Hidaka Honsen (Part I) 日高本線
4131 KIHA 40 354 at Samani endstop.
2 Hama Atsuma
3 Hama Taura
7 Hidaka Mombetsu
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
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