Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Tiny Trains of Kintetsu

20120225-UtsubeHachiojiLine-5
Utsube Station

A small single platform is tucked underneath the elevated tracks for the Nagoya and Yunoyama lines at Kintetsu Yokkaichi station. The large elevated tracks serve the normal gauge trains sending passengers on long express trains to Osaka and Nagoya. Down below are their little brothers Kintetsu’s Utsube and Hachijoji lines. In Yokkaichi are two of Japan’s four narrow gauge trains. The tracks are noticeably closer to each other, but it’s not until the brightly colored train pulls into the station that you realize just how narrow these trains actually are. It looks like the trains were bought in a closing sale from a failed Disneyland knock-off. The driver situated in the middle of the car seen in the front windshield seems too big for his little train.

20120225-UtsubeHachiojiLine-420120225-UtsubeHachiojiLine-6

The train stops and is quickly filled by the people waiting on the platform. It’s a tight fit for this mostly full train. The front and rear cars have a row of single seats along the sides while the middle car has a typical bench. The seats cannot change directions. If you are sitting in the back of this train you can watch the world drift away and only with a strained neck and twisted body can you see what is coming next. A change machine is at the far end behind the driver. Fares are collected by that driver at all stations except Utsube and Yokkaichi where the station is manned. PiTaPa is not accepted.

20120225-UtsubeHachiojiLine-2
Utsube Station

There are two lines the Utsube and the single stop spur Hachijoji line. The latter originally traveled further into the countryside but was abandoned after a flood in the 1970’s. Both traveled into a mix of light industrial with residential neighborhoods of mostly single-family houses. I was pleasantly surprised how busy the lines were on the Saturday that I rode them both. Local ridership appeared high. At Utsube station, the terminal, riders exit through the small house that serves as the station while a few who remain loiter around. These are the train fans walking along the platform snapping photos as they wait for the return trip to Yokkaichi. A grandfather tells his grandchild about the train as he peers out the window. These trains, because of their rarity, are popular among train enthusiasts.

20120225-UtsubeHachiojiLine-7
Nishihino Station
There did not seem to be much to see along the two lines other than trains themselves. The old wooden stations, especially Hinaga where the lines diverge, are quite pretty. These are some of the most unique trains in Japan and a pleasure to ride if you find yourself in Mie.

Wikipedia:
Utsube Line
Hachioji Line
20120225-UtsubeHachiojiLine-3

20120225-UtsubeHachiojiLine
Yokkaichi Station
The Utsube and Hachioji Lines are in blue and dark green respectively.
より大きな地図で Kintetsu Trip Feb 25 2012 を表示

1 comment:

A.T. POST said...

This is so cool! I had no idea! Excellent photos too.