Here is yet another roadside curiosity in the deep south of Taiwan: a false tunnel on the coastal plains of Fāngshān 枋山, Pingtung 屏東. It doesn’t cut through any mountainside nor is it built to withstand landslides. It’s just an 1,180 meter tunnel that trains pass through for no discernible reason. I first read about this on Michael Turton’s blog and later saw it on my first round-the-island bicycle tour. More recently, which is to say just a few days ago, I took a spin through the southern loop once again, and spent a little extra time examining this concrete oddity in an attempt to divine its purpose.
At first I was working with the idea that it’s yet another Japanese colonial era military structure much like the anti-aircraft turret that I had chanced upon previously. It didn’t look quite so old—but it’s made out of concrete and might have been renovated at some point given that it is still in active use.
Like most of these small mysteries all it took was for me to transcribe the characters on the plaque over the entrance: Jiāhé Zhētǐ 嘉和遮體. Google hasn’t been any help in translating this name—perhaps Jiahe Railway Tunnel might suffice? At any rate, knowing the formal name opens up a tremendous amount of information in the Chinese language blogosphere, for instance here, here, here.
From the aforementioned links I’ve been able to puzzle out what this place is really for. It was completed in 1991 to shield passing trains from the navy’s live ammunition tests on the hillside beyond—hence the added bulk on the seaward side of the tunnel. By that time some genius had come up with a better idea than building a false tunnel more than a kilometer long: why not shoot at some other target that doesn’t have passenger trains running in front? Naval exercises were moved further south to someplace in Héngchūn 恆春 nowhere near the railway system and from the sounds of it this garish, improbable monstrosity never saw any use whatsoever (apart from lining the pockets of some contractor somewhere).