Going to Arashiyama was the earliest we ever traveled during our stay in Japan. And to no surprise, by the time we returned to Kyoto, it was still just lunch time. We had time to kill, but not much muscle left to kill it with. Since it was still early, and our memories of the SGMAGLEV Railway Museum was still fresh in Matthew’s mind, we decided to try the next nearest destination. The Kyoto Railway Museum. The wife may have had enough of trains for the moment though, as she let us be on our way and said that she would just go home to rest up (and do some laundry). On that, we had to rely on Google Maps to bring us to our destination.
It turns out, the Kyoto Railway Museum wasn’t that near the train station at all. We found that out as Matthew and myself were walking to the museum but ended up in front of the Kyoto Aquarium instead. But we persevered and walked the additional meters to get to the Kyoto Railway Museum. Was it worth it? You bet it was.
When we got to the Kyoto Railway Museum, Matthew was back in explorer mode. He couldn’t wait to go around and once again soak up what this museum has to offer. The Kyoto Railway Museum, unlike the SGMAGLEV in Nagoya, caters more to the history of Japan’s railway operations. You will notice straight away that this museum is bigger than the one in Nagoya. You enter the museum from an open area where you already have several trains from Japan’s rich history of rail. Matthew, as always, goes on ahead going in and out of trains where possible. You can even have your picture taken from the cockpit of a bullet train (for a price). Once you enter the main building, you are transported back in time to the beginning of Japan’s railway history. There is a very old steam engine that has been preserved on one side. And all throughout the main building are evolutions of the trains that have plowed all across Japan’s countryside. Even if you are not a train nut, it’s difficult not to be the least bit interested in trains. There are cut out cockpits of trains with working levers and switches. There was even a working public address system (which Matthew had absolutely abused). There were more trains here than in the SCMAGLEV Railway Park, so much so that if we spent half a day there, you would need the whole day here in the Kyoto Railway Museum.
We saw a model of an old train station complete with a counter, train schedules and wooden gantries. We saw the difference in classes of trains. We saw how kitchens in trains looked like and their dining cars. There were so many trains to see that we were almost lost in the museum. And then as we were heading to the exit, we saw it. A stable of steam locomotives inside a roundhouse and a turntable for the trains. The steam trains have all been meticulously restored and you can smell the grease and oil all around you. It is one of the most majestic things I have seen. The trains all seem to come to life in that place and if you close your eyes, you’d get scared that they might even start talking. But it is enough to feel the steel on your skin. That roundhouse and that turntable is a must visit.
The exit, as always, is fronted by a museum shop where Matthew’s eyes always light up. Here we got the next wind up shinkansen that completes his pair of souvenirs from the railway museums. We headed home after that. But that was not the end of our Kyoto trip.