This interest (a more appropriate description) commenced back when I was a child, and where I was raised. Dunsandel is a small rural town situated on State Highway-1, midway between Christchurch and Ashburton Cities, as well as on the South-Island Main Trunk Rail-Line. For most of my childhood my father worked as an Assistant Station-Master at the Dunsandel Railway-Station (unfortunately the station isn't there anymore) and, being the main loading-point for the rural area, was kept very-busy, especially
Lets come forward to 1993, and the network of Rail Enthusiasts Clubs spread throughout Great Britain. And let me tell you, there are many. My first experience was at the Bluebell Railway in the south-east of England.
|C-Class No 592|
|Earl of Merioneth|
|Vale of Rheidol.|
Lets now come forward to the present, and Japan. Japan does have it's rail-museums and steam-excursion lines, but not on the same scale as in Britain. Today's Rail Transportation in Japan is very important to the countries infrastructure, and it's history dates-back to the 1870's when the first line was opened between Tokyo and Yokohama. The best way to describe the rail network here is to compare it with the Vascular System of the Human Body. There are not many places you can't get to where there isn't a rail line to take you there on. And, if there isn't a rail-service, there is sure to be a bus-service. By my reckoning, there are twelve types of Railway Lines in Japan. I will cover a few of the ones I have traveled-on, beginning with the Shinkansen (commonly known as the "Bullet-Train).
My first Shinkansen experience happened in 2004 when we traveled to Kyushu. I was fortunate to have been invited to the Guards office to view the bank of monitors displaying the trains operation. To see the needle move from 0-to-280kmph in just a few seconds was awesome. I have traveled on the Shinkansen many-times since then and, if you want to get from a-to-b in a hurry, this is the best way to do it but, if you want to see some great Japanese scenery, this isn't the best way - most of the lines go-through tunnels and are lined by barrier-fences.
|J.R.Rail Express and Local Trains|
My favorite trains are the country lines, like the Kansai Main Line, and their fleet of KiHa 120 Diesel Trains. These are a community train, where everyone-knows-everyone, and travel-through some great back-country scenery. There are many programs on television about these lines that involve the people who work/travel on these trains, the villages and stations and, let's not forget, the scenery.
|KiHa 120 Diesel Train.|
In the coming weeks, during the winter months, when (I hope) there is plenty of snow on the ground, I plan to travel this line (again) taking photos of the scenery for a blog I will attach to this post.
The Funicular Cable-Car are quite common throughout Japan and, like the "Snowdonia" in Wales, are an experience to travel on. The shape of the vehicle is similar to that of the grade of the hill you are about to ascend/descend and, once inside, accessing your seat is similar to that of a Douglas DC-3 airplane - you have to climb your way to your seat.
Before I sign-off, let me tell you about the Umekoji Steam Museum (website) and Umekoji Steam Museum (Wikipedia) in Kyoto City. I stumbled-across this facility quite-by-accident in 2003 as I was passing it while travelling on the J.R.Kyoto Line.
|C612 Steam Locomotive|
Umekoji Steam Museum, Kyoto.
Steam Locomotive with Carriages.