Steam train now back in Nikko
Remembering the locomotives of yesteryear
Tobu Railways have reactivated a steam train as of August 10th, 2017 to attract travelers to Nikko. It's the first since 1966!
If you need one more reason to visit Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage city, now there's the charm of an old-fashioned steam train! The move comes from the private regional railway company Tobu Railways, who have put a railway model previously missing for more than 50 years back on the track. Its name: the Taiju, type C11-207.
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The inaugural journey
After a groundbreaking ceremony in the presence of Japanese Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii, the new steam train made its first journey on 10th August 2017, a 12.4 kilometer journey between Shimo-Imaichi and Kinugawa Onsen, on the Kinugawa line operated by Tobu Railways. The travel time for this route is 35 minutes.
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Dozens of local residents and train lovers gathered to admire this rare spectacle. After all, the steam trains of Tobu Railways have been kept in storage since 1966! For nearly a century steam trains played a major role in the industrialization of Japan, since their introduction in 1871.
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The Taiju train consists of a locomotive and three (more modern) wagons. It is scheduled to be put into service for 100 days of the fiscal year (which runs until March 31), making three round trips between Shimo-Imaichi and Kinugawa Onsen, including on weekends. The project went ahead with the help of several other private companies, including Hokkaido Railways.
"A permanent tourist attraction"
"We hope that the steam train will become a permanent tourist attraction," said Tobu Railways president Yoshizumi Nezu. The return to service of this train is indeed a way for Tochigi prefecture to attract travelers to Nikko, a city located two hours by train north of Tokyo and famous for its many Buddhist temples.
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Sources: Asahi Shimbun, Kyodo News