Monday, April 11, 2016

Hualien Railway Culture Park (花蓮鐵道文化園區) - Eastern Railway Site (東線鐵道遺址) [Taiwan Day 953: I’ve Been to Hualien Part 4 “On the Right Track” - April 10, 2016]



One of the best things that Japan made to Taiwan during its five decades of colonization is the development of the island’s railway systems. A long line of railroad had been laid around the island from Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung in the south. The tracks then continue upwards in the east coast to Taitung and then to Hualien and Yilan County until it reaches Taipei to complete the loop. The railroad along the Pacific Ocean is the East Coast Line and it is the subject of the Part 4 of this “I’ve Been to Hualien” series.

The platform ticket

But before I dwell into the details of my cultural trip, let me tell you first where I stayed in Hualien after my fun trip in Farglory Ocean Park. I stayed at Rear Backpackers Hostel which is only few meters from the Rear Exit of Hualien Station. Its location was the main reason why I chose to stay at this hostel. Since it was located at the back of the train station I bought a NTD 6 platform ticket at the ticket vending machine so that can I get out of the Rear Exit and reach my hostel quickly. This hostel has another bonus aside from the warm welcome and the cheap price of NTD 450 for a 1-night stay at their dorm-type rooms. Rear Backpackers Hostel is in front of a bike rental shop and I was able to rent one for 24-hours at a price of only NTD 250. I just showed my ARC/passport and everything was done quickly. After getting a bike I parked it inside the hostel and then went to bed to regain my strength.



I woke up very early and prepared myself to start biking. There are dedicated biking lanes along the roads of Hualien City and that made my adventure safe. From the hostel, I biked along Fu’an Road then turned to the left at the Zhongshan Road intersection. I cycled until I saw a giant spherical marble spinning above a fountain. I already knew that I was only a few meters from my destination.


























The Railway Culture Park was first conceived in 2002 as an effort to preserve the rich railway history of Hualien. It houses the old facilities of the East Coast Line railway like the control room and staff room. The structures were very Japanese and it was like visiting Japan without ever leaving Taiwan with the steeple at the roof of the Office Building having the look and feel of a church in western countries. Japan established the island’s East Coast Line in 1908 and there used to be railroad tracks that run nearby this railway maintenance facility but in the 1980s the government of Taiwan decided to discontinue its use. 








switchboard












electronic token



the leather case of the electronic token



What’s interesting from this cultural asset of Hualien were the relics of its railway system. There were lamps, old signaling systems and even old uniforms that gave a glimpse of the glory of the Taiwan Railway Administration before the age of internet came. I love museums and I always learn a lot of things from this places. One thing that caught my attention in the railway park was the electronic token. It was a small round piece of metal looking like a coin and placed in a small leather jacket which is then attached to a large metal ring. The main use of this token is to let the train driver know that it is safe to pass by the rail road and there will be no collision from any other train especially if there is only a single railroad track.

The large ring actually intrigued me and I watched videos in YouTube on how train drivers and another railway staff standing on the platform exchange tokens while the train is running. The large circumference of the ring actually helped in the passing maneuver. There is also a machine which is then feed with tokens and some piece of information is transferred trough a telegraph or telephone lines. It was great to know these things and this was something that I wouldn’t know if I haven’t been to this place. 







budokan





The Old Maintenance and Construction Office is now the Old Rail Bar



On the other side of the road was another complex of old Japanese buildings. There was an old locomotive train and I have fun lying on the railroad tracks as if I was going to be run over by the train. The Old Maintenance and Construction Office is now the Old Rail Bar and and if you want to buy souvenirs related to Hualien’s railway history you can find them here. A Japanese police station called the budokan also stands here. There was social unrest during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan and some people even tried to build houses along the railroad tracks. A railway police force was then established to protect the railway with its office located at this bodukan structure. People who broke the law were put in a Detention Center which is a separate structure beside the budokan. There was also a smithery where the repair needs of the trains were accommodated.



Hualien province was known to be the Karenko Prefecture and it was not surprising to see these Japanese-style buildings. I wanted to see more of these colonial structures and I got information that I can find many of these in the so called Japanese immigrant towns. These towns had been already forgotten by time but there were still surviving buildings that help remember their existence. I biked again to reach one of these lost Japanese villages knowing beforehand that the present Ji’an Township was actually the old village of Yoshino. I pedaled fast along Zhonghua Road and I knew that I was on the right track. (To be continued…)

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