On what I walk to see...

"Objects do not have any intrinsic meaning- that meaning is conferred on them by us- and that different people, and the same person at different times, may confer different meanings on the same object." (Hammersley, 1989, p. 135)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

North-link line trip 北迴之旅

The last time I took my parents to Taroko Gorge, it was before my accident... the summer of 2006... Yours not-driving-too-well even in times of better motor-coordination drove us all the way from Taipei to Hualien via that mighty dangerous scenic Su-hua Highway (蘇花公路), which runs between Suao township of Yilan and Hualien... built along the cliffs at points... such as the 清水斷崖 (Chingshui Cliff).

Personally, what makes Su-hua Highway dangerous for me to drive on is that, since Hualien is rich in marble, limestone, sand and gravel, there are a lot of huge gravel trucks (砂石車) racing on this winding road... with what seemed to be a scarily dangerous route to me... nothing but the backyard for them truckers...

In addition, closed to where the Philippine Sea Plate subducts under the Eurasian plate, Hualien has a lot of earthquakes.  The earthquakes, heavy rainfalls or typhoons all have resulted in rockfalls in the past... not only blocking the traffic, breaking the road but also pose great dangers to people in the vehicles (death and injuries).  

Given the unpredictable road condition of the Suhua Highway nowadays, in our recent trip to Hualien, instead of renting a tour bus to take us directly from Taipei to Hualien, we actually took the train "Taroko express" to Hualien first before boarding the bus.

I suspect this might be the first take I took the North-Link Line Railway (北迴鐵路)--one of the 10 Major Construction Projects (十大建設).  (The 10 Major Construction Projects were initiated to boost up the economy through the construction of public infrastructures during the 60s and 70s and administered by the late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), who was then the premier of Executive Yuan.)    

The North-link Line segment of the railway runs between the Suao Township and Hualian.  At some point during the trip on the train, I saw the sign of Suao (蘇澳)... and I said out loud... "Suao (蘇澳)."  My dad told me... "No... the North-link Line doesn't go through Suao  (蘇澳)."  Not much later... I saw them gigantic signs  of "Suao xin (蘇澳新)" by a station the train didn't stop at...

So, was it Suao (蘇澳) or not that we were at?  Yes, we surely were in Suao when the conversation took place.  Yet, there is a reason for my dad's comment of Suao is not Suao (蘇澳非蘇澳) as well.  

Original, the plan was for the North-link Line to run between the Suao Station and Hualien Station.  However, due to the protests of Suao residents, the starting point of the North-link line was changed to be the "Suao xin (蘇澳新)" station (also in Suao but at a site different from the "Suao Station").  In addition, the name of the station was changed to "Suao xin (蘇澳新)" on January 1st, 1982 from 南聖湖車站 (Nanshenghu, 6/1/1975-12/31/1981), which was formerly known as the 南新城站 (Nanxingcheng, 4/15/1968-5/31/1975). (Don't worry... I bet the majority of Taiwanese got no inkling about the history of the name change for the Suao Xin station.  8-O lol) 

The construction of the North-link line started on the Christmas Day of 1973 and started its transporting career on Feb. 1st of 1980.  This initial version of the North-link line was 31,029 meters long.  The single-track railway went through 91 big and small bridges and 16 tunnels... with the longest tunnel as the 7757-meter Guanyin tunnel (觀音隧道)--the longest tunnel in Taiwan at that point.

Given the high demand, there were new construction efforts put forth to modernize the North-link line since 1992.  The railroad was electrified in 2003 and expanded to double track in 2005.  Given the railroad was built in the mountains, the expansion project actually involved the construction of new routes and tunnels in various segments of the railroad.  For instance, the 10,307.1-meter New Guanyin tunnel (新觀音隧道) replaced the 7757-meter Guanyin tunnel (觀音隧道)... and it is now the longest railway mountain tunnel in Taiwan.

A little something for your to know on your next Hualien trip... the unmentioned...

Following is a clip of what it be like to going through one of them North-link tunnels... Just as you could not tell when the tunnel was to end.. neither did I... 

Which tunnel is it? Not sure... one of the tunnels about 20 minutes away from Hualien station and between the Heren (和仁) and Hualien station.


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