8 months ago


The experience: The Q

The experience: The Q train versus Shikoku- Mannaka-Sennen Monogatari These two trains, despite operating in different countries, do have some similarities. Both the Q Train and the Shikoku-Mannaka-Sennen Monogatari, operate by Shikoku Railway Company, were launched in 2017. Shikoku-Mannaka-Sennen Monogatari offers lunch and the Q Train presently operates a dinner service. Both use food and drink as the main theme rather that the train ride itself. Both Japan and Australia have highly-rating cuisine TV shows and both have a highly developed food culture. The two trains were both launched in 2017 to ride on the back of the popular foodie culture in both countries. Bellarine Railway is a not-for profit volunteer operated railway. Shikoku Railway Company, despite been part of the Japan Railway Group, hasn’t made a profit since privatisation in 1987 and still relies on government subsidy. This is a contrast to its highly profitable, wealthy, stock-exchange listed brother companies like East Japan Railway/West Japan Railway, Shikoku Railway Company and the Bellarine Railway have more ‘theme trains’ and ‘tourist trains’ compared to most other tourist and heritage railways. JR Shikoku, operating the smallest mileage among Japan Railway Group, also has (unusually) more theme trains and tourist trains with up to 14 tourist trains operating at a time. Neither the Q Train nor Shikoku-Mannaka-Sennen Monogatari depart from a major city but both have proven that they have no trouble in filling seats. Both use very heavily refurbished rolling stock, effectively being almost a complete rebuild, leaving few ‘heritage’ links to their former operations. Both trains also do ‘switch back’ crossings to cross another train. Rolling Stock: Shikoku-Mannaka-Sennen Monogatari use a Kiha185 express DMU built by Niigata Transys/Nippon Shayro in 1986. These were built for express train service and were virtually the last rolling stock designed by the pre-privatisation Japan National Railways. Cost savings were evident in manufacturing through the use of recycled materials and spare parts from bullet trains. They offered simple and basic comfort but became ‘old technology’ quite early, from 1989, merely three years after entering traffic, when Shikoku Railway Company introduced the world’s first diesel tilt train, dramatically cutting travelling time as well as offering travellers comfortable modern European-style seating. Being still relatively young and in good mechanical condition, they are now used for short distance express trains, commuter rapid trains, or have been heavily rebuilt into tourist trains like the Shikoku-Mannaka- Sennen Monogatari. This is one of the about 16 Japanese tourist trains, and the newest mixed dining and tourist train to appear in a trend that is becoming popular in Japan. Above: The Shikoku Man Naka Sennen Monogatari takes a 30 minute break at Kotohira station, on Friday 6 October 2017. The all timber-built European-style station is listed on Japan’s ‘Heritage of Industrial Modernization’ register. Right: The Shikoku Man Naka Sennen Monogatari terminates at Oboke station. The red livery of the end car represents the colours of Autumn. The river valley it travels through will soon be turning red from the leaves of the maple trees en route. 50 RAILWAY DIGEST

The Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari train ride ‘Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari’ translates to ‘Tale of 1,000 years across the middle of Shikoku’ – a rather long name for a train! The train operates between Tadotsu and Oboke over the Dosan line, a total distance of 66 kilometres. The diesel tilt express train takes about 50-54 minutes versus this train which takes 2 hours 54 minutes! Tickets are available one month before departure but are sold out very quickly. I had to get a friend in Japan to buy a ticket on my behalf. A ticket costs roughly $60 Australian including the meal, which is quite inexpensive. The train enters Tadotsu station just 10 minutes before departure. Onboard staff efficiently roll out a red carpet and show passengers to their table. The train comprises a three-car set. The first carriage is painted in green with green dining seats, which represent spring season, the second carriage representing summer by the river with blue-coloured seats and the third carriage is an orange colour with orange dining seats representing autumn leaves. The first stop is Kotohira where there is a 30-minute stop for patrons to inspect the fully timber-built station building, listed as an example of industrial modernisation heritage. There is a lounge in the station for patrons to sample local seafood chowder and inspect local arts and school sporting achievements. The journey then continues into the mountainous part of Shikoku with the railcar providing good front and rear views, the slower journey enabling the conductor to point out waterfalls along the way. The driver slows or stops the train to allow passengers to photograph the wateralls and cascades. The express tilt train would have passed this scenery at 130 km/h! The train then follows the mountainous, scenic and historic Yoshino river valley with the railway line meandering around the narrow river valleys and passing a number of nameless waterfalls and cascades. We even saw wild deer by the lineside and stopped by an unusual ‘switch back station’ for other express trains to overtake us! The train offers large panoramic windows for viewing both sides plus it has a camera on both ends. For passengers sitting in the intermediate car, the front and end-view camera is linked to wi-fi so that passengers can see the view ahead and behind through their smartphones. Local retirees and school children gather at various stations to wave at the train and promote friendly tourism! Above: The interior of a carriage of the Shikoku Man Naka Sennen Monogatari, refurbished in light green colour based on a ‘spring buds’ theme. Seen on Friday 6 October 2017 at Awa-Ikeda station. Left: On the Dosan line the train travels along the scenic Yoshino River valley, and the train slows down at various scenic spots for viewing, such as this location near Koboke station. Preservation & Tourist FEBRUARY 2018 51

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