Under the supervision of Liu Mingchuan, then Governor of Taiwan, the construction of the railroad connecting Taipei and Keelung started in 1887, and by 1893, the rail line had reached Hsinchu. After a change of regime, in 1895 the Japanese colonial government started laying tracks to cover cities south of Hsinchu. In 1908, the North-South Line that stretches from Keelung to Kaohsiung was open for operation. Later construction and renovation extended the routes to Yilan, Hualien, Taitung, and Western areas. In addition to national railways, light rails (nicknamed Tai-train) laid by the private sector also entered the picture, and together they propelled Taiwan’s transportation and industrial development. 


figure1. figure2. figure3. figure4.
figure5. figure6. figure7. figure8.


Before investing in the railroads in Taiwan, the Japanese visited the Philippines in 1897 to study how the British firm, Manila Railroad Company, operated (figure1, figure2, figure3). Later, the Japanese took their experience gained in Taiwan to China and took part in the Chaochow Railroad project through investing, undertaking construction works and providing training programs for technical workers. The project was completed with much acclaim in 1906 (figure4, figure5, figure6). The Taiwan Sotokufu (Taiwan Governor-General Office) was in charge of a wide range of affairs in Taiwan Railway, which included changing land category for railroad usage (figure7, figure8, figure9, figure10), managing line connections and timetables (figure11, figure12), coordinating boat connections to and from Japan (figure13), conducting quarantine and epidemic prevention measures (figure14), and regulating a hierarchical system for policemen and bureaucrats traveling by trains (figure15,figure16).


figure9. figure10. figure11. figure12.
figure13. figure14. figure15. figure16.

Taiwan Railway provided a rather sound employee welfare plan, which became more institutionalized later on. Employees received subsidies for dormitories (figure17, figure18, figure19), medical care (figure20) and off-site treatment (figure21). Those working in Hualien and Taitung were granted an additional fee due to the harsh environment, inefficient transportation service and higher commodity prices in remote areas (figure22). The employees also formed a credit union that served the function of a social security net. In 1905, for example, the union put in 250,000 yuan from its emergency relief fund to invest in the Chaochow Railroad project (figure23). Parallel to the union, a review board consisting of government officials was formed to oversee the union and examine cases whenever members objected to the union’s actions (figure24). 


figure17. figure18. figure19. figure20.
figure21. figure22. figure23. figure24.


Light rails operated by private companies were also subject to government supervision. The companies were obliged to file in business applications (figure25) and annual statement (figure26), while government provided assistance such as lending rails and other appendages without charge to help construct light rails in Taichung and Nantou. Private companies also built light rails for the purposes of developing local industries. For example, the light rail run by Sugar Manufacturing Co. at Yensui carried not only sugar canes but also passengers and freight (figure29, figure30). Katagumi laid light rails around Shanzhugu in Nankang to exploit and transport coal (figure31, figure32, figure33).




figure25. figure26. figure27. figure28.
figure29. figure30. figure31. figure32.


Original Chinese text and images are provied by Taiwan Historica and Institute of Taiwan History of Academia Sinica
Database of the Archives on the Taiwan Government-general(Database of Taiwan Sōtokufu Kōbun Ruisan)