The Chiayi County Government signed an agreement yesterday with members of the Asia-Pacific Heritage and Tourist Rail Organization to jointly push for the Alishan Forest Railway to be designated a World Heritage site.
The organization is holding its annual conference in Greater Kaohsiung this year, with members scheduled to visit the Alishan Forest Railway and several scenic spots along the way yesterday.
Meanwhile, they also saw a display on how locomotives were turned around when they visited Jhuci (竹崎) Station and watched the operation of the loop line in Dulishan (獨立山).
According to the Culture and Tourism Bureau of Chiayi County, members attending the conference this year are representatives of railway systems around the world, including World Association of Tourist Trams and Trains president David Morgan and the UK Heritage Railway Association president Lord Faulkner of Worcester.
Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) said that the forest railway has been listed by the country as one of its tourist attractions that have the potential to be designated a World Heritage site. The agreement would be part of the county’s efforts to promote the nation’s railway culture, she said.
Lord Faulkner said that he supports the nation’s bid to make the railway a World Heritage site. He said he remembers boarding the forest railway six years ago to watch the sunrise on Alishan and was deeply impressed by the railway’s operation.
Su Chao-hsu (蘇昭旭), an adjunct assistant professor at National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, has also been a keen advocate, saying in his research that mountain railways designated World Heritage sites were mostly constructed using the five main techniques for building on mountainous terrain — building a horseshoe curve, laying down a spiral route, a zig-zag, using a cog rail and using special engines.
All of these techniques were employed to build the Alishan line, except for the cog rail, he said.
Initially a logging railway that was built during the Japanese colonial era, the forest railway’s management was outsourced to Hungtu Alishan International Development Co in a build-operate-transfer contract in 2008.
However, a decision to allow Taiwan Railways Administration to take over the historic line’s operation was made by the Executive Yuan in 2009, a year after it was damaged by Typhoon Morakot.
Taiwan has not been successful in its bids for World Heritage status in the past because the nation is not a UN member state.