Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Taipei Railway Workshop - A 'work-in-progress' Museum

It’s very rare to see a museum as a work in progress. This is what I saw on my visit to the Taipei Railway Workshop Museum. This was the actual workshop where Taiwan’s trains were repaired beginning during the Japanese occupation and used through the turn of the century. This is a huge complex with many large buildings that housed the locomotive engines and passenger cars for repair. Also, adjacent was a machine shop which could fabricated any part needed for the trains.

After Taiwan’s rail system was electrified and maintenance facilities spread along the new line the large workshop in Taipei became redundant and obsolete. Many people had a vision of turning the old workshop into a Railroad Museum. For more information on the museum's progress, check out this link here.

The employee bathhouse was first to be designated a historical landmark in the early 80's and preservation was carried out shortly after. The other buildings are pretty much how they were when the workshop closed earlier this century.

Communal bath

I went on a ‘reservation only’ tour. The only way to currently see the workshop is by a guided tour and the tours are only given in Chinese. There is a very limited schedule for tours. Check this website for more information here.

From what I saw, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make this a world class museum. The preservation of the huge buildings I’m sure will be very expensive. Then you have the restoration costs of the locomotive engines and passenger cars.  Regardless of the current state of the workshop, I felt honored to have seen it as it was left when the shop closed. It was kind of eerie how the tools were still left out and the workers’ names were on the chalk board.

My hope would be that Taiwan can turn this into a Taiwan transportation museum displaying everything from pedicabs to the high-speed train. I think for this size of undertaking they will need help from corporate sponsors or income from renting out some of the space in those huge buildings. I could see the restoration of the old trains keeping many people busy for a long time. All Aboard Taiwan!

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