Japan's First Steam Engines


Shinbashi station 1898.
(Photo credit to Railroad Museum)


The reconstructed station building on the original site.
From the same place, an upper photo. Apr 2009

The first Japanese railroad construction was started in 1870.
And then it fully opened between Shinbashi and Yokohama on October 14 1872. At that time, ten steam locomotives were imported from Great Britain.

But, on the opening day of Shinbashi - Yokohama, it is not known what engines were used, and it still remains unknown. They were manufactured before 1871, six classes of twelve engines were imported to Japan, that much is clear.
A total of ten engines were working during December 1872 until December 1874 .... this was mentioned in a most famous Japanese railway history book "Nihon Tetsudo Shi, but class names were not mentioned in the book.
One of the railway history books published in 1920, mentioned that, "It was operated by a 0-2-1 tender engine during opening days", but, there is no evidence to support that theory.

Yet, there was a report presented by the first Locomotive Superintendent, F.C. Christy. He wrote that "The first ten engines used were 2-4-0 tank engines." This report's translation was taken from JR official railroad histories. This is the most trusted record of "Japan's first 10 engines" at the moment.

In regard to these ten engines, around the same time, Japan imported its first two tender engines, (No.11 and 12) for use at the Kyoto and Osaka section. In addition, two archaic engines (No.16 and 23) survive to this day. This page lists these total of fourteen of Japan's earliest steam engines.