Steam Engine C1266 on Mooka Railway

A light tank operated on a third sector railway located about 60 km north of Tokyo

By Hiroshi Naito
C1266 on the main track of Motegi station
C1266 hauled steam train at Motegi terminus, the far end of the Mooka Railway.

Mooka Railway is one of railfan destinations around Tokyo with weekend steam operations. It uses 1933-built C1266, 2-6-2 tank, 50.1 tons, for its steam operations. C1266 operated on several of JNR's rural lines all over Japan and was withdrawn in 1972 after having run close to 2 million kilometers. It was on display then at a town in Fukushima prefecture about 100 km north of Mooka, but in 1991, was acquired by the Mooka Railway who intended to start steam operations to enhance its business by attracting tourists and railfans. It was restored at JR Omiya workshop and was put into revenue service in January 1994.

The Mooka Railway is located about 60 km north of Tokyo. The railway originated in 1988 as a third sector railway, taking over the former nation-owned Mooka line that was discontinued as a result of privatization of the JNR. It runs along a 41.9 km route between Shimodate on the JR Mito line and Motegi. The area the line serves is a typical Japanese rural region stretching around the easternmost part of the Kanto Plain, Tochigi prefecture. The railway was named after Mooka city on the line, where its headquarters and depot are located. Another distinctive town along the line is Mashiko, which is well known for its intensive pottery industry. Click here to see a map of Mooka Railway and its Vicinity

People in the region tend to travel by automobile, or by buses, which frequently operate to Utsunomiya, prefectural capital about 30 km west of the line. Under these circumstances, steam operations are very important for the railway company and the region to gather tourists, and thus activating the region's community activity.

The steam service is on every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year, and on particular days during busy tourist seasons, offering a 2 hours and 20 minutes steam ride in each direction. In the service, the C12-66 hauls 3 coaches, two Oha-50s plus one Ohafu-50 in their dark brown livery, purchased from JR East upon the commencement of steam service in 1994.

The Type C12 was developed in 1932 to be used for short work on newly built lightly-traveled lines in provincial areas. This is the second lightest steam engine ever built in Japan following C56, 2-6 type developed in 1935. 293 C12s were built in total in the 16 years between 1932 and 1947.

The photos contained in this page were taken when I went to Mooka, joining a JRS tour group from the UK in April this year.

C11325 joined the Mooka Railway's steam fleet in November 1998.

A side view of C1266A side view of C1266 taking a rest on a siding of Motegi terminus.

C1266 on switching workThe C1266 on switching work at Motegi terminus to shun the steam train to the main track for the day's return trip.

The cab of C1266A close up of the C1266's cab and water tank sides beautifully polished up in deep black.

A view of the depot at MookaA view of the line's depot, at Mooka.

A view inside a Ohafu 50 coachA view inside a Ohafu 50 coach.

C1266 hauled steam train resting in Mooka station.The C1266 hauled steam train resting at Mooka in front of the station building, featuring in the shape of a steam engine.

A rail bus at ShimodateA diesel hydraulic rail bus stationed at Shimodate terminus. The line's regular service fleet uses only this type of railcar.

A rail bus with cherry blossomA rail bus at a loop with cherry blossom in full bloom in the background.

A view of Shimodate stationA view of JR Shimodate station with single unit DMU of Kanto Railway whose route diverges the other way from this station.

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