Kurama Line, Eizan Electric Railway Co., Ltd (叡山電鉄鞍馬線)
Line distance (working kilometers): 8.8 km
Track gauge: 1435 mm
Number of stations: 10 (including the station of origin and the destination station)
Double-tracked section: between Takaragaike Station and Nikenchaya Station
Electrified section: the entire rail line (direct current 600V)
Block (railway): Automatic block system
Safety device: Automatic Train Stop System (with speed check function)
This route is used in everyday life from the central part of Kyoto City to the Ichihara Station neighborhood; it is also used as a route for religious pilgrimages and pleasure excursions to Kurama-dera Temple and Kifune-jinja Shrine. Up to the vicinity of Ichihara Station, although the route runs through the foothills of the mountain, residential districts line the railway, giving it the flavor of a city outskirts route; north of the station, the route becomes a mountain one, with an inclination of 50 per mil. In autumn, when the leaves change color, the "Tunnel of scarlet maple leaves" between Ichihara Station and Ninose Station is famous among railway fans and beyond; throughout the period when Kifune-jinja Shrine is decorated with lanterns of colorful fall leaves, the tunnel is illuminated as well. When a train passes through the area during this period between the hours of 5:00 and 9:00 PM, the lights inside the cars are turned off and the train moves slowly so that passengers can enjoy the scenery through the windows.
The neighboring roads are extremely narrow, and, since the road which parallels the route becomes very congested during the autumn sightseeing season, the train gets as crowded as a metropolitan train during rush hour. In addition, road traffic around Kurama is suspended during the Kurama Fire Festival, so the train is the only transportation available during this time.
There are two basic train schedules: one for weekdays, and one for weekends and holidays.
All trains travel directly from Eizan Railway's Eizan Main Line. Generally speaking, trains run between Demachiyanagi Station and Kurama Station, and between Demachiyanagi Station and Nikenchaya Station, at 20-minute intervals during the daytime on weekdays; during the daytime on weekends and holidays, trains travel between Demachiyanagi Station and Kurama Station at 15-minute intervals. In the mornings and late evenings, in addition to shuttle trains from Ichihara Station, there are also trains arriving at and departing from Shugakuin Station, which has a garage.
During the Bon Festival or around New Year's, the trains may run on the weekend/holiday schedule even on weekdays, and during the sightseeing seasons, there is a special holiday schedule, with trains traveling between Demachiyanagi Station and Kurama Station at 12-minute intervals.
It has been normal for trains to be operated by a single crew member, with no conductors on board, since 2004; however, when there are many passengers, a conductor will occasionally work on the train in the section between Chayama Station (Kyoto Prefecture) and Ninose Station or Ichihara Station.
During the daytime on weekdays, 3 trains per hour depart from Demachiyanagi Station for Kurama and for Nikenchaya on the Kurama Line, and 3 more trains depart for Yase-Hieizanguchi Station on the Eizan Main Line; more trains go to Nikenchaya than to Yase-Hieizanguchi, even though the latter is the railway company's main line.
October 20, 1929: Trains started running between Ichihara Station and Kurama Temporary Station.
December 20, 1929: Full service began between Kurama Temporary Station and Kurama Station. Kurama Temporary Station was closed. Direct trains began running as far as Demachiyanagi Station on the Kyoto Dento Eizan Electric Railway Line (present Eizan Main Line, Eizan Electric Railway), entering from Yamahata Station.
September 1939: The section between Nikenchaya and Ichihara was reduced to a single track (although not because of the criteria for nonessential lines).
August 1, 1942: The route was merged with Keifuku Electric Railroad (Kyoto Dento's former iron rail division, which had split from the company and established itself in March of that year). This became the Kurama Line.
November 10, 1944: The section between Yamahata and Nikenchaya was reduced to a single track and its materials requisitioned.
June 10, 1954: Yamahata Station was renamed Takaragaike Station.
April 9, 1958: Double tracking was restored to the section between Takaragaike and Iwakura.
October 19, 1978: The last Japanese overhead line system for electric trains was abolished and converted to a power collector system.
April 1, 1986: The route was separated and transferred to Eizan Electric Railway.
Operation by a single crew member, with no conductors on board, began on December 25, 1988. In the beginning, the light-model Eizan Electric Railway Series Deo 700 was used; it was first run as a shuttle to and from (Iwakura) Nikenchaya, then run to Kurama, mainly in the early mornings and during the night.
September 21, 1989: Kyoto-Seikadai-mae Station opened. At the same time, in anticipation of the October 5 opening of the Keihan Oto Line (Keihan Electric Railway), the train schedule was revised. The weekday daytime shuttle service for Iwakura was extended to Nikenchaya, and, in addition, the Kurama extension for days with many passengers was fixed as a holiday 'on-season' train schedule.
September 28, 1990: Double tracking was restored to the section between Iwakura and Nikenchaya. The shuttle train service centered on Iwakura Station was switched completely to a shuttle service centered on Nikenchaya Station.
March 23, 1994: Many more trains were added in the train schedule revision. Ever since the 1960s, trains departing for Kurama (Iwakura) and trains departing for Nikenchaya had been run every 30 minutes in the regular schedule and for Kurama every 15 minutes during the crowded "on-seasons"; after the revision, however, as a rule, trains departed for Kurama and for Nikenchaya every 20 minutes in the regular schedule, and for Kurama every 15 minutes during holidays.
January 13, 2004: It became normal procedure for all trains to be operated by a single crew member, with no conductors on board. As this was true even for trains with 2 cars, trains bound for Kurama returned to their former length of 2 cars throughout the day.
Tunnel of scarlet maple leaves
All photographs were taken between Ichihara and Ninose.