THE OKINAWA RAILROAD — Tokyo or Bust!

THE OKINAWA RAILROAD -- Tokyo or Bust!
THE OKINAWA RAILROAD -- Tokyo or Bust!

I grew up in a railroad town, and rode the Reading and Pennsylvania lines in and out of Philadelphia as a kid. Railroads and railroading were just a part of life.

I arrived on Okinawa in 1973, a year after the Island had reverted from American Occupation back to what the Okinawan Independence Party called "Japanese Occupation".

I was stationed at CAMP KUE ARMY HOSPITIAL (now called CAMP LESTER NAVY HOSPITAL).

There were no fences around the base, and the Okinawans were free to come and go as they pleased. The US Marines put a stop to the Army’s carefree ways by erecting a fence around the whole place when the Navy took over in 1976.

The beach was just on the other side of the main highway — Highway 58 [formerly Highway 1 ] — that ran along the coast in front of the Hospital. It was only a short walk down a trail through a strip of local vegetable gardens.

Construction was already underway to widen the Highway from four lanes to six.

Land was being cleared for the purpose, and it was only a matter of time before the government began a huge land reclamation project, burying the coral reefs of the East China Sea to make what is now the "American Village" area of MIHAMA across from the US Military Hospital.

SMALL GAGE RAILROAD BRIDGE ABUTMENTS APPEAR OUT OF THE SEA-SIDE JUNGLE GROWTH

While crossing all of this mess to get to the Beach (or while walking down the highway), I noticed many small bridge abutments flanking the stream and gullies that ran into the sea from the Hospital grounds.

All it took was a few questions to the locals to discover that all of these were where the old OKINAWA RAILROAD once passed by.

THE OKINAWA RAILROAD ???

Although Okinawa still remains the only prefecture in Japan without a real railroad (sorry, but the new, inner-city Naha Monorail doesn’t count), I learned quickly during my first days here that it did have one — at least until WW2 arrived, and Americans bombs brought it all to an end.

In its hey-day, the Railroad was carrying over 3 million ticketed passengers a year.

Lined with scattered Ryukyuan pine trees, the narrow gauge rails carried the little engines and coach cars full of riders from Naha to Kadena and back again.

Stopping at 14 Stations along the way, the belching smoke and chugging engine could be seen an heard along its sea-side grade for 23 years.

In addition, far to the south, two more busy lines ran out from Naha — one to YONABARU, and the other, all the way to ITOMAN via a long and curving route through the countryside.

The three main routes were planned and built from 1912 to 1923 during the Japanese Taisho-era, and the very first rails used to build it were made by… Carnegie Steel of Pennsylvania.

General details on station count and line length are given at bottom of this caption.

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TIME FOR A NEW, 21st CENTURY OKINAWA RAILROAD

Recently, the Government of Okinawa has been announcing serious plans to rebuild the rail system, and extend it even further than KADENA, the pre-WW2 northern end of the line — this time, they want to push the rails (mostly elevated and through tunnels) all the way to NAGO.

About 10 years ago, OKINAWA CITY was also pushing hard to have a trolly line built from the PLAZA HOUSE SHOPPING CENTER all the way down Route 330 to KOZA FOUR CORNERS. That "City Plan" died; the Prefectural plan, although on a much larger scale — might actually succeed.

♥ ENGLISH follows the JAPANESE : japanupdate.ti-da.net/e4911080.html

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REMEMBERING THE PAST

While looking for pictures of the old Railroad (or what remained of it after WW2) the Internet had little or no images to show, and Google was a near blank.

About 30 years ago, an excellent book about the Railroad was published, but my only copy is back in the USA.

And just a few years ago, a nice little book was published on the history of Naha City’s old Trolley Line. It contained maps that would allow you to take a walking tour of where the tracks used to run.

So, while I’m feeling the old "railroad bug", and waxing nostalgic about train tracks I never got a chance to walk down as a kid, I figured I’d dig out my small collection of Okinawa Railroad shots taken during and after WW2, and post the forensic evidence here on Flickr.

There are not many alive today who can say they actually rode the rails (or walked the tracks) between the green forested hills on the one side, and on the other, the blue reefs of the East China Sea.

I have also scanned a few old maps to go with the pics, marking them up a bit with some new annotations.

I hope this Flickr Set is the beginning of many more old photos being found and posted. I still have some packed away back in the USA, which I will add later.

I look forward to the day when Okinawa once again has it’s own group of home-grown railroad buffs, making pleasant excursions on a new set of tracks along the East China Sea.

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HISTORICAL NOTES :

Small rail systems for moving PHOSPHATE ORE (and later, SUGAR CANE from the fields to the Factories), were in operation during the late-Meiji era on MINAMI DAITO island.

All of these were largely man-powered push-carts, and privately owned by the mines and sugar companies.

On the main island of Okinawa, the Sugar Mavens of Nishihara had their own small rail system, and came up with a plan to charge people a fee to ride the carts between harvests, and had rails that went up the coast as far as AWASE.

The Naha-to-Shuri Electric Trolley line was privately owned by the forerunner of the Okinawa Electric Company. It did well for over 20 years, by did not constitute a real railroad that served the needs of inter-city cargo and passenger transport around the island.

For a number of reasons, many private plans went bust, and the Prefectural Government eventually stepped in to create the three-line OKINAWA RAILROAD with it main hub in NAHA CITY.

Minor squabbles about how it was powered over the years (Horse, Steam, and Gasoline) will not be covered here.

The THREE MAIN LINES that served populated southern third of the Island were THESE :

(1) YONABARU LINE

Began operation in 1914.

Route distance: From Naha to Yonabaru = 9.4km

Gauge: 762mm

Number of stations: 9 (Terminal Station included)

Double track section: None. All single lines.

No Electric. All Steam.

wikipedia.qwika.com/ja2en/%E6%B2%96%E7%B8%84%E7%9C%8C%E5%…

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KADENA LINE.

Began operation in 1922.

Route distance: From Kohagura to Kadena = 22.4km

Gauge: 762mm

Number of stations: 14 (the Terminal station including)

Double track section: None. All single lines.

No Electric. All Steam.

♥ MAP OF THE OLD KADENA TERMINUS and SUROUNDING AREA with MODERN-DAY LANDMARKS NOTED : www.flickr.com/photos/okinawa-soba/14029907212/

wikipedia.qwika.com/ja2en/%E6%B2%96%E7%B8%84%E7%9C%8C%E5%…

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ITOMAN LINE.

Began operation in 1923.

From Kokuba (in Naha) to Itoman = 15.0km

Gauge: 762mm

Number of stations: 11 (Terminal station included)

Double track section: None. All single lines.

No Electric. All steam.

wikipedia.qwika.com/ja2en/%E6%B2%96%E7%B8%84%E7%9C%8C%E5%…

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NAGO LINE

This railroad never happened, but they made a good go of it.

Path of the railroad bed was filed with the government in 1918. The company spent three years trying to raise funds, but due to a continuing recession, they could not come up with the cash. Their lease on the right-of-way expired in 1921, and that was the end of it.

From Nago to Nakaoshi (across the Nago Isthmus) : 5.6 km

Planned Gauge : Unknown.

Planned Number of Stations : Unknown

Plan for a Double Track? : NO. Single Track.

No Electric. No Steam. 100% Horse-drawn coach cars.

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NAHA to SHURI TROLLY SYSTEM — All Electric.

www.flickr.com/photos/okinawa-soba/3439456441/

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MORE DETAIL via GOOGLE TRANSLATE from the Japanese. In spite of being "stilted" it is still much better for those wanting to "get into it", than what the dedicated English page on Wikipedia provides.

Go for it HERE : wikipedia.qwika.com/ja2en/%E6%B2%96%E7%B8%84%E3%81%AE%E9%…

THE FULL FLICKr SET is HERE : www.flickr.com/photos/okinawa-soba/sets/72157644364658344

沖縄鉄道 沖縄軽便鉄道 那覇軽便鉄道 沖縄電気鉄道

Posted by Okinawa Soba (Rob) on 2014-04-28 16:20:36

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