Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Railways in Taiwan History: Talks on Jun 15, Thurs SOAS

This is a reminder for the 3 talks on the history of railways in Taiwan on 15 June, Thursday, at SOAS. Dr Michael Reilly and Dr Hsu Nai-yi. The talks are free and all are welcome! Details Below

Alisan Train 485 186 56
The Push Cart Lines of Taiwan: The Forgotten Key to The Island's Development?

Michael Reilly Driving Steam Train 485 186 56
Speaker: Dr Michael Reilly

Date: 15 June 2017Time: 1:00 PM

Finishes: 15 June 2017Time: 2:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Talk


The first successful railway in Imperial China was built on Taiwan and railways went on to play an important part in the economic and social development of the island. The role of conventional railways, however, was limited by often formidable geographical barriers and they were built primarily for military and strategic reasons. The narrow gauge ‘push-cart’ lines by contrast have received less attention. With only the most rudimentary equipment and powered by human labour, these are generally seen as only temporary expedients, filling gaps until conventional railways could be built, or as ‘primitive’ technology reflecting the lack of development in Taiwan at the time.

This was certainly how they may have been first conceived. But at their peak they provided a comprehensive, low cost transport network that was highly adaptable and surprisingly long-lasting. Arguably, their extent made them the most important single agent of Taiwan’s economic development in the 1920s and 1930s, playing a role not just in infrastructure and agricultural development but also in the formation of early Taiwanese firms. Often dismissed as basic and low cost, they were carefully regulated by the government and some operators achieved a perhaps surprising level of sophistication and capital raising. Far from being ‘primitive’ they were a remarkably successful adaptation of technology to Taiwan’s specific circumstances, as testified by both their extent and relative longevity.

Largely forgotten today, this presentation considers the reasons for their success and their contribution to Taiwan’s development.

Speaker's Bio

Michael Reilly is a Non-resident Senior Fellow of the China Policy Institute at Nottingham University.

A former career diplomat, he spent over 30 years working for the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, principally handling UK policy towards East and South East Asia. He has had diplomatic postings in Korea, the Philippines, to the OECD and to Taiwan. His final FCO appointment was as Director of the British Trade and Cultural office in Taipei from 2005-2009, the de facto British ambassador to Taiwan.


The operation of the Alishan Forest Railway

Hsu Nai-Yi 240 186 56
Dr Hsu Nai-Yi

Date: 15 June 2017Time: 3:00 PM

Finishes: 15 June 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Talk


Built during the Japanese colonial era, the Alishan Mountain Railway was the first forest and mountain railway in East Asia. It was originally build mainly to carry the cypress wood down to the plains. In addition, it brought tourists to the Alishan Mountain Resort. It is one of the most important railways in the world and a key tourist attraction for Taiwan. It rises from close to sea level in Chiayi City to its peak of 2,216m. It was the first place in Asia to use Shay type steam locos and the last place in the world to use them for industry. It uses many special mountain climbing skills of railway engineering including steep slopes, U-curves, a triple spiral loop and 5 zigzag switchbacks. After the end of logging the line has only operated passenger trains. The railway has faced both meteorological and competition challenges. With the completion of the Alishan Highway, buses and private cars could reach Alishan much faster than the train. The railway has often suffered damage from typhoons and since the Morokot Typhoon in 2009 the railway has been under reconstruction and only parts of the line have been operational. In addition a number of the railway’s branch lines have been closed.

In this talk, one of Taiwan’s leading railway experts and photographers, Hsu Nai-Yi, will discuss the operation of the Alishan Railway and its attempts to cope with its severe challenges.

Speaker's Bio

Hsu Nai-Yi is one of Taiwan's leading railway experts and photographers. He has particularly researched Taiwan's narrow gauge railways. In 2003 he published 《台灣糖鐵攬勝》 a landmark book on Taiwan's Sugar Industry railways and he frequently publishes articles in 《鐵道情報》.

Taiwan Sugar Railways: Decline and Heritage Preservation

Sugar Cane Train
Dr Hsu Nai-Yi

Date: 15 June 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 15 June 2017Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Talk


Taiwan was one of the world’s three major sugar export countries before the 1970s. Sugar exports contributed more than 70% of Taiwan’s foreign exchange earnings at that time. At its peak there were 42 sugar refineries connected by a network of narrow gauge sugar railways reaching over 3,000 km of total length. In addition to sugar cane, these railways carried passengers as well as a range of other freight. For many Taiwanese from South and Central Taiwan aged over 40 these sugar trains are a common shared memory. However, since the 1970s Taiwan’s sugar railway network has been gradually closed down. Today only Huwei and Shanhua Refineries remain producing sugar from sugarcane and Huwei maintains the sole surviving line that still carries sugar cane trains. Five refineries are operating tourist railways. There is a real steam train in Xihu running every Sunday regularly. After being withdrawn from service the No. 175 Diema diesel engine was exported from Shanhua to the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway in Wales.

In this talk, one of Taiwan’s leading railway experts and photographers, Hsu Nai-Yi, will discuss the gradual decline of Taiwan’s sugar railways and the attempts to preserve these as heritage railways.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

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