Learning recently that there were only seven suspended railways operating in the world was a surprise, and hearing that two of them were in Japan was something I didn’t expect either. Some of this information came off the back of watching a Tim Traveller YouTube video (You can watch it at the foot of this post) about a dangletrain in Düsseldorf in Germany.
The two Japanese upside-down trains are both in reasonable close vicinity to Tokyo with one in Chiba City and the other in Kanagawa Prefecture. I actually rode on the latter over a decade ago en-route to Shōnan-Enoshima (SMR8) which was the starting point for me this time as I rode the entire 6.6 km (4.1 miles) line with a few stops along the way.
Once I had been to Enoshima beach and the island itself I walked north to Shōnan-Enoshima station. This is the end (or start!) point of the the Shōnan Monorail Line which was opened by Mitsubishi in March 1970 becoming the first monorail of its kind in Japan. There was another one in Nagoya from 1964 to 1974.
Shōnan Monorail trains run every seven to eight minutes between Ōfuna and Enoshima and it takes just 14 minutes to complete a one-way trip. My plan was to ride the length of the line with a couple of stops along the way in places where the trains going in opposite directions pass each other. Mejiroyamashita (SMR7), Kataseyama (SMR6) and Nishi-Kamakura (SMR5) stations were all passed through before I disembarked at Shōnan-Fukasawa (SMR4) nine minutes after I departed Shōnan Enoshima.
It was a fun ride and I could see the benefits of such a system. Naturally, it’s able to fit into a crowded space and takes away the congestion from street level. It is also able to negotiate tight corners at higher speeds as it swings (very gently) out at the bottom when turning.
Shōnan-Machiya was bypassed on the way to Fujimicho (SMR2) which is an unstaffed station so rightly or wrongly (probably the latter!) I was able to exit the station before returning to take a later train.
There’s something theme park-like about these trains which are akin to roller-coasters. Their maximum speed is 75 kilometres (46.6 miles) per hour not that I saw them at anywhere near that speed as I went down to watch them flying overhead from street level. For the record, the trains run at about the same height as the third floor of a building.
After 15 minutes there, it was time to leave Fujimicho and two minutes later I was at the destination of Ōfuna (SMR1).
This was a cool place to see the trains going in and out of the station building.
Look closely at the pictures above and you might be able to see the head of a giant white kannon statue pretruding through the trees. This is the Ofuna Kannon-ji Temple which I visited back in 2017. Steps lead up to the 25 metre, 1900-ton reinforced concrete statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon. Due to the outbreak of war in the Pacific among other things, it actually took just over three decades to complete this goddess of mercy statue.
The other side of the station offered a closer glimpse of the 5000 series 3-car set trains.
Back in the Summer of 1995 I did actually visit Düsseldorf to see my eldest sister who was living and working there at the time. I didn’t see or ride on the Düsseldorf Airport Skytrain for good reason. It was yet to be built! It was completed in 2002 which was just over a century after the world’s original suspended railway opened in Wuppertal. Whilst a return to Germany to see the dangletrains in Wuppertal, Dresden, Dortmund or Düsseldorf is highly unlikely, a trip to check out the Chiba Urban Monorail is far more proabable!
Click here to read ‘Going Back & Forth To Visit All The Stations Of Kawasaki’s Industrial Line’
Click here to read ‘The Japanese Town Which Has It’s Own Local Rail Line’
Click here to read ‘The Virtually Abandoned Station Just Over The Border From Tokyo’
Click here to read ‘The Complete Tour Of Katakana-Named Stations In Tokyo!’