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Railway Museums Let You Learn About Railroad Technology and History with Hands-on Sessions

The Kyoto Railway Museum in Kyoto Prefecture (top), the Railway Museum in Saitama Prefecture (bottom-left), and the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Aichi Prefecture (bottom-right)

There are many railway museums all over Japan.
The largest one is the Railway Museum in Omiya, Saitama Prefecture—about 50 minutes by train from Tokyo Station.
This museum is very popular as it has things for everyone to enjoy, railway fans and casual visitors alike. It offers hands-on experiences with models and simulations that let kids work as professionals to keep the railway running.

The Railway Museum in Omiya, Saitama Prefecture (Photo provided by the Railway Museum)

The Railway Museum in Omiya Retells the History of Railways with Real Vehicles

The Railway Museum has 36 real vehicles on display, from steam locomotives to modern Shinkansen.
The center of the museum has a turntable used for changing the direction that trains face. Twice a day, it is spun round along with the sound of a whistle, and museum staff talk about the features of the rolling stock on display or tell interesting stories about them.
You can experience the story of each piece of rolling stock, with sounds, lights, and video depicting how each one operated actively in its own point of history.

The rolling stock station has a turntable in its center (Photo provided by the Railway Museum)

A 0 Series Shinkansen, from when service originally started in 1964 (Photo provided by the Railway Museum)

Railway Dioramas Replicate City Commuting Routes and Shinkansen Lines in High Detail

The railway diorama is about 25 meters long and about 8 meters wide with model trains moving along a total 1,200 meters of track. You can learn about the characteristics of Japanese railways while listening to descriptions of the high-speed transportation in the Shinkansen and the highly dense and precise transportation in commuting trains.

One of the largest railway model dioramas in Japan (Photos provided by the Railway Museum)

The Kyoto Railway Museum Lets You Experience Real Railroads with “Railroad Work Experience” Sessions

Kyoto is a famous tourist spot in Japan, and it features another great museum beside the Railway Museum in Omiya. Named the Kyoto Railway Museum, it is based on a theme where people can look, touch and experience things and is well-known as an enjoyable location that lets everyone have fun as they learn.

The Kyoto Railway Museum (in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture)

The Kyoto Railway Museum features “Railroad Work Experience” sessions conducted by railroad staff mainly on weekends and national holidays.
The type of job featured in the session varies from day to day. For example, “Conductor Experience” sessions feature a real train conductors teaching you how to open and close the carriage doors, as well as how to make announcements in the train. “Machine Experience” sessions let you learn about how to maintain the ticket machines, ticket gates, and fare adjustment machines installed in the station.

“Railroad Work Experience” sessions let you experience different kinds of work related to railroads, such as through “Conductor Experience” (left) and “Machine Experience” (right) sessions (Photos provided by the Kyoto Railway Museum)

One particularly popular hands-on exhibit at the museum is the SL Steam, a real steam locomotive that you can ride on as it travels slowly through a 1-km course. It is a stunning sight to see steam spewing out of the large whistle as it sounds.

The SL Steam (Photo provided by the Kyoto Railway Museum)

The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park Displays a Superconducting Maglev Train Boasting World Record Speeds

Nagoya is almost in the middle between Tokyo and Kyoto, and it is home to the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park. This location showcases the developments in Japanese high-speed railroad technology through exhibits about Shinkansen across the ages as well as current railroad lines and superconducting maglev trains.

The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park (Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture)

The word “Maglev” (superconducting maglev) featured in the name of the park refers to a transportation system featuring state-of-the-art technology. Maglev train cars are equipped with superconducting magnets, and the magnetic force produced between these magnets and coils installed on the ground makes the train cars float and move forward. The park displays a real MLX01-1, the superconducting maglev train that achieved a world record speed of 581 km/h in 2003.

The MLX01-1 superconducting maglev train

There are many other railway museums all across Japan. If you come to visit Japan, why not stop by a railway museum located nearby? You are sure to find a newfound appeal for the railroad as you see impressive real-life rolling stock and experience their history and technology.

The Railway Museum (in Saitama Prefecture), the Kyoto Railway Museum (in Kyoto Prefecture), and the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park (in Aichi Prefecture)