After the Earthquake and Tsunami that hit Northeastern Japan, and while the entire nation struggles to change its mood and to struggle to continue and recover, many programs were started to bring Japan, as a nation, to a more positive mood. One such way of doing this was to inaugurate the return of the famous Japanese express steam locomotive from the postwar era–the C61. In February 2011, it was brought out from its short amusement park and museum locale, to begin test runs. From March through June, the C61 began its special excursion runs to motivate Japan. The C61, was one of the express passenger locomotives, to be built during the US Occupation of Japan, when new steam locomotives were NOT ALLOWED to be built in Japan, per Occupation orders. So Japanese officials built the C61 and C62 from the bodies and parts of older freight locomotives D51 and “Pacific type” passenger locomotive C57, with some modifications to fit the speed and smoothness, as well as power necessary for pulling passenger locomotives, resulting in the Hudson type C61.
Japan’s C57 locomotives were the most widely used for passenger service for most of that country’s heyday of steam passenger service. They are the most active steam locomotives today, for excursions and special tours. Although Japan’s C62 was more famous globally, and was a faster and stronger, yet elegant machine, the C57 carried the main express and shorter services while the C62 took the faster, mountainous routes.
Here the engineer awaits the signal for departure in 2008.