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September 20, 2017

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Alishan forest railway disrupted by landslide

The Alishan forest railway was disrupted Sunday when a landslide caused by heavy rains damaged a section of the line near the end of a tunnel. According to the Chiayi office of the Council of Agriculture's Forestry Bureau, which manages the rail line, it will take at least 50 days to repair the damaged section of the railway.

A spokesman for the office pointed out that successive afternoon thunderstorms during the past few days caused a landslide near No. 42 Tunnel, located 50 kilometers from Chiayi Station, and damaged the railway. The Alishan railway is said to be one of the world's three remaining alpine railways. The other two are located in northern India, connecting Himalayan mountains, and in the Andean mountain range of South America.

Opened in 1912 while Taiwan was under Japanese rule, the arrow-gauge railway was designed to haul timber down the mountain, but is now mainly used to transport the more than 200,000 tourists who annually visit Alishan to see the area's beauty at an altitude of more than 2,200 meters in Taiwan's Central Mountain Range.

The scenic rail line winds its way up from the subtropical plains of mountainous pine forests in just 72 kilometers, crossing more than 80 bridges and passing through about 50 tunnels. Its route includes a series of dangerous switchbacks. Although the government has been operating the train at an annual loss of about NT$110 million (US$3.35 million), it has decided to reserve the line not only for its historic value but as a means to boost local tourism.

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