Umekoji Park is a large green space in rather crowded Kyoto, and thus quite popular with the locals. Of course, the newly built (2012) aquarium took quite a bite out of the space, but I have to say that as tourists, Ryan and I kind of enjoyed the new attraction.
Next up for us though was something a little less nature and a lot more man-made – Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was beckoning from literally next door!
The Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was opened in 1972 on the 100th anniversary of the start of railway operation in Japan.
At the center of the museum is a 20-track roundhouse built in 1914. It was built surrounding a turntable, and houses and exhibits the preserved locomotives. The roundhouse is an Important Cultural Property designated by the government of Japan as the oldest reinforced-concrete car shed extant in Japan.
The former Nijo Station House is the oldest wooden railway station in Japan. The station house was built in 1904 and also served as the main office for the Kyoto Railway Company, a private railway in operation at that time. In 1997 the station house was relocated to the museum site as a railway cultural asset, where it is now used as the entrance way and display hall for the museum.
Although Ryan and I didn’t hop on for the short 1 km trip in a steam locomotive, we thoroughly enjoyed browsing all the displays and artifacts in the station house museum, before moving on to the outside area to admire the 19 steam locomotives on display – all lovingly restored, cared for and in working order!
The beasts are pretty magnificent in their own right, and each with their own bit of history attached.
That said though, I kind of forgot that steam locomotives were generally all painted black. Which means that visually, this wasn’t the most exciting of things that we had come across in Japan!
Note: Turns out that we were pretty lucky to see this after all. The museum has subsequently been closed, in the process of a major construction overhaul which will add a massive footprint and a whole lot more trains – including a couple of shinkansen (bullet trains).
From a Japanese news article:
“The opening date for one of the largest train museums in Japan has been set for April 29 2016, West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) announced Wednesday.
The Kyoto Railway Museum, being developed on a 30,000-sq.-meter site, will exhibit a total of 53 locomotives and train cars it inherited from the former Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum, which was on the same site, and the Modern Transportation Museum in Osaka, which is also closed.”
Related Link: Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum