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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection
Waiting for the train to pass in eastern Zhongli

Railways

Who makes the trains run on time?

South Yuanlin Station 南員林站

An old wooden railway station in back alley Yuanlin
An old wooden railway station in back alley Yuanlin. The sign reads “yield before the main road” (ràng qián yǒu gàndào 讓前有幹道).

South Yuanlin Station 南員林站 is an abandoned Japanese colonial era railway station located not far from the newly reopened Yuanlin Station 員林車站 in the heart of Yuánlín 員林, a mid-sized city in central Changhua 彰化. It opened in 1933 as a small stop on the now-derelict Yuanlin Line 員林線 of the Taiwan Sugar Railways 臺灣糖業鐵路, which formerly ran west for about 9 kilometers across the Changhua Plain 彰化平原 to the Xihu Sugar Factory 溪湖糖廠 in Xihu. Apart from facilitating the transport of sugarcane and other cargo this old wooden station also provided passenger service until it was abolished sometime around 1975.

Wuri Stationmaster Residence 烏日車站舊站長宿舍

Wuri Stationmaster Residence
The old stationmaster’s house in Wuri has been left to the elements for years. When will the city get serious about protecting its cultural heritage?

Today I breezed through southern Taichung 台中 on my way to the high-speed rail station and parts beyond. Along the way I made a brief stop in Wūrì 烏日 to follow up on a lead I uncovered while researching my much longer feature about the historic Japanese colonial era Wuri Police Station. Apart from the police station there are two other officially designated historic sites in the district (with nearby Jukuiju Mansion almost certain to become the fourth in the near future). One of these is the former Stationmaster Residence 站長宿舍 next to Wuri Station 烏日車站, pictured here. Despite its status as a heritage property the city has done nothing to restore it and little to maintain the old residence. About all they’ve done in recent years is put up metal fencing sturdy enough to prevent the intrusion of mildly curious explorers such as myself.

In the absence of a more thorough history that’s about all I have to say about this find. For a few more photos of this old ruin have a look at this blog from 2013. Finally, for those of you uncertain who or what a stationmaster is, Wikipedia has you covered.

On the Edge of the Changhua Railway Village 彰化台鐵宿舍村

Changhua Railway Village apartment block
An abandoned apartment block near the entrance to the old railway workers’ village.

Featured here are a handful of photos and some notes from an incomplete exploration of the Changhua Railway Village 彰化台鐵宿舍村 (pinyin: Táitiě Sùshè Cūn) just across the street from the amazing Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫 in Changhua City 彰化市. While living there in the winter of 2014–2015 I made several lazy attempts to gain access to the more interesting and historic parts of the old village without success (mainly due to all the wild dogs around). The only part of the village I was able to explore were some of the newer KMT authoritarian era residential buildings on the edge of the block—which have much less aesthetic and historic value. That being said, since I’ve recently been filling in some archival content from my time in Changhua’s capital I decided to share these photos as well. This is not a full exploration by any means—so if I ever get around to seeing the rest of the old village I’ll be sure to update this post.

Scenes From Everyday Life in Zhongli

Zhongli Station sign I
On the platform at Zhongli Station.

I resided in Zhōnglì 中壢, Taoyuan, for two months at the very end of 2015 for reasons outlined in my first dispatch. In short: I wanted to try out living in another city in Taiwan 台灣 and had a few good friends in the area, one of whom is fellow Canadian blogger Josh Ellis. In my time in Zhongli I captured numerous scenes from everyday life in this burgeoning conurbation of half a million. This post is meant to convey a sense of what it was like to live there for a while—just as I previously did for my time in Wenshan District, Taipei 台北. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide or a review; think of this as a loose collection of snapshots and impressions of a middling Taiwanese city not commonly documented in English.

Tainan Station Foreshadowing

Ticket booths at Tainan Station
The ticket booths at Tainan Station.

Flashback to January 2014. Having previously visited Tainan 台南 on my round-the-island bicycle trip I return for a few days to suss out whether I’d like to move down south or not (which, of course, I do). On my way out of town I snap this photograph of the ticket booths at Tainan Station 台南車站 before walking out to the platform to take the train north to Taichung 台中. I was bound for Taichung Airport 台中航空站 and a brief stay in Hong Kong 香港 to satisfy my visa requirements.

Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫

The fan-shaped roundhouse in Changhua City
The unique railway roundhouse in Changhua City, Taiwan.

One of the most unique attractions in Taiwan 台灣 is the historic Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫, originally built in 1922 during Japanese colonial rule and still in operation today. Although information is hard to come by it seems that it might be the only roundhouse still operating in Asia—and certainly one of the oldest still in regular use anywhere in the world. Every other roundhouse I researched for this article has been abandoned, demolished, repurposed, or converted into a museum, and those rare few that are still operational have been mighty hard to date. As such, the Changhua Roundhouse is a dream to visit for a railway enthusiast like myself, particularly since the ambiance hasn’t been ruined by the sort of tacky treatment you’ll often find at Taiwanese tourist attractions. After signing in with the guard at the gate I had free run of the place—and as you can see from some of the following photos, nobody minded me getting dangerously close to moving trains as the mechanics went about their daily routines.

Paco Railway Station

Paco Railway Station, Manila
Across the street from the ruins of Paco Railway Station in Manila.

Paco Railway Station was built in Paco, Manila, in 1915 during the American colonial period. Designed by William E. Parsons, an American architect mainly known for his work in the Philippines, it remained in service until the mid-1990s when it was partly demolished by a developer intent on building a mall next door. The ruins of that project, never completed, can still be found next to the old station, spreading decay like a cancer through this part of the city.

Alien Skies Over Beitou

Alien skies over Beitou
A strange purple sunset in Taipei.

Last night I saw one of the weirder sunsets I’ve ever seen in Taiwan 台灣. For reasons beyond my understanding the sky turned a vivid shade of lilac after the sun disappeared behind the clouds just as I arrived at Míngdé 明德站 in Běitóu District 北投區. I regularly post-process my images to give them something of an alien aesthetic but there wasn’t any need in this case. I’ve edited the photo to boost contrast but left the toning alone. It really was that shade of purple. And what a strange night it was—crossing paths with the last person I expected to see.

Vintage Style at Hexing Station 合興車站

Vintage clocks at Hexing Station
The old station is now filled with vintage clocks.

Last week I went out with a friend to explore rural Hsinchu 新竹. After checking out a cable car tower in Guānxi 關西 we slipped over the township line to Hengshan to make a brief pitstop at Héxìng Station 合興車站, the only wooden train station on the newly reopened Nèiwān Line 內灣線. Inside the station house we discovered this wall of vintage clocks, obviously somewhat contrived but every bit as photogenic as intended. Although this station (and the rest of the railway line) was built in the 1950s, after the Japanese colonial period, many of these mechanical wind-up clocks bear Japanese names like Gifutokei, Aichi, and, of course, Seiko.

On the Platform at Beitou Station

On the way to Beitou
On the way to the hot springs in Beitou.

I captured this photograph on the platform at Beitou 北投站 in late June of 2013 on the way to the public hot springs in Běitóu District 北投區, the northernmost part of the city of Taipei 台北. This stretch of the Tamsui Line is particularly scenic, affording views of the mountains to the north and east as well as occasional glimmers of the Tamsui River to the west.