Railway Museum tells the amazing Japanese train story

Railway Museum Series E5 Shinkansen exhibit
Series E5 Shinkansen.

The Railway Museum in Saitama prefecture is for railway buffs. It has thirty-six pieces of rolling stock from different periods. Of course, there are several models of the famous shinkansen. But there is much more, though. If you want train photographs, it must be on your must-visit list.

The place is enormous, almost 800 meters long. So seeing all the displays will take a lot of time, so plan accordingly. You won’t regret it because it is one of the best train museums in Japan.

Who would enjoy the Railway Museum?

  • Railway lovers
  • Train photographers
  • Kids (the big ones too)

What trains can you photograph there?

  • A57 – This steam locomotive was built in Japan between 1937 and 1947. It is the centerpiece of the museum. On weekdays its horn is blown. Cover your ears if you are close because it is deafening!!
  • EF58 – This train appeared in 1946. It had teething problems but eventually established itself as a strong-performing train.
  • EF66 – Built in the 1960s to transport large cargoes. It could pull up to 1000 tons.
  • Kuha 181 – This was the first Japan National Railways limited express electric train. It debuted in 1958 and ran between Tokyo and Osaka/Kobe.
  • Locomotive No. 1 – Many years ago, Japan couldn’t produce an indigenous train. It imported them from England. This example is one of them.
  • Series E5 Shinkansen – This train first appeared on the Tohoku Shinkansen line in 2011. It had a maximum operating speed of 320 kph.

Railway Museum Photography tips

  • The History Zone is pretty dark, so you’ll need to use the appropriate settings to get good photos.
  • Be patient because this museum is a kid magnet. They’ll be everywhere on any day of the week. Let them run out of your frame, or wait until they do. 
  • Tripods and monopods aren’t allowed.
  • There is a second floor above the main display area. Take photos from up there with a wide-angle lens, and you’ll capture most of the trains below.

What else is at the museum?

  • A large HO-scale railway diorama. It is fabulous, with its lights changing color according to the time of day. 
  • Train simulators
  • Outside is a family railway line that will take you over small tracks. They stop at miniature replica stations found in Tokyo. 
  • If you are mechanically minded, you can walk under some smaller trains and see what made them work.
  • Many scale train models are throughout the building. They were built with great care and attention to detail.
  • The museum was made for kids. There is a library, a Lego play area, and an interactive zone where you can learn more about trains. 
  • There is a viewing deck on the third floor. You can use it to see passing Shinkansens. They come by very regularly, about once every five or ten minutes. Luckily, due to noise regulations, they travel slower than usual here. You should get some photos.
  • Eating is no problem. There are restaurants inside the building.  Or you can buy an “ekiben” (a packed lunch sold at train stations). You can eat those outside the main building on some trains or available benches.

Railway Museum details

See the museum’s location, opening hours, and other details on the official website.

One problem with the museum

There is very little English on the displays. But there is a workaround! Download the museums’ multi-lingual app to your phone. Carry that with you, and you won’t miss anything as you walk around the exhibits.

Wrapping up

I appreciate train photographs as much as anyone. And the Rail Museum in Saitama is a great place to get them. The rolling stock is beautiful and in immaculate condition. The only major complaint I can make is that the lighting could be better for cameras. 

Another complaint is the lack of English about the trains’ histories. Having the app allows you to circumvent that problem. I wouldn’t worry about any language problems if you were a photographer. If you are a train lover, you will enjoy this museum.

For more museums in Saitama, look at:

Check out this book on Amazon for more Japanese train history

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