntable at the center and tracks radiating outward like a fan. From above, it looks like a giant fan, and trains enter the roundhouse for maintenance and repairs after long journeys, earning it the nickname "the locomotive hotel."

The Changhua Roundhouse used to be one of six roundhouses in the country, with the others located in Taipei, Hsinchu, Chiayi, Kaohsiung, and Kaohsiung Port. As cities expanded and steam trains became obsolete, the roundhouses were deemed outdated and targeted for redevelopment or demolition. However, the Changhua Roundhouse was saved from the same fate in 1994, thanks to the efforts of local residents and historians. It was even designated as a county-level historic site the following year, and just recently, on August 1, 2022, it was upgraded to a national-level historic site. Even more remarkable, it is still in operation, making it the only "living" railway asset in Taiwan and a source of pride for the people of Changhua.

The Roundhouse boasts a rich history spanning over a century, and has played a pivotal role in Taiwan's railway development across three distinct periods. Initially serving as a maintenance hub for steam trains, it underwent a transformation in 1960 when tracks one through six were converted into a central inspection station for diesel locomotives following the electrification of the railway. In 1978, tracks one and two were revamped to accommodate electric locomotives. The Roundhouse serves as a testament to the evolution of railway technology, from coal-fired steam engines to full electrification, and provides a unique opportunity for younger generations to reflect on this remarkable progress.

Here you can find a DT668 steam locomotive, which is currently the largest of its kind in Taiwan. Sometimes, you can also see other models of steam locomotives like the CK101 and CK124 parked in the garage. These steam locomotives are kept for military purposes. In case of war, if power plants are destroyed and electric trains can’t run, and if fuel depots are bombed and ports are blocked, diesel trains would also be useless, but steam locomotives could still transport goods because they can run on everyday items like wood and clothing.

Changhua Roundhouse has become a must-visit attraction for tourists in Changhua in recent years, especially for many Japanese, European, and American railway enthusiasts, who come to Taiwan just to see the Roundhouse. In June 2018, hundreds of Japanese visitors came to Taiwan to visit and were amazed to see this antique building built by their Japanese forebears still operating smoothly under the skillful maintenance of Taiwanese technicians. They were pleasantly surprised and praised it as a "living heritage site," exclaiming that their trip was well worth it!

In 2022, the Taiwan Railway Administration of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications held a celebratory event for the 100th anniversary of the Changhua Roundhouse. The trains of 14 generations were demonstrated together at the event, attracting a large number of visitors and feasting the eyes of railway fans.

This "dynamic" train museum in Taiwan is a true gem, offering visitors an up-close look at the fascinating world of train repair. With its iconic fan-shaped design, this train garage is a living testament to the evolution of train power, from steam to electricity, following the industrial revolution. It's no wonder that the Changhua Roundhouse is considered a shining example of how to preserve Taiwan’s rich railway cultural heritage.

(Photo credit: Bureau of Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture. Photographer: Chao Shouyen)