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Mission Accomplished!

05/08/06 | by silverso | Categories: Trains

I know many of you have been following my quest to find the legendary Noheji->Shichinohe railbus for many months with bated breath. Well thanks to KS clueing me into 'I Will Play with a Railbus 2006' I am very happy to report that I have succeeded in finding and riding the railbus! One quest down. One to go.

The first weekend in May marks the one and only time in the year when Shichinohe town has a functional train station. The track however dead ends after about 50 meters, so it's still kind of a stretch to call the station functional. In about eight years time the Shinkansen will be stopping in Shichinohe and this guy can finally earn a paycheck again (unless of course his job has been replaced by a computer, which it almost certainly has).

Despite a strong drizzle, big crowds made it out to see the railbus. I had to wait quite some time for my turn to experience railbus 102 in person. I couldn't help but feel like a bit of a poser for inviting myself to a festival that has to do with a bit local history that I was never a part of.

While I anxiously waited my turn for a ride on Kiha 102, I was able to enjoy some quality time with his twin brother Kiha 101 and watch the kiddies play with mini wind-up raibuses.

Finally the big moment arrived and I climbed onboard. The ticket collector spent the duration of our 3 minute voyage saying stuff in Japanese that I would presume had something to do with the railbus.

While I would have loved a seat right at one of the two the ends of the train, I decided that the nice thing to do would be to leave those seats for the kids. They are of course the train otaku of the future, and if the railbus is to survive then they must be taught to appreciate it.

After traveling about 50 meters, we reached the end of the line. At that point the driver stood up, grabbed his speed knob, his gear shift and his little leather purse and walked across the train to the opposite end for the return voyage. We didn't return to the station right away, but followed another track back to the car house, then stopped, turned around again, returned to the end of the line, switched tracks yet again and finally returned back to where it all began. It wasn't much, but I appreciated their attempts to give riders their full 300 yen's worth.

When I got off I took a quick shot of the train controls, minus the knob and stick. While I think my ticket was good for unlimited rides, I decided that it was probably best to stop after just one. I didn't want additional rides tarnishing the wonderful memories of my first ride on the Noheji rail bus.

The Kiha 101 and 102 railbuses also have a big gawky brother, the Kiha 104, which sits unloved all by its lonesome.

After a satisfying 15 minutes or so with the rail bus, I decided it was time to go. On the way out I scanned the souvenir shop, but when I didn't discover anything as cool as my N-Gauge rail bus model I decided to keep my wallet in my pocket. Among the items for sale was a thick book made up of hundreds of children's drawings of the rail bus. It's evident that this little train that could has meant a great deal to the folks in Kamikita region for many generations, and it's nice to know that it will continue to be preserved for at least the foreseeable future.



Comment from: KS

Glad to hear you went there! Any detail report?

05/09/06 @ 15:44
Comment from: silverso

What other details do you want to know? I thought I was pretty thorough in my report.

05/09/06 @ 16:03
Comment from: KS

Sorry I was reading only front page. I saw the detail article after submit the comment

05/12/06 @ 22:24
Nicholas Klar

Most importantly, how did it compare to the maglev in Shanghai?

05/15/06 @ 21:35
Comment from: silverso

I guess the only thing those two train rides had in common was how brief they both were. Sadly the Maglev topped out at 300 kph while I was on it because of speed restrictions placed on it after 5:30 pm.

05/17/06 @ 12:15
Avoiding life and teaching English in Noheji, Aomori, Japan


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