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JRS Photos of the Month October 2019

Lost lines

As Japan's demographics shift towards an increasingly urbanised population, albeit a declining one, the effect on rural railways is greatly reduced patronage. This month we take a look back at some recent closures.


The Kanbara Railway was a private electrified line in rural Niigata Prefecture which originally linked the Shin Etsu Main Line from Kamo to the Ban Etstu West Line at Gosen. By the time this photo was taken by Kazuhiro Kobayashi in January 1999, the line comprised just the 4 kms from the depot here at Muramatsu, to Gosen. The line featured elderly rolling stock until the end, closing 20 years ago this month on 4th October 1999.

The Towada Kankō Electric Railway ran 15 kms west from its connection with the Tōhoku Main Line at Misawa to Towadashi. With the opening of the Tōhoku Shinkansen from Hachinohe to Shin-Aōmori in 2011, the railway lost its source of connecting patronage, with no intermediate station built on the new high-speed alignment to allow for a connection. The line closed on the 1st April 2012. On the afternoon of the 21st November 2010, an ex-Tokyū EMU awaited its return run to Misawa.

The Sankō Line has been the longest single line closure in recent times. The line ran 108 kms between Miyoshi & Gōtsu in the Sanin region of Western Japan through a sparsely populated area. In this shot by Alex Morley on the 28th September 2016, a pair of Ki Ha 120 DMU's laid over during a long break in the timetable at Iwami Kawamoto on the journey northbound towards Gōtsu. It was the largest settlement along the Sankō Line (just under 4000 residents), The line closed in March 2018.

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