Taiwan train car ridden by emperor opened to the public
TAIPEI--Taiwanese train buffs got a rare treat when a plush railroad car for VIPs, including Emperor Hirohito, used in Taiwan when it was under Japan’s colonial rule, was opened to the public here on June 7 by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA).
The SA4101 was manufactured in Taipei in 1912. Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, rode the passenger coach in 1923 when he was the crown prince, whereupon it has been known as the “flower car for the emperor” in Taiwan.
The wooden train car, made of such trees as Japanese cypress, teak and camphor laurel, consists of four rooms, including a dining room, and a lavatory. Its interior is decorated with lacquered patterns and carvings. Stained glass is also installed under the ceiling.
Even after Japan’s colonial rule ended in 1945, the railroad car was used by the Taiwanese government, led by the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang). According to TRA’s office in charge of the passenger car, there are photos taken in 1966, showing then Taiwanese President Chiang Kai-shek using the coach.
In 1969, a new railroad car, named SA32820, was manufactured exclusively for use by the Taiwanese president. It was equipped with a bed and a table for meetings. In 1991, then Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui used the SA32820.
After that, however, airplanes supplanted trains as the transport mode of Taiwan's top leader. Lee’s successors--former President Chen Shui-bian and current President Ma Ying-jeou--have not used the SA32820 at all.
Under Japanese colonial rule, another passenger coach, SA4102, was also manufactured in 1904 for the governor-general of Taiwan, who was sent to Taiwan by the Japanese government to rule the island.
The SA32820 and SA4102 were also opened to the public along with the SA4101 on June 7. However, there is no plan for a permanent exhibition of the three railroad cars as Taiwan has no railway museum, which is a popular attraction in Japan.
By Takio Murakami
The Asahi Shimbun AJW
12 June 2012
The inside of the SA4101 passenger coach. It is divided into four rooms. (Photo by Takio Murakami)