Alishan Forest Railway was listed as a “significant cultural landscape” at July 9 by the Ministry of Culture, marking a momentous milestone in the history of cultural heritage preservation. Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office, which was celebrating the first anniversary of its establishment at the moment, felt being given an utmost responsibility by receiving this great honor.
Lin Hwa-Ching, Director General of the Forestry Bureau, said that since the establishment of “Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office” by Alishan Forest Railway in July of its 106th anniversary, the one-hundred-year history forest railway has finally ushered in its own management office. The Office dedicates to preserve cultural assets related to Alishan forestry as a foundation and then based on this foundation, establish a forestry cultural belt and an ecotourism corridor across Chiayi County. The Alishan Forest Railway and the Cultural Heritage Office have obtained 2 billion of funding from the foresight program, in order to improve the safety of the route of forest railway, purchase new carriages, and deepen the bonding with locals. Research of old forestry farms and stations along the railway, as well as interviews with the local seniors, are carried out to understand the industries, histories, life footprints, and cultural trajectories in the settlements. Relevant results will be presented in the theme-train journey, which will enable the Forest Railway to move beyond its role as a transportation system, deepening the role of the Alishan Forest Railway as the epitome of Taiwan's early industrial development from the aspects of ecology, humanities, and industry.
Today Alishan Forest Railway was awarded Taiwan’s first significant cultural landscape, we especially thank the Ministry of Culture and the Bureau of Cultural Heritage for their long-term guidance and financial assistance. Our thanks also to the encouragement and criticism coming from the locals and the experts of cultural heritage. It is believed that we can create the next 100 years of glory for Alishan Forest Railway, by consolidating the consensus of the central and local governments across counties and cities, the public and private sectors of various industries and the local communities along the railway. Together we support and protect the most precious world-class cultural asset in Taiwan, making the Forest Railway the most glorious symbol of Taiwan when facing the world, thereby ushering in a more splendid future.
Endorsing Cultural Heritage Preservation at National Level to Welcome the Next 100 Years of Glory
Alishan has a vast cypress forest with a reputation of "inexhaustible storehouse", once the first of the three major forest farms in Taiwan, witnessing the history of Taiwan's forestry development. In 1912, the Alishan Forest Railway was opened to 20,000 square meters, standing at the peak of the world's railway technology. Hence the Alishan Forest Railway has four major construction methods: zig-zag, U-turn, spiral mountain route, and the special Shay Geared Locomotive. It is not only the only forest railway that is dynamically preserved in Taiwan, but also an important cultural asset of technology developed by people of the early 20th century inherited from the 19th century.
The Alishan Forest Railway was originally a forestry facility, and the operation was ended due to the decrease in forest production. Hence, in 1963, the Japan-made, diesel-powered passenger train "Zhongxing" was put into operation to promote the development of tourism. However, the Alishan Highway Bus was launched in 1982, and the operation of forest railway had suffered hardship due to the convenience and speed of highway. The debate on retainment or abolishment was widely discussed in the public. Fortunately, in the same year, the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act was promulgated, and the awareness of the preservation of cultural assets has risen. People starting to see the forest railway from the perspective of "cultural assets", and there seems to be a glimpse of light for the preservation of this precious railway. Since 1988, the Alishan Forest Railway and related railway facilities have been designated by the Chiayi County and Chiayi City for 8 historic sites, and 47 historical buildings have been registered. In 2002, it was listed as one of the 18 potential World Heritage Sites by the Council for Cultural Affairs, Executive Yuan (predecessor of the Ministry of Culture). After 2011, Alishan Forest Railway and the entire railway line were registered as cultural landscapes, which enabled them to survive the crisis of railway escalation. The Alishan Forest Railway has come along the way, like an ill-fated beauty, yet now it has become the first significant cultural landscape in Taiwan.
On July 1, 2018, the Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office was established in anticipation of people from different fields. It is the world's second railway cultural asset preservation agency, which not only opens a new page for the history of the Alishan Forest Railway but also breaks through the traditional cultural asset preservation method. By taking “safety first” as its basic task, moving toward dynamic preservation and sustainable development, and strengthening the interactions between the people and the Forest Railway through deep tourism, in order to deepen the quality of tourism through culture, as well as enhancing culture through tourism. In the future, we hope to cooperate with the Ministry of Culture, the Chiayi County Government, and Chiayi City Government to jointly preserve cultural assets at national-level and welcome the next century.