Welcome to Anime on Rails! For the uninitiated (which should be most of you), Anime on Rails was a project I started back before I wrote for Anime Trending where I talk about trains and rail transportation in anime. Sometimes I’ll talk about real-world influences on fictional train design (like the armored train in Castle in the Sky) or trains featured in anime film and television (such as the Hida Limited Express in Your Name). Other times, I’ll just use the mere appearance of a train in a show to talk about real-world railroading.
And with that, let’s jump right in! This season, we have a weekly anime short called Rail Romanesque. Based on the visual novel Maitetsu, the world of Rail Romanesque has the existence of “Railords,” control units paired with specific locomotives and trains. I think it’s similar to the mental models in Arpeggio of Blue Steel. I haven’t read the visual novel, so that’s about all I know about the series, but it’s about trains and cute girls, so what’s not to like?
Today, we have our first character focus, the “leader” of our group of Railords, Suzushiro!
Suzushiro is the Railord paired with the Manoka Railways C12 67 locomotive, and her character design reflects the appearance of the locomotive she is paired with. Her black dress with green and bronze accents matches her locomotive’s black livery and brass accents, and her hat is similar to that of a train conductor or military officer.
C12 67 was the 67th Class C12 locomotive made for the Japan Government Railway, the predecessor of Japan National Railways (JNR), and later Japan Railways Group (JR). It is a 2-6-2t tank locomotive, meaning that it has one guide axle, three driving axles, and one trailing axle, and carries its water in an onboard tank rather than an attached tender.
The C12 class was built for JGR between 1932-1947 and operated on Japanese 3’6” narrow gauge tracks, as opposed to the 4’8.5” standard gauge used by much of the rest of the world. The C12 locomotives were used for light-duty, short line type rail service in provincial areas, serving as the local rail for the region.
The C12 was manufactured during Japan’s imperial conquest of the rest of Asia, and the Japanese military had these locomotives made for use in occupied areas. After the war, the locomotives were reclassified, sometimes modified to different gauges, and put back into service. The Taiwan Railway Class CK120, China Railway Class PL51, Vietnam Railways Class 131, and Indonesian Railway Company Class C32 locomotives are all former Japanese C12 locomotives.
C12 67, Suzushiro’s locomotive, is still around but no longer operational. However, five of its sister locomotives are still in working order. Two of these locomotives, the Mooka Railway’s C12 66 in Tochigi Prefecture and the Oigawa Railway’s C12 164 in Shizuoka Prefecture, operate weekend scenic train rides for railfans and tourists alike. If you are interested in learning more about these locomotives, check out their websites and maybe even plan a ride for yourself!