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Alishan Forest Railway – North Gate Station

History

        North Gate Station, 31 meters above sea level, is the first stop and the entrepot of Alishan Forest Railway. The supplies for the residents along the railway and the wood from the mountain are all delivered to this station, which shows the importance of it.

        The North Gate Station with classic façade is made of hinoki wood from Alishan. It was completed in 1910 along with the restoration of Alishan Forest Railway. To respond the tendency that Alishan was turning into a tourist spot, the new Beimen Station was inaugurated in October, 1973 and the old one is now used as the maintenance staff office. The station covers an area of approximately 92.56 m2 and is divided into three sections: staff office, ticketing office, and waiting room. Although it no longer serves as a real station due to the establishment of the new station, the façade and the facilities are still valuable as cultural heritages. Chiayi City Government proclaimed it as a municipal historic relic.

        The Alishan Forest Railway climbs up to the 2,000 meters high peak from the plain of Chiayi, and the change from tropical plants to frigid can be observed along the railway. It is also known internationally for its rare features such as “spiral railroads”, “Z-shaped climbs” and “slopes of 62.5‰” with the usage of special Shay vertical cylinder block.

        During the Japanese occupation period, forestry development was the most important source of economic resources. Near the North Gate Station there were forestry offices, timber basins, wood storage pools, train maintenance facilities, and forest clubs. The timber transported from the 2,000 meters high Alishan is gathered in the proximity of the North Gate Station, which spurred on the wood industry, lumber companies, sawmills and timber factories. The wood business also spurred on the development of hotels, restaurants, and theaters, which enabled the population to grow. The North Gate Station became an important center for the harvesting of timber in Alishan, and its unique history and features made Chiayi City the “City of Wood”.

        The North Gate Station witnessed the thriving period of Alishan forestry developed, and now stores the remained objects of the railway. It is now an railway cultural relics exhibition hall, and public arts such as “Calling Landmark,” “Space and Time Corridors,” and “Eco-artistic Wall” are at the front square.

The Most Valuable Cultural Railway Relic

        In the past, the Alishan steam trains were used to transport the timber, which made Chiayi City a perfect place for forestry. The SL-21 Steam Locomotive will be repaired in 2020. The coal-burning power system is hopefully to be kept as it’s an essential part of cultural heritage conservation. The goal is to make the SL-21 Steam Locomotive able to work again. The SL-21 Steam Locomotive is the first steam locomotive weighing 28 tons for Alishan Railway. Shay locomotive with the design of vertical cylinder and miter gears is the most effective and best for mountain climbing. In 2019, it was sent to the place where SL-25 and SL-32 Steam locomotives are kept. The three valuable steam locomotives standing together draw the attention of the world to appreciate the tourism of Chiayi and the culture of Alishan.

        Alishan Forest Train is the most valuable cultural railway relic in the world. Australia and Slovakia have once made the proposal to have collaboration with the railway for tourism. The SL-21 Steam Locomotive has finally met with its siblings, SL-25 and SL-32, after being separated for 43 years. To sum up their ages, the result is 316!

        Since the Alishan Forest Railway was opened in 1912, 107 years have passed. In July of 2019, Ministry of Culture announced the “Alishan Forestry and Railway Cultural Heritage” as an important national treasure.