An Unsung Casualty of War: Korea's Gyeongwon Line

War is hell. Of the many numerous tragedies and casualties of the Korean War, one you might not think of immediately is on the Korean Peninsula's infrastructure. But this just shows how damaging war can be. After all, numerous rail lines existed before the War, some of which crossed the 38th Parallel. The Gyeongwon Line was one of these railroad lines which closed following the division of Korea into North and South. 

The line ran between Gyeongseong (Present Day Seoul) and Wŏnsan in what is now the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Image: Cheorwon Station by Mer du Japon (Wikipedia Commons)

Its birth, however, was in war as well, as it was built by the Chosen Government Railway, which was the state-owned railway when Korea was occupied by the Japanese, opening in stages between 1911-1914. 

Sustaining heavy damages in the Korean War, the line was nonetheless mostly rebuilt in the now two countries, to Sintan-ri Station in South Korea, and Pyonggang Station in North Korea, leaving a 17.5 mile gap in the Demilitarized Zone at the border between the two countries.

Out-of-service section of the line. Both North and South Korea have active rail on either end of this closure. (Abandoned Railroad Map)
The line was not the only one damaged in the War, and in fact a steam locomotive with heavy damage was saved and preserved as a memorial to the war at Imjingak, South Korea just about a mile south of the border in the demilitarized zone. 

Damaged Steam Locomotive, part of Imjingak Park, DMZ, South Korea. Photo: Terry850324 (War History Online)

It is possible, if not likely, that if reunification along the Korean Peninsula ever occurs, this line could reopen in its entirety, either along the original right of way or along a new track. 

As it stands, however, the line has been out of service since 1950, and with no reunification plans anywhere in the foreseeable future, this line's closure stands as a non-human casualty of war.

Thanks as always for reading!


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