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Monday, September 12, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Tetsudo Hobby Train 鉄道ホビートレイン

Travelled on 20.11.2014 (Thu)


Yodo Line Brothers. Yodo line connects Kubokawa in Kochi Prefecture to Uwajima in Ehime Prefecture, and a section of the railway line runs alongside the beautiful Shimanto River, which is referred to as Japan's last clear river as it has no dams. There are no express train service along Yodo line and the duration to commute from Kubokawa to Uwajima by local train takes more than 2 hours. Despite the long journey, many people (especially city dwellers) are still willing to embark on this slower mode of transportation to soak into the beautiful scenery of the rural areas of Shikoku. To introduce more visitors to the areas around the Yodo Line, JR Shikoku has also introduced three unique sightseeing trains from 2013 onward and gave them a rather amusing name of "3 brothers of Yodo Line" (予土線3兄弟)! For my trip, I boarded Tetsudo Hobby Train (鉄道ホビートレイン), of the 3 brothers, from Kubokawa Station at 1004 hrs and alighted at Uwajima Station at 1217 hrs.

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Highlights:

The front of the train for the trip from Kubokawa to Uwajima. 
A shorter version of Shinkansen? Tetsudo Hobby Train comprises of a single carriage with no reserved seats. The exterior is designed to look like the zero series Shinkansen, the very first high speed train commissioned way back in 1964, travelling along Tokaido line (between Tokyo and Shin Osaka). Similar white and blue coloured body and a structure is attached to one side of the train to model the streamlined head of a Shinkansen. On the trip from Kubokawa to Uwajima, the head becomes the back of the train giving the impression that the train is moving "backwards". This is because the train does not perform a U-turn as it reaches the terminus station since there are driver seats on either end of the train carriage.  

Bottom left: Exhibition of Shinkansen train models; Top right: Commemorative board; Bottom right: Train fare electronic board featuring train stations along Tokaido line.
Shinkansen Museum. The designer was able to make use of the limited space available in a single cabin to showcase Shinkansen, the fastest land transportation in Japan. There were display windows showcasing different generations of Shinkansen in miniature model forms. Four replicas of the seats used in the zero series Shinkansen were assembled here too. A commemorative board held above the seats facilitates photo-taking by passengers on board this unique themed train. Blue coloured curtains and seat covers were imprinted with pictures of trains and Shikoku island. Even the train fare electronic board has the names of all the train stations located along the Tokaido line (such as Tokyo, Odawara, Atami, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Shin Osaka). Kept myself occupied throughout the journey, scrutinising the details of the train, looking at the exhibits on display, peering out of the window to enjoy the outside scenery and counting down to the number of train stations till we reached our final destination. When the train made a brief stop at Yoshinobu Station (吉野生駅) for the opposite train to arrive, passengers used the time as a toilet break because there are no toilets available in the train.   



The other 2 brothers... 

- Kaiyodo Hobby Train (海洋堂ホビートレイン), a single carriage train with no reserved seats. Kaiyodo is a well known Japanese company that manufactures figurines and garage kits. Beautifully wrapped with pictures of some of the character figurines that the company produces, there are also display windows inside the train that showcased Kaiyodo's huge range of products. The main reason why Kaiyodo Hobby Train operates along Yodo line is that there is a Kaiyodo Hobby Museum (海洋堂ホビートレ館) located in Shimanto. The nearest train station, Utsuigawa Station (打井川駅), is about 6 km away from the museum and a bus operates between this train station and museum on Sundays and public holidays.
Kaiyodo Hobby Train: http://www.jr-eki.com/hobbytrain/
Kaiyodo Hobby Museum: http://ksmv.jp/hobbykan/

- Shiman Torocco (しまんトロッコ), a yellow coloured train train which requires seat reservation and only operates on weekends and public holidays. "Torocco" (or Torokko) is a Japanese word for truck and Shiman Torocco was actually converted from a truck train. The torocco section is towed by a conventional diesel car and the beauty of such torocco train is its open concept which allows passengers to enjoy the breeze and scenery of Shimanto River at the same time.
Shiman Torocco: http://www.jr-shikoku.co.jp/01_trainbus/event_train/simantorokko.html

Tip: If you plan to take all three trains within a day, do check the dates of operation of all three trains and refer to this useful guide provided by JR Shikoku.
Recommended course: http://www.jr-shikoku.co.jp/yodo3bros/pdf/modelcourse.pdf

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Commemorative stamp: 


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