GOTSU, SHIMANE PREF. – Residents and train enthusiasts bade farewell to the Sanko Line on Saturday as JR West shut down the 108.1-km long route linking Shimane and Hiroshima prefectures on the final day of fiscal 2017.
It was the first time a railway more than 100 km long anywhere other than Hokkaido had been scrapped entirely since the Japan Railways Group (JR) was launched in April 1987 after the break up and privatization of the Japanese National Railways.
“I used the Sanko Line when I went to my father’s hometown during my childhood,” Mieko Sanbonmatsu, 70, said at Gotsu Station after seeing one of the trains leave for Hamahara Station.
Tadashi Sasaki, 17, a second-year student at Shimane Prefectural Gotsu High School, said he depended on the line.
“Thanks to the Sanko Line, I could go to my school for study and club activities,” he said, adding it was regrettable the line had closed.
West Japan Railway Co. built the Sanko Line to link Gotsu Station in the city of Gotsu, Shimane Prefecture, with Miyoshi Station in Miyoshi in Hiroshima Prefecture. It went into service in 1975.
But demand steadily declined over time until daily ridership fell to an average of 83 people in fiscal 2016, compared with 458 in fiscal 1987. JR West announced the decision to abolish the line in September 2016.
Uzui Station, which sits on a bridge in Shimane some 20 meters high and was known as “the station in the sky,” was popular with tourists and railway fans. Areas around Uzui Station were illuminated at night.