Ome Railway Park, Tokyo 青梅鉄道公園 東京
by Johannes Schonherr
Ome Railway Park is, for the most part, an open air railway museum featuring eight original steam locomotives, two electric train cars and the front car of a 1960's Shinkansen bullet train.
The walk leads through a sloping park. The top of the park, right outside Railway Park, offers good views towards central Ome. Views especially enjoyable in the autumn color season.
Pay a hundred yen admission and enter the exhibition. The two-story building right behind the ticket counter features extensive photo displays covering the history of Japanese railways, centered on JR East Japan and the railroad companies preceding it.
The first floor of the building also houses a huge model train setting. After inserting a coin, visitors are able to operate the multiple model trains on their own. It is quite an elaborate system including Shinkansen as well as electrical commuter trains.
But the real attraction of Ome Railway Park are of course the original locomotives and train cars parked outdoors.
Ome Railway Park was founded in 1962 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Japanese railways.
The oldest steam locomotive on display was in service on this line in its earliest days. It was built at the Yorkshire Engine Company in Sheffield, England for export to Japan in 1871.
It was later used on various other Japanese railway lines before it ended up pulling train cars into position at Shiodome Station in Shiodome, Tokyo. Getting laid off from that work in 1918, the locomotive went onto exhibition in an early version of the Omiya Railway Museum. When that museum closed at the end of World War II, the locomotive survived in storage until it was finally brought to Ome Railway Park as one of the first exhibits for the grand opening in 1962.
Parts of the locomotive are cut open to reveal the inner workings with all its various steam pipes, valves and tanks.
The majority of the steam locomotives at the park are however of Japanese origin. They are powerful behemoths from the apex of steam-driven railroading in the 1920's and 1930's.
The driver cabins of most of them can be entered - immediately calling vintage movies in mind with the stoker frantically shoving coal into the furnace while the driver cool-headedly regulates the valves under full enemy attack.
Regulating those many valves must have been a trying task even at the best of times. Even more amazing, however, is the look out of the driver's front windows. He had hardly any view of where he was going at all, especially if one takes the engine steam coming back towards the driver's cabin into account.
Accidents did happen but all in all, traveling by steam train was very safe and the trains arrived in time to the minute. How exactly did they do that? That's a question inadvertently raised but not answered at Ome Railway Park.
Shinkansen Front Car
Another major attraction of Ome Railway Park is the front car of a 1969 Shinkansen, in its better days in service on the Tokaido Line between Tokyo and Shin Osaka.
The driver cabin is open to visitors. You are free to sit down in the driver's seat and check out the dials and displays. 260 km/h is indicated as the top speed.
Ome Railway Park seems to draw two very different kinds of visitors: on the one hand families with small children who also keep the miniature train rides busy (available for an additional fee). On the other hand, serious railway enthusiasts check the details of the locomotives with measuring tape in hand, taking photos of even the most obscure details. It is rare, after all, to be able to get as close to historic locomotives as here.
Ome Railway Park (in English & Japanese with information and photos covering all locomotives on exhibit)
Ome City, Katsunuma 2-155
Tel: 0428 22 4678
March to October daily from 10am to 5pm, closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday)
November to February daily from 10am to 4 pm, closed on Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday) and over the New Year Holidays.
Admission 100 yen
Access: 15 minute walk from Ome Station
Access - Getting to Ome
Ome English-language tourism website www.omekanko.gr.jp