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An open-air museum in Aichi Prefecture has launched a fund to seek donations for the preservation of two old steam locomotives that run on its premises.

One of the engines kept at the Meiji-Mura museum in the city of Inuyama is among the very few Meiji Era (1868-1912) locomotives still running. The museum is home to many buildings that were constructed during the era and have been designated as important cultural assets by the Japanese government.

Of the two, the No. 12 steam locomotive, manufactured in the United Kingdom and imported to Japan in 1874, served on Japan’s first rail line, between Shimbashi Station in Tokyo and Yokohama Station. The U.S.-made No. 9 locomotive was used mainly between Fuji and Fujinomiya stations in Shizuoka Prefecture on what is now the JR Tokai Minobu Line during the Taisho Era (1912-1926) and the Showa Era (1926-1989).

The locomotives make 12 round trips on an approximately 700-meter track in the museum grounds each day, and a one-way ride on carriages pulled by the locomotives, taking roughly five minutes, costs ¥500 per adult.

The locomotives must undergo major maintenance work requiring disassembling every few years in order for them to remain in operation. Such work had been paid for through the museum’s admission fee revenue. The No. 12 locomotive has recently received maintenance work, while the No. 9 locomotive is set to undergo its next maintenance from 2022.

“The locomotives are preserved while remaining in operation, so this is extremely valuable,” said Takahide Yamamoto, a 70-year-old steam locomotive fan from Nagoya, who visits the museum five times or more a year.

“Previously, there was no other way to support them than becoming an annual member of the museum, so I would like to make donations,” he said.

Donations start from ¥10,000 per donor, and the museum aims to collect ¥10 million.

In return, the museum will give donors postcards and paperweights made from train rails or invite them to photo opportunities and other special events, depending on the amount of donations received.

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