Yokohama Municipal Tramway Museum

By Hiroshi Naito

Yokohama city once boasted an approximately 52 km long tramway (street car) network which thrived especially in the 50s and the early 60s. Its origin dated back to the Yokohama Electric Railway, a private sector, operator, which commenced service in 1904. It started tram operation with twelve cars on a 5.6 km segment connecting the national railway's Kanagawa station to Oebashi (Oe-bridge) in the downtown area. The tram business was successful, and the network expanded, reaching 40 km in total route-km by 1920, covering downtown Yokohama, with some radiating segments linking to some major city sub-centers. However, the service soon fell into difficulty due to the economic panic which hit just after WWI. In 1921, to resolve this situation and maintain convenient transport means for Yokohama citizens, the city government took over the tram system, creating the Yokohama Municipal Tramway.

In the 60s, the drastically increasing number of automobiles worsened traffic conditions in the city. The tram service became regarded as a nuisance that prevented from a smooth traffic flow on the roads. As was the case in other big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, the service started shrinking due to the mistaken policy of the city government, which erroneously learned lessons from cities in foreign countries, especially in the USA. In 1972, the Yokohama Municipal Tramway finally ceased its 68 years' history.

The Yokohama Municipal Tramway Museum opened in 1973 in commemoration of the glorious history of the Yokohama Tramway. It is at the corner of a former tram depot located south of downtown Yokohama, which converted to a bus depot of the city's Transport Bureau as the result of the closure of the tram service. The museum preserves seven Yokohama tram cars under indoor conditions at the ground level of a public apartment building, although they are all limited to static display. Its collection includes type 500, a 1928 built two-axle car, which looks modern with its livery in two-tone color, and type 1500, introduced in 1957 as a high-performance car built following the P.C.C technology.

With these beautiful tram cars at the exhibition site, you can feel as if you are in a real tram shed. Attractions other than the tram car display are an O gauge layout, which is the largest in scale among model railways in Japan, associated with a HO scale layout, and a N gauge layout. In addition, you will be attracted by a number of model trains of old steam locomotives, coaches, EMUs and DMUs in both O gauge and HO gauge exhibited in showcases. Most of them are donations from the family of the late Mr. Yoshimura, who was a railway enthusiast living in Yokohama. You can learn the history of the tramway and what the network was like from an assortment of old photos and materials including an actual large-scaled route map displayed in a section near the museum entrance. Never miss the great experience of driving a subway train in a train simulator, which is modeled on Yokohama Municipal Subway type 2000 EMU. You will be able to operate the train from Kami-Nagaya station towards Kannai station, the center of down town Yokohama, through Kamiooka station, in a realistic subway train cab situation. Do not be afraid of driving a train even if for the first time. A museum employee will assist you in operating the train.

The location of the Yokohama Municipal Tramway Museum is near JR Negishi station on the Negishi Line, about a 10-minute ride from Yokohama by a Keihin-Tohoku through service train. From Negishi station, take a bus on route #21/#78 to Shiden-Hozonkan, the end of the service. It will be about a 7-minute bus ride. A taxi may conveniently take you to the museum. The museum is open daily except on Mondays and the year-end/new-year holidays.

Further information maybe found on the website for the Yokohama Municipal Tramway Museum (Japanese Text).

Roster of Museum
Number Type Built Builder Remarks
523 500 1928 Kamata Sharyo half-steel built 2-axle car
1007 1000 1928 Kamata Sharyo first bogie car with 3 doors
1104 1100 1936 Umehachi Sharyo bogie car called Romance Car
1311 1300 1947 Kisha Works built for mass transportation after WWII
1510 1500 1951 Hitachi high-performnce car with two front windows
1601 1600 1957 Yokohama Transport Bureau the last type of car to be introduced
Ka10 1948
Yokohama Sharyo motor-powered open wagon

#523 half-sttel made 2-axle car

#523, type 500, half-steel made 2-axle car built in 1928. The car looks modern in spite of its vintage.

#1104 bogie car called Romance Car

#1104, type 1100, was called Romance Car when it was introduced before World War II.

The last produced car

#1601, type 1600, was the final version of the Yokohama tram fleet.

Side view of 1601 with other cars behind

A side view of #1601, with other tram cars exhibited in a row.

The interior of the #1104

The neat interior of #1104 well retains the feeling of old good tram days.

Train simulator

Train driving simulator of Yokohama Subway type 2000 stock.

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