Land of the Rising Sun
Recently, two of our members, Arline and Peter Wilson, took a trip to Japan.
Here is an account of that trip.
An almost totally inaccurate report from Takayama Railway Station, Japan.
When our beloved (as he likes to think of himself) Chairman of the SRC heard that we were going to Japan his face lit up.
“Emigrating?” he asked, expectantly.
“No, just a Holiday”, we replied.
“Damn”, he looked crest-fallen. “Oh well, can’t be helped I suppose. You had better bring back a report and some pictures of their trains, or else….”
So, here is that report.
Now, before we get into the pictures let me explain that, when you are on an organised tour of the major tourist sites in Japan, it can be difficult to escape from the daily round of visits to Shrine, Temple, Castle, Temple, Tea-House, Shrine, Temple ….. and to find time to photograph their trains.
True, we did have a couple of trips on the famous “Bullet-Trains”, but trying to stick my head out of the window to photograph our speeding loco cost me both my second-best hat and a severe but polite telling-off by the guard.
However, when we reached the town of Takayama we finally managed to slip past our Tour Guards one afternoon whilst they had a post-Sushi nap and we sprinted(?) to the nearby railway station.
Photo 1 shows the clean and modern entrance to Takayama Station. Readers will be shocked to hear that this station is twinned with neither Stafford nor Stone stations.
Photo 2 was taken from the station over-bridge, showing the Northern approach to the station.
Now we knew that we would be asked what the track gauge is, but having scrambled painfully over the station’s barbed-wire fence to measure it we discovered that we had left our 6-inch ruler in the hotel. However, as we were ejected from the station environs by several severe but polite railway staff we realised that, by using the known dimensions of certain object in this photo and applying some basic trigonometry we should be able to calculate the gauge. So, we can state with complete confidence that the track gauge in the station is 3 feet 1 inch (940mm).
(N.B. This seems strange since, according to the official guide to the Takayama Main Line, the rest of the line is gauged at 3 feet 6 inches or 1067mm).
Now, at this point we must confess that we know almost nothing about Japanese trains, but there was a teenage boy sitting nearby, playing on one of those electronic gaming thingies and so we asked him about the trains sitting in the station. You will be amazed to hear that he did not seem to understand English, but by adopting the traditional British technique when talking to foreigners (keep repeating your question but each time more s-l-o-w-l-y and LOUDER) we eventually got through to him. So, if any of the information below turns out to be incorrect, please take your complaints to him, not to us.
Photo 3: Shows a Tamagotchi Company Class 18, also known as a “Pikachu”. This class of loco is designed for use on the many mountain lines in the area, travelling on track which climbs steep and tightly twisting routes, clinging to the sides of spectacular but vertiginous gorges over roaring torrents.
The more eagle-eyed of our readers will notice that this loco obviously has severe brake problems, since it has chocks around the second wheel. However, it should be noted that, in an effort not to scare the passengers, the driver had thoughtfully placed the chocks on the opposite side to the platform.
Photo 4: Here, apparently, is a Teriyaki class 22 or “Ramen” loco. Designed as a stopping train on the main line you may notice a red flag slotted onto the front bogie. This had been left by the loco guide whilst he nipped off for a quick sushi. The guide’s job is to walk in front of the train waving his red flag to warn pedestrians of its approach. The older of our readers will recognise that this is a practice copied from the early days of motoring in the UK. Makes you proud!
Sadly, at this point our own Tour Guards tracked us down and dragged us back to the coach to continue our tour. As punishment for trying to escape we were forced to visit another Temple, Shrine, Temple, Tea-house and Castle before being allowed to climb wearily into our beds.