Alishan Railway Drives to Shizilu, Bringing Back Work Opportunities for Local Youth to Return Home

2019/02/25

    Since January 1, 2019, the Alishan Forest Railway has been driving daily to Shizilu. The railway has brought crowds and re-energized the community. It has even attracted four young people to return to their hometown and look back on history to bring back the wooden horse-carriage tracks during the Japanese colonial logging period. Alishan Forest Railway has brought tourists and created local identity, the residents have proactively improved the facilities in the vicinity and created a new look for the community.
Great Efforts to Repair the Damaged Railway for Resumption of Service, Launch of Themed Trains to Boost Tourism
    The 2015 Typhoon Dujuan caused service to stop for many sections of the railway. In order to resume service as quickly as possible, all efforts were put into the repair of the railway and many different themed trains were also launched to boost tourism. In 2017, the "Fenchi Forward Trilogy" was launched, and the train resumed service to Shizilu. In 2018, "Alishan Forest Railway Travels - Journey of Love" was launched to continue with the promotion of the attractions along the railroad, while the "Red Christmas" themed train was so popular that tickets sold out within minutes. To keep up with the festive celebrations, the "Sunrise" Train 1314 was launched for Valentine's Day and received many positive reviews from the passengers! The themed trains have not only brought greater public exposure to the Alishan Forest Railway, they have also attracted tourists and created topics.
Residents Proactively Building Up the Community
    Apart from using different themes and adding on special train services to market the Alishan Forest Railway, much effort has also been put into community management along the routes that the normal train services go past. Since January 1st this year, Alishan Forest Railway has been driving from Fenchihu to Shizilu, which not only mobilized the Shizilu community but also gave the community the drive to once again polish up the sign for "Best Community of 2007".
    Shizilu is situated at the meeting point of the railroad between Dabang and Laiji, in the early days, its residents were mostly lumberjacks. Before the highway was opened, it was a tribal transportation and cargo distribution center and it was also the village that was closest to the indigenous tribes and had the most frequent interactions. With the opening of the Alishan Highway, the number of passengers using the Alishan Forest Railway decreased, and the number of people in the Shizilu community also plummeted. The Chiayi Forest District Office spent three years in community forestry guidance, allowing the teachers and students of the Shizi Elementary School, which was facing closure, to learn about the unique characteristics and natural environment of their hometown. Principal Lin Jin-hua also combined the culture, history, and geographical features of Shizilu in a modern poem in the Taiwanese language, using literature to interpret the local culture. The 2017 launch of the "Fenchi Forward Trilogy" was the first trip of the Alishan Forest Railway to Shizilu station, it brought tourists and new hope to the community. At that time, the Forest District Office used the local features as the overall concept and guided residents to use locally available materials. For example, using bamboo as the creative material, combining the flavor of Alishan tea to design unique local meals, and helping to transform spaces and beautify the surrounding environment, so that the community features gradually became more prominent and the appearance changed gradually. The arrival of Alishan Forest Railway to Shizilu station also awakened the residents' awareness to transform the community. In order to host the visitors, residents developed community specialty dishes, such as zongzi wrapped in the leaves of the local herb "cast-iron-plant", flame-grilled bamboo tube rice, Aunt Ai-jiao's mugwort dumpling, and Village Chief's BBQ. In addition, in order to improve the quality of service, under the advice of the Forest Railway and Cultural Office, the whole village made use of local bamboo and existing timber to beautify the booths, as well as planting flower gardens to decorate the community. They even found an elm-wood hand-washing basin that had been gathering dust for thirty years, which is now put on display to showcase the local features. Not only did this create new a highlight, but is also an example of community proactive self-building.
Youth Returning Home Proactively Revitalizing the Community, Creating New Energy and Reputation for Their Hometown
    With the resumption of the train service, the village has come to life. Four young people saw the changes taking place in their hometown and they returned to start their own business and joined in the community revitalization. Some of them even opened up a coffee shop next to the train station, where it actively took on the role as the visitor information center. Furthermore, this group of young people also began to reflect on the local history, through interviews with the elders, they found the wooden horse-carriage tracks from the early days that was used for collecting timber and transporting wood. Under the guidance of the elders, they took the time to clean up the wooden tracks every day, proactively leading the tourists into the forest to appreciate the cultural beauty of Shizilu. They have also connected with the Toe'uana community, becoming the perfect example of local placemaking.
    The Alishan Forest Railway offers one daily train service to Shizilu. Members of the public are invited to come ride the train to experience the environment and the indigenous culture. Come and witness the new look and enjoy the warmth of the local people! For the related train information, please go to the Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office official website (https://www.facebook.com/AlishanForestRailway.Taiwan). Or visit our Facebook page (https://afrch.forest.gov.tw/0000115).
Last updated on:2019-12-07
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