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Osaka Station Updates – May, 2023

During the last decade, JR West has managed to remove a freight yard, sink the Umeda freight line, build new platforms and connect these platforms internally to Osaka Station. They've even implemented an AI Face Detection gate so you don't have to tap.

The Umeda area had been slated for redevelopment for quite a while, but the heavily-used freight yard and rail line had to be removed. After Suita was upgraded to cope with the freight that was handled in Umeda, the yard could be removed, but the line could not. The line was still used by limited express trains to the airport and Wakayama.

Instead of removing the line, the plan was to sink it and create a separate station, known as Ume-Kita (North Umeda), underground. At some point during the planning, the idea changed and it was decided that the underground platforms and rail alignment should be moved close enough to Osaka Station, to become a single entity. Making this change to the design was honestly a perfect idea and well-needed for anyone transiting around Kansai.

Umeda Freight Yard

The Umeda freight line runs direct between Shin-Osaka Station and Fukushima Station. Umeda Freight Yard used to be in the middle of this, directly north-west of Osaka Station. The Umeda Freight Line was also used by the Kuroshio and Airport Limited Express trains, with the only stops in central-Osaka being at Tennoji and Shin-Osaka Stations. The latter, although great for transferring to the Shinkansen, wasn't optimal for anyone wanting to get into the northern area of the Osaka loop line.

Here's what the area used to look like back in 2009/2010 when the freight yard was operational. The Umeda freight line is on the far side, running down the edge of the yard, with Osaka Station in the bottom-right of the image.

It was a pretty magical area with the limited express trains bolting between the freight (more photos here)... but that's all history as Suita was extended to cope with the freight capacity removed here.

New Construction

Without depairing too much, the new design is perfect for both passengers and freight nerds! First there's the ability to ride the Higashi Osaka Line from Osaka station and secondly the freight to-and-from Ajikawaguchi still runs... actually, there are now more freight trains than ever. Even better, due to the sinking of the line, the incline required to enter/exit the underground station platforms has required freight trains occasionally have a banker loco on the rear!

To check it all out, I first took a Osaka East Line service from Shin-Osaka to Osaka Station. These services used to terminate at Osaka Station, but now travel along the Umeda freight line and terminate at the new platforms.

From the Nakatsu area, the rail starts to descend into the station. It's two tracks on this side of the platforms, but each split into two, forming two island platforms with rails either side. Only the platform closest to the main Osaka Station building has a full glass platform wall. I assume they're getting around to installing these on the other platforms. Thankfully they weren't installed yet on the Shin-Osaka bound side!

As that all of the limited express trains stop, and the locals terminate, any 'passes' showing on the board will be freight!

As mentioned above, the Kuroshio bound for Shin-Osaka was to come through first. I was hoping forthe dolphin, but got a newer set instead...

And then it was freight time!

Excuse the lighting... here's a video instead.

And another...

And the dolphin!

And that was what. I never managed to get down there when there was a banker engine attached.

Checking the area out on-foot

A few days later I decided to take the subway to Nakatsu Station and check out the area on foot. Something became very apparent (and it's happening in Melbourne too): as soom as a railway is sunken into the ground, the area around the tracks becomes inaccessible. Sure, it's the same around the inclines/declines for elevated rail, but once the rail is in the air then there's space underneath to do things with. I suppose, this is also true if you cover the rails... but in Melbourne they haven't.

Fortunately, everything is still under construction, meaning that they'll hopefully add better access to allow crossing the railway line. Also fortunate is that this area was always a ground-level freight yard and was never cross-able.

There's still quite a bit of infrastructure to remove... and you can see they've quickly hacked away other things. Meanwhile, here's a great comparison. Here's what the Hankyu overpass looks like now:

Compared to 2009/2010:

There are two buildings that match in that shot, the rest are demolished (in the old) or brand new (in the new.) Anyway, I kept dawdling around...

And of course, everywhere needs art... including the new entrance to the new platforms from the above-ground.

It was actually drawing quite a crowd.

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Yamashina, Kyoto – May, 2023

Stumbling across this area was nearly an accident. Somehow, back in the day whilst probably browsing Facebook and pinning random locations on Google Maps, I'd left a 'favourite' on this canal. Whilst planning things to do during my final days of this most recent trip to Japan, I chose to visit this area as my rail pass had expired and it was easy to get to from Shin-Osaka. It's also easy to get to from Kyoto or Otsu by taking the Keihan Keishi Line, which is actually the same line that runs down the middle of the street in Otsu city.

Getting up to the Canal

Lake Biwa Canal was used back in the day for freight and water, but nowadays is just used to supply drinking water and power a hydro dam. It's actually located high up on the side of a mountain, so there's a bit of a walk involved. Starting from either JR or Keihan Keishi Line, exit at Yamashina Station and start walking to the west, beside the bicycle parking lot.

Once you cross through the underpass above, you'll climb the local street to get up to the canal.

It's mildly steep, so take it easy. But once on the canal, it's flat land all the way around to the photography spot. On the way, you'll pass the observation deck which faces back to Yamashina Station. It's great for viewing trains, but the view is a little limited.

Continue along the canal...

And keep an eye out to your left, as after around a 10 minute walk you'll stumble across...

This amazing view! Further along the canal you'll find Myooji Bridge and then toilets. And also random boat tours!

But yeah, we're not here for that... we're here for:

And don't forget to look down...

But you'll be distracted again momentarily by either a limited express, freight or passenger. They just don't stop!

The heavens then opened up and it rained quite heavily. If the forecast says ANY percentage of rain (on the day it was 2%), then take an umbrella. Don't even bother to gamble! The maple leaves are beautiful and offer no form of shelter.

And, of course, the rain came when the Fukuyama Rail Express came!

And then the Kangaroo Liner came through!

That was around 2 hours between 9 and 11am in the morning on a Tuesday. I can only recommend to check timetables and determine a sweet spot as to when to see the most trains. At the start, there was one other photographer up there, but he seemed to understand the rain was coming and left before it arrived!

I returned via Yamashina Station and, as always, a freight appeared out of nowhere...

And a final note, make sure to ride in the first car of any train you take in Japan.

There's always something to see on the Tokaido line!

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Travelling Through Shikoku – May, 2023

The goal was simple: take the Sunrise sleeper train to Takamatsu and drive across Shikoku, returning on a Shiokaze from Matsuyama the next afternoon. Starting from Tokyo, this would have worked... but starting from Osaka it doesn't. From Osaka, the Sunrise's timetable lets you get to Tokyo easily, but doesn't let you go west as it passes through around 4am and they don't actually let anyone get on. Conversly you can easily get west from Tokyo!

So, the plan was changed to an afternoon Shinkansen to Okayama and an easy transfer through to an onsen in Kotohira!


This sleepy river-town is more-or-less due south of Okayama. You get to cross the amazing Seto Bridge to get there and, although the express trains are cool, doing this on a local service will make the experience better. The view is amazing ... and I totally failed to take photos. Anyway, back to Kotohira. It seems to be known as a, uhmmm, brothel (companion) town? It actually really reminded me of Spirited Away's onsen town.

We stayed at Shikishimakan with the lodgings, food and onsen being perfect! I don't think I've eaten that much in a long time. The next day was a trip to Takamatsu to pick up the rental car and I totally failed to take any photos of Kotohira Dentetsu, the cute little third-sector railway linking Kotohira and Takamatsu. Of course, we could've taken JR back and around, but that would've actually been 20 minutes longer!


All of 5 minutes was spent in-town, traversing from the Kotoden Station to the Renta-car on-foot. The car was easily picked up and, I must admit, booking one-way rental cars in Japan is super easy and doesn't cost more than a return trip! How dare they understand customer service. I looked at my train timetables and realised a freighter was bound for Niihama, so the first goal was to pick a picturesque area for a photo or two.

Unfortunately, it seems that the freighter had already slipped past. Thanks to the timetable only showing major arrivals and departures, it's hard to know where-else a service will stop. They could halt in stations or loops to let the priority passenger services pass. This means that you can't ever get a 100% fix on a train if you only interpolate the speed over the time to travel between two known points!


I'd always liked the look of this level crossing between two factories. The whole area is an industrial port-town and, although the freighter was well-and-truly ahead of us, there were still a few limited express trains to see!

It's a bit dicey to get in the right position as the roads are narrow and a continuous procession of trucks are ready to take you out. The guard rails are also covered in powdery old paint, which happily rubs off onto your pants.


After a few other Hard-Off stops along the way, we ended up in Niihama just before the departure of the freight we'd initially tried to chase in the morning. It'd spent its time in the yard already and was about to hook and pull back east.

It then sat for a while with it's markers on, as it had no clearance to leave. There was still a Shiokaze to come from the east on it's journey to Matsuyama.

Three seconds later and the freight was outta there!


The land of red trains! I had always thought this diamond crossing was in Kochi, but I was happily proven wrong. A hotel was chosen near-enough to this infamous crossing and a morning was spent taking wayyyyy too many mikan/tangerine/persimmon/vermillion coloured vehicles. Of course, the goal was a photo with all three modes of transport in one shot. But first, I had to dawdle to the intersection.

There's a beautiful mix of street-cars to view, even at 6am in the morning.

But just around the corner, the intersection came into view...

And my first 2-out-of-three vehicle shot was taken!

And then more random shots...

At around ~7am the buses started to appear, running more-frequently on their schedules. Game on! Time for a three-vehicles-in-one... but working out the best vantage point (with the lens I had on), without getting hit by bicycles, or traffic... or annoying the authorities... was going to be tough. Also, it would be very easy to be stuck on the wrong side of the level-crossing!

There were actually also a lot of dead-head movements, so using Google Maps for the heavy-rail timetable wasn't always the best idea... there'd often be 2-3 deadheads in between real services!

More trams came and went... older heavy-rail consist came and went...

And then it happened!

Three-in-one! But not overly-well framed... still... done! I stayed longer to see how many more times I could do it.

Oof... that one was nicer.

And that isn't bad either! I had spent three hours loitering... I was happy with the shots and that no authorities came to tell me to move on. It was time to be a normal tourist!

Matsuyama Castle

After telling friends we were doing Shikoku, they nearly spat out their food when I said this castle wasn't on the itinerary. It's easy to be spoiled by castles in Japan and after seeing Osaka and Himeji, I hadn't really considered that I'd needed to see another. They all said it was a must-do and I'm glad we listened.

That angle is very Kiyomizudera-esque, just without the religion. This castle is built as a stronghold and, although I'm sure they were praying inside often, it's totally built for war.

The view from any point on the grounds is stunning. Make sure to always be looking through port-holes, gun-holes, cannon-holes, windows, etc...

And, although the usual rule is to look-up, make sure to look down! On all sides of the castle.

And then, when done, take the chair-lift or cable-car back down the hill.

Thank you Shikoku!

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Takachiho Amaterasu Railway – May, 2023

I must admit, visiting this railway was never really on my to-do list. Not only is it quite out-of-the-way, since the bridge that connected the railway to Nobeoka was destroyed, but the train they have operating on the isolated section of the line is really only a toy?

It wasn't until my friend said "we're going!" that I started actually researched the railway. He then also told me he'd booked me on the driving experience... and I may have freaked out. I love trains, but actually driving one? I don't know if I'd have the coordination. I'd considered it back at Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park, but the cost there was well over AU$300 and I would have had issues with translation.

Fortunately, Amaterasu was cheaper and Shuhei-san was going to help!

Getting there

It was a ~2.5 hour drive from Nichinan and, thanks to my international licence, I drove the whole way. It was a mix of highways and local streets and the scenery was stunning! We stopped through at Takachiho Gorge first, wandering around the area. The boats were booked out and the aquarium was slightly hilarous.

After that, a quick stop for lunch and then the main event. Actually, I shouldn't skip on the event that was lunch. The Takachiho area is famous for its beef, so we stopped in at a local restaurant named Takachiho Shokudo. The specialty was beef curry, but they also raved about the chicken namban. So, what to do?...

Have both on one plate! Delicious!

Takachiho Amaterasu Railway

This is the terminus of the railway that once connected Nobeoka to Takachiho. When a bridge collapsed during a typhoon in 2005, the decision was made to not rebuild, leaving this segment of the railway disused. Later on the current group was created and the tourist trains began.

When the 'toy' train isn't in the yard, you're allowed to wander around the station yard and check everything out. Down one the end of the line, in the sheds, are the two TR-series DMUs that one gets to drive in the driving experience. It all started to become real! Before this, we went for a ride on the 'toy' train.

All was pretty standard until the tunnels... hah...

The final stop on the main bridge is just awesome. The driver must pause before even entering the bridge to read the wind monitor to make sure we wouldn't fall off. Once we proceeded on though, we stopped in the middle and were allowed to stand up to get great photos.

The conductor became the driver and we returned back to the yard.

Let's Drive A Train!

This got very hard very quickly. The instructor went and grabbed the DMU and brought it onto the platform.

We then spent 10 minutes lost-in-translation whilst he was trying to teach me the controls. Shuhei, thanks for your help here! I would've sent the train off the cliff if you hadn't have translated the harder words.

The basic things to know were direction switch, accelerate, brake and the deadmans switch. There was also the point that the ATS (or was that ATC?) was still wired-in, but not disabled and so it'd ring REALLY LOUDLY in your left ear if you were in notch one. It's goal was to remind you that you were moving off without correctly enabling ATS and ... well ... that was wrong. But we could ignore it.

He gave me the green light and we were off. Brake released, accelerator nudging through notch one, buzzer screaming in my ear... but the thing was moving. I then proceeded to apply brakes, at the area I thought we should start stopping, and it really felt like the brake handle was doing nothing. There were no physical notches in the brake handle, so you just had to rotate it, hoping that something was being applied. Of course, you could read the gauge, which had two needles, but there wasn't really a tactile connection. About those needles... if they come inline with eachother then the emergency brake is applied... and, of course, I did this on the first stop. Both Shuhei and the Instructor went for a bit of a stumble.

For that issue, my mandatory JR-style re-training occurred and then we were off again. As that it's a single line, we had to swap ends and drive all the way back. The actual experience lets you drive back and forth four times!

Shuhei jumped out and took some pics of me going back and forth... I really started to get the hang of it towards the end.

Oh, and don't forget to don the drivers hat... even if your head is too big.

Jeez, you can see the stress on my face. I was shaking and traumatised afterwards, but it was so worth it!

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Kyushu, Japan – May 2023

I usually take a much more direct path when visiting Miyazaki, but this time I wanted to see the eastern coast of Kyushu. I also wanted to check out the Hard-Offs in Oita and Miyazaki, so what better way than by rail!? I actually happened to purchase some new-old-stock PC98 and X68000 games!


I took the 4pm Shinaksen from Shin-Osaka Station to Kokura, transferring to the southbound Sonic. The first layover was the Tabist Hotel Smart Sleeps just north of Oita Station.

There's a great craft-beer standing-bar just outside the entrance of the elevator to the hotel. Anyway, the next day the goal was to chase the southbound freight to Minami-Nobeoka, so I got to Oita Station in time to snoop around.

The southbound was on-time, but early by my expectations.

It turns out it arrives and halts in the station whilst the express trains pass it. I'd booked myself onto one of those express trains to get in front of the freight, to be able to see it again.

These poor-old 787s are now relegated to limited express services on the lesser lines. They used to be the main vehicle when getting to Kagoshima, but the shinkansen has since taken all the glory. Anyway, the train makes light-work of the rails through to Nobeoka and the trip is extremely scenic.

Don't forget to also inspect the train, and the hints to its past life.

Note that this southbound freigther has to stop a LOT. So if you do have time, bounce around on the express trains (or even the locals!) and you'll be able to catch it more than once.


There's a path in the timetable showing that this train continues to Minami-Nobeoka with loading after shunting here. Unfortunately, after the comedy of errors that was Engaru, I realised that codes starting with 8000 are 'as required' and that this Minami-Noeboka freight path has NOT been used in a long time. Fortunately, this train did come in to Nobeoka Yard...

A cute little yard shunter then did all the hard work.

Being a Saturday, there was a 787-series scheduled to come through on a tour train. This is the 36+3 Around The Kyushuu (love that name!), timetabled to stop in the platform for half an hour so that the passengers can sample the local specialities!

I actually stayed the night in Nobeoka as there was yet another tour train to catch the next morning. The Seven Stars Kyushu was also scheduled for a stopover, but quite early!

They kicked it over and it was off before-long. I then continued southbound to Miyazaki.

Note that, on the way, you'll pass a concrete viaduct. This is actually the first maglev test-track in Japan. Now being used for solar panels.


Such a beautiful area of Japan. I always love visiting this place, and I do admit that a lodging on the railway line helps!

Nango Station is currently painted for an honorary baseball team. There's no teams in the area, so they support Seibu Saitama Lions.

The next day was spent on a trip up to the Takachiho Railway... but that needs a post by itself.

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Sangi Freight Museum, Mie – May, 2023

The Sangi Railway Freight Railway Museum had an open day on the last day of Golden Week 2023 and Hayato-san offered to chauffer me around the area! Unfortunately, it was raining cats-and-dogs once again. The day started off with a Shinkansen trip from Shin-Osaka to Gifu-Hashima, which happened to be the first time I'd ever alighted at the station. I arrived mildly-early to see the Nozomi services bolt through ... in the rain.

That last shot above is the Shin-Hashima, the terminus of the Meitetsu Hashima Line.

Anyway, we had plans... the drive south-west began.

Nyūgawa Station

The carpark was dirt and the puddles were deep, but wet shoes didn't stop either of us! A northbound service greeted us not long after we arrived.

Nyugawa Station is directly south of the siding where the Freight Museum is located, so we quickly checked that out.

Along the carpark, between the station and the museum is a string of 4-wheel freight cars. Very much the type you'll find from the Tomix range.

There's even a matching DB101 shunter...

Freight Railway Museum

The museum is hosted in an old goods shed. There's a steamer on the old siding with a few other wagons up behind it. Inside, there's a great amount of memorabilia and model railways.

The railway's timetable is proudly displayed... but the freights weren't running due to the public holiday!

After a good gander, we returned to the heater in the car, and then a rice field just south of Nyugawa Station to wait... and hope... that a freight would pass.

Unfortunately, just a few passenger services... and rain. We then realised we hadn't checked out the steamer (and the other stock around the back of the museum), so we returned to do so.

Two services then passed eachother.

As always, be like a cat and don't play in the middle of a level crossing!

Nishi-Fujiwara Station

We then went for a tour up the line, ending up at the terminus. This station building has been decorated to look like a steamer, or two! I realise now that I should've taken a shot with the fog correctly lined up.

The station has a miniature ride-on railway and a line-up of stuffed-and-mounted vehicles.

Since the freight services were on holidays, we ventuerd south to find where all the wagons were stored.

Higashi-Fujiwara Station

The branch to the Taiheiyo Cement plant stems from the yard of Higashi-Fujiwara Station. Unfortunately, it's hardly accessible, so here's a shot of the northern end of the plant.

Further south in the station yard, there was a bit more to see.

The station building is beautiful. Seems to have been rebuilt lately? Seems they've also managed to flog a cement wagon for display.

So yeah, that's where all the wagons were stored. Shots were taken from the passenger window and I can't say they're my best work.

Ageki Station

Since there wasn't much happening, we went and checked out the Narrow Gauge Museum at Ageki Station. This is the terminus of Sangi Railway's Hokusei Line.

There was a neatly liveried EMU ready to depart. The livery is actually the local soccer team Veertien Mie and means "fourteen" in Dutch. How random. I was told there was a well-known hack spot around the corner, so we battled through the weather and made it in time.

Beautiful area... terrible lighting. There was one more hidden secret though. That bridge the yellow consist traversed.

Turns out it's one of the last 'corkscrew' style stone bridges in Japan. Supposedly it was a style of build back in the day that isn't used anymore.

Taiheiyo Cement, Yokkaiichi Port

The other end of the cement line is located in Yokkaiichi Port. For the rail to get there, many bridges are required, with the most famous being Suehiro Bridge (末広橋梁). It's actually registered as a cutural asset, as it's one of the last remaining 'lift bridges' in operation.

Of course, it was doing very little when we visited, so we ventured further to see what was happening at the port yard.

Lots of stabled locos, but also a newly delivered one? Sans-wheelsets!

Oh, and frogs...

Many loud, happy, noisy frogs.

Back to Nagoya

No light, lots of wet... but we still stopped for photos. And recycle shops!

The KIHA85 is now gone, replaced by the HC85.

Lots of Kintetsu... something I don't take enough photos of. Will do so next... time...

Kimble Part II, there's a Part I somewhere else, is a recycle shop full of randomness. Some shop-seconds where they have old stock, looking brand new. Random furniture, etc... but no computers!

Dinner was Italian as the Old Spaghetti Factory.. in a tram.. in a building... the last one remaining after the owner ran out of money and this restaurant was saved! Finally... desert was served on a turntable...

The rain was horizontal... my umbrella kept inverting... and even with a tripod, people walking over the vibrating bridge (plus the vehicles on the road behind) made the shot impossible. Not to even mention my lack of skill! Still, an amazing trip! Thank you Hayato-san~!

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Chuo Line, Aichi/Nagano – May, 2023

After an awesome day at the Tokyo Freight Terminal the day before, Hayato-san offered to take me on a tour into the wilderness, north-east of Nagoya. The plan was to head from Tajimi Station, north-east until we intercepted a Nagoya-bound freighter. From there, we'd chase it back and check out the local offerings on the way.


First up was Dachi, a small town south-east of Tokishi, that had a branch line running to support the local pottery factories. As with most other tiny freight branches, this one faded into non-existence, running the last service back in 1972 due to the washaway of a bridge during heavy rain and closing entirely in 1974. Before Dachi, we followed the old alignment, stopping at Yamagami Station first.

Continuing, you end up in Dachi town. The freight yard was located in the middle, using an area with the most-level gradient. The track then continued further to the factories, but this area was used as a station and a switch-back!

Everything has been removed... except for a 5 metre section of track in the old workshop shed and the odd overheard wire hook. There's still some interesting stuff to see, but do mind the roped-off areas... it's still private property!

The area is now actually used as a Bus Terminus, but not for much longer. Anyway, the goal was the Chuo line, so we headed back down the mountain... but on the way we checked out a tunnel on the old Dachi Line.

It's really something out of Sentou-no-chihiro!

Quite a hike down and back to the portal. The other end is filled in as they used the alignment for the road.

Suhara, Okuwa, Kiso District, Nagano

What a title. I have no idea of the exact name of this place, but it's even famous on google maps as a spotters point. And it didn't disappoint. There was even another spotter already camped-out. I hope we didn't disturb his capturing.

And then the whole reason for the road trip...

A bit dark on that last shot... boo hoo...

Just North of Sakashita

This spot on a winding mountain lane was fantastic. I can't really explain it... but the photos will.

I've recently forgotten the essence of right-time-right-place, but taking that last shot, and getting the camera settings correct... and having my a6000 actually focus when I asked it to... was golden.

Oh and, a passenger snuck past not long after the freight.

Kiso Akasawa Forest Railway

Ok ok, this beautiful mountain narrow-gauge logging railway probably deserves a post on its own, but I'm lazy. Instead, I'm just going to dump the photos for your perusal, whomever you might be.

We boarded and were off!

The train trundled along the rails to the end station. It then ran around and returned with the other passengers.

We chose to alight, hoping to see the consist run it's final trip up and down the line a while later.

There's a cute rotten-row up the far end with some old passenger cars and even an engine.

Unfortunately, there were no other passengers, so instead they packed the consist away. So we just wandered around, down the footpath back along the line snakes through the woods and over the river.

As we were driving back to the mainline, Hayato-san pointed out some of the old alignment.

There's also a stuffed-and-mounted consist to see at Agematsu Station.

But nothing on the rails.

Shinrin Railway's Kiso River Bridge

This rusting monstrosity of a bridge still stands over the Kiso River. It was formerly part of the Shinrin Logging Railway, another in the Kiso Valley very similar to the Kiso Akasawa.

The bridge is totally off-limits, but you can get close enough to enjoy it's splendour.

Nojiri Station

Further down the line, we stopped at Nojiri Station to watch a limited express, or two, bolt through.

This station had a lumber yard across from it, which trucks serviced... and it's easy to imagine the railway once doing the job in the past. In fact, this was where the Shinrin Railway brought the lumber to.

A Shinano passed in either direction and we continued on our way. Note that JR Central is on a replacement-spree for these diesel limited express trains. The Nanki and Hida are already HC85s! The Shinano should be replaced by 2026.

SL Park Nagaiso

This park has a D51 mounted on the previous railway alignment. The line was railed through a tunnel and they left a few remnants behind to create the park.

This stuffed-and-mounted giant-of-the-rails would've been majestic to watch back in the steam era.

The old alignment is now a footpath to walk between the new station and the SL park.

There's also a great view of the valley from the park's perch on the mountain-side.

What a day! Thank you Hayato-san!

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Tokyo Freight Terminal Open Day – May, 2023

This was a very unexpected event! Thank you Hayato-san for managing to obtain two tickets so that we could attend! We jumped on the earliest Shinkansen possible to Tokyo and transferred via Hamamatsuchō Station to the Tokyo Monorail. Hamamatsuchou is home of the peeing kid statue, so do be sure to check it out.

After transferring, we took the monorail through to Oikeibajo-Mae Station, and took some photos.

Whilst taking the photos at this station, it occurred to me that I'd been to this area before! We were in search of a flea market at the horse race course back then, and I somehow managed to see Dr Yellow snoozing in the shed. Turns out this time around Dr Yellow was in the same position!

To be able to photograph Dr Yellow, we had to cross the bridge that traverses the freight yard, and while doing so, we thought we were also making our way to the entrance of the open-day. It wasn't until we'd crossed the entire bridge/yard that we were told by an official that we were at the absolute wrong end! This was the middle, or northern, end and the entrance to the open day was at the very sourthern end. We therefore started our long trek along the entire length of the freight yard. I must admit, with around 40 other people who'd made the same mistake.

As we were walking south, down the western side of the yard, we saw the entrance queue approaching us. A staff member was guiding everyone along the fence (towards us?) to get the queue to line up and loop back. As we intersected, he simply inserted us in. If we'd come from the other side then we would've been around 2000 people back in the queue... but instead, in absolute non-japanese style, we queue jumped! It was so bloody hot already (~9:45am) that I was a little happy to be able to not wait in the sun.

The queue kept going... and going... and after the left turn... it kept going... but luckily on this corner there was something cool to check out...

The freight yard actually has multi-storey truck unloading facilities. That green-cab truck above did 4 laps of the entry spiral before getting to its unloading bay. Crazy.

Before long we were into the festival and melting in the Tokyo sun!

First up, if you'd booked, there was a chance to ride in a YO8000 guard's van behind an HD300. The shuttle ran all the way down to the end of the yard and back.

We hadn't planned for that and there were no tickets available on the day, so we just watched it loiter along the rails... orderly... with everyone else. The respect and patience of everyone in the crowd was starting to show: people queued behind eachother to get the right shot!

Next up... containers... and more containers...

And tank-tainers with consist documents...

And, of course, the Super Rail Cargo. Up close!

There were also random stalls for merchandise, and one with a mini flea market!

I picked up some sad HO vehicles for a buck each.

The SRC had Super Rail liveried JR containers on it ... but it turns out these are remnants of when they were building and commissioning the consist.

They loaded these up with weight to test the capabilities of the train.

At the far end, the SRC was lined up next to the fleet of current Tokaido freight locomotives.

And, of course, the HD300 was rolling in every now and then, providing an even greater line-up.

The locos also had commemorative headmarks for the day... being the 50th anniversary.

Well, ok, not all... the EF210 had the Super Liner instead.

Meanwhile, the second Dr Yellow consist was loitering in the background, but a staff member was shoo-ing people away who were trying to take photos... "today is about freight", he kept yelling!

Containers, more containers, how to move containers... you could even jump in the forklift.

Ride-on trains!

Tiny trains.

Fukuyama Rail Express represented.

And then, even a cute vintage bus that you could ride on.

More containers...

And then a training course for children who wish to derail trains:

On the way out... something caught my eye.... could they be the fateful brown onions that I'd been searching for?

Turns out that, although they were indeed brown onions, they weren't from Engaru. Instead, they were from Saga in Kyushu. Interestingly, the staff were giving everyone a bag!

On the way home, we ended up on a pedestrian bridge near Nippori Station, with a bunch of other gunzels. Many trains were seen...

All very Tokyo... but nothing as Tokyo as:

Just like the old JR West's Twilight Express, the Cassiopeia was a high-end night train from Tokyo to Sapporo by JR East. Now relegated to tour trains, as this train one was. Anyway, back to Tokyo... a day can't be spent without a trip to Ochanomizu.

Especially if you're nearby in Akihabara. Remind me to wear sunscreen next time.

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East Osaka / Kinki Sharyo – May, 2023

It was the start of Golden Week and everyone was busy, so I scoured the flea-market calendar and found one as-close-to the Kinki Sharyo plant as possible. Japan has a lot of railway rolling stock manufacturing plants and some of them are hidden in plain site. This one is located right next to Tokuan Station on the JR Touzai-Gakkentoshi Line, but I was to start my urban expedition a on the Osaka East Line, to hopefully see some freight.

Hanaten was very quiet. There were only a few services passing through, be it because it was 7am in the morning, or because of Golden Week timetables. Interestingly there were a lot of kids in baseball uniforms heading off to the miriad of fields in the area. Must be a holiday thing!

First up was a dawdle to the JR yard just to the east of Hanaten. There's a very nice set of bridges where the East Line splits from the Touzai-Gakkentoshi Line, but it's only for passengers services.

The shot above was the best I got of the JR depot. It's elevated around 3 metres from the road-level and you couldn't see a thing. All good, lettuce continue to the main course. You can take a due-north path back to the JR line to, at least, see something operating.

A little further on and the promised land appeared before me.

And so did all the 'no photo' signs! They obviously get a bit of interest from rail-fans, from this side of the plant anyway.

There were a few cars in the end yard of the plant. The area was very quiet, so I did the wrong thing and took a photo anyway.

My investigations on google maps had proven there to be a footpath around the back of the plant, past the service station on the corner. I continued around until I found the entrance.

That path provides a good view around the back of the plant where there are no "no photo" signs! There wasn't much else happening either, thanks to Golden Week.

Around the north-east corner, there's an old softball pitch that's being used to store the new Tokyo Metro rollingstock.

Yup, we get it, no more softball!

The plant is still connected to the Touzai-Gakkentoshi Line and must receive/send sets via rail. Unfortunately, the little shunter wasn't up to much this weekend... but it did look like there was a set ready to dispatch:

And is that a 100 Series Shinaksen behind it? Beautiful. Next time I try this I'll try and get insider knowledge to know when something is to be transported out of the factory!

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Hojo Railway, Hyogo – April, 2023

Hojo is a small town in Hyogo, just a bit north of Kakogawa. It contains the terminus and depot of the Hojo Railway Line, the only rail line operated by the Hojo Railway Company. The line is single-track and non-electrified, running through the countryside from Ao Station. They own a fleet of four one-man DMUs, with two or less operating at any one time via passing loops at larger stations. Their fleet used to consist of only three 2000-series "flower" DMUs, but they recently had a crowdfunding operation to bring a KIHA40 into the mix. It succeeded, and I helped!

Getting there...

From Shin-Osaka, there are a few hops to traverse. Hojo Town is in the sticks and the JR Kakogawa Line, starting at Kakogawa Station, happens to be the best rail connection to get there. Unfortunately, there's no Shinkansen connection at Kakogawa Station, so the closest transfer point from Shin-Osaka happens to be Nishi-Akashi. Once at Nishi-Akashi, you can transfer to a Special Rapid on the Tokaido Main Line which'll have Kakogawa as its next stop. As that Nishi-Akashi is smaller Shinkansen Station, you'll either need a Hikari or Kodama. I took the first Kodama from Shin-Osaka Station, but first had to let the first Sakura get out of the way...

Then check out the view... as the Kodamas don't come frequently...

And yeah, don't forget to grab an eki-ben snack from the platform shops... it's a slow ride. The funniest part about the 'slow ride' is that it's usually operated by the (well, back in the early 2000s) fastest rolling stock. You're either going to get a 700-series Rail Star, a 500-series shinkansen, or even a hello-kitty themed 500-series if you're lucky! Mine turned out to be a Rail Star and I wasn't disappointed.

Still looking good for its age! There's even business cabins which you can happily make use of as the services aren't very well patronised. The next best thing about the Kodama, for a rail-fan, is that (apart from single-platform stations like Shin-Kobe) they have to stop at all stations to let the other services pass. This allows for great photo opportunities, when you're not stressing that the train might leave without you!

You can even fluke it... and have another Kodama waiting in the other loop platform!

Ok.. that's enough Rail Star love. I made it to the Nishi-Akashi Shinkansen station and transferred to the JR Tokaido Main Line.

The Special Rapid was ready to roll and before-long we were at Kakogawa Station. Interestingly, you will need to go through a set of turnstiles to get to the platform, even though it should all be one concourse as it's all JR. Don't fret, just show your JR Pass or ticket and you'll be able to proceed.

Up on the Kakogawa Line platform, you'll find a 2-car green EMU ready to take you to Tanikawa (or Nishi-Wakishi, as per the service above.) The trip takes around 30 minutes to Ao Station, the start of the Hojo Line.

A Hojo DMU was already waiting on the platform when we arrived. Everyone else had a Pasmo/Ikoka/Suica card and just transferred using the machine, but I didn't so I asked the conductor what to do. It turns out that the driver also accepts coins! Just review the electronic board above the driver to work out the cost... knowing that you've travelled from the first station. I was going through to the terminus and would pay whatever the greatest cost was... and fortunately I had the coins in my pocket. If you don't, the ticket machine next to the driver can turn a 1000yen note into coins.

Single-Track Working

Straight away, you're in the country-side and you can see straight out the front of the DMU. The country-side was very green after a lot of recent rain.

Before-long we were approaching Hokkeguchi Station and an opposing DMU was already in the platform, waiting for us to clear the line.

Their driver was waiting on the central platform, radio'ing with the base to confirm that we were out of the block. I wish I'd watched if he also grabbed a staff from our driver? Either way, we were on the way again and in Hojo after about half an hour.

Hojo Station

On approach, the target was visible, but once in the station, getting to the target required a wander...

The poor KIHA40 was parked in an end-road and obviously wasn't going to be operating on the day I visited, but I still got to visit it!

After a quick dawdle around the streets, I made it to the level crossing in the the rear of the photos above...

It looked in really great condition! Sad I could go for a spin on it, but hey... I'd already done that in Hokkaido. I loitered for a bit to see the service we'd crossed earlier come back into town.

And then I checked out some junk shops up the road. Nothing of great interest, but a few cute SCSI and USB cables. What next? There's a notable park on the mountain just north of the junk shop, so I went for it... I had an hour+ before the next service!

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park is located on a mountain (which they obviously think is circular!) in the east of Hojo Town. It was quiet when I was there, but if you go by the "don't do this" signs, then it must get pretty busy. There's a large pond, a globe that actually functions as a clock and a really long rollercoaster/slide.

Anyone paying attention to that last shot above will see the red 'pads' handing in the little shelter at the end of the slide. You're meant to take one and sit on it whilst you go down the slide... but I totally missed them and just bolted to the top of the mountain. There was a train to photograph!

Straya! The globe spins and tells the time... supposedly. I was too excited for the slide. But actually, the next service was due to depart soon, so I checked the clock closer and waited for a shot of the train.

The train passed...

The slide beckoned...

Fun was had!

There's a pause half-way... probably to stop human avalanches. Also to let people on half-way if they don't want to do the whole run.

Not using a pad under my arse, I was nearly jolted around enough to stop... but... when in Rome.

Tunnels... twists... turns! But that last corkscrew had me jammed... had to scoot forward and off.

That's what I finished the rides and saw the pads you were meant to sit on. Haha. Speaking of park rules...

In every language! And... look how scruffy that poor feral cat is.

A little bit of wildlife watching... and then done. Thanks Maruyama Park!

On the way back to the station, I passed this random under-contruction freight yard... or was it? Hah containers-as-hotel-rooms!

Back to Kakogawa

The weather was pleasant, so I dawdled to co-incide with the return trip of the DMU, of which I'd seen from the mountain-top.

I then pre-purchased a ticket from the vending machine and waited for the next service to depart. There happens to be a list of donators on the station wall, but I had chosen not to pay for that level of crowdfunding.

Before-long the service was off to Ao.

Ao Station

I had half a plan to walk from Ao Station back to Abiki Station to photograph the Hojo DMUs are they passed through the countryside. There's a great S-Bend between these stations and I had calculated a ~35 minute walk. What I hadn't calculated was a late arrival at Ao Station, as that meant I'd have milliseconds to get to the first photo spot before the train I'd travelled on returned to Hojo Town.

I walked way too slowly from Ao to the photo point... getting distracted by the Kakogawa Line...

Only to see the DMU piss past quickly...

It's a great spot. It was actually getting too warm, so I chose instead to return to Shin-Osaka and chill out for the afternoon. Mainly I was sad that it wasn't a KIHA40 in the shots above. I was a little put-off that I'd come on a day when it wasn't running. So... I returned to Ao Station, only to realise that the Kakogawa Line service that I'd photo'd above was the service I should've transferred to and that the next service was 1 hour away.

No problems? There must be a convenience store nearby? There isn't? It's a 30 minute walk!? I won't get back to the station in time? Hah.

The middle shot above shows the directions to each of the three railways that service Ao Station. Kobe to the left, JR straight ahead and Hojo to the right.

So yeah, where was I? No food? Too much time? I'd drank enough coffee cans to pee for the rest of my life... let's just photo the crap out of the station. Oh, and dawdle back to the rice fields to check out a cemetary.

Google says it's Ao Castle Ruins, but I don't know what to believe. Anyway, back to the station... and starvation...

Hojo then returned... as it was to make the connection with my Kakogawa service.

And then we all had to run up the platform as the 2-car service stopped way forward next to the Kobe Line Service.

This time I actually checked out the view from the front of the train. One is never unimpressed!

And then it was a transfer onto the Special Rapid. I could've then switched to the Shinkansen, but I had time, and a front seat on the Tokaido Main Line.

Not too many limited express trains at that time of day... or freight, for that matter, but I wasn't ready for much more than just staring out the front.

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