After Alishan Forest Railway was opened to traffic in 1912, its main task in the early days was to transport woods with a compact network at the Alishan Forest Farm. After logging work ceased in 1963, AFR has been gradually transformed into a tourist railway. To realize nature conservation and maintain forest ecology, the Chiayi Forest District Office conducted forest thinning for several months along Shuishan Line in Alishan Forest Recreation Area. Together with the forest district office, we operated a steam locomotive attached with flat cars to transport woods to represent AFR's classical scenery!
Shuishan Line is the first branch of Alishan Forest Railway in Alishan tree farm. Although it is only 2.1 kilometers long, it laid an important foundation for further development. In 1932, it was extended to Zhizhong (Kodama) and Xingaokou (Niitakaguchi), and reached Dongpu (Tataka), the highest narrow-gauge railway station in Asia then, two years later. There used to be a direct train from Chiayi to Xingaokou, which mountain climbers can approach Yushan more easily.
As Taiwan gradually reduced its timber production, all the branch lines were suspended in 1978. A large part of Shuishan Line has become the current roadbed of Highway No. 18. Except for some sections on Tefuye Trail, the first 1.6 kilometers of Shuishan Line remained and was restored in 2004 to represent the scenery of the wooden trestle. Tourists can walk on the railway, wander in the quiet forest, and closely watch the Shuishan giant tree, making it the most healing trail in the forest recreation area.
According to Chiayi Forest District Office, in order to cooperate with the FSC forest management certification, an ecology survey was conducted before the thinning operation. They also fully communicated with the Tsou tribe to explain the relevant methods and obtain consent. To complete the task, AFR conquered the limited capacity and cleared the railway line to smoothly transport woods for several months.
Huang Miao-Hsiu, AFR's Director, said that the inheritance of the forest railway is the most important task for us. Since 2020, through thematic teaching, the knowledge of forest railway is transformed into skill-oriented courses at nearby schools. We found out that children were curious about logging, skidding, and transportation. Therefore, we invited students from two nearby elementary schools to watch this exciting and special scene.
After hearing the news, various railfans also seized this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture precious images and expressed excitement that they could also testimony the development of Taiwan's forestry through this opportunity. A two-year-old little railfan, also a lover of AFR's latest picture book, arrived at the scene to pursue the view. Railway experts also said that they have never seen trains running along Shuishan line in the past, but this time, the forest railway, steam locomotive, and wood transportation are simultaneously combined. It's very lucky to be able to enjoy this unique beauty in Alishan!
This event includes not only wood transportation but also forestry techniques inherited along with the history. Adapting to the changes of the times, this is the best model for the preservation of the dynamic cultural heritage. AFR dispatches a professional team to record the scene of this historic moment to realize the spirit of "dynamic preservation." It is our mission to inherit the forest railway as a cultural heritage.
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