Hakone Tozan Tetsudô

1435 mm gauge   (lower section 1067 mm gauge)

Hakone Tozan Tetsudô (Hakone Mountain Railway)  ( 登  to - climb, 山 zan - mountain)

This railway can be seen as the central link in the transport chain from the city of Odawara up to Ôwakudani and then down on the other side of the mountain ridge to Tôgendai and Lake Ashinoko. The railway proper consists of the 1067 mm gauge line up the valley from Odawara to Hakone Yumoto (6, 1 km), operated by the Odakyû Electric Railway, and the mountain line from Hakone Yumoto up to Gôra (8. 9 km). From Gôra onwards Sôunzan is reached by cable car (1,2 km), and from there to Ôwakudani and then down to Tôgendai passengers travel by ropeway. Ôwakudani (“Great Boiling Valley”) is a most ferocious spot at the edge of a huge volcanic area full of active sulphur vents and boiling springs.

The whole Hakone region has been famous for its hot springs for centuries, and around 1900 well-to-do merchants and entrepreneurs envisaged rail access, and quite soon also road access by some the earliest automobile companies in Japan. A horse-drawn tramline had already been built along the river into the valley in 1888. In 1907 on a visit to Switzerland plans were drawn up for a mountain railway and tourist development. In July 1912 an engineer went to study the operation of mountain railways in Europe, particularly the Bernina Railway in Switzerland (and into Italy) with its inclines of up to 72 ‰. This line had been completed in 1910.

Construction of the mountain section between Hakone Yumoto and Gôra began in 1912 but proved extremely difficult, not least for financial reasons. Originally Swiss material was to be delivered, but on account of the war this was not possible, so American equipment was ordered instead. The line was completed to Gôra in Mai 1919, and the cable car up to Sôunzan opened in December 1921. The original tram line from Odawara to Hakone Yumoto was replaced by a new line built for the mountain railway in 1935.

The standard gauge mountain railway section begins on the valley floor at Hakone Yumoto and immediately starts a very steep climb up to Tônosawa, located between two long tunnels. Then trains cross the valley high up on a spectacular bridge and continue through dense forests and around a 180-degree curve up to the first switchback point at Deyama. Here driver and conductor switch cabs and the train reverses, continuously climbing, up to the settlement at Ôhiradai. The train then reverses a second time for a very steep but shorter climb to the third switchback at Kami Ôhiradai. After driver and conductor once more have switched ends the train winds its way slowly up to Miyanoshita and then on to Kowakudani. This section suffered enormous damage and destruction in the typhoon night of 12 October 2019. After almost miraculous efforts the line could be reopened on 23 July 2020. From Kowakudani the railway soon trundles alongside the impressive Chôkoku no mori (“Sculpture Forest”) Hakone Open Air Museum exhibiting a vast number of sculptures and paintings both indoors and outdoors and including an interesting Picasso Exhibition Hall. A short distance from here we arrive at the end stop in Gôra village.

To return to the history of the line, in 1950 a third rail was installed between Odawara and Hakone Yumoto, enabling through trains off the Odakyû Company line from Tôkyô (1067 mm gauge) as well as Hakone Tozan Tetsudô trains (1435 mm gauge) to operate between Odawara and Hakone Yumoto. This was extremely successful and led to a significant increase in visitors and tourists from Tôkyô. In 1979 the Hakone Tozan Tetsudô concluded a partnership with the Rhätische Bahn (RhB) in Switzerland, which also operates the Bernina railway section.

As from 1993 Hakone Tozan trains are formed as three-car sets, and in 2003 the railway became a subsidiary of the Odakyû Company (and since 2004 an element of the Odakyû Hakone Holdings). Since 2006 Hakone Tozan 1435 mm gauge trains no longer work down from Hakone Yumoto to Odawara, all services here now being in the hands of 1067 mm gauge Odakyû train sets, usually one set operating as a local service to and from Odawara, and one set being a through luxury express train to and from Tôkyô. After 1435 mm gauge trains ceased to operate to Odawara the third rail was largely lifted in 2006, but it remains in place between Hakone Yumoto and Iriuda, where the 1435 mm gauge mountain railway has its shed.

Rolling stock consisted of originally wooden body cars (until rebuilt in the 1950s with steel bodies) taken into service in 1919 (1-7, later 101-104, 106-107), 1927 (108-110 built with Swiss components), and 1935 (111 and 112, using reserve components, and 113-115 new). Today (2022) only 104, 106 and 108 survive.  Scrapped: 101 and 102: in 2002; 103 in 2019; 5 in 1926; 107 in 2019; 109 in 2021; 110 in 2017; 111 and 112 in 1991; 113 and 115 in 1985; 114 in 1997.

In 1981 came class 1000 (known as “Bernina trains”) 1001/1002, and in 1984 1003/1004. In 1989 followed a newer type (known as “St.Moritz trains”) 2001/2002, in 1991 2003/2004, in 1993 two intermediate cars 2201 and 2202, and in 1997 the three-car train 2005-2203-2006. In 2004 the two intermediate cars 2202 and 2202 were moved into the class 1000 sets 1001/1002 and 1003/1004.

Then in 2014 the remarkable new panoramic cars of class 3000 began to appear, known as “Allegra sets”, thus carrying the same name as the new Rhätische Bahn trains. 2014 saw the arrival of single units 3001 and 3002, followed in 2017 by the twin set 3101/3102. In 2019 came two more single units 3003 and 3004, and in 2020 the twin set 3103/3104. There is also one maintenance moto coach mo ni 1 built in 1975.

The transport chain from Odawara to Ôwakudani


Odakyû Company luxury express train 30254 passing Iriuda on its way to Odawara and Tôkyô. Note the third rail for 1435 mm gauge trains used to reach the shed. (2022)

Hakone Tozan Tetsudô set 2005-2203-2006 coming down from Gôra, shortly before arriving at the terminal Hakone Yumoto. (2022)

The Cable Car connecting Gôra with Sôunzan. (2022)

The Ropeway from Sôunzan up to Ôwakudani and then down to Tôgendai. (2014)

The 1067 mm gauge line from Odawara to Hakone Yumoto, operated by Odakyû Company trains.

Crossing the Odakyû Company set 1061 at Kazamatsuri. (2022)

Passing through Iriuda with a view of the Mountain Railway shed (1435 mm gauge) on the left. Inside is Hakone Tozan Tetsudô 1002. (2022)

Odakyû Company set 1060 has just left Hakone Yumoto for the run down to Odawara. Note the third rail that is needed for Montain Railway trains (1435 mm gauge) to reach their shed at Iriuda. (2014)

The Mountain Railway section from Hakone Yumoto to Deyama switchback

Hakone Tozan mountain railway motor coach 109 inside Hakone Yumoto station. Note the Odakyû Company luxury train set from Tôkyô standing on the right. (1992)

Train set 2006-2203-2005 emerging from Hakone Yumoto station and about to tackle the first steep incline. (2022)

Motor coach 115 at Tô-no-sawa station. At that time single unit services were still operated. (1980)

A modern view of Tô-no-sawa station with a three-car train made up of panoramic coaches 3002-3103-3104. (2022)

Tô-no-sawa station is famous for its Fukazawa Zeniarai Benten shrine, dedicated to the Benten goddess and erected by wealthy merchants in the 1920s who came here to the hot springs. "Zeniarai" stands for "washing coins", that is, the belief that if coins are washed here in the pure mountain stream they will multiply. (2022)

Between Tô-no-sawa and Deyama switchback the train crosses the Hayakawa River on an impressive bridge, seen here looking down from Deyama switchback halt. (2022)

The train comes up to Deyama switchback halt through the tunnel on the right and then continues up the steep incline on the left. (1980)

Motor coach 106 has come down to Deyama switchback halt und will then reverse and continue on to Tô-no-sawa and Hakone Yumoto. (1980)

From Deyama switchback up to Ôhiradai

Climbing up to Ôhiradai. Three-car set 3002-3103-3104. (2022)

Three-car train consisting of three old cars 108-106-104 leaving Ôhiradai for Deyama switchback and Hakone Yumoto. (2022)

Ôhiradai station is the second switchback on the way up to Gôra. Train 1002-2201-1001 has arrived from above and, after changing direction, will soon continue its descent to Deyama switchback and Hakone Yumoto. (2014)

From the second switchback station (from below) Ôhiradai via the third switchback Kami Ôhiradai to Miyanoshita

A set of old motor coaches 104-106-108 coming down the slope from the upper switchback Kami Ôhiradai to Ôhiradai station. (2022)

A train consisting of 104-106-108 in the slope between Kami Ôhiradai and Ôhiradai. Note the sign 散水 instructing the driver to let water onto the rails in the curve. (2022)

Set 2001-2002-3003 waiting in the switchback at Kami Ôhiradai for the down-coming train. (2022)

Switchback station Kami Ôhiradai: After waiting for the train from below to enter, set 1001-2201-1002 leaves in the down direction for Ôhiradai. (2014)

Switchback station Kami Ôhiradai: Train set 1001-2201-1002 disappears into the incline down towards Ôhiradai. (2014)

Between Kami Ôhiradai and Miyanoshita the line clings to the hillside and negotiates tight curves. (2014)

Coming down through dense forests between Miyanoshita and Kami Ôhiradai. The leading coach is no. 110. (2014)

Train set 1003-2202-1004 enters Miyanoshita station. (2014)

From Miyanoshita via Kowakidani to the "Forest of Sculptures" Chôkoku-no-mori

Miyanoshita station with two trains crossing. On the left is the modern panoramic twin-set 3101-3102, on the left the old car 104. (2022)

Car 109 enters Miyanoshita in 1980.

The two-car set 2004-2003 standing in Miyanoshita station. (2014)

Set 3002-3103-3104 leave Miyanoshita towards Kowakidani. (2022)

Between Miyanoshita and Kowakidani train set 108-106-104 crosses the new construction where the typhoon hat completely swept the line away in the night of 12 October 2019. (2022)

Where disaster struck in 2019. The last old train set 108-106-104 descends towards Miyanoshita. (2022)

Set 2005-2203-2006 comes up to Kowakidani. (2022)

The old train set 110-106-104 standing at Kowakidani station. (2014)

Heading down between Chôkoku no mori and Kowakidani. The front coach is 3104. (2022)

Chôkoku no mori (Sculpture Forest) station. (2022)

Just below Chôkoku no mori station the train passes by a beautiful park full of an amazing number of sculptures by famous artists. (2014)

From Chôkoku no mori to Gôra end stop

An old three-car set 110-106-104 near Chôkoku no mori. (2014)

Panoramic coach 3101 (forming a twin unit with 3102) between Chôkoku no mori and Gôra. (2022)

Inside panoramic coach 3002. (2022)

The modern twin set 3101-3102 shortly before Gôra. (2022)

Coach 104 at the rear of a train leaving Gôra. (2014)

Gôra end stop with its many references to the Swiss partner railway Rhätische Bahn (RhB), which also operates the Bernina mountain line from St.Moritz to Tirano in Italy. On the right Hakone Tozan Railway 2003 has just arrived. (2022)

The Swiss partner railway Rhätische Bahn RhB

Hakone Tozan Tetsudô & Rhätische Bahn The Rhätische Bahn's Bernina Railway (formerly independent), which stood as model for Japan's Hakone Tozan Tetsudô, entered into a partnership as sister railways on 1 June, 1979, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the line from Hakone Yumoto to Gôra

Gôra station, with coach 2005 in front of an impressive view of the Bernina railway. (2022)

Views of the Rhätische Bahn along the ceiling in the Hakone Tozan cars. (2022)

Models of Rhätische Bahn coaches exhibited at Hakone Yumoto. (2022)

The Bernina line motor coach 54 carries the Japanese flag and the name "Hakone 箱根"; it is seen here climbing up the spiral bridge of Brusio. (1997)

Rhätische Bahn Bernina line motor coach 54 "Hakone" near Cadera on the climb up from Italy to the Bernina Pass. (1997)

A model of Rhätische Bahn locomotive 622 at Hakone Yumoto, looking down on a real Hakone Tozan train. (2022)

The real Rhätische Bahn locomotive 622 between Jenaz and Küblis. Large characters on the locomotive read "Hakone Tozan Densha" (箱根登山電車), "Hakone Mountain electric train". (2017)

Rhätische Bahn locomotive 622 between Saas and Klosters Platz. (2017)

Rhätische Bahn locomotive 622 at Scuol-Tarasp. (2017)