Locomotive makes graceful return in Oita after 50 years
HITA, Oita Prefecture--A steam locomotive that last chugged across the landscape here nearly half a century ago has been brought back to life.
With spectators and train buffs gathered to see it off, the "Yukemuri" (Steam) locomotive departed Hita Station on the Kyudai Line at 9:20 a.m. on July 9 bound for Beppu Station on the Nippo Line.
The train carried about 100 passengers who made reservations through tour agencies or crowdfunding in its three passenger carriages.
A diesel-powered car was connected to the rear to support the train's climb up steep slopes, including the Mizuwaketoge pass.
A group dedicated to reviving locomotive services on a regular basis in the prefecture leased the vehicle, known as the Steam Locomotive Hitoyoshi, from Kyushu Railway Co. for the project.
The Kyudai Line abolished steam locomotives in 1970 to realize smokeless operations. It was the first time since 1972 for a steam locomotive burning combustible materials and producing steam in a boiler to run on the line.
En route to its destination, the train stopped at Bungomori Station in Kusu, where a guide showed the passengers around a former locomotive depot.
A stop was also made at Yufuin Station in Yufu, a renowned hot spring resort, for 45 minutes, where passengers could disembark and stroll around.
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