Final Run of SL Hitoyoshi; Farewell Signs Along the Line, ‘Until We Meet Again!’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A crowd waves to the SL Hitoyoshi from along the roadside on Saturday afternoon in Kita Ward, Kumamoto City.

On Saturday, the tourist train “SL Hitoyoshi,” pulled by Kyushu’s only steam locomotive (SL), ended its commercial operations due to its age. On its last day, the train made a special run between Kumamoto and Hakata stations on the JR Kagoshima Line, bidding farewell to the many railway enthusiasts who came to witness its final journey at stations and along the route.

The train departed Kumamoto Station in the morning and, upon arriving at Hakata Station, the stationmaster signaled its departure. SL Hitoyoshi began its journey with a puff of black smoke.

Signs were set up along the line, with messages like “Until We Meet Again!” and residents waved goodbye. At the final destination of Kumamoto Station, many people greeted the train. A 17-year-old high school student from Kumamoto City, who was aboard, said, “I couldn’t help but cry, thinking that this is its last run. Thank you for all your hard work.”

SL Hitoyoshi began operations between Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi stations in 2009. Damage caused by heavy rain in July 2020 affected part of this route, ultimately changing it to be between Tosu and Kumamoto stations the following year. The steam locomotive, manufactured in 1922, has become difficult to repair, leading to its decommissioning.