The Wakasa Railway was founded on the 6th of August 1987, jointly by the municipalities of Wakasa and Yazu, to inherit operations of the 19,2Km-long Wakasa Line.
The Wakasa line was originally opened in 1930 as a branch of the Imbi line, connecting Yazu to Wakasa, following the Hatto river valley. The line was originally intended to continue further westwards, to Yoka Station, connecting with the San’In Main Line, but such plans were abandoned almost immediately. Freight services were abandoned in 1974, and by the mid-1980s, the line was in danger of closing.
However, with the passing of the JNR Reconstruction Act, the ownership of the railway line was transferred to the municipal governments of towns served by the line, and on the 14th of October 1987, after a brief interlude where the line was operated by JR West in place of the now-defunct JNR, the Wakasa Railway finally began operations.
Originally, the Wakasa Railway company owned both the line and the rolling stock it operated on, but on the 1st of April 2009, in an effort to reduce the company’s financial burden, ownership of the line was transferred to the municipal governments of Yazu and Wakasa, wich now own 16,5 and 2,7Km of the Wakasa Line respectively.
As of today, even after the track ownership transferral, the Wakasa Railway still has a considerable financial burden, as the company is operating at a net loss (in 2014 the operational deficit was 31,53 milion yen) and as such the company is in constant need of funds, wich are luckily regularily granted by the local governments.
To help it’s difficult financial situation, the Wakasa Railway plans to begin a steam-hauled tourist service, and as such has bought a steam locomotive, C12 unit 127, three passenger cars and one DD16 diesel locomotive, intended to act as an “helper”. However, C12 27 is not operable on the line yet as it’s in need of repairs. Instead, it’s used as a tourist attraction at Wakasa, where it runs up and down the stations’ tracks, powered by compressed air.
JR West also used to run some trough-services with the Wakasa Line, from Tottori to Wakasa, operated with KiHa 47 DMUs until March 2020, when they were discontinued.
The base fare of the line used to be just 60 Yen, the cheapest of all of Japan, until the 31st March 2007, when it was increased (due to the financial recession at the time) to 100 Yen, losing the title of the “cheapest fare” to the Kita-Osaka Kyuko Railway (wich had a base fare of 80 Yen). In 2017 the latter’s base fare was increased to 100 Yen as well, with both railways now sharing the title of the “cheapest base fare” of all of Japan.
The Wakasa Railway often has “driving experiences” open to the general pubblic at Wakasa Station: you can choose between C12 127, the DD16 or a WT-3000 Series diesel railcar and then drive one of them for a short stretch on Wakasa Station tracks (obviously supervised by one of the railway’s drivers).
These driving experiences must be reserved, but anybody can take part in one as long as they are more than 15 years old (for C12 127 and the DD16) or are atleast in the last year of elementary school (for the WT-3000 Series).
The Wakasa Railway briefly made headlines in 2016 when they had C12 127 repainted in a very unusual (and also very gaudy) all-over pink livery.
Icons made by Curoka