The Chichibu Railway is a small third-sector railway operating in northern Saitama prefecture. It operates a 1067mm gauge network electrified at 1500V DC, composed by a single 71 Km long line connecting Hanyu with Chichibu, plus the 7.6 Km long freight-only Mikajiri Line, wich connects the Main Line to JR Freight’s Kumagaya Yard.
Chichibu Railway’s primary and original purpose is the transport of high quality limestone from Mount Bukko, wich is used in the manufacturing process of cement (in fact, Taiheio Cement is the company’s largest shareolder). Chichibu Railway also manages real estate along it’s line and it’s active in the tourism business, as it’s trains pass nearby many famous tourist attractions. Due to this popularity, it was one of the first to re-introduce regularily-scheduled steam trains desinged especially for tourists, having started the “SL Paleo Express” service in 1988.
The Chichibu Main line is also fundamental as it acts as the sole connection between the two Tobu Railway networks (the “Main” one branching from Asakusa and the “Tojo Lines” one branching from Ikebukuro); as such, not-in-service Tobu stock is a common sight along the line. Seibu railway also operates some trough-services.
As such, the Chichibu Railway is one of the most important rural railway lines in Japan, altough it’s struggling to make any profit.
Chichibu Railway is well known among third-sector railways as it’s one of the last to have regular freight services, express trains and steam services; it’s also the only third-sector railway quoted on the stock exchange.
Electric Multiple Units