The Hanawa Line

By Hiroshi Naito

The Hanawa Line, operated by JR East Co., connects Koma on the Tohoku Main Line and Odate on the Ou Line, running about 120 km from east to west and crossing over the Ou mountain range. The only traffic on the line is DMU passenger trains, and no freight trains are operated. The line still uses tablet blocking systems for the entire trackage, along with a number of semaphores on the western 80 km segment. Token exchange between the station staff and the train driver is still seen at each station along the line. The semaphores are hand operated from a signal lever frame located adjacent to the station building.

An automatic blocking system with a CTC system is under way for installation, and these old railway features will disappear from this line in 1999. The attached photos are a record of one of the last remaining intances of British signal practice in Japan.

A Kiha-58 and Kiha 52 train pulls into Araya- Shinmachi

A Kiha-58 2-car plus Kiha-52 DMU train pulls into Araya-Shinmachi Station, passing by a roundhouse.

A signal lever frame at Araya-Shinmachi

A signal lever frame located on the platform adjacent to the station staff office. The eight levers in the frame signify that this loop has eight-route capability.

The stationmaster hans the next token to the train driver

The stationmaster hands the next token attached to a hoop to the train driver.

A four-lever frame at Yuse-Onsen Station

A four-lever frame at Yuse-Onsen Station. The lever for the up-bound home signal is reversed.

Exchanging tokens at Yuse-Onsen

Station staff exchanging tokens with the train driver in a Kiha-58 DMU cab, at Yuse-Onsen Station. The starter signal is already in the off position.

The stationmaster seeing off the train at Yuse-Onsen Station.

The stationmaster seeing off the train as it pulls out of Yuse-Onsen Station. The rearmost car is a Kiha-52, probably around 40 years old.

A semaphore beckons the train

A semaphore beckons the train for departure.

A 2-car train rolls into Otaki-Onsen Station with a Kiha-52 as the lead unit

A 2-car train rolls into Otaki-Onsen Station with a Kiha-52 as the lead unit. This type was first produced in 1958 and was widely used all over Japan, paticularly on mountainous lines because of its powerful performance with its two 180 PS diesel engines. The semaphore operating wires are strung higher above the ground because of the heavy snowfall in this area in winter.

A semaphore beckons the train

A view of the Otaki-Onsen platform from the station building. Tablet blocking instruments can be seen inside the control room of the station.

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