I’m Taiwanese-by-marriage, so I frequent central Taiwan. Although my knowledge of trains pertains mostly to Hong Kong, I’ve become moderately versed in the railways of Taiwan.

As many know, about 15 years ago Taiwan introduced its high-speed rail trunk line, the THSR. Like the JR Shinkansen network, it operates on standard-gauge with max operational speed at 300 km/h. This is the preferred way of travelling between the 3 major cities of Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung on the heavily populated western coast.

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The normal rail lines, however, have a good variety of rolling stock. Aside from the metro-like EMUs (blue livery), there are the older intercity trains and newer coach EMUs for the less-populated eastern coast.

What I’ve learned so far about the “low-speed” railways:

  • The network is all narrowgauge (1067 mm). Taiwan’s railway network, along with various local industries, developed during the Japanese colonial era in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This gauge is also the standard in Japan’s non-HSR networks due to mountainous terrain.
  • For the same reason, the trains travel on the left despite road traffic travelling on the right.
  • As speeds increased, the need for tilting trains came. Beginning with the Taroko Express (orange/white livery) and now including the Puyuma Express (red/white livery), the tilting trains can operate at up to 150 km/h on their narrowgauge lines. Both are based on JR EMU designs.
  • As far as I am aware, normal passenger services are completely electrified.

Here is a beautifully shot video of various non-HSR trains at speed in Taiwan.

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