Hidaka Honsen (Part I) 日高本線

4131 KIHA 40 354 at Samani endstop.

1  Yûfutsu

2  Hama Atsuma

3  Hama Taura

4  Mukawa

5  Shiomi

6  Tomikawa

7  Hidaka Mombetsu

8  Toyosato

9  Kiyohata

10 Atsuga

11 Ôkaribe

12 Seppu

13 Niikappu

14 Shizunai

15 Shizunai Kaisui Yokujô    16 Higashi Shizunai     17 Harutachi    18 Hidaka Tôbetsu

19 Hidaka Mitsuishi    20 Hôei    21 Honkiri    22 Ogifushi    23 Efue

24 Urakawa    25 Higashichô    26 Hidaka Horobetsu    27 Utoma    28 Nishi Samani

Mountain names

Hidaka Honsen (Hidaka Main Line)

The line is referred to as "Main Line" because there used to be a branch to Hidaka-chô, known as the Tomiuchi-sen and closed in 1986.

The single-line, non-electrified Hidaka Honsen used to be a 146,5 km long line following the Pacific Coast in Southern Hokkaidô from the town of Tomakomai to the village of Samani, not very far from Erimo Misaki (Cape Erimo), the south-eastern tip of Hokkaidô. Today, only the 30,5 km from Tomakomai to Mukawa remain in service, the rest - 116 km - was officially closed on April 1, 2021, after lying disused since the storms of January 8, 2015 (January 27 - February 28, 2015 saw the resumption of an isolated service between Shizunai and Samani, but then the situation between Atsuga and Ôkaribe became so precarious that no rolling stock could move through to Shizunai any longer.)

The Hidaka coastal region is a beautiful, lightly populated area between the gale-swept Pacific Ocean and the Hidaka Mountain Range. It is famous for race horse breeding farms and the kombu seaweed (kelp) often seen laid out to dry on the coastal pebbles.

The Hidaka Honsen used to be an important artery linking the settlements along the coast among each other and to the industrial city of Tomakomai and Hokkaidô's capital Sapporo. Accordingly, there was fierce opposition to the closure of the line (except the short stretch to Mukawa), but the damage and devastation brought about by a constant succession of natural disasters from 2015 in the end left no option.

The plan to continue the line beyond Samani and around Cape Erimo to Hiroo on the east side of the Hidaka Mountain Range, where it would be linked to the Hiroo-sen (closed in 1987), came to nothing.

The history of the line starts in 1909 with a horse operated (from 1911 steam operated) light railway (762 mm gauge) to transport wood for pulp making in the Mukawa region. It was extended to Tomikawa (then called Sarufuto) in 1911. The Ôji Paper Manufacturing Company set up what was now named the Tomakomai Light Railway in 1913 (Tomakomai - Tomikawa). The Hidaka Development Railway Company (formed in 1924) opened the section Tomikawa-Atsuga and continued in 1926 to Shizunai. In 1927 Tomakomai to Shizunai was taken over by the state and transformed 1929 to 1931 from 762 mm to 1067 mm gauge. After that, construction of the line continued to Samani, which was reached in 1937.

The record of natural disasters that have struck the line is formidable. Never-ending heavy damage was caused by sea water destabilising the embankments and seawalls, by flooding, landslides, storms and typhoons, and also by violent earthquakes. In most years services therefore had to be interrupted for periods of several days to several months. Twice in 1973, and again in 1979, trains derailed on account of landslides caused by heavy rainfall. In 1981 rain storms forced closure of the line from July 5, with complete reopening only possible on November 16. Services were interrupted in 1982 on account of a severe earthquake, and then in the same year again due to heavy rainfall. 1995 saw destruction by rain, while in 2003 a bridge was swept away in a typhoon, and then a further severe earthquake occurred on September 26, forcing closure of the line for almost two months. A portion of the seawall was destroyed in a typhoon in 2004, and serious landslides hit the line in 2006.

Finally, on January 8, 2015, the track bed was completely destroyed by the sea on the section between Atsuga and Ôkaribe. As mentioned, for about a month afterwards services were resumed on the now isolated section between Shizunai and Samani, but this situation did not last after further damage to the seawall north of Shizunai. So only the short section through marshlands from Tomakomai to Musakawa has remained.

While debates about reopening the line continued, further storms and typhoons, as well as earthquakes, wrecked what was left of the line (2015, typhoon on September 12; 2016, typhoons on August 17, August 21, and August 23; a violent earthquake on September 6, 2018). So by 2020 all plans for reopening had to be buried.

1974 saw the end of steam working, 1984 the end of all freight working, 1986 the end of all faster services.

As from 2000, the Hidaka Honsen was worked by the 10 adapted class KIHA 40 diesel cars (class KIHA 40 350), attractively pained in white and blue livery and carrying a horse symbol and the fours characters 優駿浪漫 (yûshun roman), "The romance of exquisite racehorses".

My pictures were taken on September 30, 2014, only a short time before the destruction of the line.

Part I covers the journey from Tomakomai to Shizunai

3674 KIHA 40 351 of the Hidaka Honsen coming into Tomakomai 苫小牧 station.

3719 KIHA 40 354 is turned out in Hidaka Line livery.

5361 KIHA 40 358 is ready to leave Tomakomai for the Hidaka Line, while KIHA 40 1705 in regular Hokkaidô livery waits at the opposite platform. (1.10.2014)

4270 Inside KIHA 40 354 on the Hidaka Honsen.

3724 In KIHA 40 354 - Looking out of the rear after leaving Tomakomai. In the distance the volcanic mountain range around Mount Eniwa.

3727 Passing the Nihon Paper and Pulp Factory, Yûfutsu Mill.

3728 Looking back at Yûfutsu 勇払 halt.

3732 Between Yûfutsu and Hama Atsuma.

3739 Tomakomai East Ferry Harbour comes into sight.

3744 The East Tomakomai coal-fired power plant.

3748 In the marshlands nearing Hama Atsuma.

3753 Looking back from Hama Atsuma 浜厚真 halt. The power plant can be seen in the background.

3760 Hama Taura 浜田浦 halt.

3765 KIHA 40 354 has arrived at Mukawa 鵡川. Mukawa is the present (2022) end of the line, but even this rest of the old Hidaka Honsen may be closed in the near future.

3776 The long wait at Mukawa for an on-coming train gives opportunity to look at the plates on KIHA 40 354. From top down the first plate shows the owner of the car, namely JR Hokkaidô. The center plate shows that it was built at the Niigata Ironworks in Shôwa 54 (1979). The third plate from the top indicates that KIHA 40 354 was refurbished at JR Hokkaidô's Wagonworks, Goryôkaku, in Heisei 10 (1998).

3782 At last the train from Samani arrives at Mukawa, in the form of single car KIHA 40 359. On the far left a snow-clearing vehicle can be seen.

3791 The line now comes close to the sea. Between Mukawa and Shiomi.

3798 Looking out of the train window at Shiomi 汐見 halt.

3805 Between Shiomi and Tomikawa.

3811 The track between Shiomi and Tomikawa, from the rear window of KIHA 40 354.

3819 Tomikawa 富川 station.

3822 Soon the first racehorse breeding farms come into sight.

3825 Close to the sea.

3830 Looking back at Hidaka Monbetsu 日高門別.

3838 The beauty of the sea as seen from the train.

3839 Looking out of the rear window of KIHA 40 354 between Hidaka Monbetsu and Toyosato.

3846 Just the coast line and the sea.

3848 Getting on towards Toyosato.

3852 Toyosato 豊郷 halt.

3856 After leaving Toyosato.

3858 Fascination of the sea (1).

3859 Fascination of the sea (2).

3860 Fascination of the sea (3).

3861 Fascination of the sea (4).

3862 Fascination of the sea (5).

3863 Danger! Will the railway line withstand the forces of nature? (1)

3864 Danger! Will the railway line withstand the forces of nature? (2). Members of the permanent way inspection team are taking a close look at the situation.

3865 Danger! Will the railway line withstand the forces of nature? (3). The train has passed through safely.

3867 Birds and waves.

3870 The waves smashing onto the rocks.

3874 Just before Kiyohata.

3880 Looking back at Kiyohata 清畠 halt.

3885 Atsuga 厚賀 village.

3887 Shortly after Atsuga.

3896 From here on looking out of the front of the train. The track is washed and often swamped and inundated by the sea, with huge waves crashing up over the seawall. On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (1).

3897 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (2).

3898 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (3).

3899 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (4).

3901 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (5).

3902 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (6).

3903 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (7).

3908 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (8).

3909 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (9). Looking out of the front right-hand window.

3912 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (10). The yellow sign indicates the coming halt, Ôkaribe.

3914 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (11).

3915 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (12).

3917 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (13).

3918 On the way between Atsuga and Ôkaribe (14).

3921 Ôkaribe 大狩部 halt.

3922 KIHA 40 354 in the mirror at Ôkaribe.

3925 On the way to Seppu.

3928 Seppu halt.

3930 Looking out of the train window at Seppu節婦 halt.

3933 Looking out of the back window of KIHA 40 354, between Seppu and Niikappu.

3935 Between Seppu and Niikappu.

3936 Niikappu 新冠 halt.

3942 Between Niikappu and Shizunai.

3945 Nearing Shizunai.

3947 Entering Shizunai 静内 the train passes KIHA 40 357 + KIHA 40 352.

3954 KIHA 40 354 has arrived at Shizunai and will stay here for a while while the passengers can stretch their legs. On the left KIHA 40 360 + KIHA 40 356 are ready to depart for Tomakomai.