SL Gunma

Route Map

Historic steam engines
A scenic trip through the Gunma countryside

Traveling through Gunma in a wide variety of locomotives

Pulled by a variety of powerful locomotives, these passenger cars offer a pleasantly nostalgic ambience.
Enjoy the magnificent nature of Gunma Prefecture with the background roar of the locomotive.

The magnificent nature of Gunma Prefecture

"SL Retro Gunma Minakami", "SL Gunma Minakami", "SL Retro Gunma Yokokawa" and "SL Gunma Yokokawa" all run through Gunma's nature.
Please enjoy the magnificent scenery seen from the train window.

Renovation of the classic interiors of old passenger cars

In April 2020, the old passenger car interiors were refurbished, bringing back the classic wood-grain ambience of the era when they were manufactured. A new lounge car has also been added.

SL Gunma Minakami/SL Gunma Yokokawa[Gunma Prefecture]
Route Map
Debut year
D51: Built in 1940, debuted in 1988 
C61: Built in 1949, debuted in 2011
Service area
Joetsu Line: Takasaki Station to Minakami Station
Shinetsu Main Line: Takasaki Station-Yokokawa Station
Ryomo Line: Takasaki Station to Kiryū Station

Travel Guide

The "SL Gunma" runs
We will introduce recommended spots along the line.

SL Gunma Minakami / SL Gunma Yokokawa route map
  • Spot 1: Minakami Onsen
  • Spot 2: Craftsman Village Takuminosato
  • Spot 3: Fukiware Falls
  • Spot 4: Mount Tanigawa
  • Spot 5: Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park
  • Spot 6: Megane-bashi (Usui 3rd Bridge)
  • Spot 7: Isobe Onsen
  • Spot 8: Abandoned Railway Walk
  • Spot 9: River Terrace in Numata
  • Spot 10: Suwakyo Gorge
  • Spot 11: SL Turntable Plaza
  • Spot 12: Doai Station
Photo: Minakami Onsen
Minakami Onsen
Photo: Minakami Onsen

Minakami Onsen

Starting with Minakami Onsen and Tanigawa Onsen, numerous onsens dot the landscape near each station on the route along the Tone River headwaters, Minakami Onsen Village being a prime example.

Access
A 5-minute walk from Minakami Station on the JR Jōetsu Line
Photo: Craftsman Village Takuminosato
Craftsman Village Takuminosato
Photo: Craftsman Village Takuminosato

Craftsman Village Takuminosato

Scattered about the 350-hectare farming region are workshops for processing of agricultural products, ceramics, straw bamboo crafts and the like, each readily offering tourists a first-hand experience of the local agrarian culture.

Access
About 15 minutes by taxi from Gokan Station on the JR Jōetsu Line,
about 15 minutes by taxi from Jōmō-Kōgen Station on the JR Jōetsu Shinkansen
Photo: Fukiware Falls
Fukiware Falls
Photo: Fukiware Falls

Fukiware Falls

Fukiware Falls, which is also called “The Niagara of the East,” is one of Japan’s national natural monuments; the trails around the falls there have three observation decks for enjoying different views of the landscape.

Access
Take a 40-minute ride on the Kan-etsu Bus from Numata Station on the JR Jōetsu Line, get off at the Fukiware Falls stop, then walk for about 10 minutes (closed in winter).
Photo: Mount Tanigawa
Mount Tanigawa
Photo: Mount Tanigawa

Mount Tanigawa

It is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains and a popular spot for mountain sports such as skiing and rock climbing. The view of tree groves woven into the steep cliff landscape is truly spectacular.

Access
Take a 25-minute ride on the Kan-etsu Bus from Minakami Station on the JR Jōetsu Line, and get off at the “Mount Tanigawa Ropeway Station” stop. Take the ropeway from Tanigawadake (Mount Tanigawa) Ropeway, Doaiguchi Station.
Photo: Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park
Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park
Photo: Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park

Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park

You can enjoy many railway heritage sites along the route, including the Usuitouge Railway Heritage Park, which has an open-air locomotive exhibition, trolley train service, and a train driving attraction.

Access
Adjacent to Yokokawa Station on the JR Shin'etsu Main Line
Photo: Megane-bashi (Usui 3rd Bridge)
Megane-bashi (Usui 3rd Bridge)
Photo: Megane-bashi (Usui 3rd Bridge)

Megane-bashi (Usui 3rd Bridge)

It is an arched brick bridge over the Usui River. It was used when the railway between Yokokawa and Karuizawa had an Abt rack system (late 1800s).

Access
About 10 minutes by car from Yokokawa Station on the JR Shin'etsu Main Line.
There is a bus service between Yokokawa Station and Karuizawa that provides access to famous places in the Usuitouge (seasonal service only).
Photo: Isobe Onsen
Isobe Onsen
Photo: Isobe Onsen

Isobe Onsen

Located on the banks of the Usui River, this Onsen was a popular spot for travelers along the Nakasendo, one of the main national highways during the Edo period. It is famous for Isobe senbei (rice crackers) and as the birthplace of the onsen symbol used in Japanese maps.

Access
Get off at Isobe Station on the JR Shin'etsu Main Line.
Photo: Abandoned Railway Walk
Abandoned Railway Walk
Photo: Abandoned Railway Walk

Walk along an abandoned railway

This walking tour follows the remains of the New Line of Shin'etsu Main Line Yokokawa-Karuizawa section of Shin'etsu Main Line, which was closed when the Nagano Shinkansen Line opened on September 30, 1997. Visitors can have the special experience of walking through tunnels and bridges that are normally inaccessible.

Access
Varies depending on the meeting place.
Photo: River Terrace in Numata
River Terrace in Numata
Photo: River Terrace in Numata

River Terrace in Numata

This is the River Terrace in Numata, widely known from its presentation in texbooks at school in Japan. The five-story keep of Numata Castle was built on the river terrace (about 70 meters high). The Nagurumi Castle Ruins are located here. It is also a paragliding spot.

Photo: Suwakyo Gorge
Suwakyo Gorge
Photo: Suwakyo Gorge

Suwakyo Gorge

The stunning beauty of Suwakyo Gorge, one of Minakami Onsen’s famous scenic spots, changes color with the seasons, from fresh verdure to autumn foliage and snowy landscapes. Enjoy the views from the train window.
Also famous for the “bungee bridge”, many thrillseekers enjoy bungee-jumping from atop the Suwakyo Gorge Bridge to the riverbed 42 meters below. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of this spectacle from the train window as you pass by.

Photo: SL Turntable Plaza
SL Turntable Plaza
Photo: SL Turntable Plaza

SL Turntable Plaza

When the SL arrives at Minakami station, visitors can enjoy the unique spectacle of a steam locomotive rotating on a railway turntable. SL "D51 745" is on display in the plaza.

Access
A 5-minute walk from Minakami Station on the JR Jōetsu Line
Photo: Doai Station
Doai Station
Photo: Doai Station

Doai Station

At Doai Station, the inbound platform and outbound platform are quite far from each other, and the outbound platform is about 70 meters below ground. Due to the exceptionally long tunnels (the tunnel to the above ground ticket gate is 486 steps) it is known as “Japan’s Number One Mole Station.”

Train Details

Both D51 498 and C61 20 run on the main line and are extremely rare examples of legacy locomotives that have been preserved in functional condition.
We will introduce not only these two types of steam locomotive but also the passenger cars that the SLs tow.

SL Introduction

D51 498

Classic steam locomotive Degoichi

A freight-pulling powerhouse, 1,115 cars of D51-class (Degoichi) steam locomotives were produced between 1936 and 1950. D51 498, the 498th D51-class locomotive, was manufactured on November 24, 1940 at the Takatori Works of the former Ministry of Railways (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture), and employed in Okayama, Osaka, Fukushima, Niigata, and other prefectures, for 32 years until 1972. After being retired, it was placed on display in front of Jōetsu Line Gokan Station, but in 1988 it was restored and resumed operation as a legacy locomotive.

C61 20

Passenger train locomotive Shirokuichi

33 passenger train locomotive Shirokuichi C61-class steam locomotives were manufactured from 1948 to 1949 to meet the rapid post-war increase in demand for passenger traffic. C61 20, the 20th C61-class locomotive, was built on August 1, 1949 at Mihara Works of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Mihara City, Hiroshima Prefecture), and was in service in Aomori, Iwate, Miyazaki, and other prefectures, for 24 years until 1973. After being retired in 1974, it was placed on display at Kezoji Park in Isesaki City until its restoration in 2011.

Introduction to passenger cars

Old-type passenger car

This is a general term for passenger cars built before the Series 10 passenger cars. The passenger cars of Takasaki Branch Office were manufactured between 1938 and 1955. In April 2020, in conjunction with the Gunma Destination Campaign, the interiors of the old passenger car interiors were refurbished, bringing back the classic wood-grain ambience of the era when they were manufactured, and a new lounge car was added.

Series 12 passenger car

Passenger cars with express-type seating were built to accommodate the post-1970 increase in passenger traffic. The passenger cars of Takasaki Branch Office were manufactured in 1978. The striking blue of the train body leaves a lasting impression. They were the first passenger cars equipped with air conditioning, heating, and automatic doors, and became a model for later Japan National Railways (JNR) passenger cars.

Make the most of your train ride

"SL Retro Gunma Minakami", "SL Gunma Minakami", "SL Retro Gunma Yokokawa" and "SL Gunma Yokokawa "
Full of events not only on the train but also at each station!
Here are some ways to enjoy it.

Hospitality

1. Bottle opener experience
[Old-type passenger cars only]

Bottled beverages can be opened with the bottle opener installed on the table under the window (not available in all passenger cars).

2. Blinds
[Old-type passenger cars only]

The blinds in the old passenger cars are designed to represent Gunma Prefecture, with motifs of textile patterns such as Kiryu-ori and Isesaki Meisen, and incorporating the flowers, trees, birds, mountains, and famous places of Gunma Prefecture. There are three types of blinds to match the colors of the passenger car seats (crimson, ultramarine, and green), so please take a look and compare them.

Sales Locations

・NewDays Takasaki 24 (inside the conventional train line ticket gates at Takasaki Station)
・Meihinkan (inside the ticket gates at Takasaki Station)

  • *Sold by: JR East Cross Station Co., Ltd.
3. Ekiben

The “SL Rokuichi Monogatari Bento and Jyoshu D51 Bento” are ekiben (station boxed lunches) inspired by the two iconic SLs of Gunma.

Sales Locations

Takasaki Station: Ekibenya Joshu 2nd and 3rd stores, HANAGATAYA Takasaki, ND Takasaki West Exit, ND Mini Takasaki 21, ND Mini Takasaki 24

  • *Limited quantity and sales date.
    Sales company: JR EAST Cross Station Co., Ltd.

Timetable & Calendar

How to Board


How to purchase tickets

Package Summary

All seats on SL Gunma are reserved seat (non-smoking).
Please purchase seat ticket in advance if you wish to use this service.

*There may be changes to the locomotive and passenger cars in operation.

  • Tickets will be on sale from 10:00 a.m. one month prior to the date of use at the JR ticket JR Ticket Office(Midori-no-Madoguchi)and Reserved Seat Ticket Vending Machine at major stations.
  • Tickets are also available on "JR-EAST Train Reservation " (membership registration required).

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