The Train Literally Fueled by Ramen: The Amaterasu Railway

There's a small but amazing looking heritage railway line in Japan that mostly runs along a bridge that no longer features other railway traffic after an earthquake: It is known as the Amaterasu Railway, and the more you learn about it, the more fun this line seems to be! I hope I get the opportunity to visit it someday.

Open air "Super-Kart" trains that run along the route to the bridge. (Image: Sora News 24)

The Amaterasu Railway runs in Takachiho, Japan, and takes riders on a roughly 30 minute train ride along a 2 mile stretch of track along the former Takamori Station and the Takamore Bridge of the Minamiaso Railway.

"Amaterasu" is the name of a Shinto sun goddess in Japanese mythology, and one can certainly see how this mythology plays out over the bridge and scenery that encompass the railway line.

One of the Amaterasu Railway's "Super Kart" open-air trains over the Takachico Bridge. (Image: TAR Inc.)

Originally part of the Japanese National Railway, this line fell into local control after JR Kyushu sought to abandon it, and the Takachiho Railway was formed in 1989 to being operating the line. 

The roughly 45 mile route between Nobeoka and Takamori was rendered unusable in April 2016 after major earthquakes struck the area. This was also after flooding had halted operations on most of the route after 2005.

Pre-2005 TR-400 Trainset, when the Takachiho Railway ran the entirety of the route before weather damage. (Image via Locomotive Fandom)

It took years of attempts, and the earthquakes that occurred in 2016 certainly didn't help matters, but the Amaterasu Railway began operating again in a heritage capacity. 

The operating portion of the Amterasu Railway as of 2023, from our Heritage Railways map.

In 2018, the Takachiho Amaterasu Railway (link in Japanese) began to operate the line once again, and while their ambitions is to reopen the entirety of the route, so far, the only stretch that has been reactivated is the Amaterasu Railway in Takachiho. Despite this setback, the two miles that are open is beautiful and a fantastic heritage line in and of itself.

Another shot of the Amaterasu Railway over the Takachiho Bridge (Image: TAR Inc.)

One very interesting fact about the line is that it has a unique fuel...biodiesel made from leftover ramen noodles as of November 2022. According to Spoon & Tamago, "The Amaterasu Railway previously ran on diesel fuel and because of the open roof, passengers would get whiffs of exhaust fumes. However, the railway recently announced that they had switched to running entirely on biodiesel made from leftover Tonkotsu ramen broth. Now, instead of that toxic burnt smell, riders report smelling aromas of fried rice along the way."

The combination of fun, culture, railway history and incredible infrastructure makes the Amaterasu Railway a part of my Heritage Railway bucket list, and sincerely hope I get the chance to visit it someday and give it a proper travel blog post!

The abandoned portions of this line, as well as what we've been able to map in Japan, and across the world, are available to view on our Abandoned & Out-of-Service Railroad Lines Map.

Thanks as always for reading!


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