Defunct railway reborn as tourist attraction -- Feb 23
The tracks of the now-defunct Takachiho Railway in Miyazaki Prefecture - discontinued due to damage caused by Typhoon No. 14 in 2005 - have been revived as a popular tourist attraction that carried 26,000 passengers in fiscal 2015.

Takachiho Amaterasu Rail Park Inc., the new operator of the line, runs a seven-meter-long "super-kart" it converted from a mini-truck on the old tracks. The service had to be temporarily suspended due to the series of earthquakes that hit neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture in April last year, but it subsequently reopened and has been attracting passengers since the summer.

The company plans to introduce a new type of train car in March in an effort to bring in even more tourists.

Takachiho Railway began operating in 1989 as a so-called third-sector company, a business entity jointly capitalized by the public and private sectors, to take over the Takachiho Line, once operated by the now-defunct Japan National Railways.

Takachiho Railway, however, found it difficult to attract passengers due to a declining population along the line and improved road conditions. The damage caused by the 2005 typhoon eventually forced the company to abandon the route's operation.

Nevertheless, residents in the town of Takachiho established a company the following year in the hopes of reviving the local line. When Takachiho Railway officially decided to completely discontinue operations in 2008, the new company took over, overhauling management and giving the firm its current name: Takachiho Amaterasu Rail Park. Its goals were to preserve the railway and transform it into a park.

Since then, the new firm has been seeking to establish its railway as a tourist attraction. Its first effort was to install a manually operated wooden trolley to take passengers along the scenic route.

The sightseeing service initially attracted only about 100 passengers a year, as its availability was limited to periods such as the Golden Week holidays.

However, the service eventually became popular, thanks to its providing passengers the chance to enjoy panoramic views of superb natural beauty from the old tracks and feel inspired by the subtle joy of travel. The firm turned a profit in 2013, with the number of passengers exceeding 10,000.

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