Hokutan #2 part 1 – Introduction

Hero image of the Hokutan #2 locomotive as delivered from the factory.
Hokutan #2 steam locomotive as delivered. Image take from the Rail Hobidas blog, which also has pictures of a replica of this locomotive.

The Hokutan #2 is one of two 20 ton 0-6-0 steam locomotives built for the Hokkaido Colliery and Railway Company (北海道炭礦鉄道, Hokkaidō Tankō Tetsudō), a company engaged in coal mining, railway operations and shipping. The company was established in 1889 after purchasing the previously state owned Horonai coal mine and Horonai railway. The railway operations of the company were nationalised once again in 1906 under the Railway Nationalisation Act.

Neither of the locomotives has survived. However, a full size replica has been built, and is on display at the former Hokutan Railway Fukuchiyama Nishi Station.

I’m not sure what the locomotives were used for exactly, but considering the short length of the line they ran on, it is likely they were used to haul short trains. For Yamato Shinrin Tetsudō, the former Hokutan #2 will be used mostly on shunting duty around the freight exchange station.

The model

The model of this locomotive is a H0j kit by World Kougei. It consists of several sheets of brass, nickel silver and stainless steel, as well as some white metal detail pieces. I actually bought the kit about 5 or 6 years ago at the time of this writing. I purchased the kit from Loco1Hobby, a small shop in Japan run by a friend, which is unfortunately no longer in business. I only started building it after I had a better idea of which direction I wanted to go with the H0 project.

As is somewhat common with World Kougei kits, the building instructions are mostly several exploded views. They also often contain some minor errors, such as listing incorrect part numbers. It’s definitely a good idea to plan ahead and test fit everything with these kits. The kits are made in small numbers, so I can’t fault them for some errors sneaking in. And they’re service is top notch, so if something does go wrong, they will try to help you.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the kit contents, or the first few steps of building the frame. I wasn’t really planning on doing a blog on this project at first. In the coming weeks I’ll post pictures and some thoughts on building the kit.

Yamato Shinrin Tetsudō

Yamato Shinrin Tetsudō (大和森林鉄道) is a fictional Japanese network of forest and mining railways. While the line itself is fictional, the rolling stock, scenery and operations are based on, and inspired by actual forest and mining railways in Japan, such as the Kiso Forest Railway, Yanase Forest Railway, and the Horonai Railway. The time period this line is set in would be around 1950-1960.

While the forest railways were usually privately owned, the Yamato Shinrin Tetsudō exists in a sort of alternate reality, and is state owned.

Other than the mountains and forest, the main piece for this project is the transfer station. This is where the narrow gauge line (Yamato Shinrin Tetsudō) and branch line (JNR) come together, and where goods are transferred between the 2 lines. Furthermore, there will be various small stops along the way with branches going further up and into the mountains.

Rolling stock

Rolling stock is mostly a mix of interesting models from actual forest and mining railways. Some examples would be the Baldwin 0-4-2T steam locomotive from the Kiso Forest Railway, the Hokutan #2 from the Horonai Railway. The JNR branch line will use mostly steam locomotives such as the SL9600 and C55. Pretty much all rolling stock are hand built brass kits from brands such as World Kougei and IMON. All of the non-JNR rolling stock will be somewhat customised to give them their own identity.


I’ll hand lay all the track using the Fast Tracks tools. It uses actual wooden sleepers and spikes to keep the rail in place. All the turnouts are also hand built using the same tools.

Scenery and structures

For the scenery, I’m going for an autumn setting. This being a mostly forest railway, there will be a lot of trees, so the autumn colours should add a lot to the layout.

Most of the buildings will also be scratch built using scale lumber based on actual buildings and blueprints.

This is definitely a very ambitious and long term project.