The Gonō Line, Japan

Following on from my recent post about the Kato HB-E300 (“Resort Shirakami”) train, I thought I’d take a look at a part of the usual route of that train, the Gonō Line in northern Japan.

Gonō Line Todoroki Station and Kiha 40 DMU by 掬茶 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, View Image

The Gonō Line is a relatively rural, coastal railway in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan. It runs between the cities of Higashi-Noshiro in the south and Kawabe in the north; both stations offer an interchange with the Ōu Main Line.

If you think European railways are complicated, take a look at the labyrinthine network of privately/municipally owned Japanese tram, railway and Shinkansen lines! It’s fascinating but sometimes quite difficult to make sense of it all especially when you’re relying on Internet translation services 🙂

Anyway, back to the Gonō Line, as you can see from this small selection of photographs, sections of the line runs through some beautiful coastal scenery:

Oirase on the Gonō Line – Resort-Shirakami DMU (JR East) by MaedaAkihiko – Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, View Image

Kiha 40 and 48 regular trains running near Fukaura Station on the Gonō Line by MaedaAkihiko – Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, View Image

These rugged coastal sections lend themselves to recreation withT-Trak or other small modules where the tunnels, rocky outcrops and woodlands can act as convenient scenic breaks.

There are some interesting urban environments to model too:

Gonō Line, Koirikawa Coast by Syuzo Tsushima – Own work,
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), View Image

Not only that, many of the stations on the Gonō Line are unique; it seems almost every one of the small station is built with a different style of architecture or floorplan. Perfect for small scratchbuilding projects and a collection of different modules. My favourites are:

Todoroki station, as seen at the top of this blog post. It’s a lovely little timber building with a ready-made background. The scene would be perfect as a photographic cameo as well as an interesting little module. You also don’t normally see layouts with the water behind the tracks, I don’t know why though it seems much easier to model that way…

Tsurudomari station, with the option to build the original building (not mentioned on the Wikipedia page) but still visible on Google Streetview or the smaller modern replacement building as shown in this photograph:

Tsurudomari Station on the Gono Line (Tsuruta Town, Kitatsugaru District, Aomori Prefecture). The new station building was completed in March 2020 by 掬茶 – Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, View Image

Kita-Noshiro station, which features a ready-made backdrop of trees and a nice curved roof for a bit of scratchbuilding challenge:

Kita-Noshiro Station on the Gonō Line, in Noshiro City, Akita, Japan by 掬茶 – Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, View Image

Finally, Henashi station, for the ultimate scratchbuilding challenge: can you recreate the wooden boat built into the structure of the roof?

Gono Line Henashi Station (Fukaura Town, Nishitsugaru District, Aomori Prefecture) by 掬茶 – Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, View Image

If none of those suit your tastes you can see a full list of stations on the Gonō Line Wikipedia page.

Now there’s only so much I can describe in this post so if I’ve piqued your curiosity then I’d recommend just tracing the route of the line on Google maps. Just pick a station from the Wikipedia page and open that station’s description page. On the right hand side you’ll see some Coordinates, if you click those you’ll open a GeoHack page. From there you can click the Satellite imagery link alongside one of the map providers.

For example, if you click the Google Maps imagery you can view Streetview images in the areas around most of the stations on the line and there are plenty of 360 and panoramic images catalogued at various points too. Here you can see what’s available on Google Maps around Todoroki station:

The blue line represents Streetview imagery taken from a Google car. The blue circles represent user submitted images. (You can see these blue details by clicking and dragging the yellow person icon in the bottom right over a point of interest on the map and looking out for blue lines and circles. Release the mouse button when the person is over a line/circle to view that image).

That’s it for now and happy exploring…