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Rediscover Japan's Railways in Kitakyushu

A key attraction at Mojiko Retro Town

One of the most rewarding places within the Mojiko Retro area is the Kyushu Railway History Museum, with its extensive indoor and outdoor exhibits. Approaching the museum from the direction of Mojiko Station, itself a fantastic example of living history, the museum appears as another station, with a fine, red-brick terminus building, and a platform lined with trains.

These are no ordinary trains however. They’re all retired engines and carriages, with steam locomotives from the 1920s, to electric trains from the 1960s. You can actually board many of the carriages, sit in them, and wonder at the design ingenuity that has gone into making trains practical and comfortable. It’s a veritable celebration of metal and other materials in various finely crafted forms. I was excited to discover a type of train that used to go past my house.

The main building, once the headquarters of the Kyushu Railway Company, has two floors packed with imaginative exhibits. Besides many model trains, there are sections covering everything from railway engineering to signals and communications. Some sections are arranged as reconstructions of real life in the past, while others present little quizzes for visitors to solve. As a food lover, my favorite exhibit covered the refreshments served on trains. The Japanese have managed to connect railways with food in the form of the station lunch box or ekiben. Regional specialties and local ingredients are used, and the containers are typically works of art in themselves. Another popular corner was the train driver simulation booth, which attracted a long line of serious-looking people.

Outside, there’s a mini railway with replicas of actual types of train that run up and down a little slope and under bridges. I watched a young family piling into one of the cars and trundling round the track. The young boy and girl seemed to be experiencing a fit of ecstasy. There’s something for all the family to enjoy here. Indeed there were many families, some of four generations, all conspicuously enjoying themselves. There’s enough to see and do here to fill a couple of hours – or even longer for the dedicated train enthusiast. The museum shop offering train-related souvenirs is also worth a look.

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