Hiroshima - Japan's Largest Tramway System

Combino at Nishi-Kannonmachi

Siemens built Combino sweeps along a curve on the final approach to Nishi-Hiroshima. Being first introduced in 1999, now, 12 Combinos serve Hiroshima city running through the heavy rail right-of-way of the Miyajima Line up to Miyajimaguchi.
October 2002.

By Oliver Mayer

In this month's update of the JRS homepage, we want to introduce Japan's largest and most interesting tramway network, Hiroshima.

Hiroshima is a city of 1.1 million inhabitants, capital of Hiroshima prefecture and the largest city between Osaka and Kyushu, thus being the economical centre for much of Western Japan and the Inland Sea. Hiroshima became world-famous in August 1945, when the American Forces dropped an atomic bomb over the city.

Today, the network consists of 7 lines:
1: Hiroshima station - Kamiyacho - Hiroshima-ko
2: Hiroshima station - Nishi-Hiroshima - Miyajimaguchi
3: Nishi-Hiroshima - Kamiyacho - Hiroshima-ko
5: Hiroshima station - Hiroshima-ko
6: Hiroshima station - Kamiyacho - Eba
8: Yokogawa - Eba
9: Hakushima - Hatchobori

A line 7 will be introduced in the future, to run from Yokogawa to Kamiyacho, and probably further on to Hiroshima-ko.

Kamiyacho is the centre of the city, with shopping centres, a big department store (Sogo), the bus centre and the prefectural government nearby. The A-Bomb-Dome and the baseball stadion are also very close. As the city centre is several kilometres away from the next railway stations (Nishi-Hiroshima, Yokogawa, Hiroshima), the tramway has an important task of connecting the city with the JR stations.

Indeed, that connection was the origin of the tramways. In 1912, the line between Hiroshima and Nishi-Hiroshima stations opened, together with two branch-lines, one is today's route 9 to Hakushima, the other is part of lines 1 and 3 southwards from Kamiyacho. By 1922, the network had been extended by a line to Yokogawa station, and the southern route had reached the harbour (now called Hiroshima-ko, formerly Ujina). The line to Miyajimaguchi was completed in the early 1930s, and during the war, the line to Eba was built, plus a shorter route from the harbor to the station: this is today's route 5, which does not go via Kamiyacho.

The total length of the network today is 34.9 km, of which 16.1 km (the section between Nishi-Hiroshima and Miyajimaguchi) is classified as railway with speeds up to 70 km/h. In the city, trams do not run faster than 40 km/h. All lines are standard gauge of 1,435 mm, and are electrified at 600 V dc. In 2000, a total of 60 million people used the trams. There are three depots: Eba (terminus of routes 8 and 6), Senda (also headquarters of Hiroden; on routes 1 and 3 south of Kamiyacho) and Arate along the Miyajima line.

A single ride is 150 Yen, a one-day ticket is 600 Yen. If you want to see Miyajima with the famous red torii (shrine-gate) in the sea, it is useful to get a one-day ticket which includes the ferry for 840 Yen (note that you cannot use the JR Ferry with this ticket, but the Matsudai Ferry). Even better value is a 2-day ticket which includes all trams, the ferry and the ropeway on Miyajima Island, for 2,000 Yen.

3702 and 1007

Modern chopper-control #3702 on the right leaving JR Hiroshima station with old Kyoto car #1007 in opposite direction, at Enkobashi.
September 1992.

713 at Enkobashi

Hiroshima's original car #713 built by Alna-Koki in 1985, at Enkobashi.
September 1992.

Naniwa-Koki built #504

Naniwa-Koki 1953 built #504, at Kaigandori near Hiroshima Port.
September 1992.

Hatsukaichi 3903

Alna-Koki 1991 built articulated three-car #3903 rolls up towards Nishi-Hiroshima along the heavy rail right-of-way on the Miyajima Line, at Hatsukaichi.
March 1999.

804 at Chuden-mae

Alna-Koki 1991 built #804 pauses at Chuden-mae tram stop.
October 2002.

Vintage car 101 at Eba depot

Vintage car #101, restored in 1985, was originally built in 1925. This car is occasionally used when a special event takes place.
October 2002, at Eba depot.

Oldest car 156

#156, built in 1925, is the oldest car among the Hiroshima fleet.
October 2002, at Eba depot.

Typical German cars in the Hiroshima tram fleet line up at Senda depot.
October 2002.

Fukuoka car 3006

1964 Hitachi built 3006 shows off its articulated figure at Fukuromachi.
October 2002.

Hannover car 238

This European car #238, built in 1927, came from Hanover in Germany and serves special events.
October 2002, at Fukuromachi.

Dortmund, car 76

Dortmund car #76, built 1959, stands at Miyajimaguchi, the western terminus of the Miyajima Line. This car came to Hiroshima in the 1980s. This car also works on only special services.
October 2002.

Ex-Osaka car 772

1950 built ex-Osaka car #772 takes a rest at Senda depot.
October 2002.

Hiroshima has a very interesting fleet of trams. Of special interest are tram 238, which was built in 1928 for the German city of Hannover and is now used for special services (and sometimes on route 9) in Hiroshima, the sister city of Hannover. Two other used German trams are from Dortmund, 76 and 77 (built 1959), which came to Hiroshima in the 1980s. Originally it was planned to buy more used German trams to replace older Japanese rolling stock, but the performance of the trains was not as expected, and with additional air-conditioning devices on the roof the cars became rather instable. Today, one car (77) stands in Arate depot, while 76 is still servicable for charters. More German cars came between 1999 and 2002, a total of 12 five-section Combinos from Siemens, all low floor, now making series 5000.

Many trams were built for Hiroshima, but many others came second-hand from other systems when they closed. Series 570 and 1150 is from Kobe, 750 and 900 from Osaka, 1900 from Kyoto, and 3000 from Fukuoka. Hiroshima has a number of relatively new trams, built since 1982, which are series 700, 750 and 800, and also articulated cars 3700 to 3950. Outstanding is tram 3501, which has a chopper-control. While many tramways in Europe, especially Germany, have copper-controls, only this tram in Hiroshima and two others in Nagasaki have it.

Many photos on this page were taken during the annual meeting of the Japan Tramway Society, which was held in Hiroshima in October 2002.

All images in this page were photographed by the author.

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