The Railway Museum
in Saitama

Preserved Locomotives and Railcars

This renewed Railway Museum was opened at Omiya in Saitama city on the 14th of October 2007.
This museum is the oldest and biggest railroad museum in Japan. The museum was originally at Kanda-Manseibashi in Tokyo's downtown area until the 14th of May 2006. It was there for 70 years. After WW2, the museum not only exhibited railroads but marine and aviation transportation also, and it was called the "Transportation Museum".

But, because of it's age the building was not rebuilt. As a result, the Kanda-Transportation Museum was relocated at Saitama, as the JR-East 20th anniversary memorial project. The exhibition was limited to railroads only, and the museum name went back to being called "The Railway Museum" as it was before ww2. Compared to the Kanda Transportation Museum, the Saitama Railway Museum included larger numbers of exhibited real locomotives and cars.

These engines and railcar descriptions are mentioned on the Railway Museum official website with accompanying English. However, the descriptions were too short... So I am giving more detailed explanations for visitors who may have already gone, or who are planning to go. I have also included more recent photos in addition to the older photos. (Imperial cars, Shinkansen cars and freight cars are not included.)

The "History Zone" on the first floor has the following six era's original station scenes reproduced with cars or engines of that era.
1870s Shinbashi with No.1 steam
1930s Tokyo with MaITe-39
1940s Ochanomizu with KuMoHa-40
Ueno with KuHa-481 and KuMoHa-455
Niigata with KuHa-181 and NaHaNeFu-22
Shinkansen-Tokyo with 222-35

The left photo is the Museum's reproduced Niigata station, and the right is a real Niigata station during 1970.

The History of the Railway Museum

40 years have passed since Japanese railroading began during May 1911, government railway created a new division called the "Museum Section". The reasons for the exhibit was the increased historical value of railroad collections. Those collections were kept under the elevated railway in Yurakucho. The new museum's opening day was targeted between June and July of 1911, but this plan was derailed because of financial troubles. Eventually, these were only exhibited at Yurakucho's storage area between May 26th and May 31st during 1911. And after that the Museum Section was dissolved.

Afterward, the collections were transferred to the "Railrolad Secretariate Research Center" (present JR Railway Technical Research Institute). during June 1919 with Mr. M.Nanami as the newly-installed chief. He took a proactive stance to the museum after it's opening. Accordingly, he freed up about 330 square meters (275 sq yards) of land under the elevated area between Tokyo and Kanda. A small Temporary-Railway Museum was opened only to applicants.

This Temporary-Museum received a great response from the citizens. So, the Ministry of Railways extended the museum area to 2,640 sq meters (2,207 sq yards), and the museum was opened to the public between the 14th and 23rd of October 1912 as the celebration of the railway opened for the 50 year memorial. 580,000 visitors came for the ten day period. But, the museum again went back to only applicants after the anniversary.

The museum, as it was, under the elevated area between Tokyo and Kanda during that period.
However, the Ministry of Railways decided to build a Permanent Railway Museum at Yotsuya, as Japan's Railway opened it's 50th anniversary memorial project. But before construction began, most of the collection at the temporary-museum was destroyed by fire in the great Kanto-earthquake on the 1st of September 1923. The temporary museum was forced to close. And the new permanent museum project had to be canceled again, because the budget was used for earthquake rehabilitation.

During 1921, a new museum plan was decided upon to build in Shinjuku, but the budget was again frozen when a Minister of Railroads was changed the next year. During the 8th of April 1925, under the elevated location between Tokyo and Kanda the museum was reopened. But under the elevated site of the museum space was soon exhausted. So, newly planned locomotives, No.150, No.9856, No.5000 and No.3983 (Japan's first Rack Track System steam engine) were not able to be exhibited at the museum. For that reason, they were kept at other sites.

The original Manseibashi terminal
During the opening period of around 1912.
In the past, Manseibashi station in the Kanda Tokyo area preceded a private railway company's planned big terminal for the Kobu-Tetsudo line. (Consult please exhibited car Class De-963). Kobu-Tetsudo Co was nationalized before Manseibashi station was completed, but construction was continued by Government Railways, and a terminal was opened on the 1st of April 1912. The station building was a beautiful Renaissance brick the same as Tokyo station. However, long-distance trains arrived and departed from Shinjuku and Iidamachi stations. Therefore, Manseibashi station became the only urban train terminal.

During 1919, Manseibashi terminal became a mid-way station and was opened between Manseibashi and Tokyo station. The station received big damage from 1923's Great Kanto Earthquake. The station was repaired, but a big terminal was no longer needed. As a result, during1934, Manseibashi station was reduced in size. And new museum construction was decided to be part of Manseibashi's station site. Eventually, a new Railway Museum was opened at Manseibashi in Tokyo's downtown area on the 26th of April 1936.

After Manseibashi's Railway Museum was opened, the museum and Manseibashi station buildings were used together, until Manseibashi station closed on the 1st of November 1943. A vestige of Manseibashi remained until its closing, such as the station hall, platform entranceway, stairs and platform. Remains could be seen on special occasions.
In the following left photo, left building is a museum, and original Manseibashi platform site.
Photo took in special publication day 2006.

Manseibashi station around 1930s

Manseibashi station site 2006

However, in the 1940s, Japan went on to a war footing, so, military information was secret. Ultimately, No.5000 and No.3951 had no space in the museum so they were scrapped and the iron was used in the war. On the 10th of March 1945, a massive air raid turned downtown Tokyo into complete ruins. The neighborhood of Manseibashi was burned, but the museum had a miraculous escape from the disaster. But the musem was closed from that day.

Manseibashi museum's main entrance during 2006
When the war ended ... the museum was restored, which was a big task in the post war confusion. The museum was reopened on the 25th of January 1946, and the name was changed to "The Transportation Culture Museum". The museum was under the control of the Allied Occupation. American railway was introduced in the "American Room" and opened at the museum by the order of the Yokohama RTO (GHQ Railway Transportation Office)

In addition, a GI by the name of William Eliot was interested in model railroading. He completed a huge HO scale layout in his spare time. The layout took a whole year to complete. This layout was named the "Eliot Room", and it became a very popular display in the museum. A huge layout was also made in Saitama's new museum.

Past time, Transportation Museum plate
"The Transportation Culture Museum" was renamed to "The Transportation Museum" on the 1st of September 1948.
During January 1952, the museum site was expanded.
According to the statistics of 1953, 65% were children among 380,000 visitors.
During 1961, the limited express train "Kodama" motif was modeled in to a dining room and was opened.
The last steam locomotive C57-135 was exhibited in May 1975.
A head-cut off of the first Shinkansen car (No.21-25) and stem engine D51-426 were exhibited in front of the main entrance during April 1978.
On the 1st of April 1987, the museum was transfered from JNR to JR-East by division and privatization of Japan National Railways.
On the 14th of May 2006, after 70 years, the Manseibashi Museum was closed and reopened on the 14th of October 2007 at Omiya Saitama city.

After being moved, the Manseibashi museum site during May 2009

The main entrance site.
Originally, the Shinkansen car was exhibited on the top of this pedestal.

The steam engine "Benkei" at the exhibited site

The torn down outdoor exhibited space