Information for the nearest steam locomotive to Tokyo – the Paleo Express. From Kumagaya rugby town the steam locomotive leisurely chugs its way to scenic Chichibu. In addition, this post also contains information for a VERY SPECIAL event – a chance to drive and coal up the steam locomotive! In addition, you can find information for the popular “Waku Waku Tetsudo Festival” that is held annually in May.

Paleo Express Information Share

By アラツク – 投稿者自身による作品, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40178905

Featured photo of the Paleo Express Steam Locomotive with Cherry blossoms by アラツク is used with permission.

The Steam Locomotive (SL) Paleo Express runs between Kumagaya and Chichibu, and is the closest steam locomotive ride to Tokyo. Thanks to the Shinkansen from Tokyo and Ueno stations, it takes less than 40 minutes to get to the Kumagaya station. From there you can enjoy a leisurely ride on the C58363 to Chichibu. They also have other locomotives. The 80 year old C58363 steam locomotive will take its first run of 2024 on public holiday Wednesday March 20th. See ticket section for how to purchase.

Paleo Express summer 2021
Paleo Express back tooting away in 2021 after a year of respite! Taken as the steam locomotive was leaving Minano Station.

The Paleo Express is named after an aquatic mammal, the Paleoparadoxia, that existed in the Neogene period. Remains of the mammal have been found in the Chichibu area. You can see the fossils at the Ogano Fossil Museum or you can also see statues of Paleoparadoxia at the site where they were found at Hannya no Oka Park. Currently, that site has a Doko Demo (Anywhere) Door like from the Doraemon anime.

Paleo Express to Nagatoro / Chichibu

by ウツだー。From Wiki Media Commons

Shortly after you set off from Kumagaya you are in enveloped in stunning rural scenery. With the hypnotic chug of a steam train on tracks, the feel of the raw power of the engine, the unparalleled scent of SL smoke and the distinctive sound of a SL whistle you will surely never forget this rare opportunity to experience a train journey from bygone years.

Photo by RSA, from Wikimedia Commons Media

The journey

On the scheduled days it makes just one journey; a round trip from Kumagaya Station to Mitsumine Station. It departs from Kumagaya promptly at 10.15 am. Please note it only operates on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays and select weekdays for holidays and special events. The additional weekday dates are provided below in the timetable section. On the return leg, the SL leaves Mitsumineguchi Station at 2.05 pm.

Paleo Express x cherry blossoms
Paleo Express x Cherry Blossoms, Taken near Kaminagatoro station, April 2023

The full trip (71.7 Kilometers) takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes one way as it stops for almost 10 minutes at a few different stations. There are many places you can see the steam locomotive along the route, but the station it stops at are:

  • Kumagaya Station
  • Fukaya Hanazono
  • Yorii
  • Nagatoro
  • Minano
  • Chichibu
  • Ohanabatake
  • Mitsumineguchi

Between the scenery and the unique experience of riding a Steam Locomotive the journey flies by. There are toilets in two of the carriages. In addition, you can buy original bento and goods on the SL. The SL Bento is 800 yen (2020 price). You can keep the bento cover which is an image of the SL train with the train’s mascots on it. The Pork Miso Bento also comes with a keepsake cover, that costs 850 yen (2020 price).  Some of the original goods include a train with chocolate in it, Paleo cookies, a SL train and mobile phone straps of the SL’s mascots Paleo-kun and Paleo-chan.

Electric Locomotive

Instead of the steam locomotive in 2020 they had an Electric Locomotive, pictured above. These photos were taken September 2020. I took them at a trainspotting location in the Arakawa area of Chichibu at the Arakawa Roadside Station. In August and September Dahlia grow along the side of the tracks. The photo below is just a local Chichibu Tetsudo train, taken in August 2020.

Chichibu tetsudo at the Arakawa Roadside station

When I first wrote this article in 2017 there was no English website for the Paleo Express, but sometime in the last 3 years Chichibu Railway created an English webpage for the service. It has all the essential information. Chichibu Railway English web page for the steam and electric locomotives.


2024 Timetable

The timetable for the Paleo Express Steam Locomotive in English below. The times on the left are from Kumagaya. As you can see, the SL leaves Kumagaya at 10.15 and arrives at Mitsumineguchi at 12.54 pm. On the return journey, the SL leaves Mitsumineguchi at 2.05 pm and arrives into Kumagaya at 4.20 pm. Nagatoro station is a very popular spot for trainspotting. In 2024, you can see the SL there between 11.33 and 11.42 in the morning and again between 3.07 and 3.13 pm.

English timetable paleo express

The Steam (or Electric) locomotive mainly operates on weekends and public holidays only. It only operates on weekdays for special occasions, for example on Saitama Day (November 14th). The additional (weekday) dates for 2024 are:

  • Every Saturday, Sunday and public holiday between March 20th and November 17th 2024. Plus:
  • March – Friday the 29th
  • April – Monday the 1st, Thursday the 4th and Friday the 5th (for spring holidays)
  • July – Monday the 29th
  • August seven extra dates: Friday the 2nd, Monday the 5th, Tuesday the 13th, Thursday the 15th, Friday the 16th, Thursday the 22nd, Friday the 23rd
  • October – Friday the 18th and Friday the 25th
  • November – Friday the 8th, Thursday the 14th and Friday the 15th

The very last run of the year usually coincides with the UNESCO Chichibu Night Festival, which is on December 3rd annually. HOWEVER, in 2024, the last run will be on Sunday November 17th.

Tickets for the Paleo Express

You can buy a ticket from one month in advance, to 30 minutes before the train departs, for both reserved and unreserved seats. In addition to the regular ticket for the boarding section, a separate “SL reserved seat ticket” is required. It costs 1000 yen if purchased online and 1100 yen at a station counter. Moreover, you can only purchase at the station on the day, if they are not at full capacity. Only people with a reserved seat are guaranteed passage. The passenger cars are made up of 4 people box seats. You can book a ticket in advance on their website. They have an English PDF explaining how to use the system.

Information

Season: public holiday Wednesday March 20th to Sunday November 17th 2024

Cost: 1000 yen if purchased online in advance, 1100 yen at the station counter.

Official website



Hereafter, events and other miscellaneous information:

Drive / Coal up the Steam Locomotive

In 2024 there is a very special event on at the Chichibu Railway Hirosegawara Depot, that steam locomotive lovers, with cash to spare, will not want to miss! On two days in March, the 26th and 27th, you can ride in the driver’s cab and throw coal in the engine. You must be over 18 years of age to participate. Moreover, this exclusive event is not cheap, costing 60,000 yen for two people. Application opens on Tuesday February 27th.


Waku Waku Railway Fes 2024

Date: Saturday May 18th 2024
Time: 10 am to 3 pm
Location: Chichibu Railway Hirosegawara Depot, 2229-3 Oaso, Kumagaya, Saitama 360-0835. View on Google Maps.
Access: from Hirose Yacho no Mori train station.
Official event web page


Hodosan Ropeway close to Nagatoro Station

Things to do in Chichibu

This is just a small sample, use the Chichibu tag to find dozens of things to do in the Chichibu area.

2017.05.08

2 Comments

  1. This looks brilliant! Ill be in japan for 6 days in june. I really want to take this train! Im worried now ill totally forget as im travelling everywhere and elsewhere before then!

    1. I shall try to remind you 🙂 When in June? I am looking forward to reading about your newest adventures here. How long has it been?

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