This is probably the most underrated attraction in Kyoto. And it doesn't matter if you're into big train fan or not, the Kyoto Railway Museum is a place you need to visit during your stay in the city! The modern and freshly renewed museum is located next to the Umekoji Park and the Kyoto Aquarium (which is also a nice place to visit!). It will take you 20-25 minutes walking from Kyoto station. You could take a taxi but we highly encourage you to go through the small streets of Kyoto to enjoy the city unique atmosphere! If you don't get lost, this is what you will find:
The museum was entirely renewed in 2016, and renamed Kyoto Railway Museum. The former Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum first opened its doors in 1972 to commemorate the 100 years of Japan railway. Today, this is the largest train museum in Japan! The JR West (owner) keeps some of the most famous trains ever built in Japan, all dispatched in different sections.
After pushing the front doors, you enter the Promenade (first section) and are welcomed by a Kawasaki JNR C62 (1948 / Japan's largest steam locomotive for passenger trains), a Hitachi KUHA 86 (1950 / first post-war long distance train) and a Nippon Sharyo 0 series (1964). This last one, retired in 2008, was the very first Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan!
Nippon Sharyo 20 Series "Hayabusa" (Falcon)
The main hall is basically a huge town/station and there is even a crossing in the middle!
The museum SL plates collection is pretty impressive! They've collected all the numbers from retired SL in Japan!
On the second floor, you can have access to replica of an old control center. Thankfully, computers made things much easier and compact!
Back in the days, it wasn't easy to find your train... Not at all! Here is how a timetable looked like 30 years ago.
Replica of subway entrance. You can even purchase a ticket, have it checked by the machine and take it back home as a souvenir.
It's not because you're a 50t steam monster that you don't have the right to get fancy wheels!
The main hall is also decorated with period correct small shops. Every Japanese in his forties will drop a tear looking at this!
It's like time traveling for few minutes!
And of course, a train museum wouldn't be complete without a collection of tsurikawas! Here are some examples of the most popular ones back in the eighties (left) and also few prototypes that never saw the inside of a carriage (right).
At the end of the main hall, you can find this beautiful Hitachi 100 Series (successor of the 0 Series). This Shinkansen had a top speed of 230km/h (in commercial use). It was back in 1984!
Kisha Seizo JGR 230 (1903). This is the oldest existing stream locomotive produced in Japan.
There is also a playground for kids featuring the famous character Thomas.
And an other playground for kids. Older kids...
Kisha Seizo C58 (1938)
Outside the main hall, you will find the 20 track Roundhouse and its turntable, part of the former Nijo Station. The museum keeps a handful of old steam ladies running and this is where they are serviced and loved.Once in a while, the SL can stretch their wheels on the small railed section outside the building.
The Kikumon (Chrysantemum) is the Imperial Seal of Japan, mostly used by the Imperial Family.
Last stop before you leave the museum: the gift shop! Try to control the train otaku buried inside you or you'll end up spending a fortune!
Address: Kankijicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Opening hours: 10:00 to 17:30 (closed on Wednesdays)
Admission fee: Adult (18+) 1200Yen, Children (3+) 200Yen
Website (in English): http://www.kyotorailwaymuseum.jp/en/