Sinying railway cultural park
Sinying Railway Culture Park
One of the first places to visit on a trip to Sinying is the old Taisugar plant and rail yard, located just a few minutes south of the train station. Since its closure in 2001, the plant has been repurposed as a railway exhibition venue. This open-air museum is heaven for rail buffs. Visitors to the park can freely explore the narrow gauge rail cars and maintenance vehicles, and then take a ride on an old sugar cane train that still runs today.
Sugar has always been a mainstay of southern Taiwan’s economy. It became a major industry during the Japanese era, when large, mechanized mills were built and linked to the sugar plantations via narrow gauge rail networks.
But the real heyday of the industry came in the 1950s, when the Taiwan Sugar Corporation produced and exported over a million tons of sugar a year. At one point, Taisugar controlled about 70% of Taiwan’s foreign trade and ran some 3000 kilometers of mostly narrow gauge rail lines that formed the largest rail network in the country.
As Taiwan modernized in the 1970s, sugar production declined, and in the 1980s, Taiwan’s sugar mills began to close down. Sinying was one of the last to close, and it is still possible to get a feeling for just how large an operation this once was. Besides the sugar mill, the Sinying plant had a central railyard, printing office, company offices, private school, dormitories, company store, and even accommodations for the president.
You enter the park by crossing several sets of tracks. Past these to the right is the station house and rail museum. Here, you can purchase tickets to ride the old cane train to Happy Cow Farm, and browse among the railroad gear while you wait. The museum has an interesting hodgepodge of signal lanterns, wooden brake pads, station switching machinery, and other rail gear from various eras sitting out on shelves.
Behind the building, there’s an unusual alcohol-fueled narrow-gauge Plymouth engine dating from 1948, and a locally manufactured 1958 steam engine. At various points around the park you’ll find a scattering of old Hitachis and diesel-fueled German Diemas, again mostly narrow guage, although there are larger engines here as well. The company store down the road is known for its ice cream—vanilla with red bean sauce is a local favorite—and beyond this are the old offices and dormitories, as well as the school, which still operates today.
Perhaps most rewarding for the visitor is a stroll down the tracks outside the station (keep an eye out for the cane train). This area has two sets of narrow-gauge rail cars complete with engines lined up on the railroad tracks for visitors to explore. The string of cars on the station side were used for repair and maintenance jobs such as trimming trackside weeds. The row on the right includes flat cars for carrying cane, hopper cars, box cars, a tiny cane juice tanker car, and more.
If you ask at the station counter, you can probably get permission to visit the train garage down at the other end of the park. In this area are some larger diesel locomotives, a track laying machine, a large anvil, and loads of equipment, hopper cars stacked with loose train wheels, and the like.
Once you’ve had a look around, come back to the station and take the 50-minute ride on the old cane train, which runs hourly between here and Happy Cow Farm. At 4.6 kilometers, this is the longest of the old narrow-gauge trains still in use in Taiwan. On it, you’ll chug past rice, mulberry, and cane plantations while listening to old Taiwanese tunes and the amusing commentary of the guide. When you return, be sure to take in the Tangfu Printing Museum just outside the park gates before continuing your journey.
No. 158, Jiehe Rd., Liuying Dist., Tainan City
+886 6 6355935