The Last days of Japanese Steam Engine

Part 4

The Last Day

2nd March 1976

Last day in Oiwake yard
Class 9600 No.39679 2nd Mar 1976

On Christmas eve of the year 1975, the main steam train service lines were all closed.
The later surviving steam were only in the Oiwake yard shunting, they were of the three steam class 9600, No.39679, 49648, and 79602. They were truly the very last Japanese steam locomotives.

At first, there was the announcement that, dieselization would begin during the 26-27th of January 1976. And later it was deferred to February, and during February, it was again adjourned.
But, later it was decided to be on the 2nd of March 1976. However, JNR already held a Good-Bye ceremony during December, so they did not plan on any ceremony.
The final ceremony would be held by the Hokkaido branch division of the Railway-Fan club. But, the 2nd of March was not decided until it was too late.

2nd of March 1976 at Oiwake yard.

I visited Oiwake depot on the morning of March the 2nd, but 9600s steam engines were operated no different from any other days ....... It could hardly be said that it was the last day of 100 years of history in regard to Japanese steam locomotives.
At 3:10 p.m., the Good-Bye ceremony was conducted in front of the 39679 and 79602 engines. The ceremony brought together the Oiwake town mayor and Oiwake depot directors. And it closed at 4:30 p.m. And all steam engines fire was dropped for eternity.

Surviving 9600s

* Manufactured on the 1st of Jan 1920, at the Kawasaki Shipbuilding Co., serial number 532.
* First deployment was to Shimonoseki depot and it was later transferred to Ogori, Nogata, Yokote, Yamagata, Aomori, Sakata, Niichu ... etc depots.
* During Apr 1972 it was moved to Hokkaido, Nayoro depot.
* After May 1975, it was placed at Oiwake depot.
* It was retired on the 31st Mar 1976 on paper and later it was scrapped.

There are strong doubts that as to why this historical one of the last three engines was scrapped.
One driving wheel was preserved at Fuchu town in Toyama prefecture, but there are doubts about its authenticity.

* Manufactured on the 7th Sept 1920, at the Kawasaki Shipbuilding Co., serial number 601.
* First deployment was to Kuttchan depot Hokkaido and it was later transferred to Furano, Otaru-Chikko, Kitami, Asahikawa, Engaru ... etc depots.
* During Oct 1948, she was moved to Nayoro depot and sice after worked in Soya, Nayoro and Tenpoku lines for the long period.
* After 17th of May 1975, it was placed at Oiwake depot.
* It was preserved at Nakatonbetsu town Hokkaido.


* Manufactured during Dec 1923, at the Kawasaki Shipbuilding Co., serial number 942.
* It was later transfered to Kyushu Oita, Miyaji, Kumamoto .... etc depots.
* During Apr 1974 it was moved to Hokkaido, Kuttchan depot.
* After May 1975, it was placed at Takikawa depot.
* It was retired of 31st of Mar 1976 on paper.
* 13th Apr 1976, it was struck by a depot fire at Oiwake and later it was scrapped.



However, about one month later on the 13th of April at 11:45 p.m., a fire broke out in the Oiwake roundhouse, and the flames spread rapidly, and five steam engines, class D51 No.241, 465, 603 and 1086, class 9600 No.79602, eight new diesels, class DD51 No.682, 683, 684, 1079, 1103, 1144 and 1169, class DE10 No.1744, for a total of thirteen locomotives burned. The fire came under control at 1:05 a.m., but the wooden roundhouse burned down. "She killed herself and took along the diesels ! ".... such was the rumor on every rail fan's lips.

Before the Oiwake roundhouse burned down

After the fire, the 13 locomotives were lined up at the side of Oiwake depot. And they were retired (discarded) by the 4th of Aug 1976 and were scrapped later in the year of 1976.

Last surviving steam engine plates.
They are stored in a Railway Museum.
You can see that D51-241 has both sides burnt by a fire.
One of the diesels destroyed by the fire class DD51 No.682,
This photo was taken, just as the engine was completed during Dec 1969, At Mitsubishi Heavy Industries,
Mihara rollingstock workshops.

The destination of the burned engines had already been decided previously.
They were scheduled as follows ;
for display in museums with D51-603 to go to Tokyo's Ueno Science Museum,
and D51-241 was to be in Oiwake Town Memorial Museum.
D51-603 was replaced by D51-231, and D51-241 was replaced by D51-320,
they were exhibited at their original planned places......

Tokyo National Science Museum exhibit alternative engine D51-231 Just arrived Tokyo.
Tabata terminal on the 30th of Jul 1976

Exhibited D51-231
National Science Museum, Jul 2007.

Final Main Line Service