27 September 2010

A cat, strawberries and toys ( a rail line stories)-Part 1: Super Station Master Tama

Posted in The World Of Orcaz(blog)

Tama is a cat, but not an ordinary cat. She is a station master.

Kishi station is a station of a local line in Wakayama, Kishigawa Line operated by Wakayama Electric Railway Co. And Tama was selected as a station master of this station in 2007. But why a cat?

Just like other local lines (the line that is not a major line, running through the countryside areas, usually operated in 1 or 2 cars set with 1 to 3 sets operating each hour) in Japan, the line suffers a major problem: deficit operation.

The line was built in 1916 by Santou light railway(?) (山東軽便鉄道 /santou keiben tetsudou). The line was operated by various operator. In the 1961 the operation was taken by Nankai Electric Railway Co. However, its not a profitable line.

This problems worsen by the development in areas around the line. Car usage has made the passenger that use the line begin to decline.

In 2003, Nankai Electric Railway Co, announced that the line operation will stop. In 2004, Nankai Electric Railway Co. sent a document to Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to make the decision official and able to dismantle the tracks. The line is already stop operating.

However, Wakayama Prefecture, Wakayama City and Ishigawa Town objected. They wanted the line to remain and started to search for a operator to continue the operation with some intensive.

Okayama Electric Tramway co. ltd (岡山電気軌道株式会社・okayama denki kidou kabushiki gaisha) was selected from 9 operators/companies. The company founded the Wakayama Electric Railway Co. (100% owned by Okayama Electric Tramway) to operate the line.

All the stations are unmanned to cut costs. However, the station master (to look over the stations) were selected from employees of local businesses near each station. For Kishi station, Toshiko Koyama, the neighborhood grocer, was selected as station master. Koyama had adopted Tama and other stray cats, and he fed them at the station.

In 2007, Tama was selected as the station master for Kishi Station. The publicity give the company a positive effect. Passengers increase by more than 10%.

In 2008, Tama was promoted to super station master.

Kishi Station was renovated to give the station a "cat look". The construction completed last month. Below are the pics taken last saturday.

A cat, strawberries and toys (a rail line stories)-Part 2: Unique trains

Tama Museum: Kishi Station
Kishi Station (outside)
Everybody want to see Tama
But Tama is taking a nap.
Tama cafe inside the station
Some souvenirs

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