The operator of coal-fired steam locomotives in the tourist spot of Nikko is testing biofuel as a way to cut its carbon dioxide emissions, the first such initiative in the country.

Tobu Railway said it started the trial, set to last around one year, on Jan. 31, partially replacing the coal used by its SL Taiju locomotives with biocoke, made from buckwheat chaff, wood chips, coffee grounds and other materials.

Biocoke will replace around 40% of the 160 tons of coal burned each year to keep boiler pressure constant on the company's three Taiju engines, it said.

The company said it expects to reduce about 150 tons of emissions per year, the same amount emitted by around 50 households.

The SL Taiju has been operating since 2017 in the Kinugawa hot spa resort area of Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, attracting around 490,000 passengers, according to the operator.

As part of the trial, the company is also using a biodiesel fuel made from used cooking oil to operate its diesel-powered DL Taiju train on the same route, hoping to reduce about 2.5 tons of annual emissions, it said.

"We want to aim for sustainable growth by continuing to think of ways to cut the use of coal," said Hisashi Tezuka, an official at a Tobu Railway office.