The Matsuura Railway was formed on the 10th of December 1987 to take over the Nishi-Kyushu Line, one of the “specified local lines” of the 1980 JNR Reconstruction Act.
The line was 93.8Km long, running in a “C” shape along the western coast of Kyushu, connecting Sasebo to Imari via Matsuura and Hirado, and was the westernmost railway line in Japan, with Hiradoguchi Station (renamed as “Tabira-Hiradoguchi” station in 1989) being the westernmost railway station in the country.
Matsuura Railway replaced JR Kyushu (wich was provisionally tasked to run the line between the privatization of JNR and the scheduled hand-over) on the Nishi-Kyushu Line on the 1st of April 1988.
Originally, the Matsuura Railway fleet was formed of 18 16m-long diesel railcars built by Niigata Transys, part of the company’s “NDC” design family. These were divided into three serieses: MR-100, MR-200 and MR-300; they were supplemented in 1998 by a single 18m-long diesel railcar, again, manufactured by Niigata Transys and part of the NDC family: the MR-400 Series.
In 2007, the MR-600 Series was introduced; these 18m-long diesel railcars manufactured by Nippon Sharyo were intended to replace the MR-100, MR-200 and MR-300 Serieses, wich were all retired by 2012, and donated to the Myanmar Railways, where they still run to this day (some units even still in the original Matsuura Railway livery!).
As of today, the fleet of the Matsuura Railway is exclusively composed of MR-600 Series diesel railcars, with the exception of the lone MR-400 Series unit, wich is still in service, but it’s being used very sparcely (mostly as a spare train when an MR-600 unit is out of service).
Since the opening of the Okinawa Urban Monorail (“Yui Rail”) in 2003, the record of “westernmost railway station” is subject to debate, altough it’s widely accepted that Tabira-Hiradoguchi Station’s record still stands – but for “conventional” railways only. Akamine Station on the Okinawa Monorail has become the new record holder for the southernmost station out of all railway-type transit system.
Not only the Nishi-Kyushu Line includes the westernmost conventional railway station of Japan, but it also includes the shortest distance between conventional railway stations (wich means excluding tramways, Monorail, AGTs et cetera): 200 meters only between Naka-Sasebo and Sasebo-Chuo stations.