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Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan – July 2017

I'd been to this city before, but always by railpass and therefore the Tohoku Shinkansen. My friend (Hi Keiko!) is from Aizu and, whilst going to visit her family, insisted that we travel via the Aizu Tetsudou instead of taking the quick path. We weren't disappointed!

The Path

I've plotted the paths vaguely on the map below. Option 1 is in blue and it's the standard 'fast route' via the Shinkansen and Aizu Liner. This is all JR and is totally do-able for 'free' using the JR Pass. As I'd mentioned, we'd done this many times in the past and it was time to check out the old route through the mountains and on the private railways.

The whole trip was done in two stages. First was from Asakusa to Aizu-Tajima via the Tobu Railway on the Limited Express Revaty. Second was from Aizu-Tajima through to Aizuwakamatsu on the Aizu Railway.

Asakusa to Aizu-Tajima

The Revaty is an exciting train. I have no idea where they got the name from (I lie, Wiki says: a name derived from the English words "Variety" and "Liberty"), but it looks neat and is quite new!

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The platforms at Asakusa are curved and they get quite narrow towards the front of the train. We were also 'right on time' and had to do a bit of safe-speed-running to get to the car of the train of which we were assigned. The journey was comfortable and quick... with most passengers alighting along the way rather than at the very end. It actually turned out that the three of us, plus two (drunk) comrades, were the only passengers to go the whole way. The other two were quite entertaining, telling us about their trips to Australia and that they were just on the train as they were very interested in the new Revaty.

We passed through Tobu Nikko and saw the SL Taiju at a platform, accepting passengers on its trial runs. I'd not even thought that we'd intercept this train and wasn't ready to take photos... the timing was off anyway.

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There was a layover at Shin-Fujiwara to allow transfer to a local train and we were afforded time to take some photos.

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The scenery was already becoming picturesque... most of the time we were hanging out the left-hand-side windows as the sheer drop-offs down to the Kinugawa were stunning!

Aizu-Tajima Transfer

This was the end of the line for the Revaty. Here we transfered to a DMU of the Aizu Railway.

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The Aizu Tetsudou runs cute little 1-or-2-car DMU sets all the way up to Aizu-Wakamatsu. It also runs a joyful train known as the Torokko Train which has open windows and heaters, but we just missed that connection.

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The trip from there to Aizu felt very nostalgic and the hum of the diesel just adding more charm. The whole setup was one-man, so the driver had to receive payments at each station and confirm that everyone was utilising the service correctly.

SL Ban'etsu Monogatari

We arrived into Aizu-Wakamatsu on time, but this happened to be waaaaay too early for the SL. It was originally meant to be nice and tight, with the SL arriving a few minutes after we did... but, thanks to a country-way-of-life, the SL was running behind and arrived at a leisurely pace quite a while behind schedule.

I was only itching to take photos and therefore wasn't as disturbed as the passengers waiting on the Aizu Liner. This service will stall until the SL arrives to allow for a proper connection for transferring passengers. Again, no complaints here: The FruiTea Fukushima Joyful train was attached to the Liner, but didn't seem to be doing too much business.

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The interior was quite beautiful and the staff were immaculately dressed.

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After admiring this for a bit... the SL dawdled in...

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As stunning as ever... Always looking 100x better in the flesh. Black is a really difficult colour to photograph. Thanks to a family member picking us up from the station, we had wheels and traveled a little way north to get a shot of the steamer in action.

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A northbound DMU came through first.

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And then the SL itself... not going overly fast!

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From there, we went to a few recycle shops... and just happened to pass the station once more when I saw a random champagne-coloured EMU...

Train Suite Shikishima

This was a fluke... whilst waiting for the SL to turn up, the Shikishima rocked up to Aizu Station. We found out later that it seemed to have run into trouble just north at Kitakata, supposedly having pantograph issues? Either way, the passengers were de-trained and then re-joined the service after a quick fix in the Aizu yards...

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Don't quote me on this though... it could all be here-say. Either way I got to see the consist!

Kitakata to Atsushio - Nitchu Line

There's very little information on this, but there used to be a line from Kitakata further north to Atsushio. Supposedly this was built 1938 and the goal was to either transfer materials to build the Hinaka Dam or build a passenger line all the way through to Imaichi. There's a little bit more information here.

You can follow the alignment from Kitakata Station through the town. To the north-west of the town they've planted Cherry Blossoms along the path and have even stuffed and mounted a C11 SL with a little Diesel behind it.

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Driving to Atsushio was beautiful. The road nearly follows the old alignment and in most places you can see the embankment where the old line used to run. At the end, Atsushio Station has been beautifully preserved and even has more stuffed and mounted rolling stock.

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The station is beautifully preserved and there's quite a bit of memorabilia displayed in the offices. Make sure you walk all the way around and donate if you have spare change! You can even ring the station bell and make an announcement!

Aizu City

Turns out the police know how to catch up to the locals when required. We were at the station for official business (nothing untoward) and this was sighted in the car park.

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So pretty. I wonder if the owner: 1. is a police officer? 2. heads up the mountain much?

Aizu Tetsudou

Whilst there was spare time, I dawdled down to the nearby Aizu Tetsudou station from the house and checked out the local services.

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That afternoon it was a single-car DMU bringing students home from school. They were pretty shocked to find a gaijin taking photos of their mode of transport. I just smiled and waved; they did too.

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Minami Wakamatsu Station is a single-platform structure on a single-line area of the Aizu Tetsudou, just south of the main AizuWakamatsu Station.

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Ashinomakionsen Station

A few stations south is Ashinomakionsen Station. I'd seen via google maps prior to the trip that there was a siding here with a passenger car that seemed to be used as a classroom or cafe. We happened to be driving south to Ōuchi-juku, and so I asked to stop through.

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The carriage was ... well ... in a state of disrepair. The contents seemed to be aimed at school-kids, but it doesn't seem like it has been used in a while!

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Turns out that there's two station cats here as well, but they were locked up in their cages as it was wet outside... supposedly they're not allowed to get dirty! The rain also caused the railway to stop running on that day! I was so hoping for a running shot further down the line... but there were no trains in either direction thanks to a fear of land-slides.

Tonohetsuri Station

This station was another single platform on a single-line area, tucked away in the middle of the forest. It was on a beautiful sweeping curve and would've been great for a photo! ... if only the trains were running.

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And that was that for railway-oriented things in Aizu... I won't hesitate to go back again!

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About stevenh

Trains… trains… trains… + Electronics + Japan.

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