Elevated railway project faces delays after historic train turntable discovered in southern Taiwan

Chiayi City’s elevated railway project was originally due to be completed by the end of 2025, but will likely face delays after a committee voted to preserve in situ a 116-year-old train turntable.

The Japanese colonial era railway turntable was discovered while excavating the basement of the new Chiayi Railway Station in December 2023. A survey and study of the remnants by the Cultural Resources Review Committee determined that the turntable was built in 1908, and constituted a tangible cultural asset. The committee recently voted 8 – 2 to preserve the turntable on the original site, as moving it would likely lead to it breaking.

As a result of the decision, the design of the new station needs to be adjusted, and this will likely affect the schedule of the project’s completion.

The Cultural Affairs Bureau said that the turntable was built when the through-line was opened to traffic in 1908. It is now 116 years old and is the earliest surviving first-generation turntable structure in Taiwan. It is also the most complete. A similar turntable was unearthed in Tainan in 2020, but only one-third of the original structure remains.

The Cultural Affairs Bureau said that Chiayi Station was the first three-junction station in Taiwan during the Japanese Colonial period, being the meeting of the west-coast line, the Alishan Forest Railway, and the Taiwan Sugar Beigang Line. The remains of the turntable bears witness to the prosperity of Chiayi City at the time.

Not everybody is in favor of preserving the structure on site. Councilor Sun Guanzhi complained that the turntable is “just a concrete structure.” The preservation of the structure on site affects the completion schedule of the elevated railway and will have great impact on economic development of the city, sun said.

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