I've been fascinated by locomotives since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Back in London, England where I was born, I can still picture being held tightly by my dad looking over a bridge and watching the trains shunt cars around the track - steam blowing into my face - and just loving it.
By the time I was three, I had a used train-set given to me by my parents - we weren't rich, but really, I think the folks were just saving up for a plane ticket to Canada...
That train was the Princess Elizabeth, with two passenger cars, a mail car and a coal car. Beautiful. I have it still.
About five years ago, I built my first ever train set - table, scenery, model kit buildings - only to see a fire essentially wreck the best laid plans of mice and Andrew.
So... I like trains, and come by the writing of this particular blog honestly.
Like many of the modern contrivances in Japan, it owes its start to foreign intervention.
In Japan... back in 1853, US Navy Commodore Perry delivered a few presents from his government to the Emperor of Japan, including: a working 1/4 scale model of a steam engine and tender, along with 370 yards of train track that was laid out in a circle.
This much we know is true. But what did the train look like? Here are three versions as done by Japanese artists.
|Japanese artist rendition of the Perry train. Ryosenji Treasure Museum|
|Another Japanese artist rendition of the Perry train from Shiryo Hensanjo, University of Tokyo.|
|Yet another Japanese artist rendition of the Perry train, also from Shiryo Hensanjo, University of Tokyo.|
You'll notice that NONE of the artistic renditions match. Count the wheels on the locomotive. The bottom two (image #2 and #3) match.
But what about the tender/coal car? #1 and #2 match with four wheels, while #3 implies 8.
How about the passenger coach? Despite all three looking vastly different, #2 and #3 match with eight wheels, #1 has four.
I'm going to say that #3 is the most accurate, what with the smaller wheels at the front being realistic, along with the fact the artist added pistons, and the passenger car doesn't look like a box car or have a Japanese roof. I also like the fact the tender - which would have a heavy load - is stabilized with more wheels.
It's funny that there is no accurate description of this steam engine from the U.S.... such as who manufactured the 4-4-0 train (four wheels at the front, four in the middle with the piston, and zero under the area where the driver works).
What we do know, however, is that the steam engine is 1/4 the size of a then-standard locomotive. It rode on about 370 yards of track. Note that since the train is 1/4 the size, so too was the track.
Anyhow... want to know what the REAL model looked like?
Here's a photo from the Saga Museum of this first actual 1/4 scale train:
|Guess what - none of those drawing are accurate as the Perry 1/4 scale train. This is actually it.|
Just prior to the fall of the Shogunate, the Tokugawa regime issued a grant to US diplomat Anton L. C. Portman to construct a line from Yokohama to Edo (later renamed Tokyo).
In 1868, Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover brought the Iron Duke - the first steam locomotive - to Japan, and tested and demonstrated it on an eight-mile (12.87 kilometer) track in Nagasaki's Ōura district.
It was impressive. Now run by a non-Shogun elected government, Japan, with British financing, hired 300 British and European civil engineers, general managers, locomotive builders and drivers.
Where's the U.S? D'oh!
On December 7, 1869, Brit Harry Parkes met with the Meiji government to discuss how they could bring railways and telegrams to Japan - all things Japan did not have as a closed nation.
At the talks, were (surname first) vice-premier Iwakura Tomomi, Minister of foreign affairs Sawa Nobuyoshi, vice-minister of finance Okuma Shigenobu and assistant vice-minister of finance Ito Hirobumi.
Being the guys in charge of the money, Okuma and Ito were the lads in charge of building the railroad, but the group decided that first rail line would run between the capital city of Tokyo to Kobe, and a branch line would veer off to someplace near Lake Biwa to Tsuruga on the Sea of Japan.
As mentioned, the Brits would be the guys getting the money for the Japanese, and a gentleman named Horatio Nelson Lay sold bonds back in London to gain the monies needed, and, on Japan's behalf, began purchasing the equipment needed to undertake the rail building.
But Lay wasn't that honest. A dishonest Lay?! Perish the thought.
Lay had signed a loan contract with the Japanese government at an annual interest rate of 12% and a 10-year term of payment.
However, he began selling railway bonds in London at an annual rate of 9%, which means that Lay would earn - for himself - 3% from every bond he sold.
Of course, this came out, leading Japan to cancel their agreement with Lay, and naming British bank Yokohama branch of the Oriental Bank as its British representative.
With the change in partners, so too was a change in the railway line destination, as the first line was now to be a 29 kilometer line from Tokyo to Yokohama (where the bank was, but also where a lot of the foreign trade was done).
Good thing too... for an initial railway - going from Tokyo to Kobe would have taken a long time to construct and cost a lot of money...
Preliminary survey work was begun on April 25, 1870 for the Shimbashi, Tokyo to Yokohama line by Brit Edmund Morel (more on him in a later blog).
On August 25, 1870—four months later—surveying work was begun for a line between Osaka and Kobe.
The terminal in Tokyo was to be built at Shimbashi and the terminal in Yokohama at Noge Kaigan, both chosen because of their close proximity to foreign settlements.
These trains were to run on the 3'-6" (1,067 mm) gauge tracks used in many British colonies at that time.
Please note that standard train rails are wider - the same distance as a wagon axle from the Roman Days - 4'-8.5" (1.4 meters).
Why is there a smaller width rail used in Japan? We'll examine that tomorrow, when we look at the Gaijin Father of Japanese Rail.
Still... great, huh? Everybody loves progress, right?
Well... Japan's military - still afraid it was losing control over it's people thanks to the interference of The West, believed that the railroads were a gaijin (foreigner) tool—built by gaijin—would lead to Japan's take over by the gaijin.
But, despite loud outcries, progress was achieved.
In September of 1871 in Yokohama, Japan received a big delivery from Great Britain:
- 10 2-4-0 locomotives;
- 58 two-axle (four wheel) passenger cars.
|Here's a Japanese article describing the first train and passenger car.|
The first daily train service in Japan began on June 12 1872, with two trains running between Shingawa, Tokyo and Yokohama.
Two days later, service was upped to six a day!
Two trains still ran at once - in opposite directions - meeting on the sidetracks at Kawasaki.
The first train was built by the Vulcan Foundry in the UK in February 1871 as SN-614. It ran along the Tokyo - Yokohama line until 1880, then moved to the Kobe line and ran there until 1885. It then moved to the Nagoya and then Yokosuka lines until returning to Kobe in 1892. It then underwent three name changes, beginning in 1894 as Class E No. 1; 1898 as Class A1 No. 1 and then in 1909 as Class 150 No. 150.
It was sold to private concerns - Shimabara Railway in April of 1911 and renamed No. 1. It was returned to the Japanese government for safekeeping in Omiya in 1930.
It was designated as a Japanese Railway Monument in 1958. Then further designated as Important Cultural Properties in April of 1997. It currently resides in Japan's Railway Museum (Tetsudo Hakubutsuk) in Saitama-shi (city) in Saitama-ken (prefecture).
The old 2-4-0 train was/is 23.45 tons, had a boiler pressure of 9.84 kg/cm2. It was 3.569 meters (11.7092 feet) long and 1.321 meters (and 4.4 feet wide) at the driver's compartment.
Here's a nice color pic:
|The Railway Museum (Tetsudo Hakubutsukan) is located in Omiya ward of Saitama-shi (city) in Saitama-ken (prefecture)|
Back to the construction of the track...
Showing who still wore the hakama (Japanese pants) in the family, the Japanese military caused a big delay in building the train line between two Tokyo stations - Shinbashi and Shingawa - until October of 1872, as the Japanese military didn't want any one to lay track on THEIR land facing Tokyo Bay.
So the railway had to be slightly re-routed... but by October 14, 1872, the Emperor officially opened the railway at both Shinbashi in Tokyo, and then traveling to Yokohama station. He then made the round trip back to Tokyo.
Coincidence, or the fact that people wanted to be where the Emperor was, round trip service between Shinabashi and Yokohama was increased to nine the very next day.
The stations are:
- Shinabashi, Tokyo-to
- Shinagawa, Tokyo-to
- Kawasaki, Kanagawa-ken
- Tsurumi, Kanagawa-ken
- Kanagawa, Kanagwa-ken
- Noge Kaigan, Yokohama, Kanegawa-ken
Now... I'm not sure if they had a turntable at either terminus—at least not at that juncture—but it seems safe to say the trains were pulled in one direction and pushed backward in the other direction.
But that still bothers me... I can't say for sure.
Ed. Note - Okay - a day later, but having reviewed photographs of the Shinbashi strain station and the one in Yokohama, I saw no evidence of a turntable at either terminus. This means the trains WERE pushed and pulled on different trips.
Freight services started on 15 September 1873.
If you are looking for remnants of the original terminal points... good luck... both are currently closed and awaiting redevelopment. Shinbashi-Eki (Shinbashi station) was renamed Shiodome-Eki and became a freight yard after the Tokyo Central terminal was built in 1914. Yokohama-Eki is now called Sakuragicho-Eki.
As for the Osaka to Kobe line, regular train service began on May 11, 1874. The first wrought-iron bridge and tunnel in Japan (running under a raised-bed river) were built in this section.
The Osaka line was extended to Kyoto in 1876 and to Otsu in 1880 - a section that included the 646 meter long Osakayama Tunnel, which was Japan's first mountain tunnel and the first tunnel of any kind designed and built by Japanese engineers.
Manufactured, by Sharp Stewart SN-2141 in 1871, it first ran in May of 1874 as No. A. It was renumbered later in 1874 as No. 11 and the as No. 4 in 1876 and finally as No. 5001 in 1909. It was scrapped in 1919.
The train above was the other number one train on the Osaka line, SN-2142. Running at the same time in the opposite direction as No. 4 above. It was renamed No. B. Then it became No. 12 then No. 2 in 1876 and finally No. 5000 in 1909. It was kept as a relic, but was badly damaged after a September 1923 disaster - the Great Kanto Earthquake... and finally scrapped in 1942 - perhaps as part of the war effort.
Nowadays, despite the proliferation of automobiles, there is 27,268 kilometers rail in Japan.
JR (Japan Rail) controls about 20,135 kilometers, with about 7,133 kilometers belonging to privately-owned railway companies.
So - what did the railway man for Japan? Well, despite plans that it link the country closer together - which it did - but it was also part of Japan's new found inflation problems.
Because Western technologies like government run factories, along with being forced to pay compensation to people who no longer received feudal privileges, Japan's government was strapped for cash.
Riots started by former samurai (more than likely started by Japan's military) occurred in Western Japan between 1874 and 1877.
Basically, the government paid off the samurai with a lot of money it didn't have by over-printing currency... Riots over... but here comes inflation.
In 1880, Japanese finance minister Matsukata Masayoshi (surname first) to halt the inflation and to make money for the government, began selling off government-run plants and factories to the private sector. Railway construction was slowed for the same reason. He also approved privately-owned railway operations.
In 1881, Nippon Railway was authorized to run between Tokyo and Tohoku, and the first private service began in 1883 between Ueno (on the north side of Tokyo) and Kumagaya. By 1891, the company had completed its line between Ueno and Aomori through northeastern Honshu.
Another railway was completed in 1882 in Hokkaido. Its primary objective was shipping coal from the Horonai coal mine to the port of Otaru-Eki (Temiya Station). This railway was designed and built under the guidance of American engineers. In this case, the engines and other equipment was imported from the US.
A mining railway was completed in 1880 to transport iron ore to the Kamaishi Iron Mill on 2' 9" (838 mm) narrow-gauge tracks.
Now... even though all properties and railways sold had been done so to other Japanese, the government feared that it was only a short step away from having the gaijin start purchasing property and taking over its country.
So... in 1890 and wanting more control over future rail development (needing to cut out the British), and wanting ensure foreigners didn't start buying up businesses, Japan's government spent the next 15 years trying to nationalize its railroads... meaning that by 1910, Japan owned all major train lines—except for privately financed spurs and few other non-necessary lines.
Not sure what a spur is? Imagine you now own a factory... but it's away from the main train line... you need things from train on a frequent basis, so you decide to build a small, short spur line from your business to the main line. Got it?
Had enough? Me, too.