Saturday, December 31, 2011

Railway Heritage and Wintersweet Field in Gunma


Railway heritage, electric locomotive ED 42 1 is preserved at Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park

Usui Pass (960m), which is located on the border between Gunma and Nagano prefectures, has been well-known as a place of heavy traffic. It is about 100km north of downtown Tokyo. If you approach from Gunma Prefecture, you have to climb nearly 600m on foot to the pass within a 9km horizontal distance.

In 1893, the railway, Shinetsu Main Line was opened crossing this steep area. Since then, the 11.2 km section between Yokokawa Station on the Gunma side and Karuizawa Station on the Nagano side had been operated using the rack-and-pinion railway system. It had been used until 1963, when a non-rack operation was introduced. Today, Nagano bullet trains breeze through Usui Pass with a maximum speed of 210km per hour at inclines of up to 30 per mill.

If you visit Yokokawa, you can still see the old electric locomotive, Type ED42 in Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park near the station (see the top photo). Type ED42 was specially-manufactured for the rack-and-pinion system railway between 1934 and 1948. The total number of manufactured units was 28. Among them, the top number unit, ED42 1 is designated as a Railway Heritage

In the meantime, I stopped en route to Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park at Wintersweet Village in Ananaka City near Yokokawa. Wintersweet is a flowering plant, which has yellow colored blossoms from December to February. It has just come into bloom, but I enjoyed lovely flowers and sweet perfume (see the bottom photo).

Gunma is an attractive area, isn't it?

Wintersweet field in Annaka City, Gunma Prefecture