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att. Japanese Culture - The Railway Museum
att. Culture - The Railway Museum
You are here: att.JAPAN > General Information > The Railway Museum
att.JAPAN Issue 38, January 2008

The Railway Museum

trainsThe first Japanese railroad was opened between Shimbashi and Yokohama* on October 14, 1872. One hundred fifty years later, on October 14, 2007, the Railway Museum was opened in Omiya in Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture.
*Note: The then Shimbashi Station later became the Shiodome cargo station and now is not used. The then Yokohama Station became the current Sakuragicho Station on the Negishi Line.

 Approach
It takes about 30 minutes from JR Shinjuku Station to Omiya Station by rapid train on either the Shonan-Shinjuku or Saikyo line. You then change trains to New Shuttle, a new transport system, at Omiya Station and get off at the first station, Tetsudo-hakubutsukan Station. In contrast to the compact shuttle, the station building is modern and spacious. This is the starting point of the "world of the railroad ." When going out the exit, you will find an approach to the museum. You will see driving wheels on the left hand side of you and a brick wall continuing to the museum under the elevated rails on the right hand side. Turn to the right and there is the modern museum.

 A condensation of the charms of railroads
When entering the building, "History Zone" is on the right hand side. This zone exhibits the role and influence on society of Japan's railroads from commencement of the railroad enterprise in 1872 up to the opening of the Tohoku/Joetsu bullet train in 1982. Let's take the escalator up to the second floor, from which you can look down upon real vehicles displayed on the first floor - a really impressive sight. The history of Japanese railroads is on display on surrounding walls. If you walk along the walls, you can see pictures and models of trains that were popular in each period. You can borrow a handy reader which offers explanations in several languages (English, Chinese and Korean) at the information counter at the entrance on the first floor. A reader reads QR codes on the corner of display boards, and shows explanations on its screen in a given language, which may be very helpful.

diolama Japans largest HO-gauge model railroad diorama
The most attractive exhibit on the second floor is that of the largest HO-gauge model railroad diorama in Japan. You can leisurely view an operation program with an explanatory narration (reservations necessary). With an adjustment of lighting, scenes changes from morning to evening to night and you can enjoy scenes of trains for the length of a given day. When the operation program is not being conducted, you can freely view the diorama. In addition, there are a gallery, a library featuring railroad-related books and materials, and a special gallery which holds special exhibitions on the second floor.

 Grandly impressive display of real trains
When you go back down to the first floor, you find the History Zone where real vehicles are displayed. As many as 35 railroad vehicles are on display. History, technology and systems of Japanese railroads from the starting point in the early Meiji-era (1868-1912) to the present are introduced in accordance with periods and themes.

A total of five vehicles are on display in the zone of the Dawn of the Japanese Railroad, such as Japan's first steam locomotive, the"150 steam locomotive," and the "7100 steam locomotive," the first steam train in Hokkaido, which was used for land-clearing and exploitation and was called"Benkei-go."A total of six cars are on display in the zone of the Taisho-era (1915-1926), when railroad networks spread across the country, such as "f 963 train," which was the origin of "Kokuden" (old name of JR lines in Tokyo) and the"ED40 electric locomotive," which was the first electric locomotive made in Japan and used in the Abt system between Yokokawa and Karuizawa on the Shin-etsu Line.

A "C57 steam locomotive" is on grandly impressive display in the center of the History Zone. It is a representative of steam locomotives when they were used as express trains. Given the nickname "Lady," it remains a perennial favorite thanks to its elegant contours. A total of five cars, including a "C51 steam locomotive," the first full-fledged high-speed steam locomotive made in Japan, and a "Nn40 electric train,"which is a representative of commuter trains before World War II, are displayed in a zone of the period around the war years (1930s-1940s) in the Showa era (1926-1988).

Mass transportation and electrification spread throughout the country in the 1950s and a new type of train appeared. Four trains of this period are displayed: an "EF58 electric locomotive," which was a very popular standard electric locomotive for express trains; a "inlt22 passenger car," which was called "blue train" and a passenger car used for express trains with sleeping berths; a "Nn101 electric train," which was the first-of-its-kind commuter train of Japan National Railways (predecessor of JR) and used in commuter lines in Tokyo and Osaka; and a "Nn181 electric train," which was used as an express train, "Toki," on the Joetsu Line.

A total of four vehicles are on display in the zone of the 1960s, when a network of express trains rapidly spread all over the country, such as the "Nn481 electric train" and "n484 electric train," which were used as express trains, express train "Nn455 electric train" and AC electric locomotive "ED75 electric locomotive." An "EF 66 electric locomotive," which was used as a high-speed electric locomotive for luggage trains and wagons, is also displayed. You can actually ride and eat lunch boxes on some vehicles. In addition, six special vehicles on which the Emperor and Imperial family members ride are displayed.

museum Popular operation simulator
There are drive simulators, restaurants and a museum shop on the left hand side on the first floor when entering the building. The operation simulators are popular as you can experience driving as if you were yourself a driver. Although there is a charge for steam locomotive driving and reservations are necessary, other simulators are available without booking. There is also a "Nihon-shokudo (Restaurant Japan)" in front of the simulators. The name derives from the former nickname of dining cars, "Travel restaurant Nihon-shokudo." You can eat foods from the menus of former periods or one of the lunch boxes that have long been familiar in trains. The museum shop sells railway-related goods and the museum's original goods. You can drive a mini vehicle on the course outside the museum (charged, reservations necessary) and ride on a mini shuttle, which models the bullet train "Hayate," to move about the premises (free of charge). Comparing them to real trains and bullet trains which run nearby is fun.

 Anybody can enjoy
Japanese railroads are famous for the Shinkansen bullet trains and accurate and punctual operation. When people go to a large station while traveling, they feel excited, thinking of the adventures in unfamiliar places that lie ahead along the railway. If you are a railroad buff, or even if you are not such a person, you are sure to enjoy the Railway Museum. As it is quite close to Tokyo, why don't you visit?

 Links
The Railway Museum


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