Restored Steam Trains in Japan


The new schedule was updated on 1st of October 2017


* East Japan Railway Company
* Tobu Railway Company
* Moka Railway Company
* Chichibu Railway Company
* Oigawa Railway Company
* West Japan Railway Company
* Kyushu Railway Company
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East Japan Railway Company

SL Minakami etc (Jyoetsu line)

D51-498 leaves Minakami station,
during May 1995.

Near Minakami, during May 1996.

* Photo of Steams Working Years *
Takasaki depot 1967.
The Jouetsu line is the arterious line which a part of connects Tokyo and Niigata. It was fully opened during September 1931 with the opening of the long 9 Km Shimizu tunnel. It was the longest tunnel in Japan at that time.

The tunnel section, between Minakami and Echigo-Yuzawa (Ishiuchi) station was opened with electrification from its very beginning. Other sections, between Takasaki and Minakami, and Echigo-Yuzawa to Nagaoka were operated by the Takasaki and Nagaoka depot's steam engines Class D50, D51 and C57, but they were retired early during 1947s more expansive electrification.

During 1982, Jouetsu Shinkansen opened, Jouetsu line lost it's arterious line position. The restored steam train saw service from December 1988 with D51-498 as the Jouetsu area's sightseeing attraction. The Minakami area has a large number of tourists during any time of the year and season, with mountain climbing, skiing, viewing colorful autumn leaves and hot springs.

Switching in Minakami station 1995. Near Minakami 1996.

Service JR East, Jyoetu line Takasaki - Minakami
Steam Engine D51-498, C61-20
Official site JR East, Takasaki BO , Minakami town (Japanese)
Date of Service 2017
October : 27 November : 3 4 12 18 19 25 26

SL Usui etc (Shinetsu line)
* Photo of Steams Working Years *

Doubleheader D51 on the Shinetsu line
Matsuida Jul 1958
(Photo credit to S.Sumino)
The Shinetsu line between Takasaki and Niigata was fully opened during April 1893 as a connection between Tokyo and Niigata through Takasaki, Yokokawa, Karuizawa, Nagano, Naoetsu, Nagaoka and Niitsu. The first opened part was Takasaki to Yokokawa during October 1885. Between Yokokawa and Karuizawa was first electrified as a Japanese main line during May 1912. (Consult please Saitama Railway museum's ED40-10)

But during September 1931, after Jouetsu line opened, Shinetsu line ended a role of connection between Tokyo and Niigata city, and the line role changed to connect Tokyo and Hokuriku area through Nagano.

The mainly used steam engines during 1960's were ;
Takasaki - Yokokawa ..... Takasaki depot's class D50 D51
Karuizawa - Naoetsu .... Ueda, Nagano and Naoetsu depot's class D50 D51
Naoetsu - Niigata ... Naoetsu, Nagaoka, Niitsu and Niigata depot's class D50 D51 C51 C57
(Yokokawa - Karuizawa ... Yokokawa depot's class ED42 electric locomotive)

These steams were abolished by electrification as follows ;
Nagaoka - Niigata .... May 1962, Takasaki - Yokokawa ..... July 1962, Karuizawa - Nagano .... Jun 1963, Nagano -Naoetsu .... Aug 1966, Naoetsu - Nagaoka .... Aug 1969

During October 1997, Yokokawa - Karuizawa section was closed with the Nagano Shinkansen opening, herewith, Shinetsu line was split into two sections as Takasaki - Yokokawa and Karuizawa - Nagano - Niigata. And also Karuizawa - Nagano (Shinonoi) section was relegated to the third-sector company of Shinano-Tetsudo.
During April 1999, restored steam train service started between Takasaki and Yokokawa with the opening of the ' Usui Tetsudo Bunka mura ' railway museum on the site of the Yokokawa depot.

Service JR-East Shinetsu line, Takasaki - Yokokawa
Steam Engine D51-498 C61-20
Official site
Date of Service 2017
October : 28 November : 5 11

SL Banetsu Monogatari (Steam Train, the Story of Banetsu)

* Photo of Steams Working Years *
Banetsu-sai line Mar 1960
D50-261 at the Koriyama station
(Photo credit to S.Sumino)
The West-Banetsu line connects Fukushima and Niigata prefecture, and was opened during November of 1914. The line ran between Koriyama and Niitsu, but the service was separated midway of Aizu-Wakamatsu. During the 1960s, the line was operated by the Aizu-Wakamatsu depot's steam D50 D51s, and the Niitsu depot's C57 D51s.

On the 15th of June 1967, the section of the Koriyama - Aizu Wakamatsu - Kitakata saw electrification, and steam trains were retired on this section. Between Aizu-Wakamatsu and Niitsu dieselization occurred during September 1969, but a few steam freight trains were left up to September 1972.

The restored steam train started service from the 29th of April 1999 with the C57-180.
There are many famous sightseeing spots around the beautiful castle town of Aizu-Wakamatsu ..... such as, Mt. Bandai, Lake Inawashiro ..... tourists can also enjoy the trip on that steam train.
Service JR-East Banetsu-Sai line, Aizu Wakamatsu - Niigata
Steam Engine C57 180
Official site Nigata city Steam train promotion committee. (Japanese)
Date of Service 2017
October : 1 8 9 14 15 21 22 28 29 November : 4 5 11 12 18 19 23 25 26

SL Ginga (Steam Train, The Milky Way)

* Photo of Steams Working Years *
D50-80 Rikuchu-Ohashi, Kamaishi line
Apr 1960
(Photo credit to S.Sumino)
The Kamaishi line is the 90 kilometers which connects Iwate prefecture's inland Hanamaki on the Tohoku line and the coastal city of Kamaishi.

In the beginning, at the eastern part (Kamaishi end) of the Kamaishi line during 1880, Kamaishi Mine Railway was built in order to connect the Kamaishi ironworks and the Kamaishi mine. The western part (Hanamaki end) of the Kamaishi line was opened during 1915 as the Iwate Keiben Railway. At the 10th of October 1950, Kamaishi line was fully opened on the East and West line connection through the regauged (762mm => 1067mm) and nationalization process.

The Kamaishi line was used by Kamaishi depot's class D50 around its opening days, but D50s were slowly replaced with D51 from 1960. All Kamaishi line steams were replaced with diesel engine DD51's during March of 1967, and the steam service was finished. At that last time, Kamaishi depot's steam engine's were almost fifty-fifty percent of D50 and D51.
Afterward, the special event train saw service once nearly every year during 1989 to 2004 by D51-498. Kamaishi city received crushing damage during the East Japan great earthquake tsunami disaster of 11th March 2011. Kamaishi line also received big damage, but all was restored during April, 2011. The "SL Milky Way Dream" was run as Kamaishi revival prayer during June of 2012. After this performance, regular steam train service was begun with the "SL Milky Way" by the newly restored C58-239 from April of 12, 2014.

The nickname of Kamaishi line is the "Milky Way Dream Line". And also the steam train nicknamed, the "SL Ginga (Galaxy)". This line and train's name came from the famous author of Tohoku, Kenji Miyazawa, his most famous title of the novel "Ginga Tetsudo no Yoru. (Night on the Milky Way Railroad, or Night on the Galactic Railroad)". This novel is said to be a model of the Iwate Keiben Railway.
Service JR-East Kamaishi line, Hanamaki - Kamaishi
Steam Engine C58 239
Official site JR East Morioka BO (Japanese),
Date of Service 2017
Hanamaki to Kamaishi ;
October : 7
Kamaishi to Hanamaki ;
October : 1

Tobu Railway Company

The Tobu Railway Co. is the largest private railroad company which owns the second longest line in Japan except the JR groups, and it was opened during August 1899. Tobu Railway became an acquisition target by the "Railway Nationalization Act" during 1906, but, Tobu was not acquired, because Tobu formed a Narrow gauge railroad company. (A Narrow gauge company was not listed under coverage of the Nationalization Act.)

Afterward, Tobu absorbed many small private railway companies, and it became the greatest private railroad company in the Kanto area. All of Tobu Railway steams were retired during July 1966 with a freight train on the Sano line.
Up to that day, Tobu had a total of 85 steam engines. Many of them were of the 4-4-0 tender engine type which had a good showing during Japan's main line service during the Meiji Period. (until 1912) During those days, we steam fans called "The kingdom of steam locomotives", because many classic engines were still active by Tobu during the 1960s.

Steam Engine deployment list during 1949 (S = Sobu)

DepotEngine number Total
Sugito 26 41-47 56 60-64 C112 15
Asakusa S6 S7 22-25 48 7
Tatebayashi 1 S5 3-7 27 28 30-34 49 5016
Kawagoe 10 13 16 29 35-40 54 55 12
Shin-Takatoku 8 58 59 3

Of these a few engines are preserved.

Preserved Tobu Railway's steam engine list during 2017

BuilderSerialYearOrderTobu RetiredCurrently preserved location
1 Koppel 5885 1912 Arita RW 1952 Itabashi, Tokyo
5 Beyer Peacock 4028 1898 Tobu RW 1965 Sumida, Tokyo
6 Beyer Peacock 4029 1898 Tobu RW 1965 Sumida, Tokyo
34 Beyer Peacock 5841 1914 Tobu RW 1966 Oota, Tokyo
37 Sharp Stewart 4435 1898 Nippon RW 209 1965 Individual, Chiba
39 Sharp Stewart 4437 1898 Nippon RW 211 1966 Freight train museum, Mie
40 Sharp Stewart 4438 1898 Nippon RW 212 1966 Miyashiro, Saitama
58 Nippon Syaryo 40 1921 Utunomiya Sekizai 2 1939 Omocha-no-machi, Tochigi

For your information, the same class C11 was registered in the past.

C112 Nippon Syaryo 1331 1944 Okutama Denki RW 1963 scrapped

No.6 Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Oct 2009.

ex Tobu No.58 (Kanto RW No.5),
During Kanto Railway time, Aug 1969

The Tobu Railway restored steam train service and started on the 10th of August during 2017. This train was named "The Taiju". (The Great tree)
The steam train made the 12.4 kilometer run in 35 minutes between Shimo-Imaichi and Kinugawa-Onsen on the Tobu-Kinugawa line.The engine was leased from JR-Hokkaido's class C11 No 207. And the turntables were placed from JR-West during March of 2017. These turntables were transferred from JR-West's Nagato and Miyoshi, and were installed at the Shimo-Imaichi and Kinugawa-Onsen stations. A test operation was begun during May 2017, and a "Taiju" train was put into service to provide rides on practically all weekends and during national holidays after August 2017.
Service Tobu Kinugawa line, Shimo-Imaichi - Kinugawa-Onsen
Steam Engine Class C11 No.207
Official site Tobu Railway SL Taiju (Japanese)
Date of Service
2017 - 2018
October : 1 7-9 13-16 20-23 27-30 November : 3-6 10-13 17-20 23-26
December : 2 3 9 10 16 17 23 24 29-31 January : 1 5-8 13 14 20 21 27 28
February : 3 4 10-12 17 18 24 25 March : 3 4 10 11 17-19 21 24-26 30 31

Moka Railway Company

The Moka Railway Company's history is very old. Originally, it first opened between Shimodate and Moka on the 1st of April 1912, as the Moka Narrow Gauge Railway, and fully opened between Shimodate and Motegi during December 1920. During 1954, all passenger trains were dieselized. Afterward, Moka line's steam saw service only as freight trains by the Oyama depot's C12. And all steam were retired during March 1970.

During September 1984, JNR decided on the closing of the Moka line which was in the red. Afterward, Moka line was inherited from the JNR by the JR-East, JR-East decided on the restart of the Moka line as a third-sector company. Therefore, Moka Railway company was established on the 11th of April 1988.

The Moka Railway started the Restored Steam Train "SL Moka" from the 27th of March 1994 with the C12-66 as the Mashiko area's (the town famous for pottery) sightseeing attraction.

Moka Railway

C12-66 Steam train after restoration during 1988.

Service Moka Railway Shimodate - Mashiko
Steam Engine Class C11 No.325 Class C12 No.66
Official site Moka Railway (Japanese)
Date of Service
October : 1 7-9 14 15 21 22 28 29 November : 3-5 11 12 18 19 23 25 26
December : 2 3 9 10 16 17 23 24 January : 6-8 13 14 20 21 27 28
February : 3 4 10 11 12 17 18 24 25 March : 3 4 10 11 17 18 21 24 25 31

C12-66 during 1987. C12-66 in 1988.

Chichibu Railway Company

In the Kanto's mid-sized private railroad, the Chichibu Railway's first section, between Kumagaya and Yorii was opened on the 7th of October 1901. Originally the company was started as the Jobu Railway Co. with one C-Tank steam engine (Chichibu Railway's No.1, manufactured by Dubs Co.). The company name was changed to the Chichibu Railway Co. during March 1916. Chichibu Railway had a total of thirteen steam engines (Two were borrowed) in nine classes.
Chichibu Railway was electrified during 1922, at this time, the company owned six steam engines. These engines were retired by 1923, and sold or transferred to other railway companies. But a few engines remained as spare engines up to Jun 1934. Electric railway company's Chichibu Railway didn't have steam engines for the next 54 years.

Half a century later, a restored steam train was started from March 1988 by the C58-363. The train saw service between Kumagaya and Mitsumineguchi section. The nearest restored steam engine from Tokyo is the Paleo-Express.
There are many beauty spots on the "Nagatoro" river bank along the railroad line.

Paleo Express

Service Chichibu Railway Kumagaya - Mitumine Guchi
Steam Engine Class C58 No.363
Official site Chichibu Railway (Japanese)
Date of Service 2017
October : 1 7-9 14 15 21 22 28 29 November : 3-5 11 12 14 18 19 23-26
December : 2 3 9 10

Oigawa Railway Company

The Oigawa Railway Company was Shizuoka prefecture's private railway company, and was established during 1925. The Oigawa Railway has two lines, one is the Oigawa main line between Kanaya on the Tokaido line and Senzu, another line is the Ikawa line between Senzu and Ikawa. Restored steam trains saw service on the Oigawa main line.
The Oigawa line was fully opened during December 1931, and a total of five steam engines were active up to 1950. Oigawa lines electrification was completed during December 1949, and started electric locomotive trains. Afterward, passenger train services gradually changed to electric car trains from August 1951.

The Oigawa Railway began collecting historical vehicles from around 1970. These were gathered and preserved at the Senzu yard, and of these, some engines were restored.
They were ; Class 2100 No.2109 (Currently, it is kept in the college of the Nippon Institute of Technology),
Class 10 No.15 (Currently preserved at the Numata town museum in Hokkaido),
Class 1275 No.1275 (Currently, preserved at the Plaza Loco SL Museum near Shin-Kanaya station).
They saw service as short-range restored steam trains. These trains probably saw Test-Runs before beginning full train service.

During 1976, Oigawa Railway bought a C11-227 from JNR. Restored steam train full services were started on the 9th of July 1976. This was the main line's first restored steam train service by a private railway company.
At the present time, Oigawa Railway has five engines in four classes (One engine, C12-164 was entrusted from another company, and it's out of service at the present time.). This number of steam engines are the largest in Japan except for JR Umekoji museum.
Before, there was one more restored engine, Class C11 No.312, but she was retired during September 2007.

The Oigawa Railway has regular steam service runs, almost daily, during the summer and other seasonal holidays.

Oigawa Line

C11 during 1988

Inactive-preservation engine Class 9600 No.49616
Senzu yard.

Service Oigawa Railway Kanaya - Senzu
Steam Engine Class C10 No.8, Class C11 No.190, No.227, Class C56 No.44, (Class C12 No.164)
Official site Oigawa Railway Co. (Japanese)
Date of Service 2017
Every day, until 11th of December.

C11 in 1986.

West Japan Railway Company

SL Yamaguchi

Here we see a C57-1
after restored during 1986 near Tsuwano.

The Markings of the "SL Yamaguchi"
on its head.

* Photo of Steams Working Years *
D51-194 Yamaguchi station during 1970
Yamaguchi line has the most famous restored steam train in Japan and it is running in Yamaguchi prefecture.
The Yamaguchi line is the sub-main line which connects Yamaguchi prefecture's Shin-Yamaguchi station and Shimane prefecture's Masuda station.
There are two very popular destinations for tourists in the Yamaguchi area, they are Tsuwano and Hagi city. Both are old quiet castle towns. Additionally, nearby, there is Japan's largest limestone cave "Shuhodo".
The steam trains name is the " SL Yamaguchi" and it makes the 62.9 kilometer run in 2 hours between Shin-Yamaguchi and Tsuwano on the Yamaguchi line.

The Original Yamaguchi line was a narrow gauged private railroad company. It was called the "Dai-Nippon-Kido Co. Yamaguchi" between Shinmachi and Yuda, and it was opened during October 1908. But, this small railway was closed when the government railway Yamaguch line between Ogori and Yamaguchi was opened during February 1913. Later, JGR Yamaguchi line was fully opened on the 1st of April 1923. After WW2, Yamaguchi line saw service by Tsuwano depot's class D60s, but they were replaced by the class D51 during 1966. (You can see the preserved first D60 in the Yamaguchi Museum even now.) A while later, Yamaguchi line's steam operations with D51s all disappeared by the 30th of September 1973.

In August 1979 a restored steam train was put into service to provide rides on practically all weekends. After Japan's regular steam operation was closed, this was the first case of a steam train being restored in Japan. The service was started by Umekoji museum's class C57 No.1. 2009 is the 30th anniversary for steam train restoration.

Service JR-West, Yamaguch line Shin Yamaguch - Tsuwano
Steam Engine
Official site JR-West (Japanese), Yamaguchi prefecture Steam Train bureau. (Japanese)
Date of Service 2017
October : 1 7-9 14 15 21 22 28 29 November : 3-5 11 12 18 19 25 26
December : 2 3 9 10 16 17 23 24

Near Oghori C571 1986. Near Tuwano C571 1986.

SL Kita Biwako (Northern Biwako Lake)
Service JR-West Hokuriku line, Maibara - Kinomoto
Steam Engine C56160
Official site
Date of Service 2017
October : 8 15 29 November : 5

Kyushu Railway Company
SL Hitoyoshi
Service JR-Kyushu Hisatsu line, Kumamoto - Hitoyoshi
Steam Engine Class 8620 No.58654
Official site JR Kyushu Kumamoto BO (Japanese)
JR Kyushu (Japanese)
Date of Service 2017
October : 1 2 6-10 13-16 20-23 27-30 November : 2-6 10-13 17-19

Restored Steam Engine