The Railways of Taiwan
For frustrated, non-Chinese speaking Railbuffs!!!!
Latest Update: 10th May 2007
INDEX OF LOCATIONS
The Japanese era
Post Japanese era
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Welcome to my website, let me introduce myself. My name is Matthew Kirtley I am an Englishman, living in Taipei and married to a Taiwanese Lady. Before I came here I spent over 20 years working for the UK railway industry in technical and managerial positions (I am a Chartered Engineer) following my graduation from university. The love of my life for as long as I can remember (apart from my lovely wife, of course) has been railways, particularly the obscure, forgotten lines and doubly so the narrow gauges, and in this respect Taiwan is possibly the most enigmatic place I have been.
Why enigmatic? Because Taiwan is almost totally narrow gauge with only the new High Speed line and the city metros at standard gauge. Because in addition to the state operated Taiwan Railway Administration 3'-6" gauge system, there were six extensive 2'-6" gauge forestry systems with inclines, levels and cableways operating high into the mountains. Because Taiwan Sugar operated a 3,000km plus network of sugar and passenger lines predominantly in the south east, now almost totally vanished. Because there were salt railways, colliery railways, gold mine railways, sand railways... all to various gauges. These are just the loco worked lines, there was once also a huge network of man operated "push-cart" lines, one of which survives as a petrol-loco operated tourist tramway.
In the years I have been living here I have failed to find ANY worthwhile reference documents, maps or books in English. To a non-Chinese speaker, it is almost as if this incredible railway history never happened. I am used to the wonderfully documented railway history of the UK but here, the locally printed books available in English are pithy and shallow in comparison and surfing the internet reveals little more. This little island is chock-a-block with railway interest and yet it is almost totally disregarded by what is increasingly an international community of railway enthusiasts. For someone with an interest in railways and a curiosity in general (both rather rare traits locally!) traveling the country is a truly frustrating experience.. to get a tantalising glimpse of a winding abandoned trackbed in a remote mountain valley, just knowing that you will never know where it went, when and why. (NB in 4 years I have never found out where the "mystery" line at the Ali-shan Railway's Jhao-ping terminal goes, when I asked the locals I simply got the fatuous response that it doesn't go anywhere - can anyone enlighten me??)
The enclosed maps have been drawn for all loco worked permanent lines in Taiwan, past and present that I know of. Please let me know of any additions or corrections - I admit to guessing the layouts at some locations. Also, I will be populating the site with photographs and videos so please let me have any historical or modern pictures for inclusion, particularly at obscure locations and of closed and abandoned railway facilities - you will be credited. I must thank my good friend Su I-jaw (aka the eponymous "Citycat") for sharing with me his considerable local knowledge in drawing up the maps. His website is a joy to behold and provides hours of fascination. I must also thank my long suffering wife Annie and step-son Jimmy for putting up with my obsession, and the practical help they have given me..
I would also like to thank the Taiwan Railway Cultural Society. Well, to be honest, I would like to be in a position to thank them but I can't as they have rudely disregarded every e-mail requesting help I ever sent and when, through a local intermediary, I asked to join I was told that "...non-Taiwanese are not allowed in the society." (For some strange reason the words "xenophobia" and "racism" spring to mind!!) Despite this snub from the TRCS, individual members are welcome to this site although it will display few, if any, Chinese characters.
All maps included herein are ©Matthew Kirtley 2006. If you wish to use them in whole or part please contact me. Please note that map references herein are "clickable" and are given in the format mm An, where "mm" is the map number and "An" is the grid square.
Taipei July 2006
Ex TSC Tubize 0-6-0T #380 at Wu-shu-lin Station April 2002
TSC Diema Diesel-mechanical 0-6-0 #186 shunting at San-hua sugar works, May 2005
TRA E300 Class 25kV loco #E317 about to depart Su-ao on the 1530 Northbound 02 Jul 2006
Ali-shan Railway Nippon-Shariyo B-B Diesel-hydraulic #DL-38 coming off the "mystery line" at Jhao-ping. The route to the right drops down into Ali-shan Station. May 2001.