Geibi-sen (Niimi – Bingo Ochiai) 芸備線(新見ー備後落合)

Diesel car KIHA 120 no.339 leaving Bingo Ochiai for Niimi. (2015)

The Geibi-sen is a non-electrified line starting at Hiroshima and running up into the central mountain plateau of Western Japan. It operates in three distinct sections; today there are no through trains over the Geibi-sen. The first section from Hiroshima up to Miyoshi (68, 8 km) has the characteristics of a suburban line for a distance of about 15 km, then it becomes a local rural line. The second section from Miyoshi to Bingo Ochiai (45, 7 km) runs in north-easterly direction through the rural communities of the highlands until only sparsely populated mountain villages are reached. The third section from Bingo Ochiai to Niimi (51 km) climbs steeply up into the hills to reach the little town of Tôjô, after which the border from Hiroshima into Okayama Prefecture is crossed. Continuing there through small mountain communities the Geibi-sen joins the Hakubi-sen, the electrified main line from the Inland Sea (Okayama, Kurashiki) to the Japan Sea (Matsue, Yonago, Izumo), at Bitchû Kôjiro (159, 1 km from Hiroshima). Geibi-sen trains serve the one intermediate station Nunohara between Bitchû Kôjiro and the terminus at Niimi. The line takes its name from the two characters gei 芸 and bi備 , which stand for the former provinces of Aki 安芸 (now lower and western Hiroshima Prefecture with much of the Inland Sea coastline ) and Bingo 備後 (now some eastern areas and the mountain plateau within Hiroshima Prefecture ).

The line between Bingo Ochiai and Bitchû Kôjiro (and on to Niimi) is noted for its steep sections through several gorges and along the rivers flowing towards the Inland Sea and – in the Bingo Ochiai region – towards the Japan Sea. The area is very sparsely populated today, so that a service with one short diesel car three times a day is enough. Two to three additional trains link Tôjô with Niimi.

Construction of the line took place in 1930 (Bitchû Kôjiro to Tôjô) and 1935/36 (Tôjô to Bingo Ochiai). Freight services ended in 1986. The line was badly affected by the torrential rain storms in the summer of 2018.

After leaving Niimi for Bingo Ochiai the train runs over the Hakubi-sen to Bitchû Kôjiro, stopping at Nunohara on the way. Here it is crossing Nunohara bridge, a famous photographic point when freight trains were triple-headed by three steam locomotives. (2015)

Between Sakane and Ichioka, not far after branching off the Hakubi-sen at Bitchû Kôjiro. (2015)

Nearing Ichioka. (2015)

Ichioka station, 6, 5 km from Bitchû Kôjiro. In the mirror KIHA 120-339. (2015)

Yagami station, about half-way to Tôjô. A board draws attention to interesting sights in the region, among others Buddha figures carved out of stone (sekibutsu). (2015)

Tôjô station, with two class KIHA 120. On the left is KIHA 120-338 for Bingo Ochiai, on the right KIHA 120-328 for Niimi. (2001)

Looking back after leaving Tôjô, running in north-westerly direction. (2015)

Between Tôjô and Bingo Yawata. (2015)

Bingo Yawata, a typical intermediate station. Diesel car KIHA 120 no.339 can be seen in the station mirror. (2015)

In many places along the line the maximum speed is only 15 km/h. (2015)

Between Bingo Yawata and Uchina. (2015)

Nearing Uchina, about 15 km from Bingo Ochiai. (2001)

The village of Onuka. (2015)

Dôgoyama station, where the steep descent to Bingo Ochiai begins. (2015)

From the train descending towards Bingo Ochiai. (2001)

From the train descending to Bingo Ochiai from Dôgoyama. (2015)

Thatched farm houses have become very rare. Here is one seen from the train, looking back between Dôgoyama and Bingo Ochiai. (2015)