Jiji Press NIKKO, Tochigi (Jiji Press) — A much-awaited steam locomotive went into service on Tobu Railway Co.’s Kinugawa Line in the city of Nikko on Thursday.
The Taiju train, pulled by the C11 207 locomotive, travels between Shimoimaichi Station and Kinugawa-Onsen Station, with three round-trip services offered a day on the 12.4-kilometer section. A one-way trip takes 35 minutes.
It is the first time in 58 years for a steam locomotive to run in the Kinugawa area, which is a major tourist destination featuring the Kinugawa Onsen hot spring resort and scenic spots around the Kinugawa River. The first Taiju train left Shimoimaichi around 12:20 p.m.
At a ceremony at Shimoimaichi, Tobu Railway President Yoshizumi Nezu said, “It’s our duty to meet the expectations of railway operators that supported us for the steam locomotive revival.” Among these railway firms are JR Hokkaido and JR East.
Postdisaster reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino said at the ceremony: “I expect the steam locomotive will increase the attractions of Nikko and tourist spots in the Tohoku northeastern Japan region,” which was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In fiscal 2017, which ends next March, Taiju is slated to be operated for a total of 98 days, mainly on weekends and public holidays.
Tobu Railway hopes that the steam locomotive service will help revitalize the Kinugawa area and increase tourists to Fukushima Prefecture, next to Tochigi and part of Tohoku, to support the region’s postdisaster reconstruction.