Sunday, 17 February 2013

SL Express on the Mooka Railway

SL Express "Mooka" (C12 66 and passenger coaches, OHa 50 series) stands at Nishidai Station
In Japan, several railway companies operate steam locomotives (SLs) to promote sightseers. They vary from giant companies, such as JR East, to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

One such SME is Mooka Railway in Ibaraki Prefecture in the northern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Shimodate and Motegi stations, the total operating length is 41.9 kilometers. The whole route is an unelectrified single track.

Mooka has two units of SLs, namely C11 325 and C12 66. Pulling classic passenger coaches, the C11 and the C12 are operated as "SL Express, Mooka" on weekends and holidays.

I got on this SL train from Shimodate to Nishidai station last week. The SL on duty was a lovely C12 66, manufactured in 1933 by Hitachi, Ltd. (see the top photo). It had been preserved in Fukushima Prefecture for long time; however, it came back into operation in 1994 to pull the SL Express train. The body is a beautiful shiny black, and the piercing whistle doesn't seem old at all.

Despite it being a very cold wintertime, a lot of passengers were boarding this special train. They were families with small children, couples and rail fans. The passengers were waving to the local people along the track. At the same time, the local people were also waving back and smiling to the passengers. It is the latest railway culture on this route.

SL Express on the Mooka Railway... it is a heartwarming train in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Classic passenger coach, OHaFu 50 33 stands at Nishidai Station on the Mooka Railway
More pictures of SLs on the Mooka Railway: