The Bureau of Cultural Heritage held a forum at the National Taiwan Museum on April 12 to explore preservation strategies for the North-South Light Rail of the Taiwan Sugar Railways (南北平行預備線), a sugar-hauling line that was constructed in the 1950s.
Hosted by Director Shy Gwo-long (施國隆) of the Bureau of Cultural Heritage, the forum invited Taiwan Sugar Corporation representatives and Chang Kun-chen (張崑振), associate professor at the National Taipei University of Technology, to present the railway's background information.
The North-South Light Rail was an industrial railway built for transporting sugarcane during the Japanese colonial era. As the railway was capable of carrying large amount of goods for long distances at a high economic efficiency, it swiftly replaced other transportation methods.
During the 1950s, it ran for 275km between Kaohsiung and Taichung and was outfitted for goods and passenger transportation, as well as for national defense purposes. A daily average of 70 to 80 trains ran on the North-South Light Rail during the height of sugar cane production.
The North-South Light Rail was closed in 1998 following the construction of highways, expansion of transportation infrastructure, and local development of vehicle-manufacturing capabilities.
Associate Professor Chang explained the history, network, background, and the development of the railway in detail for the "Research on the Cultural Heritage, Structure, and Value of the North-South Light Rail" project commissioned by the Bureau last December.
Professor Hung Chih-wen (洪致文) of the National Taiwan Normal University, Supervisor Hsu Nai-yi (許乃懿) of the Railway Cultural Society, and President Huang Wen-chen (黃文鎮) of the Central Line Heritage Railway Society also participated in the forum to discuss methods of railway preservation and revitalization with civil groups.
Representatives from civil groups actively offered advice and comments during the discussion, and affirmed the cultural value of the North-South Light Rail.
Advice from Hung, Hsu, and Huang will also be discussed at further consultative meetings later before the Bureau of Cultural Heritage presents a complete evaluation report.
Director Shy noted that more forums exploring the topic of the North-South Light Rail will be held in the future to solicit ideas from those who are interested in Taiwan's so-called "sugar railways" and the history and heritage of the once-bustling cane sugar industry.
Comprehensive and systematic cultural heritage preservation plans for the North-South Light Rail will also be discussed in the upcoming National Cultural Congress, added Director Shy.