The Alishan forest railway was disrupted yesterday when a landslide caused by heavy rains damaged a section of the line near the end of a tunnel.
The Chiayi office of the Council of Agriculture's Forestry Bureau, which manages the rail line, said it will take at least 50 days to repair the damaged section of the railway.
A spokesman for the office said that successive afternoon thunderstorms during the past few days caused a landslide near No. 42 Tunnel, located 59km from Chiayi Station, and damaged the railway.
The Alishan railway is said to be one of the world's three remaining alpine railways. The second is located in northern India in the Himalayas, while the third runs in the Andes in South America.
Opened in 1912 while Taiwan was still under Japanese rule, the narrow-gauge railway was designed to haul timber, but is now mainly used to transport the more than 200,000 tourists who annually visit Alishan to see the area's natural beauty at an altitude of more than 2,200m above sea level.
The scenic rail line winds its way up from the subtropical plains to mountain pine forests in just 72km, crossing more than 80 bridges and passing through about 50 tunnels. Its route includes a series of dangerous switchbacks.
Although the government has been operating the train at an annual loss of about NT$110 million (US$3.35 million), it has decided to preserve the line not only for its historic value but as a means to boost local tourism.
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