Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Kyoto (Japan) Railway Museum

Last month, my wife Mary and I were traveling through central Japan. This involved a lot of train travel, experiences I described in a prior post (see it at: ). The trip also involved the discovery of a superb new railway museum at Kyoto. It opened quite recently, in April 2015, as a major renovation and expansion of an existing museum, the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum. The Umekoji already held an extensive collection of railroad equipment, including many steam locomotives, and the Osaka Museum collection was added to it, as the aging Osaka facility was closed.
     I have been to many railway museums around the world, and this Kyoto facility is absolutely top rank, certainly among the very best anywhere. I might rank the York museum in England above it, and the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento as its equal, but the Kyoto facility is definitely in that company. Shown below is the museum entrance plaza, with groups of elementary school kids waiting to enter. They are all in uniform, with different hats from different schools.

     Shown next below is a map of the ground floor of the museum (it also has a large amount of displays on a second floor, and a third floor with a superb viewing platform for the action in and out of the nearby main Kyoto station). You can click to enlarge. The photo above was taken at the extreme lower right corner of this map.

The 20-stall roundhouse dominates the plan. But many pieces of equipment are also displayed in the “Promenade” area, shown above at right in brown, including one of the original Shinkansen (Bullet Train) trainsets, called “Model 0” today. The upper rectangle on the map is the main building, with its three floors and many pieces of equipment on display. The whole museum currently displays 53 locomotives and cars. The photo below is the nose of the “Model 0” train.

     The roundhouse full of preserved steam deserved more time than I could spend, but most of the engines were very handsome to my eye. All are 42-inch gauge. One example is this 4-6-4 or Hudson type (in American nomenclature), a C62-1 class on JNR. Very nice lines.

The action we saw that afternoon was one of the excursion locomotives (there were two under steam) being turned on the turntable and then backed onto a garden track. It was a 2-8-2 or Mikado type, in JNR classification D51-200. Again, a very handsome locomotive to my eye. Here you see it backing off the turntable.

     I did note in several places around the facility an unusual track-end bumper design. The background engine is another Hudson, Class C61-2, but the foreground bumpers are the subject of this photo. Good luck on making up a few of these for your layout:

For a non-Japanese visitor, the museum does have one drawback, in that very few displays have English descriptions (beyond just the name of the item). But there is an English brochure, and for the knowledgeable railroad enthusiast, you do know what you are looking at in nearly every instance.
     Though I had not planned to visit this museum as part of our group travel, a very timely free afternoon in the schedule made it possible, and it was a highlight of the entire trip for me. I hope to go back sometime and spend a full day or more!
Tony Thompson

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