Features and Natural Landforms

The Alishan Forest Railway has the following important features which make it no inferior to any of the railways listed as world heritage. We hope that citizens could realize our precious cultural asset—Alishan Forest Railway, and come to enjoy the trip.

The slope is steep and the curve is small

  • Horseshoe bend

    Horseshoe bend

  • Duli Mountain spiral

    Duli Mountain spiral

The Alishan Forest Railway is 71.6 kilometers long and divided into two sections: the level ground section and the mountain section. From Chiayi Station to Zhuqi Station, the length is 14.2 kilometers and the terrain is flat, therefore called the level ground section without curved paths and steep slopes. The smallest radius of curvature is 160 meters and the steepest slope is 2%. The length from Zhuqi Station to Alishan Station is 57.2 kilometers. Because ridges and peaks rise one after another and the terrain is steep, this section is called the mountain section with a maximum slope of 6.25%.

Duli Mountain spiral

Due to the steep slopes, the railroad could not be elevated and it is necessary to wind along the terrain. The five-kilometer long railroad around the Duli Mountain has to be spiraled upward to the top of the peak with three circles. When the train winds around the peak, passengers on the train can see the Zhangnaoliao Station under the mountain for three times from the left and right side of the train. Then the train leaves the Duli Mountain along the track in the shape of "8". At this time, passengers can see the Zhangnaoliao Station for the fourth time.

Horseshoe bend

There are many places along the railway line designed with horseshoe bends, such as the 180-degree bend at the 17 km milestone of the Alishan Railway on the Zhuqi Jiaren Mountain. The railway winds along the 180-degree curve to spiral upward.


After Pingzhena Station, the track zigzags forward. When traveling along the third switchback, the train sometimes pulls forward and sometimes pushes back to Alishan. "The Alishan train hits the wall," as the saying goes.

Three forest forms

  • Flat areas

    Flat areas

  • Tropical forest

    Tropical forest

  • Subtropical forest

    Subtropical forest

  • Temperate forest

    Temperate forest

The Alishan Forest Railway runs from Chiayi Station, which is 30 meters above the sea level, to Alishan Station, which is 2,216 meters. Travelling by train along the Alishan Forest Railway, passengers can see the changes of plants of three forest forms, including tropical, temperate and cold forests, and the beautiful landscape of mountains and valleys.
Alishan is characterized by tropical, subtropical, and temperate forests. In the area from the level ground to the 800-meter-high Duli Mountain is the tropical forest. The plants in this area are represented by banyan, longan, acacia, and bamboo. In the area from the Duli Mountain to the 1,800-meter-high Pingzena is the subtropical forest. The representative trees include camphor, tanoak, nanmu, Chinese fir, and cedar. In the area from Pingzena to 3,000 meters above the sea level is the temperate forest, where the cedar, red cypress, Taiwan fir, hemlock, and Armand pine are the main types of trees.
Every year from mid-March to mid-April, the Alishan Flower Season kicks off with cherry blossoms. Taiwan cherry, Kuril cherry, Yoshino Sakura, Oshima Sakura, and Yasu Sakura bloom to the public. From April to May, Taiwan Pleione, Mori Rhododendron, Common Foxglove, Crocus Tritonia, and Chinese Wisteria compete for diffusing fragrance. In addition, there is a "Taiwan Pleione Natural Reserve" on the rock wall between the 5th and 10th tunnels of the Mianyu Line. Taiwan Pleione (one leaf orchid) is a Perennial herb. It is called one leaf orchid because there is only one leaf grow under the flower. It is a very precious endemic to Taiwan.
  • The Alishan Flower Season

    The Alishan Flower Season

  • The Flower Season

    The Flower Season

Steam locomotives

The Alishan Railway climb up a very steep slope. In order to adapt to this special environment, the Office of the Taiwan Governor-General purchased the 18-ton and 28-ton Shay vertical cylinder steam locomotives manufactured in 1881 from the American Lima company in 1911. This early-made locomotive was equipped with vertical steam cylinders on its left or right side and cylindrical compressed air reservoir like a torpedo on the same side. There is a trademark on the large trumpet-shaped chimney at the front of the locomotive. To function well for climbing the steep slope, the lower end of the steam engine is equipped with a bevel gear to match the axle, so as to use rotation to get the locomotive to move forward.  
  • Steam locomotives

    Steam locomotives

  • SHAY Steam locomotives

    SHAY Steam locomotives

Narrow gauge railway

The Alishan Railway is Asia's "highest" narrow-gauge mountain railway, surpassing the Indian Darjeeling Himalaya Railway.


The Alishan area is rich in forest resources, so it is a good habitat for wild animals. However, due to the long-term exploitation of the forests in middle and high altitude areas, the ecological environment has been damaged seriously, causing the animals to migrate to high-altitude mountainous areas. According to preliminary investigations, there are 19 kinds of mammals in the Alishan area, two of whom are protected species including Formosan macaque and Formosan Reeve's muntjac. There are 75 species of birds, six of whom were endangered species including black eagles, Hodgson's hawks, Swinhoe's pheasants, Mikado pheasants, and Tawny fish owls. There are eight species of amphibians and reptiles, one of whom, Buergeria robusta, is rare and protected species. There are 194 species of butterflies, accounting for more than half of Taiwan's butterflies. There are 6 species of fish and 2 species of crustaceans. Among them, Chinese mountain pit viper, collared bush robin, Candidiopotamon rathbuni, Hynobius arisanensis, white-eared sibia, and Formosan black bear are endemic to Taiwan.

  • Buergeria robusta

    Buergeria robusta

  • Taiwan Sibia

    Taiwan Sibia

  • Common Mormon

    Common Mormon

  • Swinhoe's Pheasant

    Swinhoe's Pheasant