Sunday, 3 July 2011

Trains - A Romantic Ride On A Steam Train

This month, a post about a steam train - the SL Banetsu Monogatari-go. 

It is a special express train that runs on a 126-kilometer track from Niigata to Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima and vice versa. One can enjoy a one-way trip to either destination or a round trip on weekends and holidays mainly from April to November.
The train - a C57-180 type train was in service from 1946 to 1969. It was restored and began its new routine running on the Banetsu West line on April 1999. Our trip on this train was made on its 10th year, in 2009.

The Banetsu West Line is known as the “Mori to Mizu to Roman no Tetsudo” (the water, forest, and nostalgia railway) and we were presented with magnificent scenery from atop the railroad bridges going across Agano River. That said, if you plan to take the ride from Aizu-Wakamatsu to Niigata like we did, make sure you secure a seat on the left side. We booked our tickets late (as we booked a few days before our intended trip) so we got seats on the right side. Not that there's anything wrong with it but for photographing purposes, the left side is better.  ^^
The train at the platform. There was a huge crowd of people vying for a spot to best take photos of it once it started moving and spouting white steam. While on the train, we saw many photographers waiting to take shots of the train passing by too.
A staff with a bag of goodies to be handed out. Everyone in our carriage participated and played jan-ken-pon (rock-paper-scissor) to win free train goodies. It was super fun!

By the way, the interior of the train and the uniform of the crew are designed in a style unique to the Taisho era which is also the period when the Banetsu line was opened. Nice nostalgic touch.
The passenger lounge. Great place to get a better view of the scenery. Next to the lounge is the
Gift shop. Free postcards given for purchases made here and if the postcard is dropped in the train's mailbox (stamps sold on the train too), the postcard gets a special train postmarked.
And this being Japan, there are stamps you can stamp your hearts content available. We duly stamped our postcard and posted it away.

In between the journey, the train stops for approximately 10 to 15 minutes at two stops which allows passengers to disembark for some photo op. Boy, we passengers sure scrambled to take it!
A staff helping to take a passenger's photo. Yes, we were allowed to climb up the driver's compartment.
That's me and Raimie. In the background, people were trying to check out and take a shot of the staff shoveling coals into the boiler.
Some stuff we bought on the train. Two ekiben and a model train. The ekiben is especially nice because the wrapper has a train cutout that we still keep.


  1. Can't beat a good old ride on a classic steam train. I haven't been on one before in Japan but have been on plenty in Australia.

    Japan Australia

  2. Great trains.There are tons of fun to old trains.

    I'm sure you will enjoy "the railway museum" in Saitama.
    I went to there at once.

  3. @Japan Australia,
    Id love to try those in Australia some day! ^^

  4. @cocomino,
    Of course we have been to the Tetsudo Hakubutsukan. ^^

    We visited the museum in 2009 and the now closed Transportation Museum a few years before that. :)

  5. I didn't know they had preserved steam trains in Japan. They are very popular in England, and I like them. Don't they seem to have more "personality" than regular trains. This sounds like a great trip and the carriages look beautiful inside.

  6. @Jenny,
    Seeing a steam train puffing along an English countryside is such a romantic image. ^^

    It was indeed a great trip. Beautiful scenery and for those who might get bored, they provided relief by that little bit of playing of rock-paper-scissors. Kids love it! (We parents did too). ;p

  7. looks like my previous comment didnt go through.. :) it must have been a memorable esperience. just looking at these pics makes me want to compare it with present day trains.. wuah we have come so far :)

  8. @Bengbeng,
    Your earlier comment didn't go through. Oh dear! I wonder whether anyone else facing the same problem. It's been pretty quiet here. XD

    Indeed, when comparing the old trains with the new ones - it just makes you wonder how fast the technology changes.

    Now, if only KTM knows how to embrace technology and make sure the komuter trains can actually run on time and on schedule for once. @.@

  9. Looks cool. I did a similar thing in Kanchaburi, Thailand.

  10. This is a lurker's first comment. Japan's railway network is the best, isn't it? I love trains – from the little trams in Tokyo to the superfast shinkansen to the huffing&puffing steam engines. I'd love to travel on this one. Thanks for telling us about it!

  11. @Filip,
    Oh! Lucky you!

    Steam trains rides are always so romantic. :)

  12. @Rurousha,
    Hi ya! A lurker's first comment is always exciting for me! Hope you stay commenting. :)

    Yes, Japan railway system is the BEST! And I do so love them, as you mentioned - everything is great about them.

    Can't wait to get on more trains soon! ^^

  13. Hallo! Tetuchan. You and your son look very happy. When my children were small, I did the sama kind of things. for them.

  14. That is one cool coal train. Looks very relaxing from the lounge and got a great view from there. Cant figure out the cartoon character looks like a mouse no its a rat, no its Ratatouille, no its Stuart Little, no its Mickey no its Minnie ahhhhh whatever...OOops its a cat! hahaha.

  15. This must be a great trip! I always dreamed of riding on a steam train to travel between places!!! :D It feels like travel back to the past!! Awesome!! The mailbox inside the train is quite interesting too!

  16. @minor,

    We were indeed happy. It was a fun train ride. :)

  17. So interesting!
    The lounge looks like a playground.
    Even a postbox in the train?
    I like the bento idea. Buy one get one card free!

  18. @Bananazஇ ,
    Love this train. It's fun to ride it too. The scenery is nice and we can enjoy the fresh air if we want to because the window can be opened. Totally cool! :)

  19. @ristinw,
    The trip was nice even though we did have uncomfortable moments as we had to share our seats with a HUGE guy who took up most of the space and spent the entire trip snoring. XD
    But that didn't stop us from having fun! ^^
    Love the mailbox. Getting the postcard with the train's postmark is special. :)

  20. @London Caller,
    The lounge looks like a playground because it was filled with kids! Families with children seems to love taking this ride. :)

    Nifty idea that ekiben with card, right? :)

  21. I've been a Peeping Tom for a while. I only recently started being an exhibitionist. :) PS: Have you ever considered listing your blog on the website That's a good source of nice blogs. You should be on it!

  22. @Rurousha,
    Being an exhibitionist is way better (not to mention more fun) than a peeping tom, that I say. XD

    Japanbloglist - yeah, I know about it way back when but I dont know... I just stick to reading the ones I really like and hope people just accidentally come and visit me instead. ;p

  23. Aizu wakamatsu is getting somebody's attention since we went there. Your entry wound accelerate Ms. T's attention more than ever... I will end up picking her at Niigata in this summer:)
    Have a wonderful day, Lina.
    P.S. I have update on my latest entry to answer your question.

  24. @Yoshi,
    So Mrs T been lavishing some interest on Aizu Wakamatsu. I need to give the place attention too! ^^

    Thanks for the update. After reading about how you took that photo, I am more in awe. Seriously.

    Have a good day and a good week too, both of you. :)

  25. Sounds like a wonderful trip! Can a passenger stand in the lounge car throughout the trip? It seems like you can get views from both sides, but no seats. What a fun way to win prizes with rock-paper-scissor! Did you win?

  26. @AVCr8teur,
    Did you see the blue bench in the lounger area? We can sit on it while spending time in the lounge. :)

  27. It's wonderful you had lots of fun time.
    The classic train reminds me my favorite story of "Ginga Tetsudo No Yoru" by Japanese Kenji Miyazawa.

  28. I would love to sit on this train and take lots and lots of photos!! : D

  29. I like that train cutout! : )

  30. @Anzu,
    That's a classic novel! :)

    Yes, it was really a wonderful trip. I wouldn't mind doing it again. :)

  31. @foong,
    I would too. We didn't have many photos of the scenery though. Got fat guy blocking our view that time. XD

  32. This is one of the other things I love about Japan, their dedication in restoring the old as it has its history behind it. I love old steam engined trains (is that the right way of putting it ^_^) I hope to go on one when we go back to the UK next year. It would be a lovely experience. I love the entertainment they have on board the train and the goodies that they sell on board too. Is that so awesome!

  33. @cuteandcurls,
    Taking a steam engine across the English countryside. I want to do that too, someday. Not to mention all the steam trains all over the world! ^^


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