The Oigawa Railway is still my favourite railway in Japan (Second is the Eizan/Eiden Dentetsu in Kyoto) and I, again, visited it on my most recent trip to Japan. I also went back up to Hokkaido, this time actually spending time in Sapporo and returning via a different Night Train.
Two words... "Damn cold". I think we averaged around 3 degrees celsius whilst there but loved every minute. Crossing road intersections was a deadly game as you quickly found the ice under the snow and watched as either you or others around fell flat on their asses. All this snow also gave express trains a challenge, but the effects are magical when you get to see one at full speed.
I actually started from Hachinohe and took the Super Hakucho and Hokuto to get to Sapporo. There was no snow falling in Hachinohe but the ground was icy. As we got closer to Aomori the snow on the tracks got thick (I love the front windows in both express services) to the point where you couldn't actually see the rails. I was disappointed to not see any snow plough trains in action.
I didn't really get to venture out too far, but the first night there was spent in Otaru. This is a beautiful "canal city" and I happened to stumble upon a steam locomotive when first arriving.
Unfortunately it was cheating with a DE10 up it's rear end. Of course this is required as a fail-safe on mainlines, but you could hear the DE10 doing a lot of the work.
Returning to Sapporo I saw all sorts of services and also rode on the Super Kamui and happened to see one pass another.
I returned to Osaka overnight on the Hokutosei. I travelled from Sapporo just after 1700, arriving at Fukushima at 0600 to swap to the Tohoku Shinkansen and then the Tokaido Shinkansen. Swapping to the Shinkansens early (instead of sleeping through to Tokyo) meant I saved around an hour and a half in transit.
This trip started from Osaka, with a detour via the Entetsu Railway and Tenryu Hamanako Railways:
Oigawa Railway is a third sector railway running from Kanaya (JR Hokkaido Line) to Senzu, known as the Main Line, and then through to Ikawa on the Ikawa Line. The line was built to transport equipment and materials to build a dam on the Oigawa River. The Ikawa line is partially a rack railway due to the gradients in some places.
My trip involved travelling through to Okuizumi on the Ikawa Line and staying at the Okuooi Ryokan (highly recommended). I returned via the SL the next day and I also totally recommend this. It was the christmas day special and I booked ahead on their website.
I took a lot of photos, you can find the whole album here... but here are a select few:
The highlights were the workmen at the start pushing a rail ladder along, the manual operation of the turntable and the in-car entertainment on the way back!
I'll be returning again...