Name in Japanese: 長浜鉄道スクエア
Pronunciation: nagahama tetsudō sukuea
Ōmi has always been an important region for transportation. The Nakasendō is a key road artery between east and west Japan, and until recently, boats carried people and goods on Lake Biwa. When the age of rail began in the Meiji period, track was laid in Ōmi starting from 1882 in Nagahama, gradually extending through the whole region. The rail transport was integrated with a boat service between Nagahama and Ōtsu. With the completion of the Tōkaidō Line in 1889 through Shiga Prefecture, this boat route was retired.
The original station built at Nagahama in 1882 is still there, in very good condition. It’s the oldest surviving station in Japan, making it a must-see attraction for railway afficionados. The quietly elegant building is now a museum, and the current Nagahama Station is located slightly to the north. The new station incorporates a tasteful reconstruction of the old building.
The Nagahama Railway Museum has three sections. The old station building itself presents an idea of what early rail travel was like. There’s Meiji period station furniture and décor, and luggage made of wicker and other natural materials available at that time. Several mannequins are dressed in typical travel clothing, and there’s a dignified station master in double-breasted jacket and bow tie.
A newer building presents the history and current state of rail travel in Ōmi, with panels, photos, original artifacts, video, and charming dioramas and model railways. You can press buttons to make the trains move, and there’s a child-friendly toy train track with several types of engines. There are also some model ships, lest we forget the role of Biwako.
A large shed houses a shiny black D51 steam locomotive and an ED70 ac electric locomotive. You can climb the stairs to the cabins and sit in the driver’s seat. Other evocative exhibits include the various lights used by the railwaymen, and the little ceramic pots and cups used for selling tea to passengers. Steps lead to an observation deck where you get a close-up view of trains passing below on the Hokuriku Line.
The Nagahama Railway Museum is within easy walking distance of other attractions and you shouldn’t miss it.