I've recently been though both of these places and thought I'd write a few quick notes on both.
This is an area of Tokyo known to be a bit of a ghetto. Here you'll find a lot of down and out souls wandering, drinking and sleeping in the streets. It is a real eye-opener and really brings a different feeling to Tokyo. There are 2 youth hostels here; I stayed at the Aizuya Inn.
Now, the great thing about this place is that JR East has a nice freight station (Sumidagawa Station Container Terminal) that acts as a transfer point for freight up the east-coast line. Upon first arriving to the passenger station (On the Joban Line, 2 stations off the Yamanote Line) you must cross a pedestrian bridge south to get to the hostel. This bridge passes the entrance to the freight yards and the east-bound freight line.
The yard becomes very active at night and quietens during the day. You will find freight trains coming in from both directions, but the best are those heading towards Tokyo, as they will pull past the yard and then reverse in. There are a few DE10 shunters and usual stabled EF81s and smaller electric locomotives. I stayed back one night until it got too cold and saw at least 5 freight trains enter to form at least 2 that then left. Freight seems to be sorted and then longer trains formed. This provides for still shots when the locos are paused to change direction and you have quite a few vantage points along the fence.
Also, the passenger station has the Ltd Exp. Hitachi services shooting through:
Following the plan in the previous post, I took a Bullet train from Tokyo to Koriyama and then the Aizu Liner 1 from Koriyama to Aizuwakamatsu. The plan was then to catch the local train to Shiokawa to get a shot of the SL Banetsu, but the connection wasn't made as the Aizu Liner 1 was about 4 minutes late and that meant there wasn't enough time to put luggage away in lockers.
Fortunately this paid off, as the SL was to arrive at 1331 and I was to then catch the return Aizu Liner to Koriyama at 1414. The SL didn't show up until 1404 and that left very little time to get photos.
Since I arrived at Aizuwakamatsu juse after 12pm, I then had an hour to loiter and wait for the SL to arrive. I wandered around the station and found a few locals walking a track through the yards, it seemed harmless enough... this turned out to be an amazing walk through the inner workings of the DMU service area (see the photos below.) The snow made it even more perfect.
I made it to a good spot near a pedestrian underpass and waited for the SL. I was about 20mins walk from the station and knew I had to run as the Aizu Liner wasn't going to wait for me. From where I was I saw the Liner pull out of staging and head into the station and I knew I was running out of time. I went back to the station, put my luggage in the Aizu Liner and then the steamer arrived.... took photos... and then went north.
Here's the shots from the day... it's welll worth staying longer: