Thomas the Tank Engine has a huge following in Japan. Known here as Kikansha Tomasu, literally Tank Engine Thomas, the cheeky train and his group of hard-working friends are so popular they even have their own amusement park and a hotel dedicated to them with unique, train carriage-themed rooms. Now Japanese fans are looking forward to their biggest present yet: a chance to ride on a fully-working Thomas the Tank Engine steam locomotive. Set to take passengers down the hills and round the bends of the Oigawa Line in Shizuoka Prefecture, this is a really useful engine we adore!
The Oigawa Railway is famous throughout Japan for its unusual steam locomotives. The line runs through isolated mountain areas, mostly carrying passengers to one of the hot spring resorts in the area or to the vicinity of the Southern Alps National Park. The scenery along the line is stunning.
In the summer of 2013, one of the locomotives was dressed up as “SL-kun”, a boyish character named SL, for steam locomotive.
In the summer of 2014, the C11-227 steam locomotive will be chugging through the tea fields as Thomas, thanks to a unique collaboration with the Japanese distribution company Sony Creative Products Inc. This video of SL-kun gives us an idea of what lies in store for Thomas:
At the Senzu Station terminal, the JNR Class 9600 will be dressed up as Thomas’ Japanese friend, Hiro.
Visitors can take a ride on Thomas starting this summer, as he runs the 37.2 kilometre route every day for about two months between Shinkanaya Station in Shimada and Senzu Station in Kawane-Honcho. For an idea of what to expect, check out the promotional video for the “Day out with Thomas” event held in the UK in 2012:
We’ll be interested to see Thomas and the Fat Controller speaking Japanese during their jaunt in Japan. A bilingual train bringing joy to people in the countryside? Now that’s a really useful engine!