Kyoto Railway Museum 京都鉄道博物館
Welcome to the largest railway museum in Japan! First JR East in Omiya and JR Central in Nagoya opened museums; now it's the turn of JR West in Kyoto to exhibit the trains that make up the history of Japanese railways, from the very first steam engines to the ultra-modern Shinkansen.
The new Kyoto Railway Museum opened on April 29, 2016, not far from Kyoto Station. It is the largest railway museum in Japan, with 31,000 square meters of exhibition space.
A piece of history
It all began in 1972. To celebrate 100 years of Japan's first railway line, the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was created to display the historic machines that were disappearing, at a time when diesel and electric trains were developing. All these old trains are now on display at this new museum in Kyoto. The idea of the museum is to preserve a part of the industrial heritage of Japan, which many Japanese are still very attached to, as well as to make it known to the younger generations.
From steam to Shinkansen
From the largest Japanese steam engine in the Kokutetsu C62 series of 1948 (Japanese National Railways, 日本国有鉄道 Nihon Kokuyu Tetsudo, abbreviated to 国鉄, Kokutetsu, was the national company before the creation of the various JR regions), to the magnificent Shinkansen 500 Series from 1997 and the first train offering a commercial speed of 300 km/h and the world's first high-speed train, the Shinkansen 0 Series that ran between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964, 53 rolling stock items are on display. There is plenty of information in English, plus photos and videos on the trains' history. There is also a turntable with the oldest roundhouse (covered garage in the shape of a fan) in Japan, from the old Umekoji museum. The site showcases about twenty steam engines, eight of which are still operational. Today the museum is also a workshop of maintenance and repair: locomotives like the C57-1 SL Yamaguchi, or C56-160 SL Biwako come here regularly to be serviced.
Vintage railway station and model trains
Another historic curiosity is the former Nijo railway station built in 1904, an old wooden station designed to evoke the style of nearby Nijo castle. It was used until 1996, and moved to Umekoji in 1997. For railway enthusiasts, a huge 30 meter by 10 meter georama displays the most famous trains in Japanese railroad history on a scale of 1:80. As for the Sky Terrace, it offers an impressive view of the JR Kyoto and Tokaido Shinkansen lines. And the opportunity to make beautiful images of trains in service.
Those wanting to know the inner workings of the railway world will be in heaven! The mechanics of the machines, the bogies, the coupling systems, the switches and the railway signaling are all revealed. The same applies to the history of the employees working in the station - learn about the evolution of the job, from the 1920s to the present day with its automation and ticket offices. Japan is at the forefront of innovation in this field.
In the driving seat
Driving simulators have been created so you can pretend to be a real Japanese train driver! You can try driving two Shinkansen simulators, even wearing the official uniforms. Steam train journeys are also available on a one-kilometer stretch of track from Umekoji. 10 min journeys run every day between 11am and 4pm, for 300 yen.
And to take a break, a panoramic restaurant allows you to view the trains while enjoying good food. Why not savor an ekiben in a restaurant car from Blue Train Series 20, a night train that was running until only recently. Finally, don't forget to visit the museum shop to find a souvenir of this railroad paradise!