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29Aug/190

Nayoro and Wakkanai – May 2019

The previous day I'd travelled from Sendai to Asahikawa in order to check out some afternoon freight. This also put me in a great position to catch the first northbound service from Asahikawa to Nayoro. The eventual goal was to get to Wakkanai and tick off most northbound station, but there were also delights to see prior to this achievement! The day started with the usual array of beautiful Hokkaido EMUs, before I even got to the station!

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My train north was to be a stopper... I wanted to get to Nayoro early, so I chose the first northbound local. Turns out this was to be serviced by a joint KIHA effort.

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I chose a seat close to the front of the service as I've always loved the ability to view where we're going.

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The scenery was nothing short of spectacular.. that previous mention of agriculture shining through. I could not believe how green the country was.

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Before-long we had arrived at Nayoro.

Nayoro

This sleepy town used to be alive with railway activity. The remnants of the station yard show that there used to be a lot of steam activity. Back when locomotives needed more-frequent servicing, refuelling and shuffling, this area would have been a major depot. Unfortunately, nowadays the DMUs can zoom past this area and not give a damn as, well, their tanks are still a-plenty. The DMUs that I travelled on had done their dash and were to terminate here. In fact, they were to split and the older KIHA departed for the yard... the younger sibling ended up on Platform 3 to perform a later service.

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But, that wasn't what I was here for... a quick walk to the south-east of the station would provide me with my first real contact with a 9600 class steamer! Unfortunately... stuffed-and-mounted. But, as with the rest of this trip, I had to walk there first.

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At last, a caboose appeared...

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And then ... nothing but stuffed-and-mounted steam trains... in terribly glary morning light.

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The 9600-class is such a fantastic-looking locomotive... one of those styles that uses every centimetre of available space. It was amazing getting up close to one... I wish there was still a running example! I hereby request that Oigawa restore the static exhibit sitting at Senzu Station (49616 is there in one of the photos)!

Anyway, that was enough to make the locals wonder what the hell a gaijin was doing wandering around their neighbourhood and local parkland. It was still early... somewhere near 9am and lots of people were heading to work. I hereby apologise! But it must be a common occurrence? I suppose the next bit wasn't though.. I dawdled from the SL display, past the back of the DMU/freight sheds, around to the curve on the northern side of the station. The southbound express was due next and I fluked a fantastic location!

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Half of the set that brought me to Nayoro was still on P3, but then I turned around and checked out the view... that would set the scene for the approaching express...

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Ah yeah... Thank you sun, thank you grass, thank you ...

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You just can't ask for better variables... Hokkaido!

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I kept dawdling my way around, back to the station. Stocking up with goods at Convenience Stores for the further trip north.

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A DMU came through southbound, whilst I was waiting for my express to Wakkanai.

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And then we were off!

Wakkanai - The end of JR

The trip further north was beautiful. Right towards the end the line bends towards the western coast of Hokkaido and there's a huge volcano, similar to Sakurajima down in Kagoshima. But before that, it's countryside, cows and more countryside.

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A few minutes past the volcano and we were pulling to a halt in Wakkanai Station. At this point I'd now completed 3 of the 4 points of extremity of the JR network. I got out and checked out the station precinct. Due to the timing of return services, and my plans to get back to Asahikawa to see more freight, I had already decided to take the same train back... so I had around 15 minutes to find food and have a look around.

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The five station supports above have signs on them indicating how far Wakkanai Station is from other stations in the JR network. The first one above is actually Nishi-Oyama Station, which I travelled to a few weeks prior... 3068.4km away! Asahikawa was 259.4km away and Sapporo 396.2km. I assume they used the rail-length and not as-the-crow-flies.

After doing Wakkanai very little justice (I'll come back, I promise!), I was back on the southbound express, bound for Asahikawa once more. Here's some scenery...

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Asahikawa Station

The express arrived back in Asahikawa just as the freight was passing through. This happened to be the same timeslot as the afternoon before.

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I returned to the hotel to freshen up... and to catch as many DMUs as I could on the viaduct.

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I then returned to the station as the sun was setting. The day before I'd been at Shin-Asahikawa, so I was pleasantly surprised that the lighting was just as fantastic here.

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The freight came through like clockwork and I feel sorry for the driver's retinas!

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From here it was back to the hotel for dinner and a massage. There's a great bathhouse and masseuse on level 2!

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