Etsumi Hokusen (Kuzuryû-sen) 越美北線

The Etsumi Hokusen (Etsumi North Line) is also known as the Kuzuryû-sen, the line up the Kuzuryû River towards the Kuzuryû dam lake (Kuzuryû means "Nine-headed dragon"). "Etsumi" stands for the two provinces of Echizen (written 越前) and Mino (written美濃), which together are read "Etsumi" (越美). Echizen is the old province name of the northern part of Fukui Prefecture, around the city of Fukui. Mino is the old province name of the southern part of Gifu Prefecture, including the area around Gifu.

The Etsumi Hokusen is actually the northern section of a planned Etsumi-sen, i.e. a line linking the cities of Fukui in the north and the Gifu region in the south. From the south, the Etsumi Nansen (Etsumi South Line) was constructed up the Nagaragawa valley as far as Hokunô (72, 1 km), but completion of the Etsumi-sen across the pass to Kuzuryû-ko (24 km) was halted in 1986. The northern section became the Etsumi Hokusen (diesel operated; 54, 5 km from Fukui station), while the southern section from Mino Ôta to Hokunô today is operated by the private Nagaragawa Tetsudô.

The Etsumi Hokusen runs into a sparsely populated mountain area, and apart from serving the small town of Echizen Ôno it mainly functions as a tourist line, enjoyed by those who seek the beauties of nature deep in the mountains of Echizen and the area around Lake Kuzuryû (Kuzuryû-ko). Freight traffic ceased in 1982.

Starting from Fukui the line first runs up the Asuwa River into the Miyama area, and then crosses the mountain pass to reach the basin of Echizen Ôno. This section up to Echizen Ôno was very seriously damaged when all the bridges were torn away in the storm of July 18, 2004. Some sections could then be repaired gradually, but through services over the Echizen Hokusen were no longer possible until June 30, 2007.

From the Echizen Ôno basin the line follows the Kuzuryû River to Kadohara. This far (Fukui – Kadohara) the Echizen Hokusen was opened in 1960. After Kadohara the line disappears in the long tunnel (around 10 km long), which was constructed in 1972 following the newer railway building strategy which adhered to the principle of taking railway lines through long, straight tunnels enabling higher speeds. The long tunnel is interrupted shortly by Echizen Shimoyama halt, situated between two mountain ranges. Just below the terminal at Kuzuryû-ko the train comes back into daylight.

The timetable in 2019 shows 4 through services from Fukui to Kuzuryû-ko per day, with another 5 trains to and from Echizen Ôno. One early morning train works Echizen Ôno – Kuzuryû-ko, and one from Kuzuryû-ko to Echizen Ôno in the late evening.

KIHA 120 202 enters Echizen Hanandô, 2 km from Fukui, where the Etsumi Hokusen branches off the Hokuriku Honsen. (2016)

From diesel car KIHA 120 202 at Asuwa, in the plain south of Fukui. (2016)

Asuwa, with the Echizen mountains in the mist. (2008)

One of the bridges across the Asuwa River, where fatal damage occurred in 2004. Below Echizen Takada. (2008)

Another bridge across the Asuwa River, below Kowa Shôzu. (2016)

Near Echizen Yakushi, where the train cuts through the mountains on its way to Echizen Ôno. (2016)

Echizen Ôno. (2016)

Echizen Tomida, at the end of the Echizen Ôno basin. From here the train climbs into the mountain range to the south east, towards Kuzuryû-ko. (2016)

Climbing up to Kadohara. (2008)

Kadohara station, the end of the "old" line built in1960. From here the train runs through the new tunnel opened in 1972 as a first step towards completion of the planned Etsumi-sen. (2016)

KIHA 120 202 at Echizen Shimoyama, the halt situated between the two long tunnels. (2016)

Diesel car KIHA 120 202 at the end of the line at Kuzuryû-ko. (2008)

KIHA 120 202 at Kuzuryû-ko terminus. (2008)

On the return journey to Fukui the train emerges at Echizen Shimoyama, between the two long tunnels down to Kadohara. (2008)

At Kakigashima diesel car KIHA 120 202 is about to cross the Kuzuryû River and then enter into the plain of Echizen Ôno. (2016)

Echizen Tano, running towards Echizen Ôno. (2016)

Hakariishi, on the mountain pass section between Echizen Ôno and Miyama, seen from diesel car KIHA 120 202. (2008)

Diesel car KIHA 120 204 crosses at Miyama on a service to Echizen Ôno. (2016)