Monday, 21 September 2015

Following The Old Central Cross-Island Highway: The Tienlun Dam (天輪壩) In Taichung County

Today (Sunday - I wrote this up late on Sunday night) I arrived at Taichung HSR station early in the afternoon for my second trip eastward up along provincial highway eight (also known as the "central cross-island highway"). Last weekend I had driven around Taichung city and Fengyuan proper to get to the Shihgang barrage west of Dongshih and on as far as the Ma'an barrage on highway eight. This time I wanted to go straight to the central cross-island highway and take in as much as possible. To do this, I drove eastward out of the HSR station and east through the city's Dalin district and out east via the 136 and north-east over the farm hills of Xinshe district via the tortuous 中99 and then along the 中95 and across a bridge to join the central cross-island highway going north-eastward up into Taichung's spectacular mountains.

As ever the drive around Taichung city is horrendous, and the 中99 is a battered old industrial / agricultural road with poor signing and sharp hairpin bends for miles. It's a nightmare. Once I was out of that and onto highway eight, everything seemed so much more tolerable - even the tourist buses. I drove straight up past the Ma'an barrage where I had stopped previously, and kept going all the way to Guguan district which is a famous hot springs resort stacked with large hotels, numerous big-round-table restaurants, 7-11s, post offices and the like. Naturally I drove straight through all this right the way up to the police check point whereupon I discovered something I hadn't previously known...

The central cross-island highway is not in fact, indefinitely closed to the public. Once the staff had asked me where it was I wanted to go to (I told them the truth: that I wanted to photograph the enormous Guguan dam), they told me I would be allowed to pass if only I came in a car: the route is forbidden to motorcycles and scooters. I would have to sign a waiver form for insurance purposes as the route is still very dangerous for obvious reasons, but so long as I return in a car (or more likely in my case, a van), I'd be fine. Now to me, that is a more significant bit of news than endless streams of headlines in the newspapers.

On the way back down, I stopped to take in the dam I had hoped to see in liu of the massive Guguan dam itself: the Tienlun dam (天輪壩)...

Overlooking the dam from the east gazing westward; the dam is the third in a series of hydroelectric dams and barrages downstream from Deiji reservoir after the Qingshan and Guguan dams.

Water leaving a tunnel after most likely passing through a hydroelectric generator in the mountainside somewhere.

Water-intake structure for another tunnel leading downstream to the Tianlun hydroelectric plant just upstream from the Ma'an barrage.

A bridge crosses over between the water intake gates and a series of buildings adjacent to the main dam itself.

Another view of the water intake gates; four to release water into a penstock, and a larger, central gate behind that to release water into the tunnel.

The bridge crossing over to the management buildings.

A slightly hazy long-range shot of the five hydraulic spillway gates on the dam itself; only a small amount of water is allowed to pass through into the riverbed downstream (presumably via a fish ladder or some other sluiceway).

Looking back upstream and down onto the exit for the first tunnel connecting the river behind Guguan dam with that section of the river immediately behind Tianlun dam.

This was as close as I could get to a view of the downstream face of the Tianlun dam; a shot overlooking the crest whilst perched on the wall of the highway far above.
I have a few ideas for a return trip next weekend (the van trip to Guguan and Qingshan dams will have to wait), as I would like to make more time to look at the Tianlun hydroelectric plant and one or two other things. I have actually already seen the Qingshan dam  (青山壩) when I was at Deiji reservoir last year, but the view was poor and partly obscured by foliage. So I would also like to see that again and get some clear shots. But of course the big prize is the Guguan dam (谷關壩) further downstream.

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