Nippon Railway

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Nippon Railway
Dates of operation1883–1906
SuccessorJapanese Government Railways
Track gauge3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm)
Length860.8 miles (1906)

Nippon Railway (日本鉄道, Nippon Tetsudō) was the first private railway company in the history of Japan. The company built trunk lines connecting Tokyo with the Tōhoku region to the northeast. Most of its lines came under the control of Japanese Government Railways following nationalization in 1906, and many are now operated by East Japan Railway Company.


The company was incorporated in 1881 as the first privately funded railway company in Japan, where the railways had been built only by the imperial government since early 1870s. If, however, the definition of "railway" includes horsecars, Nippon Railway is behind Tokyo Bashatetsudō, established in 1880 as the first private railway in Japan.

Major investors to the company were kazoku, led by the highest-class court noble Iwakura Tomomi; the company, incorporated to help expansion of national railway network in line with the national policy, received strong support from the government, both technically and financially.

The first 38 miles (61 km) of the railway, between Ueno Station in Tokyo and Kumagaya Station in Kumagaya, Saitama, opened on July 28, 1883;[1] the mainline to Aomori was completed in 1891.[2]

The company expanded the railway by means of both construction and acquisition of other companies; as of 1906, it operated 860.8 miles (1,385.3 km) of railways including the present-day Tōhoku Main Line, Jōban Line, Takasaki Line and Yamanote Line.

On November 1, 1906, the entire operation of the company was purchased by the government of Japan under the Railway Nationalization Act. Consequently, the company was dissolved.

List of lines[edit]

Operation of Nippon Railway as of October 31, 1906[3]
Endpoints Length
Line names
(designated after nationalization)
UenoAomori 456.9 Tōhoku Main Line
NipporiMikawashima 0.8 Jōban Line
ŌmiyaMaebashi 52.5 Takasaki Line, Ryōmō Line
OyamaMaebashi 50.9 Ryōmō Line
OyamaTomobe 31.4 Mito Line
TabataIwanuma 213.6 Jōban Line
TabataIkebukuro 3.3 Yamanote Line
ShinagawaAkabane 13.0 Yamanote Line, Akabane Line
UtsunomiyaNikkō 25.0 Nikkō Line
Iwakiri – Shiogama 4.3 Shiogama Line
Shiriuchi (present-day Hachinohe) – Minato 5.1 Hachinohe Line
UenoAkihabara 1.2 Tōhoku Main Line Freight
MikawashimaSumidagawa 2.0 Jōban Line Freight
Mito – Nakagawa 0.8 Jōban Line Freight
Total 860.8

Rolling stock[edit]

Fleet of Nippon Railway[4]
Year Steam
Freight cars etc.
Wagons Trucks
1890 54 158 763
1900 286 824 1,646 1,957
1905 356 857 2,345 3,386


  1. ^ Ishino, p. 323, vol. I
  2. ^ Free, Early Japanese Railways 1853–1914: Engineering Triumphs That Transformed Meiji-era Japan, Tuttle Publishing, 2008 (ISBN 4805310065)
  3. ^ Ishino, p. 324, vol. I
  4. ^ Wakuda, p. 64


  • Ishino, Tetsu et al. (eds.) (1998). 停車場変遷大事典 国鉄・JR編 [Station Transition Directory - JNR/JR] (in Japanese). {{{1}}}. Tokyo: JTB Corporation. p. {{{2}}}. ISBN 4533029809.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Wakuda, Yasuo (1993). Shitetsushi Handobukku (in Japanese). Tokyo: Denkisha Kenkyūkai. ISBN 978-4-88548-065-2.