The Takachiho Railway was formed in 1989 to take over the Takachiho Line from JR Kyushu (wich provisionally operated it between the privatization of JNR in 1987 and the handover on thw 28th of April 1989).
The 50.0Km-long Takachiho Line was a branch of the Nippo Main Line, starting from Nobeoka and ending in Takachiho (where the line, and consequently, the company, takes it’s name).
The line originally opened in 1935 as the Hinokage Line, running between Nobeoka and Hyuga-Okamoto stations. In 1972 it was extended to Takachiho Stations, with plans to continue well beyond.
In fact, the Takachiko Line was planned to connect to the Takamori Line (wich had it’s terminus 23Km away from Takachiko), with the final goal to establish a direct “coast-to-coast” connection between Kumamoto and Nobeoka and Hyuga. Work on the link between the two lines started in 1972, as soon as the line’s extension to Takachiho was opened, but in 1975, a flood in the under-construction 6.5Km-long Takamori tunnel dealt a serious blow to the works.
Over the next five years, the line’s construction continued very slowly, and was eventually abandoned in 1980, with the promulgation of the JNR reconstruction act, wich barred the financially-precarious National Railways to build lines deemed “unnecessary”, such as new rural lines.
Soon after, both the Takamori Line and the Takachiho Line were handed over to two separate newly-formed third-sector railways: Minami-Aso Railway and Takachiho Railway respectively.
Unfortunately, like many other similar rural railway lines, Takachiho Railway suffered from a very low ridership, and the line was threatened with closure several times. The coup the grace for the railway arrived in 2005, when the line was severely damaged by flooding caused by the Typhoon Nabi on the 9th of September, with two bridges in the lower section being washed away, effectively isolating the upper part of line from the rest of the network.
Due to the tremendous amount of work and money needed to resume operations, wich wasn’t justified by the line’s feeble ridership, the railway officially closed on the 20th of December 2006.
After the closure, many former employees formed the “Amaterasu Railway”, a museum dedicated to the Takachiho Line (and located in the former Takachiho Station), with activities that include a miniature train ride over the old section of the line, up to the middle of Takachiho Bridge, Japan’s highest railway bridge (105m from the ground below at it’s highest point) and a “a “driver experience” on diesel railcars TK-101 and TK-202, wich have been preserved: you drive one of the two railcars for about 30 minutes (with the assistance of a former driver) at the cost of 10000 yen per person. The only requirement is a driving license (anything goes: car, motorbike, moped…)
Shortly before it’s closure in 2006, the Takachiho Railway owned nine diesel railcars: five TK-100s for regular services, two TK-200s for “special services” and two retro-styled, “open” TK-400 Series cars for sightseeing.
Of these, unit TK-201 was acquired free-of-charge by the Asa Kaigan Railway (where it still runs to this day), TK-101 and TK-202 are preserved dinamically at Takachiho Station, TR-104 and TR-105 were donated to the town of Hinokage, where they are preserved on the closed station’s ground, and finally, the two TK-400s (TK-401 and TK-402) were acquired by JR Kyushu and converted into the “Umisachi Yamasachi” tourist train, wich is still running to this day. Only the two remaining TK-102 and TK-103 units were scrapped.
Diesel Multiple Units