Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The 90th Anniversary of Dragon Rail

Diesel Railcar JR East KiHa100-0 series arrives at Rikuchu-Kanzaki Station on the Oofunato Line

On July 26th, JR East celebrated the 90th anniversary of its Oofunato Line in Tohoku District, some 450 km north of Tokyo. The Oofunato Line was partially opened between Ichinoseki and Surisawa (30.6km) on July 26th in 1925. The route then fully opened to Sakari (105.7km) in 1935. The track is single and un-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. Its nickname is Dragon Rail, as the route is devious like a dragon body.

The main fleet of Dragon Rail is 16.5 meter-long diesel railcar, KiHa 100-0 series, which was launched in 1990. A total of 46 units have been built over three years by Niigata Tekko and Fuji Heavy industries. They are operated as a 2-car or a 3-car train every two hours on average. The train runs without conductors on board, which means that the driver operates the train doors.

Dragon Rail has had many hardships over the past 90 years. Specifically, it was paralyzed by the 3.11 tsunami disaster following the giant earthquake in 2011. The section between Kesennuma and Sakari (43.7 km) is still closed. Instead of the train, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was operated on the destroyed railway track after the temporary repair. The new railway track is planned to be constructed on the hill to avoid any danger from a future tsunami, but the estimated cost is very high.

I hope that the injured dragon will make a strong comeback soon. Nevertheless, congratulations on the 90th anniversary of Dragon Rail!

Diesel Railcar JR East KiHa100-0 series arrives at Geibikei Station on the Oofunato Line
Official information about the diesel railcar, KiHa 100 series (in Japanese):