UK-built steam engine Cumbria busily works on a fine holiday in May in the lush surroundings in the Rainbow Country.
By Hiroshi Naito
In a flower park located fairly off the beaten path on Izu peninsula
in Shizuoka prefecture, a 15-inch (381 mm) gauge railway operates with
interesting miniature steam trains. This is Niji-no-sato (Rainbow
Country) that offers six parks in a vast area, comprising a British
Village, a Canadian Village, Craftsmen's Village, a Fairy Village, an
Izu Village and a Japanese Garden, where one can enjoy various seasonal
flowers through the year.
The 15-inch railway constructed as a transportation means linking
the British Village and Canadian Village is the Shuzenji Romney
Railway, modeled after the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in the
UK, which runs along the sea coast of the Dover Channel. Locomotives,
coaches, tracks and station facilities are miniature in size, but
everything is as real as a regular heavy railway in one-third full
size. Steam engines, of course, operate burning real coal.
Click here for a report of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway by Hiroshi Naito.
The fleet of the railway consists of UK-built miniature steam
engines and diesel engines, along with miniature coaches. The oldest
steam engine is 1949 built Ernest W. Twining. Unfortunately, this
engine is not regularly used for train operation, because it is small
in size and not powerful enough to pull a train. Regularly used for
steam haulage are Northern Rock II and Cumbria, built in 1989 and 1992,
respectively. Either engine daily operates steam trains during busy
seasons, showing off its beautiful green livery. The coaches in service
feature authentic British miniature train practice, with compartment
doors which can be opened from the outside only.
The railway consists of approximately 1.2 km of trackage connecting
Romney station in the British Village and Nelson station in the
Canadian Village. The operations are endless through the use of a
double-track main route with end loops. The stations are located on
these loops. The landscape around the line is beautiful and full of
green because of the favorable location of the park in mountainous
surroundings. Exotic ambience is provided for domestic visitors by a
row of European style houses at around both stations. On the platform
of both stations, the station master along with other station employees
in their genuine railway uniforms take care of closing and opening
train doors, and see you off upon the departure of your train. On a
run, the train slowly rolls, much slower compared to the 15-inch
railways in the UK, with light sounds of rail joints specific to a
Another rail-related attraction is a museum located adjacent to the
miniature train shed. Closely situated just inside the museum entrance
are the spur tracks of the shed. There, you can see miniature
locomotives not in service on the day on hand. Specially preserved in
the shed is a miniature Japanese steam engine modeled after C11 328, a
2-6-4 tank, which is the only Japanese steam locomotive on 15-inch
gauge. Inside the museum are an HO scale layout, video shows, and some
model trains of domestic and British railways in show cases. An
assortment of old British rail service posters on the wall is very
Spending one day in the park must be a good idea for a family group
for not only enjoying steam train rides but also for picnicking in the
superb outdoor location with rich greenery of lawns and surrounding
trees. Visiting the Craftsmen's Village will offer you great
opportunities to learn old Japanese culture at various craft workshops,
with pottery, bamboo ware, Japanese paper work, Edo embroidery and so
on. The Fairy Village will put you in mind of a Western flower garden
in harmony with beautiful fountains and rose beds. In the Japanese
Garden, you can enjoy flowers of each season with alpine roses,
hydrangeas, daffodils, sweet flags, etc., all well maintained in
beautiful flower beds and woods. In the Izu Village, various Izu
specialties are available at shops, folk-art objects, mushrooms,
sweets, tea and so on. There are a number of restaurants and tea rooms
in each Village or Garden.
The location of Niji-no-Sato is at the top of Izu Peninsula in
Shuzenji, an administrative town, well known for a historic temple
(Shuzenji: Shuzen Temple, actually the town was literally named after
this temple) and a hot spring resort developed along the Shuzenji
River, a tributary of the Kano River, which flows northwards into
Suruga Bay through Numazu city, gathering ample water from forested
areas in the peninsula. Shuzenji is about 25 km from JR Mishima station
on the Tokaido Main Line. The Izu-Hakone Railway connects Mishima and
Shuzenji with an EMU service, with 15 to 20 minutes frequencies. From
Shuzenji, bus service provides pretty good connections to Niji-no-Sato,
every 20 minutes in frequency and taking 10 minutes for the ride. JR's
Izu-Hakone through limited express service is available from Tokyo.
This service, Odoriko (Dancer in English) leaving at 9:00 and 10:00 in
the morning, conveniently takes you to Shuzenji in Izu peninsula with a
two hour and seven minutes train ride.
On a fine holiday, it is better to visit the park than on a quiet
day. Train operation is increased on busy days, every 15 minutes in
frequency from both stations, in contrast to every 30 minutes on a less
crowded day. Two trains, probably one is steam and the other is diesel
hauled, meet en route between the two stations on the double-track
segment, and you get better oppotunities to photograph the lovely
trains. Visiting the park on a rainy day is not recommended if you want
to ride or photograph the miniature steam trains, as although trains
are operated even if it rains, the service is all diesel haulage,
because of the existence of a gradient on the line, which is hard for
the miniature steam engines to climb up in slippery conditions. If you
are interested in the Izu-Shuzenji version of British 15-inch steam
trains, try to stop by the park one day during your stay in Japan.
Roster of the Shuzenji Romney Railway Name Builder Year Built Steam Locomotives #1 Northern Rock II The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, UK 1989 #2 Ernest W. Twining G & S Co. UK 1949 #4 Cumbria The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, UK 1992 C11 328 Kanazawa Industrial College, Japan 1995 Diesel Locomotives #3 John Southland II TMA Engineering of Birmingham, UK 1988 #5 City of Birmingham TMA Engineering of Birmingham, UK 1992 Coaches Fifteen 20-seat Car TMA Engineering of Birmingham, UK 1989 Three 16-seat Car TMA Engineering of Birmingham, UK 1991
1949 UK built engine Ernest W. Twining being displayed on a turntable. Unfortunately, this engine is currently dormant because of its low power.
Cumbria rolls hauling an up-bound train along the double track main route running adjacent to a wood.
Cumbria departing Romney station across a level crossing. Specially featured villages and gardens stretch down far beyond the crossing in woods.
Cumbria proceeds along a loop encompassing the Canadian Village, crossing a bridge over a pond.
Cumbria stands at Romney station waiting for a departure. On the tender is real coal to generate haulage power.
Diesel engine John Southland II powerfully serves a miniature train. The engine, Bo-Bo, first worked for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway before being transferred to the Shuzenji Romney Railway in 1989.
An up bound steam train proceeds along the double-tracked main route, meeting a diesel hauled down train en route between the two stations.
A Cumbria-hauled train returning to Romney station in the British Village.
The Canadian Village end loop winds alongside a pond. The beautiful landscape along the line is due to the favorable location of the park in mountainous surroundings.
A Cumbria-hauled train pulling into Romney station.
Inside Romney station. The coaches feature authentic British miniature train practice, with compartment doors which can be opened from the outside only.
The building of Romney station, associated with a double-deck London bus on display.