Did you like playing trains as a child? Well, you have a great treat in store with the impressive world class Kyoto Railway Museum.
My husband and a train buff friend travelling with us wanted to see the Museum , so along I went with them – admittedly with not a lot of initial interest. However, a few hours later I was still exploring the exhibits and enjoying myself! I liked the evolving design and interior decor of the train carriages on display, while the blokes were in heaven checking out trains and locomotives from many different eras. Our travelling companion was a retired engineer, so he was into the fine detail! The only drawback was exhibit labelling in English was very limited and could be improved for international visitors. Definitely ask for the English brochure when you arrive.
The Museum is an easy 20 minute walk from the central gate of the main Kyoto railway station. It was less than 10 minutes from our hotel on station’s west side.
It is a massive place on a 30,000 square metre site, including three floors of indoor exhibition space, along with extensive outdoor displays. The Museum is home to 53 railway vehicles as old as 1881. You can walk onto many of them and move through carriages. You even can take a real steam train ride pulled by a SL Steam locomotive – it’s a very short ride and costs a small charge in addition to the museum entry fee. Ramps provide easy wheelchair access to a lot of the exhibits.
The Museum’s sky terrace provides a lovely panoramic view over Kyoto. From here you can also watch Shinkansen and other trains leaving and arriving at nearby Kyoto Station.
The Museum has the original 1904 Nijō wooden railway station that was once near Nijō castle. It was moved to the Museum and now serves as an exit building and Museum shop. Be warned. Train lovers let loose in the shop may stay there for some time! My hubby bought some very nice little models of Shinkansen here. Some items in the shop cannot be bought elsewhere.
The Kyoto Railway Museum is very hands on. There are many interactive displays. You can experience what it is like in the driver’s cab of an older model Shinkansen and wander under another train for a good inspection!
A special treat for rail enthusiasts is the oldest existing production model steam locomotive made in Japan in the english style in 1903. Another attraction is the C62-26, Japan’s largest steam locomotive for passenger trains built back in 1948. I liked looking at carriages, seats and other special items made for the use of the Imperial household and other special dignitaries. Very plush!
The Museum has the 80-series, Japan’s first postwar long-distance train. And then there’s the 1964 train that achieved world leading operating speeds of more than 200 kilometres an hour. Currently a new version of the Shinkansen is aiming to reach speeds of up to 360 kph by 2030!
The Museum is open for entry from 10am through to 4.30pm. There are cafes, including one in an old dining car. Currently (March 2021), there are a range of Covid restrictions and requirements, including the mandatory use of masks by visitors. It costs around $A14 an adult to enter. It might be worth checking if a JR (Japan Railways) pass gives you a discount as the Museum is owned by JR West.
Check the Museum website for up to date details. http://www.kyotorailwaymuseum.jp/en/
You should allow plenty of time there. Three hours would not be too much! I wandered around the Museum for a few hours, but didn’t manage to see everything. So there will be a return trip when we go back to Kyoto!