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Alishan Forest Railway Branch Lines at an Altitude Greater than 2,000m above Sea Level

2021/05/09
Alishan Forest Railway

Alishan Forest Railway between Chiayi Station and Alishan Station is also known as “Alishan Forest Railway Main Line.” Besides the main line, there are five branch lines from Alishan Station, including Zhushan Line, Zhaoping Line, Shenmu Line, Shuishan Line and Mianyue Line within the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. However, the operations of the Shuishan Line and Mianyue Line have been suspended. They are the world’s rare high-altitude mountain railways at an altitude greater than 2,000 m, an invaluable cultural heritage of Alishan.

Point-to-Point (P2P) Transportation Service- Alishan Electric Tourist Bus
Among all the tourist attractions, the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area is the first one to provide an electric tourist bus service as part of the environmental protection plan concerning all aspects including green energy, afforestation and a low-carbon life so that tourists can help protect the forest.

The electric tourist bus provides a point-to-point transportation service passing several hiking routes in the recreation area. The points for tourists to get on and off the bus are the Bus Depot, the Visitor Service Center, Zhaoping Station (in front of Zhaoping Park) and Xianglin Station (next to Shouzhen Temple). Ticket sales and tourist services are available at each point, including tour guides and the purchase of tickets. For more details, please visit the official website.

The Starting Point of Alishan Forest Railway Branch Lines: Alishan Station
Alishan Station is the terminal of Alishan Forest Railway Main Line, and is the starting point of the branch lines, including Zhushan Line, Zhaoping Line and Shenmu Line. The old Alishan Station collapsed in the 921 Earthquake in 1999. The newly built station is a wooden structure featuring a line of timber pillars with semicircular-arched roof panels stretching outward on the platform. Besides, the second and third floors are equipped with an observation platform. On sunny days, they are great spots for overlooking Tashan, enjoying scenes of the sunset, the rosy clouds and a sea of clouds. 

Alishan Station

■ Zhushan Line (Alishan- Zhaoping- Zhushan)
This line is at an altitude of 2,451m above sea level and 6.25 km away from Alishan Station. The total one-way travel time is 30 mins.

Completion of the Zhushan Line was in 1986, making it the first mountain railway built for visitors traveling to watch the sunrise in Zhushan. It operates round trips daily between Alishan Station at 2,216m above sea level and Zhushan Station at 2,451m above sea level. Thus, Zhushan Station is the highest railway station in Taiwan and a well-known spot to watch the sunrise in Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. Because Zhushan Station, which was built many years ago, could no longer meet the functional requirements, a 17-month rebuilding project started on October 14, 2020. At present, the temporary terminal station of Zhushan Line is the Duigaoyue Station, a distance of 1 km away from the Zhushan Viewing Lot, and Mt. Ogasawara Viewing Lot is within 20 to 30 minutes walking distance. Both are good locations to watch the Alishan sunrise and beautiful scenery 

In Taiwan, the days are longer in the summer and shorter in the winter, so the departure time of the Sunrise Watching Train may change depending on the season. Usually, the train leaves 1 hour before sunrise; the earliest departure time is 4:30 am in the summer, while the last train departure time is 6 am in the winter. Visitors who plan to take the Zhushan Line should check for the up-to-date departure schedule one day ahead of their travel schedule with the hotel staff. During peak season, visitors are suggested to make a reservation to avoid disappointment. Regarding ticketing and the train schedule of the Zhushan Line, please visit the official website of the Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office for more detailed information.

Nearby Sights Worth A Visit Zhushan Sunrise View Lot, Mt. Ogasawara Viewing Lot

Highlights After watching the sunrise, visitors can walk downhill on the Zhushan Forest Road that connects to Zhushan Footpath, an experience of refreshing natural atmosphere in the mountain forest. Maybe there’s a chance to see the national bird of Taiwan which appears on the NTD$1,000 bill, a beautiful “Mikado pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado)” searching for food. 

Zhushan Line (Alishan- Zhaoping- Zhushan)

■ Zhaoping Line (Alishan – Zhaoping)
This line is at an altitude of 2,274m above sea level and 1.3 km away from Alishan Station. The total one-way travel time is 6 mins.

Of all the Alishan Forest Railway Branch Lines, Zhaoping Line has the shortest route with a total length of just 1.3 km; however, beautiful scenery along the route makes it an amazing scenic train ride, especially during the cherry blossom season. The steam train passing close by the hiking trail with cherry blossoms in the background makes this one of the popular cherry blossom spots that attracts fans of both cherry blossoms and railway photography. 

The Zhaoping Station is at the site of old Alishan Station, which was built in 1914; it was the terminal station of Alishan Forest Railway Main Line. However, after the station was destroyed in a fire, the new station began operations in 2013. Using Japanese timber framing techniques and the “pre-cut joint” method, the construction does not contain a single nail or screw. It is great example of a vintage-style Japanese railway. 

In Zhaoping Station, visitors can see beautiful scenery from the sky bridge in Zhaoping Park. They can also get to the Giant Tree Park Trail in the neighborhood. The trail entrance is next to the historical Alishan-Gou Hotel. By walking downhill on the stone steps, visitors can find the Shenmu Station after passing through the Giant Forest.  

Nearby Sights Worth A Visit Sky Trail, Cherry Trail, Alishan Eco-Education Center, Taiwan Pleione Formosana Story House, Zhushan Footpath, Shuishan Trail, and Sister Ponds.  

Highlights Zhaoping Park, which is next to Zhaoping Station, is covered by high mountain plants. It is the most popular flower observation spot in the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.

Zhaoping Line (Alishan – Zhaoping)

■ Shenmu Line (Alishan – Shenmu)
This line is at an altitude of 2,138m above sea level and 1.7 km away from Alishan Station. The total one-way travel time is 7 mins.

The Shenmu Line between Alishan Station and Shenmu Station has a total length of 1.7 km. In the past, it got its name from the Taiwan red false cypress standing on both sides of the track. Many people rode the train just to see the soaring giant tree. However, to avoid the risk of trees falling caused by lightning strikes or heavy rain and winds, the giant tree was laid flat on the ground in 1997. Today, the remains of the Alishan Sacred Tree next to the station is one of the New Eight Scenes that symbolizes the spirit of the giant trees, the endless circle of life. 

Besides seeing the giant trees, riding the Shenmu Line is the best way to explore Switchback, which is one of the five kinds of railway technology. The Shenmu Line is a section of the zig-zag railway. Due to the geographical restrictions, the train can’t make a U-turn. Visitors can see the locomotive always facing the same direction; the train seems to be pushed into the station and pulled out of the station.

Nearby Sights Worth A Visit Giant Trees, Shenyi waterfall, Ciyun Temple, Tree Spirit Pagoda, Alishan Museum, Xianglin Sacred Tree, and Shouzhen Temple.

Highlights There are two Giant Tree Park Trails with a total of 36 thousand-year-old Taiwan red false cypresses with a numbered introductory signboard. Although the trail is a little more than 1 km, it has the highest giant tree density in Taiwan.
  

Shenmu Line (Alishan – Shenmu)

■ Shuishan Line (Train operation is suspended.)
It is at an altitude of 2,323m above sea level and 1.6 km away from Alishan Station. The total round-trip walking time is 1.5 hrs.

The Shuishan Line is between Alishan Station and Zhaoping Station. It was built during the Japanese occupation and used for the transportation of timber. In 1971, due to the construction of the Alishan Highway, some sections of the railway were taken over by compulsory acquisition and the railway operation was suspended. At present, a length of 1.6 km railway track has been renovated. At the same time, the construction of the Shuishan Station and antique architectural Wooden Trestle has been carried out. Although the train operation hasn’t been reactivated, the Shuishan Trail has been built along the railway track. 

The trail entrance is next to the Police Lodge. Visitors can start hiking from Zhaoping Station and reach the entrance after a 5-minute walk. Beside the railway remains, tall Taiwan red false cypresses and Japanese cedar trees grow along the trail, which is covered by scented wood chips to make walking easier. At the end of the trail, there’s the antique architectural Wooden Trestle, a very special architecture. Visitors can continue hiking for another 200m to reach one of the Eight New Scenes, the “Shuishan Giant Tree” by passing through the mixed forest of Red Cypress and Cryptomeria Japonica. Of all the giant trees in Alishan Recreation Area, the Shuishan Giant Tree is the largest, and at an age of about 2,700 years old, with a circumference of 16 meters and height of 30 meters, this magnificent tree exudes vitality.

Nearby Sights Worth A Visit Giant Hollowed Tree Trunk, Red Cypress and Cryptomeria Japonica Plantations, a scenic view of Tashan, the Holy Mountain of Tsou

Highlights The largest giant tree in Alishan National Forest Recreation Area- Shuishan Giant Tree


■ Mianyue Line (Train operation is suspended.)
This line is at an altitude of 2,318m above sea level and 9.26 km away from Alishan Station. The total round-trip walking time is 1.5 hrs.

Mianyue Line is also known as the Tashan Line. It was built in 1915 as one of the two forest railway lines in the past. It had a total length of 9.26 km between the Alishan Station and Shihou Station, the longest branch line in the history of Alishan railway operations. It passed over 24 bridges and through 12 tunnels. The railway was first used for the transportation of timber, but was later adapted for tourism use in 1983. Besides the primitive natural landscape along the way, it passes through the Taiwan Pleione Formosana Protected Area and ends at Shihou Recreation Area, which was a must-visit attraction in the past. However, the railway foundation and tunnels collapsed in the 921 Earthquake in 1999, and were further damaged during Typhoon Morakot in 2009. Train operations have been suspended ever since.

Nearby Sights Worth A Visit Taiwan Pleione Nature Reserve and Tashan, the Holy Mountain of Tsou

Reminders to Visitors
To go on the footpath beside the Mianyue Line past the “Taiwan Pleione Nature Reserve,” it’s mandatory that all visitors hiking on the trail apply for an entry permit via the online system, “Application for Entry Permit to Forestry Bureau Conservation Areas”. The application should be submitted 5 – 60 days ahead of schedule. Fourteen days before entry, the application will be randomly selected before the evaluation process. Once it has been approved, no changes to the list of group members can be made. 

“Taiwan Pleione Nature Reserve” has temporarily stopped accepting entry permit applications due to the renovation of Tashan Trail. The estimated time of reopening is before June 2021. Related information (about the reopening date) can be found on the website of the Taiwan Forest Recreation  or the Facebook fan page of the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.

Alishan Forest Railway