Alishan Forest Railway was built using four of the five major methods of constructing mountain railway

Loop line and spiral loop

Mountain railways often depend on loop lines and spiral loops, and the railroad even spirals upward around the peaks in many circles to reach the higher positions. The railroad that circles around the center of the circle is called a Loop line. The track that circles around the center of concentric circles or around different centers of different circles is called a spiral loop. As the Alishan Forest Railway spirals around the Duli Mountain, and the train can be observed three times at different heights.

  • Loop track and spiral track
  • As the Alishan Forest Railway spirals around the Duli Mountain, and the train can be seen appear three times at different heights.

Switchback

To enable trains to climb up, the gradient of the railroad must be decreased. When the area is not spacious enough, the S type line and U-turn line cannot be used and the Loop line and Spiral loop can't be laid. As a result, the railroad must go up and down steep slopes and around sharp bends like climbing the stairs, to enable trains to climb up the mountain. In general, a switchback greatly affects the ridership and the speed of trains, so it would be adopted when there is no other choice. The switchback of the Alishan Forest Railway is the most popular in Taiwan. The train comes up from the right side and returns to the left side for climbing the slope while running along the switchback.

  • Switchback
  • The switchback of the Alishan Forest Railway is the most popular in Taiwan

Specially designed mountain train

Some mountain railways or forest railways, because of the rough railroad, the sharp curve, and steep grade, were not suitable for ordinary trains to negotiate them in the early days when trains were pulled by steam locomotives. Therefore, some specially designed rolling stocks were developed. Most of the locomotives were eliminated in the 20th century due to the dieselization and even electrification of the railway. Those steam locomotives still running today have been restored mostly based on the preservation of heritage railway.

  • Specially designed mountain train
  • Those steam locomotives still running today

S-type track and 180-degree return bend

In order to reduce the slope of the railroad, the mountain railway usually winds along valleys or streams, and even winds along a 180-degree return bend, also known as the U-shaped turn, to enable trains to climb up the mountain. This is the most common method for building mountain railways globally regardless of the region. There is a typical 180-degree return bend on the section between Zhuqi Station and Mujiliao Station of Alishan Forest Railway.

  • S-type track and 180o return bend
  • There is a typical 180-degree return bend on the section between Zhuqi Station and Mululiao Station of Alishan Forest Railway.
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