Travel to scenic Japan: Be relaxed with steam locomotive train Yamaguchi

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About steam locomotive train Yamaguchi

In Japan, steam locomotive was out of use in March, 1976 for practical use. But for tourists, steam locomotive train Yamaguchi started to run in August 1979. Since then, it continues to run on every Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays as a tourist train. Until last year, steam locomotive model C57 and C56 pulled the train. This year, a newly restored locomotive model D51 started to run, and model C56 retired instead.

Yamaguchi line is located in Yamaguchi prefecture that sits in the east area of Japan. 

Location of Yamaguchi line 

It connects Shin-Yamaguchi station and Masuda station, but steam locomotive Yamaguchi runs from Shin-Yamaguchi station to Tsuwano station.

Enlarged map of Yamaguchi line

Trip to Shin-Yamaguchi station

Hereafter, steam locomotive train is shortened to be SLT

Introducing standard and popular shooting spots

Recently, I’m visiting Yamaguchi line several times to take photos of model D51, and have gathered the latest information of each spot. In this article, I’ll show you popular shooting spots of SLT Yamaguchi including example photos, map, and how each spot is congested. Please see the below explanation.

EXPECTED NUMBER OF VISITORS indicator (ENOV)

Classified into these 3 categories

1: a few visitors

2: up to 30 visitors

3: more than 30 visitors

CAPACITY OF THE SPOT indicator (COS)

Classified into these 3 categories

1: a few visitors

2: up to 30 visitors

3: more than 30 visitors

If the capacity of the spot is less than expected number of visitors, then you should go to the spot more earlier.

Between Miyano station and Niho station (Oyamaji)

ENOV: 2

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

this is a popular shooting spot near Shin-Yamaguchi station, which is the starting station of SLT Yamaguchi. Here, you can take photos of SLT Yamaguchi heading squarely with a lot of smoke coming out.

SL Yamaguchi Scenic Location

Map

Google Maps

Information about parking space

On the day SLT Yamaguchi runs, parking lot of NF Device Technologies Co., Ltd may open for photographers. 500 yen will be charged. 

Google Maps

Between Miyano station and Niho station (Nihoji 1st crossing)

ENOV: 2

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

Near Niho pass bus stop. Like Oyamaji, you can catch the view of SLT Yamaguchi coming forward.

SL Yamaguchi

Map

Google Maps

Between Niho station and Shinome station (Nitanda)

ENOV: 1

COS: 1

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

This spot is remote from the town, and not recommended for beginners. You drive 1-lane road out of town to the dead end where 7~8 cars can park. From there, you’ll reach the shooting spot within 15 minutes. It is not easy to reach there, so only few visitors come.

The photo below was taken from the spot. There are still other spots at higher altitude. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough stamina, so I don’t know the way to reach there.

Map

Google Maps   ←This is the location of the shooting spot.

SL Yamaguchi

The dead end where 7~8 cars can park.

↓   This is the the location of this dead end.

Google Maps

From the dead end to the shooting spot, go up the mountain path shown in the photo below.

You go up the mountain path to reach the railroad. Then, turn to the right. After a few minutes, you’ll see a tunnel in front. Before the tunnel, there is a path climbing up the hill to the shooting spot.

SL Yamaguchi

To the right of the cars, you can see the way up.

The below photo is a view from the shooting spot. About 15 minutes from the dead end to the spot.

SL Yamaguchi

Below figure is the route I drove recorded by Google’s timeline. A circle in the upper right of the figure is the dead end.

SL Yamaguchi

Route to Nitanda parking position

Between Niho station and Shinome station (Straight track of Tashiro)

ENOV: 1

COS: 1

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

Same as the previous spot, this spot is remote, and number of visitors is small.

The former Niho Hospital (Google map) is currently used as a industrial waste treating site, and there are many parking vehicles related to the site. So it would be better not to park too close to the waste treating site.

The photo below was taken from the spot in front of the tunnel.

Below was taken from the spot above the tunnel.

Map

Google Maps

Route to the location from former Niho Hospital

Go up the road which run on the right side of former Niho Hospital. (Google Maps)

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

You’ll reach a folk in the road, and go the right road. (Google Maps)

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

Climb the mountain path. 

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

You’ll go out to a field, and cross the bridge made of steel pipes. 

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

The other side of the bridge is always muddy, so be careful.

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

Walk further while looking at the river on the right.

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

Climb up to the railroad, then, go right.(Google Maps)

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

In front of the tunnel, go up the trail extending to your left.

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

This is the spot above the tunnel. It takes about thirty minutes from former Niho Hospital.

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

This place is small and can hold only a few visitors. Like Straight track of Tashiro, you can climb up to find other shooting spots which I don’t know.

Weeding of the route to this place and the installation of the bridge are carried out by Steam Locomotive Cheering Group.

Between Niho station and Shinome station (Ohikkoshi)

ENOV: 1

COS: 1

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

The way to the spot is same as Straight track of Tashiro up to the fork. To Tashiro, go right, but to Ohikkoshi, go left.

As you see in the photo below, there are power poles on the left side of the track, and only 3~4 visitors can take photos without obstruction of these poles.

Map

Google Maps

Route to the location from former Niho Hospital

Go up the road which run on the right side of former Niho Hospital. (Google Maps)

You will reach a fork, and take the road to left.

Follow the road and go up the stairs. At the end of the stairs, go left.(Google Maps)

Go up the path.

Go further, and the road gets muddy.

At last, you’ll find a steep slope. Hold the rope and climb up the slope to reach the track.

It’s easy to climb with both hands free, so it’s better to backpack all the luggage.

Turn to the right to reach a tunnel. Take the path on the right side of the tunnel.

You’ll reach at the spot on the truck. (Google Maps)

Location of Nitanda, Straight track of Tashiro, and Ohikkoshi

Sometimes location of these 3 spots are a bit confusing. Below map is showing the location of these spots. All these spots are in remote area, and you need to walk quite a distance.

If you visit Yamaguchi line for the first time, I recommend you to visit any spots other than these 3.

Between Niho station and Shinome station (Shinochoku)

ENOV: 2

COS: 1

Train Direction: To Shinyamaguchi

This is the last popular spot for SLT Yamaguchi heading for Shin-Yamaguchi, i.e. the last shooging spot of the day. When I visited the spot in the April of this year, there was a NO ENTRY sign at the side of the road. So now it’s difficult to take photos like below one which was taken from right in front of the locomotive’s face.

The road from Shinome station to the spot is barely 1 lane wide, and at some point, the shoulder of the road is collapsing, so if you are not an experienced driver, it’s safe not to come here.

Near the spot, about 10 cars can park I guess, but because of the above mentioned NO ENTRY sign, now only 5~6 visitors can set cameras comfortably, so it’s better to come here as early as possible to secure a good position.

View around the spot Google Street View

If you come here, you can expect a lot of smoke coming out of locomotive like above photo.

Nevertheless, there was almost no smoke when I visited in this April.

Map

Google Maps

Shinome Station

ENOV: 3

COS: 3

Train Direction: To Shinyamaguchi

There are many parking area around the station, and many visitors gather to take photos of SLT Yamaguchi departing the station with a lot of smoke.

Just before the departure, it is always crowded, but if you come a bit earlier, there is not crowded, and set your camera wherever you like.

Map

Google Maps

Chomonkyo station

ENOV: 2

COS: 3

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

SLT Yamaguchi stops at Chomonkyo station, so you can expect a lot of smoke like below photo.

There are cherry threes around the station, and in cherry blossom season, many visitors come to take photos of steam locomotive with cherry blossoms.

In the following photo shoot on March 31, 2018, cherry blossoms are still not in full bloom.

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

Map

Google Maps

Chomonkyo

ENOV: 3

COS: 3

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

The most famous shooting spot of SLT Yamaguchi. Here, you can expect overwhelming amount of smoke. There are a lot of parking space near the spot, and capacity of the spot is big. There is a Michino Eki (Roadside station) within the walking distance.

On the day SLT Yamaguchi runs, many visitors come here, but the area is wide enough to satisfy all the visitors.  If you visit Yamaguchi line for the first time, I recommend you to visit this spot.

By the way, this spot is private property, so do not litter nor enter inside of the cone.

Map

Google Maps

The inside of the cone is restricted.

SL Yamaguchi Photo Location

Between Chomonkyo station and Watarigawa station

ENOV: 1

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Shinyamaguchi

This is a spot where Route 9 runs over Yamaguchi line. The rail track is almost flat, and you can expect only a little or no smoke. Tough, the spot is very easy to access and there is a large parking area close to the spot, so many visitors will come just before the passing time.

The below sample was taken on April 1, 2018, when diesel locomotive DD51 run as a pinch runner because the steam locomotive had some mechanical problem.

Map

Google Maps

Between Nagusa station and Jihuku station

ENOV: 1

COS: 1

Train Direction: To Shinyamaguchi

No smoke is expected here, but can enjoy a view of SLT Yamaguchi running on the nicely shaped rail track.

The electric wire running across the rail track may offend your eye.

If so, you should PHOTOSHOP the wire !

Map

Google Maps

Between Nabekura Station and Tokusa station

ENOV: 1

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Shinyamaguchi

This is not a famous place at all.

At this spot, SLT Yamaguchi runs through the rice field, and you can take photos of typical Japanese scenery.

Map

Google Maps

Between Tokusa station and Funahirayama station (Tokusa station departure)

ENOV: 2

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

You can take pictures of SLT Yamaguchi‘s departure from Tokusa station as well as cherry blossoms in spring.

The station is far from the spot, so you need a 200 mm or 300 mm telephoto lens.

The altitude of your camera will be almost same as the wheels of the train, so you may get a better view with a ladder.

A view of the train with 200 mm lens.

A view of the train with 70 mm lens.

Map

Google Maps

Between Tokusa station and Funahirayama station (Tokusa S curve)

ENOV: 3

COS: 3

Train Direction: To Tsuwano

Like Chomonkyo, this spot is very popular, and many visitors come, but sweet spot is very large, and many visitors can take photos nicely at the same time.

Train is heading straight.

Then, the turn to the left side.

Below is SLT Yamaguchi with D51 with NO SMOKE.

Map

Google Maps

Between Funahirayama station and Tsuwano station (Shirainosato)

ENOV: 3

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Shin-Yamaguchi

Here, SLT Yamaguchi blow smoke a lot, and this is a very popular spot. The spot is very spacious, and 100 or more visitors can take photo comfortably. Though, parking lot capacity is about 20 cars, so you should hurry up to secure the parking lot. Note that outside of the parking area is not allowed to park.

Map

Google Maps

Google Map (parking lot)

Between Funahirayama station and Tsuwano station (Overview from Old Road)

ENOV: 2

COS: 1

Train Direction: To Shin-Yamaguchi

I found this in Street View, but actually it is a famous and popular spot.

Overview of Honmonzen crossing, a popular spot, which is introduced below.

Running on the straight track with a lot of smoke.

This is the view from the spot with a wider view. Many trees are expanding, and not many visitors can take photo comfortably.

SL Yamaguchi

To reach the spot, Go to the south of Tsuwano town and enter a 1 lane road to climb up.

Map

Google Maps

Between Funahirayama station and Tsuwano station (Honmonzen crossing)

ENOV: 3

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Shin-Yamaguchi

The train departed from Tsuwano station is gaining speed to climb up the hill with a lot of smoke. This spot is very popular, and crowded. It is difficult to secure the front row. If you failed, use a ladder to get a view from 2nd or 3rd row. Without a ladder, it’s not possible to exclude other visitors out of sight.

Map

Google Maps

Free parking lot for visitors are offered by local people. Don’t park outside of it.

Google Maps

Between Funahirayama station and Tsuwano station (Taikodani Inari Shrine)

ENOV: 1

COS: 1

Train Direction: To Shin-Yamaguchi

This place may not designated as a shooting spot, but in spring, you can enjoy a nice view of Tsuwano city with a lot of cherry threes.

Map

Google Maps

There is a roadside parking zone.

Google Maps

Between Funahirayama station and Tsuwano station 

ENOV: 2

COS: 2

Train Direction: To Shin-Yamaguchi

Take a photo of a train crossing the river. It is crowded during cherry blossom season. There is a parking area where more than 20 cars can park.

Map

Google Maps

On the opposite side of the iron bridge, you can take a photo form a pedestrian walkway.

Thank you for reading this article.

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