I've always wanted to visit this place. I have modes of one or two of the trains, but didn't really know of the actual railway. It turns out that the Hakone Tozan Railway is one of the steepest non-rack railways in the world. It's really worth going to check it out.
The Odakyu Railway will get you all the way from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto station. If you're on JR, then take the shinkansen to Odawara station and transfer. I was coming from Osaka and caught a Hikari to Shizuoka and then a Kodama to Odawara.
The best bit about this is that you get to wait and watch all the Nozomis and Hikaris bolt past.
Once at Odawara, you'll need to take the Odakyu railway to Hakone-Yumoto. The Hakone Tozan Railway used to operate all the way to Odawara station on its standard gauge line. The dual-gauge portion has since been truncated back to Iruida Station.
This little river town is picturesque and serene. The river is quite wide in the center of town and makes a lot of noise due to some shallow waterfalls.
I stayed at Hakone Suimeisou and loved it! Great staff and great location! It had a good view of the sweeping curve into the station. Also a very short walk.
Climbing the grade
The Hakone Tozan Railway, as soon as you depart west from Hakone-Yumoto Station, starting climbing steeply. As you can see in the photo previously, there's a sharp right-hand turn as you pass over a local road.
It doesn't get any less steep. Further up the mountain are three switchbacks and numerous stations. The scenery is superb. The first station is Tounosawa, which happens to be the railway that this blog is based on. I've been following it for years and it was great to finally see the area that provided the inspiration.
To prevent incidents, switchbacks are used to traverse the grade. Each switchback consist of an inclining path, a declining path, a double crossover (or two sets of points) and two roads for each passing consist to pause.
Chokokunomori Station (Hakone Open Air Museum)
The main goal was to get up to the Hakone Open Air Museum and check out the sights (they even have a Picasso Gallery.) This was an easy task, as it's a short walk from Chokokunomori Station. The first afternoon, after arriving, I tried to rush there, but would've only had 20mins to check the place out, so instead I checked out the railway.
It's a beautiful area with beautiful curves and great angles for photography. The lush forests around make for perfect backdrops and I love it when you have to try really hard to take a shit photograph.
The mix of old and new rolling stock is also amazing. Anyway, the next day I made it into the museum... the view of the railway from inside was actually quite cool!
Back to the old rolling stock... the windows open... take advantage of this!
Back to Tokyo
From Hakone-Yumoto is easy... the best part is that, when choosing which Romance-car to take, the departure board actually has a picture of which series EMU is to be used. They really do cater for the train nerds. There's also a cool cafe in the station with a great view.
Another place to go back to...