Many people have seen on the internet a railway that crosses a football field, the scene of the steam train passing through a football game as everyone watched had created a deep impression. This railway is located in Slovakia and named Čierny Hron Forestry Railway
, and today (December 5), it has become sister railways with the Alishan Forest Railway.
This December (2018) is the 106th anniversary since the Alishan Forest Railway came into operation. On this historic day, a Letter of Intent was signed by Director Lin Hua-Qing and Chairman Bilek of the Čierny Hron Forestry Railway for the Alishan Forest Railway and the 110-year-old Slovak Čierny Hron Forestry Railway, at the Alishan Forest Railway Garage Park in Chiayi. This is the ninth sister railway between the Alishan Forest Railway and foreign countries after Japan, Switzerland, India and, the United Kingdom.
Slovakia is located in central Europe. The country is in an oval shape that extends from the east to the west, seeming like a big fish that is meandering between the countries of Central Europe. It is similar to the whale shape of Taiwan that extends from north to south. The area of the country is 49,000 square kilometers, about 1.3 times that of Taiwan and it is also a country rich in mountain forest resources. n 1908, Slovakia built the Čierny Hron Forestry Railway for the development of the mountain forests. To adapt to the shallow hilly terrain of the country, it had adopted a narrow track of 760 mm and a smaller turning radius, with a total length of 131.98 km. Operation ceased in 1982 after it was taken over by road transportation.
In 1992, with the efforts of enthusiastic railway fans and community groups, the steam train resumed operation and transformed into a sightseeing tour train. The current operating distance is 20 kilometers. Volunteer teams are responsible for the operation, maintenance, and service of the train. With its route through the lush green grass, it has become a popular railway trip for tourists from all over the world.
The Forestry Bureau pointed out that the Čierny Hron Forestry Railway management team came to Taiwan to visit the Alishan Forest Railway in April, 2016. After that, the country’s representative in Taiwan, Mr. Martin Podstavek, personally visited the director of the Forestry Bureau, Lin Hua-Qing, in January 2018, where he actively expressed the great willingness for both parties to sign the sister railway agreement. After Lin Hua-Qing led a delegation for a return visit in June 2018, he found that the track distance and age of the Čierny Hron Forestry Railway and the Alishan Forest Railway are similar. They were originally designed for the purpose of transporting timber, and both are now a tourist train with much similar history and background. In addition, the shape of both countries are similar and the people are also kind and hospitable, which further promoted the two sides to conclude the sister railway agreement and establish a relationship of cooperation.
Lin Hua-Qing said that although the Alishan Forest Railway has a similar background to Čierny Hron Forestry Railway, Alishan Forest Railway had slightly better luck. For example, Čierny Hron Forestry Railway had once ceased operations and many sections of the track had been dismantled. It only managed to gradually resume operations with efforts from the community, and currently it only operates over a distance of 20 km. Alishan Forest Railway has always been in operation and is maintained by the government. After more than a hundred years of weathering and hard work, the Executive Yuan approved the establishment of a special organization, the “Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office” in July this year to provide it with more and support.
Chairman Bilek of the Čierny Hron Forestry Railway praised and admired the precious SHAY steam locomotive that the Alishan Forest Railway has preserved. He said that Alishan is a unique natural treasure in Taiwan, and that the Alishan Forest Railway is a precious forestry cultural asset. In the signing ceremony, Bilek specially pointed out that for heritage railways, in addition to retaining the traditional railway technology and construction methods, how to combine the local customs, history, culture, environmental resources, and industry are crucial factors for transforming the tourism railway. He is willing to share Slovakia’s experience in preserving forest railway and culture he also hopes that the forest railways of the two countries will have a close exchange relationship.
The Forestry Bureau said that Alishan Forest Railway and Čierny Hron Forestry Railway signed a letter of intent for cooperation, it is the fifth country in cooperation and ninth sister railway to the Alishan Forest Railway, following the narrow track cultural heritage railways of Japan’s Ōigawa Railway and the Kurobe Gorge Railway, Switzerland's Matterhorn Gotthard Railway and the Gornergrat Railway, the United Kingdom’s Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, India’s Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka Shimla Railway. In the future, it will continue with exchanges with sister railways with regards to operation and maintenance, technology preservation, and marketing and publicity, to actively enhance international visibility and work towards the aim of being a world-class cultural heritage railway. At the same time, through combining the natural and cultural features of forestry railway tourism, it can shape the ecological and cultural tourism belt of the Greater Chiayi area, and dynamically preserve the beauty of the Alishan Forest Railway.