While on the subject of rail transport, I thought it would be appropriate to share this piece of rail heritage I came across when visiting Yubari. The Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station.
The Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari station was part of the Japan National Railway, which serviced Yubari during more prosperous times, and is one of the few remaining examples of the Mitsubishi mining empire in the Sorachi region.
Following the closure of the coal mines in the 1980's, many of the residents left, and almost all of the surrounding hamlets became abandoned. You can learn more about this from my Streetscapes of Yubari gallery.
Due to debts exceeding ¥27 Trillion, in 1987, the Japanese National Railway was privatised, and the infrastructure divided between six railway companies and a freight service provider. The Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari railway ceased operation permanently.
The Japanese National Railway map above shows the areas which the Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari railway once operated, as well as the private lines which made up the network.
As well as Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station, there’s quite a lot of old stations and remaining infrastructure by the looks of things. I’d love to revisit one day and retrace some of these old train lines. You never know what you might find.
Pictured above is a snowplough engine known as Ki 1, built in February 1941 at the Naebo railway factory in Sapporo, under order from Mitsubishi Mining’s in-house engineering department.
I haven’t confirmed these measurements myself, but I’m told its dimensions are 11388mm L × 3985mm H × 2522mm W. There is no denying Japanese precision.
The carriage pictured above was the Suhani 6, a 3-axis bogey passenger car (plate number T R 70), constructed in 1912, the final year of the Meiji period in the Omiya rail factory.
This car had a carrying capacity of 68 persons in summer, and 64 in winter. I wonder if the reduced capacity during winter was to clear space around the stove heater which used to reside on the steel plate to the left of the frame.
Here’s a front on view of the snowplough. Check out that scoop! This is my vehicle of choice when the zombie apocalypse comes.
As it turns out, this snowplough wasn’t used to haul carriages; its sole purpose was destroying snow along the railway of the Oobayashi district, located at the foot of the Yubarigama mountain area.
The last remaining steam locomotive used to drive these carriages was relocated to a purpose built museum, inside “sekitan no rekishi mura”, a now defunct theme park located closer to the city centre of Yubari. Below is a picture of the entrance.
Following the financial collapse of Yubari, funds to keep the museum operational dried up and the exhibit fell into a state of disrepair. Unfortunately, there is neither enough money or an alternative location to store the Locomotive.
Given the current financial situation of Yubari, It’s unlikely the locomotive will be saved anytime soon.
The building attached to the side of the Locomotive makes up the museum and the landscape you can see in the background makes up the now defunct theme park.
The Oha 1 (Truck: TR 11) pictured below, was also a steel and timber constructed passenger car built in the Meiji period of 1906 by the Shinbashi railway workshop.
This car had a passenger carrying capacity of 104 persons in summer and 96 in winter. The seasonal difference is intriguing. I must get to the bottom of this reduced capacity during colder months.
In 1999, a group called The The Mitsubishi Oyubari Railway Preservation Society was formed, made up of heritage preservationists and rail aficionados and volunteers.
The group undertakes regular restoration maintenance tasks at Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station, preserving infrastructure in original condition so future generations can learn about the past of Yubari’s forgotten rail heritage.
This is one of the more challenging blog posts I’ve created. The information about Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station and the cars here was sourced using a PDF document made up of one single image, written entirely in Japanese (which I can’t read).
I used the Google Translate app to photograph each section of text, then pasted each part so that the photos on the document corresponded with my own. It took a while, but I got there in the end.
I guess it goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Yubari. Japanese culture is something I’ve had a huge fascination with for a long time now, and If you’ve followed Lost Collective for the last year, I shouldn’t need to explain how I feel about heritage and urban exploration.
This trip was something I’ll never forget. I don’t think I even scratched the surface and on a personal level, it was one of the most unexpected, unplanned and exciting things I've ever done.
I can only imagine how much I would have struggled to publish the content that I have over the past six months without the help of the Shimizusawa Project .
The work of heritage preservation groups is often challenging and thankless. These are are non-profit organisations relying on donations and the efforts of volunteers to make a difference.
If you are ever considering a trip to Yubari to see some of these places, please consider making a contribution to their cause.
For anyone who would like to try this adventure out for themselves, I should mention that Yubari is not a part of Japan where English is commonly spoken. As is always the case with Japanese people, they are warm and welcoming, but, unless you have someone in your group who can speak, read and write Japanese, you will likely encounter barriers which will be challenging for everyone involved.
In the event you can read Japanese, feel free to check out the main document I used as research for this article. I'd be interested to know how close (or far) to the mark my translation was.