Sat, Apr 12, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Classic diesel locomotives set to roll into rail history

SHOCKING CONCLUSION:As the TRA nears the end of work to electrify the route linking Hualien and Taitung, long-serving carriages are to be retired, the agency said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Classic diesel-powered Guanghua Express (光華號) trains are scheduled to retire in July after the completion of electrical upgrades to the rail line between Hualien and Taitung in June, the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said.

The agency imported the DR27000 trains from Japan in 1966.

The DR27000 provided the fastest and most luxurious express train service at that time, with a maximum speed of 110kph.

However, the carriages lacked air-conditioning systems, leaving passengers relying on electric fans or opening the windows to stay cool.

Each passenger was served tea or water during trips, TRA said.

Despite the lack of the modern facilities, many passengers have fond memories of the service.

Some people said they liked being able to open the windows and enjoy the fresh air along the east coast.

In the past, when the train stopped at Fonglin (鳳林) and Guangshan (關山) stations, passengers could open the windows to buy lunchboxes from sellers on the platforms.

When the nation electrified the west coast railway in 1980, the TRA moved all the Guanghua Express trains to serve the east.

Fifteen carriages are still in use, serving commuters between Hualien and Taitung. The administration runs 14 Guanghua Express trips daily, drawing mainly railway fans and Japanese tourists.

The TRA said that repair parts for the Guanghua Express models are no longer in production, and the train is scheduled to be retired at the end of June.

“Something would definitely be missing when the electrified service is launched,” said Chang Shui-kuang (張水光), who is the Hualien TRA station director and a former Guanghua Express conductor.

The TRA said the carriages would be properly preserved and shown to the public on special occasions.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Frank Fan (范植谷) said the TRA is planning a major change in its timetable, in light of the availability of the electrified service between Hualien and Taitung.

Fan said the TRA would also introduce different ticket-price schedules, saying that people taking diesel-power trains could pay lower prices than those taking the electric trains.

After the electrification is complete, the South-Link Line (南迴鐵路) would be the only line that has yet to be electrified.

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