The Suwon – Inchon narrow gauge line: Gojan Station (– Gongdan/Choji Station – Ansan Station) – Oido Station
The original Suwon to Inchon line (수인선 협궤열차) ran all the way from Inchon harbour to Suwon (수원) station, but by the end of the existence of the line this was no longer the case. But like other parts of the line which were still there long after the railway had been closed the part from Ansan (안산) station to Inchon was completely demolished (save for a few bridge and some shorter stretches of line) only relatively recently when the new subway line from Oido (오이도) to Songdo (송도) was constructed on top of the old line. Even more recently other parts were demolished in order to contruct an interchange with the new Daegok-Sosa-Wonsi Line, meaning that a new station (Choji, 초지역) will come into existence soon, replacing Gongdan (공단) Station. Even then however there are still remnants left out there, between Gojan (고잔) station and Ansan station.
The rest of the article including maps and satellite pictures after the break.
After a visit to the Korean topographical services in Suwon I ended up with a lot of maps (both 1:25.000 and 1:50.000) of the whole length of the Suwon to Inchon narrow gauge railway. The office had created 3 map sets for me: 1975, 1987 and 1996, or effectively the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Besides those historical sets (which can only be bought in Suwon) I also bought the current set of maps. This meant I now had highly detailed maps of the entire line. And then I noticed some strange effects… An example can be found on map NJ-52-9-18. This map is part of the 1:50.000 series and is available from a series of years. In this particular example I am showing the 1974, 1985/1987 and 1987/1996 versions of this map.
The whole area in present day Ansan in 1974 (click on the picture for a larger size). During this period Chinese characters were still very common in official publications and maps were no different. The stations on the SuIn line can be seen quite readily on this map, but not every station has been explicitly named. One name, 일리(역) or Illi station, can only be found on this map and the 1985 version of the map, after the opening of the commuter line this became Handaeap Station (한대앞역), by which name it can still be found on the map today.
The line from Suwon to Omokcheon is mainly through build-up area, but after Omokcheon the country really opens up. The dominating feature here is the KTX viaduct built to allow the high speed railway run without interruption from Seoul to Busan. This area is now relatively busy, there are now quite a few people living in the area and many roads are now crossing through the valley. These roads of course were the main reason why the railway was abandoned to begin with: first the buses and later private ownership of cars dealt the final blow to the railway in this area. However, ironically it is the construction of the new commuter line that has destroyed the line in parts of this area.
The map below shows the whole line between Suwon and Ansan. The first article described the part between numbers 1 and 2. This second article describes the line from just to the west of (2) and to the south of (4), mainly around (3).
The rest of the story is available after the break.
A walk on the former narrow gauge line (“수인선”) from Suwon (수원) to Ansan (안산) (in parts). This line was last used on the last day of 1995, but most of the track can still be seen in the country side. However, part of the line is now used to build the new subway line from Suwon to Ansan (and onwards to Inchon), so most of the line will disappear soon. The signs are (literally) all over the place: part of the track bed near the high speed railway line bridge has already been demolished completely and in Omokcheon many signs can be find on the track telling people that their gardens are illegal.
The Naver map below shows the complete route of the narrow gauge line between Suwon (1) and Ansan (5). This article describes the part between Suwon (1) and Omokcheon (오목천) (2), which is mainly in suburban areas. The grey thin line close to the numbers is the new commuter line (currently under construction) between Ansan and Suwon, but since it mostly follows the alignment of the old line it is quite a good indicator of the old line. The line from Omokcheon (2) to Maesong (매송) (3) and Ansan (5) is part of the next article, while the line at Sari (사리) (4) is now completely demolished and nothing can be seen here in this area of Ansan. (Click on the map for a larger size.)
The easiest point to get on the line is near Suwon station, on the western side of the main railway line. On the Google map below that is near Pyeong-dong (평동) (2). The line ends at the Korail mainline (1), and between (1) and (2) the line runs next to an airfield which is also used by the air force, taking pictures here might be illegal… In Gosaek (3) the track can easily be found, while in the fields (4+5) between Gosaek (고색) and Omokcheon the line runs through the country side. In Omokcheong (6) it is not always easy to discover the line, but a lot of it is still there.
A major part of the narrow gauge line from Suwon to Inchon ran through Ansan and surrounding area. This area was until 25 years ago country side: none of the buildings in these pictures existed at the time! Even by the end of the existence of the line, in 1995, most of this area was still country side, although most of line 4 had already been built.
This series of pictures is the line in Ansan from a point between approx. Handaeap Station (한대앞역) and the (future) Sari Station (사리역) under the Yongsingoga Road (용신고가차도) all the way to a point to the west of Gojan Station (고잔역). On the map below (copyright: Naver, this is the location of the map) this is the route of the line 4 (the light blue line) between the two red lines, starting at 1 and walking towards 5. The grey line at 6 is the old narrow gauge line running towards Suwon (the top left of the map is towards Inchon, the bottom right is the Suwon side), but during 2013 and 2014 the new commuter line is under construction here, so nothing can be found there any more.
Near the present day Soraepogu Station (소래포구) on the current Suin (commuter) line from Oido to Songdo a long bridge of the former narrow gauge Suin line can still be found. This bridge is simply named “Sorae Railway Bridge” (소래철교) and as such can be found on the online Naver, Daum and Google maps.
The easiest way to reach this spot is to walk from Soraepogu Station (소래포구) towards the water front. Next to the waterfront the Sorae History Museum can be found, which contains a lot of information about the railway, including an actual carriage from the line! In front of the museum is engine 7 (see a previous article).
More pictures plus maps of the location after the break: Read more
The shortest individual stretch on the SuIn line which can still be found is the short part of the line within Suwon city between the main railway line and the Deogyeongdaero (덕영대로). This part of the line was the connection between the line running through Suwon to the station and the country side. The bridge over the main railway line was lifted after 1995, right after closure. But the track bed and everything else is still very visible there. The pictures were taken in July 2013.
This part of the line can easily be seen on Google Earth by zooming in at this location (switch to satellite view as well). The former line is the grey railway line in the map, and this part is the stretch between the (blue) railway line (the Korail main line) and the (yellow) main road to the right of the former line. The length of the track bed here can’t be more than approx. 100 meters.
More pictures after the break.
While reading an excellent book about the situation in Korea between 1945 and 1950 (“The War for Korea, 1945-1950: A House Burning” by Allan Millett”) I noticed on one of the maps that there were at that time in Korea several narrow gauge railway lines. On the Ongjin peninsula, to the west of Haeju, there used to be several narrow gauge lines, built in the Japanese colonial period. With the current economical situation in North Korea it is unlikely that trains are still running on these lines, but they are certainly not narrow gauge anymore, having been regauged a long time ago. According to the book “Communist logistics in the Korean War” by Charles Shrader in 1950 there were 523 miles of narrow gauge in the whole of Korea. Luckily this book can be found at Google books, see here for the relevant pages.
Sometimes something just needs to be shown once found. When I recently went through all the available maps at the NVBS cartography library I found this jewel of a map. It shows the full railway system of Denmark in May 1968.
The nice thing about such a map is that it shows a lot of railways which have disappeared, although of course many more railways already disappeared before 1968 and so can’t be found on this map. However, lines like the line from Thisted to Norresundy can be found on this map. The only way you can find this line on a modern map would be to look for the telltale line of a dyke going seemingly without reason running through the landscape.
Another line still on this map which can no longer be found is the railway on Bornholm, shown in the right-hand lower corner of the map. At the time of printing the days of the line were already numbered, and this is the last remnant of the network. But in 1968 it was still possible to take the line from Ronne to Nekso.
These days the Korean alphabet is being exported abroad as a possible letterset for nations without their own set of characters. If that initiative is going to make it or not has to be seen, but the only minor success so far has been amongst a group in Indonesian, the Cia-Cia on the island of Buton. But this is not the only connection between Indonesia and South Korea in recent history. The Indonesian car industry was basically Korean for instance. But there is another story, which neatly combines exile stamps with the Korean war, two subjects of particular interest to me.