The Taipei Railway Workshop is being transformed into the National Railway Museum, a project that has attracted much attention from both at home and abroad. To lay the foundations of a sustainable museum and ensure that strategic systems are in place as the restoration work is carried out, the Ministry of Culture has secured authorization from the Executive Yuan for the establishment of the National Railway Museum Preparatory Office (國家鐵道博物館籌備處).
Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun announced the office's formal establishment upon receiving confirmation on Aug. 13. The inaugural staff will soon be formed, focused on the planning of the facilities and systems of the National Railway Museum in an effort to create a "living railway museum" from the registered national historic site.
The Taipei Railway Workshop was completed on Oct. 30, 1935 and remains Taiwan's oldest and largest rail-vehicle repair workshop today. In terms of architecture, technology, labor culture, and the development of transportation in Taiwan, it has substantial industrial and historical value.
After the Taipei Railway Workshop's operations moved to the Fugang depot in Taoyuan's Yangmei District during late 2012, the Taipei site closed down. Thanks to ceaseless efforts from all corners of society, the site was named a national historic site in April 2015.
After her appointment as Minister of Culture, Cheng took an active role in coordinating the project. In July 2017, the Ministry set up a preparatory group for the National Railway Museum at the former workshop, marking the start of the physical and organizational work. Then in 2017 and 2018, two memoranda of understandings were signed with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications with a focus on the museum's establishment and cooperative work thereon.
To restore and revitalize the workshop and complete the facade of the museum, the two ministries set out a 10-year plan for 2017 through 2026, approaching the preparation of the entire site as a whole but adopting section-by-section restoration and re-opening. This year, the general office and employee bathhouse, two sections with substantial cultural significance, saw restoration work begin.
Starting next year, this will be followed by work on the engine room, forge and metallurgy shop, diesel/electric locomotive shop, lobby, erecting shop, new coach shop, and paint shop, with plans to restore them to their original designs. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture will work with the Taiwan Railway Administration on the collection and restoration of important vehicular relics.
Minister Cheng has stated that in the past, the government has emphasized physical construction work over organizational planning and strategic development in the formation and budgeting of public buildings, and it is to address this that the Ministry of Culture has been so adamant in the establishment of a preparatory office for this particular project.
With the establishment of this office, a team will now be set up through assignments to reasonable posts of responsibility, bringing together experts from various fields to work on the planning of the museum and park and on the core business of that museum — its collection, research, restoration, and exhibition of relevant relics.
Once the preparatory plan's schedule is complete, the future operations of the National Railway Museum will need the coordinated efforts of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (on railway technology, relics and resources, and tourism promotion) and the Ministry of Culture (museum operations and railway culture).
To this end, Minister Cheng has engaged in several consultations with the MoTC, and the two sides have currently reached a preliminary consensus, with the ministries set to jointly launch a non-departmental public entity dedicated to the National Railway Museum and draft an act for its establishment before 2027.
Through the restoration of the Taipei Railway Workshop, Minister Cheng commented, and the reinvigoration of both vehicular and mechanical movement, the National Railway Museum is set to be a truly living museum. Not only will it be open to the public and boast dynamic exhibits, it will also be a place where the story of Taiwan's railway history can be told, where that culture can be reflected upon and reproduced, and where Taiwan's memories of its railway culture can be reinterpreted.
Read the original press release here.