The Keelung City Government said it has begun restoration of the country’s first railway tunnel, the Liu Ming-chuan Tunnel (劉銘傳隧道), and expects restorations to be completed by 2021.
The tunnel, which took two years to build, opened in 1890, but was only used for about seven years due to sharp turns and steep gradients, and was replaced with another one nearby, the city government said.
The Liu Ming-chuan Tunnel has been designated a historical site by the city and in the past attracted many visitors, but water has seeped in and parts of it have collapsed, Keelung Cultural Affairs Bureau Director Chen Ching-ping (陳靜萍) said at the restoration project’s groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday last week.
Photo: Lin Hsin-han, Taipei Times
The city plans to pump out the water and reseal the tunnel, hoping to turn it into a “railway culture park,” she said.
Liu Ming-chuan (劉銘傳), for whom the tunnel was named, was Taiwan’s first inspector-general during the Qing Dynasty.
The Qing court realized the importance of Taiwan after the Sino-French War, which was fought from 1884 to 1885 in northern Vietnam, parts of eastern China and northern Taiwan.
Liu commissioned the railway in 1888 with the intent to protect Taiwan against foreign belligerents.
Because the topography of Shih- ciouling Mountain (獅球嶺山) is complex and therefore difficult to drill, engineers built the 235m tunnel in seven parts that were reinforced with brick walls and joined.
A unique feature of the tunnel is that its arched roof is roughly 4.26m higher at one end than at the other, because work was done on different sections at the same time, the city said.
Following the Sino-Japanese War and Japanese occupation of Taiwan in 1895, the tunnel was closed because it was deemed unusable due to its design and steepness.
It was replaced three years later with the Jhuzihling Tunnel (竹仔嶺), built 1km away, which connected to Keelung (then known as Kirun Town).
The city closed the tunnel to visitors 10 years ago after the collapse of some sections and because of the strong wind that passes through it.
Restoration of the Liu Ming-chuan Tunnel had been delayed until now due to repeated changes in plans and the need for approval from the central government following each change, the city said.
The contract was awarded in July with a budget of NT$50 million (US$1.61 million), with a work schedule of roughly 600 days, it said.
Engineers originally estimated a budget of NT$100 million for the restoration work, but this was cut in half using 3D scanning and other modern technology that allowed them to get a better grasp of the tunnel’s dimensions, Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said.
He hopes the engineers can complete the work according to the new, shortened schedule, while retaining the original characteristics of the tunnel, he said.
Specialists who examined the tunnel after its closure found evidence of “hidden rooms” above its archways, which they hoped could be opened up as part of the restoration, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said.
The city also plans restoration projects for other historical sites nearby, including Shihciouling Fort, and hopes the whole area can become a tourist destination, Lin said.
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