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

Loop track and spiral track

The mountain railway was laid on a loop track and spiral track, and the track even spiral upward around the Alishan in many circles to reach the higher positions. The track that circles around the center of the circle is called a Loop line. If the track that circles around the center of concentric circles or around different centers of different circles is called a spiral line. As the Alishan Forest Railway spirals around the Duli Mountain, and the train can be seen appear three times at different heights.

  • Loop track and spiral track
  • Loop track and spiral track

Switchback

To enable trains to run up a mountain, the grade of the track must be gentle, but the S type line and U-turn line cannot be used and the Loop line and Spiral line can't be laid when the slope is not gentle enough. As a result, the track must go up and down steep slopes and around sharp bends like climbing the stairs, to enable trains to run up the mountain. In general, a switchback greatly affects the ridership and the speed of trains, so it will 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 track and 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. So some specially designed rolling stock was developed. Most of the trains 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 180o return bend

In order to reduce the slope of the track, the mountain railway usually winds along valleys or streams, and even winds along a 180o return bend, also known as U-shaped turn, to enable trains to run 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 Mululiao 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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