jp-Mikajiri Line limestone train cement works

Photo: Nyao148/Wikimedia Commons

A limestone train heading for the cement plant between Takekawa and Mikajiri.

JAPAN: The third sector Mikajiri Line is due to close on December 31, effectively bringing to an end the movement of coal by rail in Japan.

Electrified at 1∙5 kV DC, the 7∙6 km, 1 067 mm gauge railway is operated by the Chichibu Railway in Saitama Prefecture, providing a link between Mikajiri and Kumagaya Freight Terminal north of Tokyo. Opened on October 1 1979, the line was built following the withdrawal of freight handling facilities at Kumagaya station to free up land required for the construction of the Joetsu Shinkansen. It mainly carried coal and limestone to the Taiheiyo Cement Co works at Mikajiri.

By 2019 the infrastructure, including extensive sidings adjacent to the cement works, was becoming life-expired, leading to a decision to wind down operations. Although the railway does not formally close until December 31, the last coal trains were operated by JR Freight on February 26 and the last general freight traffic was carried in September. The coal trains were the last such traffic to operate anywhere in Japan, running to Mikajiri from a dockside terminal near Ogimachi station in the Keihin industrial area, close to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.