IZU, Shizuoka – A 15-inch gauge railway billed as the world’s shortest passable train line returned to service on March 5 after a seven-month hiatus for repairs.
The Romney Railway at Shuzenji Nijinosato Theme Park in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture had been suspended since August 2021 due to track deterioration. However, a crowdfunding campaign and other fundraising raised money to replace the sleepers and get the train back on track, and railroad fans waiting for a ride flocked to the park.
The Romney Railway takes seven to nine minutes to make a one-way trip between two stations in the park, which are about a mile apart. There are four locomotives: two steam and two diesel. It has been in operation since 1990, but around 1,090 of the 3,200 sleepers had to be replaced.
Of the repair cost of 20 million yen (about $173,000), Izu raised 10,645,230 yen (about $92,000) in donations from 446 people through a government crowdfunding campaign from November 2021 to February 2022 , exceeding the city’s 10 million yen goal.
At a ceremony to commemorate the reopening of the railway, Izu Mayor Yutaka Kikuchi said, “We have received messages from donors including: ‘I have been there (the train) several times since how small I am’ and ‘I loved it and now I’m going to visit my child. I understood Nijinosato’s charm again.’
The first train departed after the unveiling of a commemorative plaque engraved with the names of the donors. Although the train once stopped due to a technical problem, the Cumbria steam locomotive belched out white smoke, blew its whistle and rolled slowly across the sunny terrain dotted with flowering cherry blossoms early.
(Japanese original by Hiroshi Ishikawa, Numazu Local Office)