Japan Railway & Transport Review No.20 (pp.2 & 62–63)

New JR East Cassiopeia Night Express

July 1999 sees the start of JR East's new Cassiopeia night express from Tokyo Ueno Station to JR Hokkaido Sapporo Station via the Seikan Tunnel under the Tsugaru Strait. Before the opening of the Seikan Tunnel, most Tokyo-Sapporo passengers were using airline services, but the introduction of new luxury trains like the Hokuto-sei (named after Ursa Major constellation, JRTR 15) is attracting people who prefer leisure over speed. Cassiopeia extends this tradition of luxury travel with completely private sleeping accommodations (for up to 176 passengers) including toilet and washstand—some compartments have showers as well. During the summer peak season, the locomotive-hauled 12-car train departs Tokyo every other day at 1620, taking 16 hours and 35 minutes to cover the 1211.5-km route to Sapporo. There are two weekly departures in the off-peak season.

Photos: The best sleeping accommodation is at the Tokyo end of the train and features a large panoramic viewing window (blocked by the locomotive on the return trip to Tokyo) with comfortable twin beds and sofa.
(M. Miura)
Photos: Passengers can book dinner in the restaurant car, which offers French or traditional Japanese cuisine. People preferring more privacy can take dinner (requires booking) in their compartment. All boarding passengers are offered a welcome drink, as well as morning coffee and newspapers.
(M. Miura)
Photos: The Cassiopeia logo at both ends of the train incorporates an image of the constellation (near the polestar) that the train takes its name from.
(M. Miura)
Photos: The Sapporo end has a large comfortable lounge with an elevated floor and wide windows for better views of the scenic route through northern Japan.
(M. Miura)

Preserved Steam Locomotives in Japan

JNR's last regular steam operations finished in the mid-1970s but there are still a number of preserved steam locomotives throughout Japan that are run either by the JRs or private companies during holiday periods and on special occasions. These steam operations are slightly different from the case in some European countries where railway enthusiasts purchase a line and run vintage locomotives for themselves, attracting tourists as well. The Japan National Trust, a non-profit organization for the conservation of cultural and natural heritages, has used public donations to purchase a 2-6-2 Class C12 steam tank locomotive (1937) and old carriages, and the private Oigawa Railway runs this train one Saturday a month from April to November. There are many museums with steam locomotives and some are in working order.

Photo: The Mikasa Railway Memorial Hall in Hokkaido is on the site of JNR Horonai Station which was closed in 1987. The first railway in Hokkaido ran from here to Otaru Port in 1881, carrying coals from the important Horonai coalmine. This working Class S-304 industrial locomotive was used at Muroran Iron and Steelworks. The museum also keeps a number of other non-working steam, diesel and electric locomotives as well as DMUs, passenger carriages and freight wagons used in Hokkaido.
(Maruseppu Town Hall)
Photo: Part of the old logging railway at Maruseppu Forest Park in Hokkaido is now a tourist attraction and runs a 762-mm gauge Amemiya No.21 dating from 1928.
(Mikasa Railway Memorial Hall)
Photo: The 41.9-km Mooka Railway between Shimodate (70 km northeast of Tokyo) and Motegi used to be a JNR branch line, but was transferred to a thirdsector company in 1988. The company operates two former JNR tank locomotives—a 2-6-4 Class C11 and a 2-6-2 Class C12—with three passenger carriages, for about 140 days each year including most weekends and summer holidays except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
(Haga Local Authorities)
Photo: The Oigawa Railway in Shizuoka Prefecture is a small private railway that is very keen to preserve vintage steam locomotives. It has a collection including former JNR Class C10 and C11 tank locomotives, a C56 tender locomotive, and some German tank locomotives used formerly by private railways. The company runs some of these from Kanaya on the JR Tokaido main line to Senzu on most weekends throughout the year.
(Oigawa Railway)
Photos: The Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was opened in Kyoto City in 1972 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Japanese railways. It is the largest collection in Japan and has 18 locomotives with six in working order. Museum visitors can watch a demonstration run through the yard at certain times of the day. The museum is closed on Mondays, the day after a Japanese national holiday, and from 29 December to 3 January.
(JR West)
Photo: (Right) JNR started running preserved steam locomotives on the Yamaguchi Line in west Honshu in 1979. JR West took over the operations and now runs a 4-6-2 Class C57 (occasionally a 2-6-0 Class C56) tender locomotive from March to November on some weekends.
(JR West)
Photo: JR East occasionally operates this 2-8-2 Class D51-498 tender locomotive on special runs. It retired in 1977 but was restored in 1988 in order to pull the Orient Express when a Japanese TV company organized a special commemorative journey from Paris to Tokyo via central Europe, Russia, and China.
(JR East)
Photo: This 4-6-2 Class C57 retired in 1969 but was restored this year by JR East's Omiya Works. It will be run on the Banetsu West Line between Niitsu and Aizu-Wakamatsu on most weekends from May to November. There will also be some runs between Koriyama on the Tohoku shinkansen and Aizu-Wakamatsu.
(JR East)
Photo: (Left) JR Kyushu runs the Aso Boy (the name is a word play on the Japanese for ‘Let's play!’), 4-6-0 Class 8620 tender locomotive built in 1922. It retired in 1975 but was restored in 1988, now running on most weekends from April to September between Kumamoto and Miyaji near Mt. Aso (central Kyushu), one of the world's largest volcanoes.
(JR Kyushu)
Photos: (Above and lower left) Children and steam enthusiasts from the Japan National Trust volunteer to polish up the Class C12 tank locomotive before she gets under steam on the Oigawa Railway.
(Japan National Trust)