80-year-old steam locomotive to continue operating as the Senmo Line’s ‘Fuyu-no-Shitsugen-go’ is due to be refurbished this summer

Smoke and steam bellows from the C-11-type No. 171 steam locomotive as it passes at full speed through the Kushiro Wetland. February 11

‘Fuyu-no-Shitsugen-go’ (Winter Wetland train), the steam locomotive that exhales smoke and steam from its giant black body as it passes through the Kurshiro Wetland in eastern Hokkaido. The only steam locomotive in operation on a route in Hokkaido turned 80 years old last year, and continues to drive the steam locomotive culture that has continued for 140 years. JR Hokkaido has given the go-ahead for its continued service and from this summer will spend 400 million yen on totally refurbishing the locomotive and all five carriages.

Until February this winter, the Shitsugen-go sightseeing train operated on a 48.1 km round-trip route between Kushiro and Shibecha on the JR Senmo Line. The locomotive services are maintained by a core of three engineers and six assistant engineers, and supported by conductors and guides.

The Shitsugen-go steam locomotive was produced in Kobe in July 1940 and operated out of the Kushiro depot as the ‘C-11-type No. 171’ train. After being displayed in the Kushiro region for 23 years from 1975, it was restored at a cost of approximately 50 million in 1999. In 2000, it ‘returned home’ to operate on the Senmo Line.

In the depot before operations begin. The engineer (left) looks on as the assistant engineer adds coal to the firebox to create the steam necessary to power the train. February 22 at approx. 9:00 a.m.

The locomotive is 12.6 meters long, weighs 68 tons and has a 610-horsepower engine. Two thirds of the front of the locomotive is taken up by the boiler, with the rear housing the driver’s cabin, coal store and water tank. The five passenger carriages it pulls were all produced between 1952 and ’74.

The steam locomotive is powered entirely by steam, which also rotates the wheels, creates the compressed air that operates the brakes of the rolling stock, and powers the generator for the lights and automatic train stop system (ATS).

In the past, JR Hokkaido also operated seasonal services of the Niseko-go (between Sapporo and Rankoshi) and Hakodate-Onuma-go (between Hakodate and Mori) steam locomotives but were forced to abolish them in FY2014 due to safety standards not being met. The only steam locomotive service remaining now is on the Senmo Line.

After operation, a JR Hokkaido employee worker lubricates the undercarriage and equipment that uses steam to produce compressed air. February 22 at approx. 4:00 p.m.

This summer, Fuyu-no-Shitsugen-go will be transported by trailer to the Naebo railway depot (Sapporo) where it will undergo a comprehensive inspection for the first time in eight years at a cost of 100 million yen. The passenger carriages will also be entirely refurbished, with new Western-style toilets and electric engines at a cost of 300 million.


JR Shibecha Station