JR Hokkaido Suzuran Go (The Tale of Suzuran: Suzuran is a flower, a lily of the valley.) - the most recent addition to steam operations in 1999. Operates on JR Hokkaido Rumoi Line, about 120 km north of Sapporo, prefecture capital, on Saturdays and Sundays
over 60 kms between Fukagawa and Rumoi. Journey time is 40 minutes. The operation period is from April through December. Haulage is by Asahikawa based 1940 built 2-6-4 tank C11 171.
Photo: C11 171 rolls along an up-gradient hauling the "Suzuran Go," Photo by Kiyoshi Shinozawa.
Niseko Express - operation of this train between Otaru and Niseko (Hakodate Main Line) ceased on 3rd November 1995, as the 4-6-4 C62 locomotive, C62 3 needs an extensive and costly overhaul. It is now stored at Naebo Works, Sapporo. Photo by Kiyoshi Shinozawa.
JR East Banetsu Monogatari Go (The Tale of Banetsu: Banetsu is a combined name of two geographic regions adjacenting each other, Iwaki and Echigo.) - the 1999
addition to steam operations. Operates on JR East Banestu-west Line, about 270 km north of Tokyo on Saturdays and Sundays
over 110 kms. Journey time is about 3 hours and 20 minutes, going across green landscapes surrounded by densely forested mountains and mostly along the scenic gorge of the Agano River. The operation period is from April through December. Haulage is by Niitsu based 1946 built 4-6-2 Pacific C57 180.
Photo: C57180 rolls past Gosen station hauling the "Banetsu Monogatari Go," by Hiroshi Naito May 1999.
Mooka Railway - the only third-sector line operating steam. 1944 buit 2-6-4 tank C11 325 or 1933 built
2-6-2 tank C12 66 operates one return service on Saturdays and Sundays over the 41.9 kms line between
Shimodate (JR) and Motegi. Journey time: 81 minutes from Shimodate 89 minutes from Motegi. For more detailed information, refer to Hiroshi Naito's Mooka Railway report. and Hiroshi Naito's Steam Engine C11325 on Mooka Railway.
Photo: C1266 at Mooka station, by Anthony Robins.
Paleo Express - 1944 built 2-6-2 C58 363 operates one service on
Sundays, holidays and some Saturdays on the Chichibu Railway between Kumagaya
(JR) and Mitsumineguchi. The locomotive is maintained by JR East at Takasaki. For more detailed information, refer to Hiroshi Naito's Chichibu Railway report.
Journey time: 156 to 163 minutes from Kumagaya, 135 to 142 minutes from Mitsumineguchi.
Photo: C58-363 pulling out of Minano station, by Hiroshi Naito.
JR East Joetsu Line - 1940 built 2-8-2 D51 498 operates services
on some weekends between Takasaki and Minakami, a 59.1 kms section of JR's Joetsu Line. Some services are operated in conjunction with historic electric locomotives.
Journey time: 104 minutes from Takasaki, 99 minutes from Minakami.
Photo: D51 498 and C58 363 double-headed on the Joetsu Line, by Kiyoshi Shinozawa.
Oigawa Railway - operates between one and three services on around
300 days a year over 39.5 kms between Kanaya (JR) and Senzu. Journey time :
78 to 80 minutes from Kanaya, 78 to 82 minutes from Senzu. Features electric
pilot over gradient between Kanaya and Shin-Kanaya. Extensive collection of
historic static and working steam and electric stock. Mountain railway
(Ikawa Line), including Apt section, runs northwards from Senzu. For more detailed information, refer to Hiroshi Naito's Oigawa Railway report
Photo: C11312 at Shin-Kanaya station, by Hiroshi Naito
JR West Kita Biwako Go (North Biwa Lake) - a relatively recent
addition to steam operations. Operates on certain Saturdays and Sundays
over 22.4 kms (Hokuriku Line from Maibara to Kinomoto). Journey time 50 to 58 minutes. Haulage is by Kyoto based 1937 built 4-6-2
C57 1 and/or 1939 built C56 160, when not in use on
the service below.
Photo: C571 after being uncoupled at Kinomoto, by Anthony Robins
JR West Yamaguchi Go - 1937 built 4-6-2 operates over 69.2 kms of the Yamaguchi Line between Ogori to Tsuwano at weekends, sometimes double-heading with 1939 built 2-6-0 C56 160. Journey time: 120 minutes from Ogori. 99 minutes from Tsuwano.
Photo: C57 1 with C56 160 on the Yamaguchi line, by Carl Miller.
JR Kyushu Aso Boy - 1922 built 2-6-0 58654 operates over 58.7 kms of the Houhi Line from Kumamoto to Miyaji. Operation is at weekends and holidays. Journey time is 154 minutes from Kumamoto and 115 minutes from Miyaji.
Steam train Asoboy behind steam engine 58654 at Kumamoto. Photo by Anthony Robins
A side view of steam engine 58654 on a turntable at Miyaji. Photo by Anthony Robins
Asoboy waiting for return work at Miyaji. Photo by Anthony Robins.
Apart from these example of working steam, there are a number of museums featuring steam, notably Kyoto's Umekoji (formerly a shed), Osaka's Transportation Museum and at Otaru in Hokkaido. The latter, on a very spacious site by Japanese standards of 58.000 sq.m., features a 1909 built 2-6-0 Porter, formerly in Guatemala and Minnesota, among other exhibits.