Hamasen Railway Cultural Park, Kaohsiung

The giant suitcase statue in the park

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Since its very beginning in the 17th century, Kaohsiung has been Taiwan’s largest port city, linking the island to the rest of the world. During the Japanese colonial era, the area was crisscrossed by multiple railway tracks, with which cargo and passengers were transported back and forth from the port’s train station. As recently as the 2000’s, the freight trains were replaced with a series of oddly-shaped sculptures when the station and its expansive surroundings were transformed into a quaint cultural park.

For much of its modern history, Kaohsiung has been serving as the main seaport of Taiwan, where an ever-expanding harbor accounts for the bulk of the country’s maritime trade. Following the Japanese occupation of Formosa, the city’s first train station was inaugurated on a patch of reclaimed land along the port.

 

In its heyday, the station was a bustling transportation center for both passengers and cargo, where most of Taiwan’s imports and exports were processed on their way in or out of the entire globe. It should then come as no surprise that for decades, it was by far the largest freight station in the island. Over the years, the station went by various names, but it was “Kaohsiung Port Station” that persisted the longest.

 

During World War II, the station was razed to the ground by Allied air strikes and later, in 1947, was rebuilt, becoming yet again a major trade hub. In the years that followed, though, the port expanded further away, rendering its old sections obsolete. In the early 2000’s Kaohsiung sought to change its reputation from an industrial city into a livable place, thus designating the station as a historically significant building.

 

Subsequently, the station was turned into a railway museum showcasing the history of rail transport in Taiwan, while the surrounding plot became the Hamasen Railway Cultural Park, spanning across an area equivalent to 12 football fields. As part of its metamorphosis, the area’s 38 rail tracks were fully preserved, becoming part of an ample lawn.

 

Instead of locomotives packed with goods, the verdant park is now dotted with a series of whimsical sculptures, made primarily of iron. Among the artworks visitors can gawk at are oversized suitcase and phonograph, as well as a sitting corner, depicted by an intricate web of iron bars. The park is short distance away from Pier2 Art Center, another treasure trove of art located in the revitalized waterfront of Kaohsiung.