Welcome to another installment of Anime on Rails, where we love trains and we love Takarazuka references. Today we are introducing the first member of the Old Imperial Railways duo and Top Star of the group, Ran!
Ran is the Railord paired with the Takasaki Railway’s D51 840 steam locomotive. Dressed in a ruffled white shirt, black conductors hat, black skirt, and black jacket with cape, Ran gives off the aura of the classic prince archetype. Her hairpiece is an homage to the D51’s unique water heater, which is located on the top of the boiler behind the headlight.
Used primarily for freight and designed by Hideo Shima, the designer of the first shinkansen, the D51 class is a class of 2-8-2 tender steam locomotive. Like most trains, it operates on Japanese 3’6” narrow gauge tracks. Locomotives like the D51 with a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement are commonly called Mikados, an old term used by English speakers to refer to the Emperor of Japan. Following the rules of the 1928 Japanese steam locomotive classification system, the D in the class title indicates a total of 4 driving axles, while class number 51 categorizes it as a locomotive with a tender — a railcar designed to hold fuel and water for the engine’s boiler.
The design of the 2-8-2 comes with some benefits. The wheel layout supports a larger, wider firebox to be placed in the engine, which allows the firebox to achieve a higher rate of combustion and steam generation, which increases the trains total power output. The even number of driving axles distributed mechanical wear more evenly among the drive wheels, which decreased maintenance costs.
Over 1000 D51s were manufactured between 1936-1951, making it the largest single class of locomotives in Japan. Today, 174 locomotives have been preserved in Japan, while about a dozen are preserved in Taiwan and Russia. Most are kept in static preservation in museums across the country, while two locomotives, D51 200 and D51 498, are still operational. D51 200 is operated by JR West out of the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum in Kyoto and is one of the two locomotives that pulls the SL Yamaguchi train. D51 498 is operated by JR East and is one of the locomotives that pulls the SL Gunma train. With over 170 statically preserved engines scattered all across the country, finding one of these beauties won’t be a challenge.