Just a five-minute walk from Yokohama Station is one of world’s largest collections of model trains, photographs, and videos.
Nobutaro Hara born in 1919 began building model trains at age 13. He taught himself French and German so he could read books on railway technology. After the war he traveled around the world collecting and building models. His collection consists of 6,000 model train cars.100,000 photos, and 440 hours of train films. This is a man with a passion. In addition he has authored many railway books, and built very precise model train sets.
In 2012 the Hara Model Railway Museum opened to the public.
In 1947 my dad bought a Lionel train set for me, to celebrate my birth. When old enough he passed the set along. I took a large thick piece of plywood, painted it green and fastened the tracks along with a complete Plastic Ville U.S. town and set it up in our basement. During my teen years I added a couple HO train sets to my collection. When stressed or down a little, I would sit for hours and watch the trains move and imagine myself riding along. It wasn’t until I went into the service, that I finally experienced a long distance train ride. I was hooked. Now living in Japan I have had the pleasure of riding all types of trains and trolleys throughout the country. Every time I board a train the feeling of adventure comes over me, even if only going the two stops from my home to Yokohama station.
Once I found out that Yokohama had a model train museum, I had to see it for myself.
It is a paradise to model train lovers. I walked through the museum twice, stopping at the 3rd exhibit room to view on a touch PC some of the 13,000 pages of photographs taken by Nobutaro Hara. Seeing the photos I could imagine myself behind the camera all the way back to 1933.
The train collection includes models from all over the world. Having already visited the Yokohama Trolley Museum, seeing the scale models refreshed my memory of the larger life size versions.
There are two exhibit rooms with moving model trains. One with gauge one model trains, including steam, electric and trolleys on a very large platform. There are scaled stations, houses, businesses, cars, pedestrians, and elaborate scenery. The second diorama is an HO gauge of Yokohama as it is today. Both the exhibits turn down the lights and we get to view the trains moving along into the night.
I could have spent the entire day watching the trains as they made their way through tunnels, across bridges, and stops at the various stations.
If you're looking for a great distraction while passing through Yokohama Station, take the East exit, go outside by the Sky Building and cross the river to the Mitsui Building and ride the escalator to 2F. There is a small entrance fee, but it is well worth the cost. The museum is open from 11:00 a.m. to 18:00 everyday except Tuesday when it is closed.
You may see me there sitting in the gallery watching as the trains go by.