My dear memory:
By Minoru Shinozaki
Born in 1959, I was in my teens in the last years of Japanese
steam. Living in Tsuruoka on the north-western coast of Honshu, I
local lines of Tohoku district as well as U-Etsu mainline. The most
impressive among my trainspotting excursions, however, were the ones to
Hokkaido in the winters of 1972-73 and 1973-74. Hokkaido was, together
with Kyushu, the last haven of steam engines. Although the service of
double-heading C62 hauled express "Niseko" had ended in the autumn of
1971, C62s were still on scheduled service and the sound of Hokkaido
had a magic to the railfans. Fortunately I had an uncle living in Otaru
and decided to visit him and make a trainspotting tour during Christmas
At that time Sei-Kan Tunnel had not yet been opened and the
ferry was the only way to cross Tsugaru Channel. I boarded a ferry
about midnight and the sound of gong and melody of Auld Lang Syne
played on taperecorder upon her departure made me sentimental and a
little nervous as it was the longest journey I had made by myself. When
the train I had gotten on at Hakodate in the small hours of morning was
running along the coastline of Uchiura Bay, the sun, which had risen
from the sea, began to shine on the birch trees lining the track. The
sight was utterly different from anything I had seen and the exotic
feeling possessed me.
C62 2 with "Swallow Angel" waiting for the next service at Otaru-Chikko depot,
in December 1972.
|A sad spectacle of rows of withdrawn engines at
in January 1973
Kozawa station on the Hakodate Main Line in busy freight operation,
in January 1973.
|An unforgettable two-eyed 9600 in service for the Iwanai line freight,
in January 1973.
Apart from these star engines one type of engines I saw on those
somehow unforgettable -- 9600s running on Iwanai and Iburi lines, which
were two-eyed unlike the rest of classmates. I went to Kozawa, where
Iwanai line branched from Hakodate mainline. The two lines ran side by
side near the station so I photographed a D51 hauled passenger train on
the mainline from a hillside looking down the lines, then ran down the
slope and shot a 9600 hauled freight train on the branch line. Now we
do not have any of this particular type. Besides both Iwanai and Iburi
lines were closed at the time of the privatization. I revisited the
same place in the autumn of 1995 just before the second withdrawal of
C62 3. No trace of Iwanai line, not even of trackbed, could be seen.
All we have of the two-eyed 9600s are photographic images.