JR Kyushu to resume steam locomotive travel to support areas affected by deadly rain disaster

The SL Hitoyoshi steam locomotive is seen in this image provided by Kyushu Railway Co.

KUMAMOTO – Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu) will resume steam locomotive operation on an alternate route from May 1, in a bid to support areas along the JR Hisatsu line after a rain deadly hit the southwestern region of Japan last summer.

The SL Hitoyoshi steam locomotive is scheduled to run between Kumamoto and Tosu stations on weekends and holidays until June, and local delicacies from areas along the route, among other goods, are expected to be sold at the interior of the wagons. Tickets for the locomotive will go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. on April 1, a month before operations resume.

The tourist locomotive was previously operated mainly on weekends between Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi stations via the Kagoshima and Hisatsu lines. However, services have been suspended since July 2020 after the section between Yatsushiro and Yoshimatsu stations was closed due to torrential rains that hit the area.

Consisting of a steam car, three passenger cars and a diesel-powered car, the SL Hitoyoshi will provide fast services with a capacity of 132 passengers. It will make one round trip between Kumamoto and Tosu stations per day. Power will be generated by the steam engine on its way from Kumamoto to Tosu, while the diesel wagon will be used for its return journey. The steam locomotive will make stops at Tamana Station in Kumamoto Prefecture and Omuta and Kurume Stations in Fukuoka Prefecture, before reaching Tosu in Saga Prefecture, north of Kumamoto.

A passenger ticket and reserved seat ticket (1,680 yen, approximately $15) will be required to board the locomotive. Decisions on operations from July will be taken later.

The steam locomotive is also known for its temporary operation of “SL Kimetsu no Yaiba”, based on the hit anime film “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” in 2020.

A representative from JR Kyushu said, “I hope passengers will enjoy the scenery from the car windows on this occasion.” For more information, contact the JR counters at each station.

(Japanese original by Yasuhisa Yamamoto, Kumamoto Office)

Jose P. Rogers