The final season of “SL GINGA” to retire in June – Strongly revitalizing tourism in Tohoku

JR East’s Morioka branch office will hold various events in collaboration with people along the Kamaishi Line to boost the excitement of the steam locomotive-pulled sightseeing train “SL GINGA”, which will end operation in June 2023.

"SL GINGA" pulled by steam locomotive C58 type 239 running on the Kamaishi Line's Miyamori River Bridge, commonly known as "Megane Bridge" (実生の桃/PhotoAC)
“SL GINGA” pulled by steam locomotive C58 type 239 running on the Kamaishi Line’s Miyamori River Bridge, commonly known as “Megane Bridge” (実生の桃/PhotoAC)

The world view of Kenji Miyazawa is expressed throughout this train

“SL Ginga”, which debuted in April 2014 with the aim of supporting reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and revitalizing the region, has been operating mainly from spring to early winter between Hanamaki and Kamaishi on the Kamaishi Line. Produced under the theme of Kenji Miyazawa’s masterpiece “Night on the Galactic Railroad,” which was set along the Kamaishi Line, the entire train is designed to share Kenji’s worldview, the atmosphere of the time, and the culture and nature of Tohoku.

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The installation of an optical planetarium, the world’s first in a train, also became a hot topic. Currently, the number of people who can view the planetarium in a car is limited, but there is also a service that allows you to watch the planetarium on your smartphone so that many people can enjoy it.

The locomotive is “C58 type 239” made in 1940 that once operated on the various lines in the Tohoku region. It was preserved and displayed for a long time at Iwate Prefectural Sports Park (Morioka City), but it was restored for the start of operation of “SL GINGA”. “KIHA 141 series” is used as a passenger car, and the output of the diesel engine is used to coordinate with the locomotive to assist the SL operation on the steep Kamaishi Line.

The reason for the end of operation of “SL GINGA” is the aging of this passenger car. The KIHA 141 series is a model that JR Hokkaido produced by adding power to the 50 series passenger cars, and was originally operated as a local train in Hokkaido. JR East purchased four surplus cars and remodeled them into tourist-friendly interiors and exteriors to create the current appearance, but more than 40 years have passed since the original passenger cars were manufactured (See the chart below for details such as the operating day calendar, timetables and departure events at each station on the start date of “SL Ginga”).

[Chart] The operating day calendar, timetables and departure events at each station on the start date of "SL Ginga"

Full of events until the final run

In the spring of 2023, “SL GINGA” will start operating on March 25 (Sat) and 26 (Sun), and will operate for a total of 26 days, with Saturdays to Kamaishi and Sundays to Hanamaki. June 3 (Sat) and 4 (Sun) will be the final operating days of regular trains, and June 10 (Sat) and 11 (Sun) will be the final run as chartered group trains exclusively for tour products. Details such as the release date of travel products will be announced as soon as they are decided.

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On March 25 (Sat) and 26 (Sun), the first days of operation, departure events will be held at major stations such as Hanamaki, Tono and Kamaishi. In addition to welcoming and seeing off by local people and local characters from each region, hospitality such as presentations of local performances and gift planning are planned.

The special logo mark created for the final season is based on the theme of the “ring” between passengers and local people connected by “SL GINGA”. From now on, experience tours, special events and original goods sales with “SL Ginga” will be held one after another until the end of operation.

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