Kyushu’s Only Steam Locomotive Kicks Off Run of Final Season

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The SL Hitoyoshi runs in Kumamoto on Saturday.

The SL Hitoyoshi, Kyushu’s only sightseeing train featuring a steam locomotive, has kicked off its final season before the service is discontinued on March 23 next year.

Many railway fans gathered on Saturday for a ceremony at JR Kumamoto Station to mark the first run of the final season for the special train operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu).

Produced in 1922, the SL Hitoyoshi’s steam locomotive is the nation’s oldest among those in commercial operation. JR Kyushu said it is becoming more difficult to secure parts and technicians necessary for the century-old locomotive’s maintenance.

In 2009, the sightseeing train started with service between Kumamoto Station and Hitoyoshi Station, the latter of which is on the Hisatsu Line in southern Kumamoto Prefecture. However, service on part of the line has been suspended since torrential rains battered the area in July 2020.

Since May 2021, the SL Hitoyoshi has been running between Kumamoto Station and Tosu Station in Saga Prefecture.