Today in Transportation History – 1951: Freight Rail Turns to Tourism in Taiwan

The Neiwan Line, a railway branch line in northwestern Taiwan, was completed. The line, which is run by the Taiwan Railways Administration, covers approximately 17 miles between Hsinchu City and the village of Neiwan in Hengshan Township. Notwithstanding its status as a branch line, the Neiwan Line was built to standards similar to those of a main line; a key difference, however, is that the Neiwan Line has never been electrified. The Neiwan Line also has the distinction of being one of only three still-existing branch lines in Taiwan that started out as construction projects when the island was under Japanese rule (a period that lasted from 1895 to 1945).

The trains on the Neiwan Line were primarily used for several decades to transport local commodities such as camphor (a tree-based substance used for various purposes ranging from food ingredients to medical treatment), limestone, timber, and coal. Ultimately, however, the line took on a new identity as a tourist railway.

This change in roles was emphasized during a ceremony in November 2011. The Neiwan Line’s segment of about six miles between Hsinchu City and Zhudong Township had been closed since February 2007 to allow for both renovations on the segment and construction of the section of a new railway branch line – the Liujia Line – running along that same route. The 2011 ceremony commemorated the Neiwan Line’s resumption of full operations, and Taiwanese Premier Wu Den-yih used the opportunity to highlight a couple of points.

“This special occasion has brought people together from all levels of government and shows what can be accomplished when everyone is pulling in the same direction,” he said. “Steam trains played a key role in building Taiwan’s early infrastructure and this tradition will continue with promoting rail tourism.” Mao Chi-kuo, Taiwan’s minister of transportation and communications, likewise talked about the value of the Neiwan Line when comes to the tourist industry. “This rail route will soon be hosting tourists from all over the country and abroad,” he said. “With the right promotion and support, there is every reason to expect Neiwan can take its rightful place at the head of [Taiwan’s] rail trip table.”

For more information about the Neiwan Line, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neiwan_Line

Additional information concerning the 2011 ceremony for the Neiwan Line can be found in the Taiwan Today article “Hsinchu’s Neiwan Line steams back to life” (11 November 2011) at  http://taiwantoday.tw/print.php?unit=10,23,45,10&post=18736

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