[as of 2018 ]
Incorporated as city: 01.04.1889
Population: 332 059 (01.04.2016)
Operator: Tosa Electric Railway (Tosaden)
Gauge: 1067 mm
Track length: 43,5 km. (one-way)
Number of passenger vehicles: 68
East - west (weekdays)
North - south (weekdays)
East - west (weekends)
North - south (weekends)
The second largest tramway system in Japan after Hiroshima, mostly due to long interurban lines. Views with trams from some suburban segments are among the most photogenic in Japan. The modern Kōchi prefecture used to be known as the Tosa Province, from which name the current operator's name Tosaden derives.
There are two distinctive lines: the short urban north-south line that connects the main JR station and the seaport (no waterside views), and the 22,1 km.-long interurban east-west line between Gomemmachi - Kochi - Ino. The lines cross at the main tramway junction at the Harimayabashi Station, which constitutes an almost complete grand-union: while moves are possible in all directions of travel, most turns are limited to outer curves only, with adjacent crossovers between tracks available nearby. The north-west turn off was relatively recently double-tracked to provide regular north-west peak service. Otherwise, all revenue services follow the north-south and east-west patterns. There is only one service pattern on the north-south line, which covers the entire line. There are five different primary service patterns between various terminals on the east-west line, however, there are also occasional secondary patterns with irregularly scheduled trips. For instance, there is no regular through service between the outermost Gomemmachi & Ino terminals, except for 3 'railfan' full-length westbound trips in the early morning on weekends, and 2 eastbound full-length trips in the late evening on weekends. The total runtime via the entire east-west interurban line is 1:24. Travel destinations are emphasized with bright yellow or red diamond-shaped signs placed on the front of cars.
The north-south line is entirely double track running down the median of a busy wide urban thoroughfare. There is a two-pocket terminal at the JR station, and a single-pocket terminal at the seaport. Trams operate every 5 minutes during the morning rush hour, and every 7 minutes other times. Headways can be shorter on the south segment due to revenue depot trips destined for the east-west line. The depot is located at the south end of the line, one stop short of the seaport.
The eastern line is entirely double track, except for a very short segment at the end of the line at Gomemmachi, which is essentially a long single terminal tail track. The line boasts an impressive dedicated tramway arch bridge over the Kokubu River, and is also notable for following an embankment of the walled-off artificially elevated Kokubu River canal with water levels higher than the adjacent road and tramway tracks. Shots with trams running amid rice fields are possible on the outer segments of the line. Upon leaving the city center the line follows the median of a wide avenue for about 1/4 of its length as far as the Kokubu River bridge. Trams continue via the southern shoulder of the interurban highway almost to the end of the line. Due to a narrow right-of-way outbound trams come in conflict with oncoming inbound automobile traffic head-on at very tight clearances, while passengers at some stops are literally discharged into a two-lane highway. There is a brief segment of a semi-mixed traffic operation down the middle of the street within the Gomen village at the very end of the line. A sizable multitrack storage yard is located right before the outer terminal. There are no maintenance or personnel facilities, and the yard is always empty during the day. Roughly 1/3 of all eastbound trips are operated as far as the Monju dori Terminal about 1/3 into the line; 1/3 of the trips are operated to Ryoseki dori about 2/3 into the line; and the remaining 1/3 of the trips go all the way to Gomemmachi. All short turn terminals consist of a single crossover track with trams changing ends on the outbound through track. The headway on the busiest stretch to Monju dori is as low as 2-3 minutes during the am rush hour, 4 minutes during the pm rush hour, and 5-6 minutes other times. On the outer segment to Gomemmachi the headway is about 3-12 minutes during the am rush hour, about 8-12 during the pm rush hour, and 21 minutes other times. The short headways on the outer segment in the morning and in the evening are partly due to trips from/to the storage yard at Gomemmachi.
The western line to Ino is perhaps the most interesting. A double track down the median of a rather dull wide urban avenue continues as far as the Kagamigawabashi Terminal about 4/10 into the Line. Trams than cross the unique dedicated single-track tramway bridge over the Kagami River, which is squeezed between two automobile bridges on both sides. The rest of the line is single track and very rural in character. In the Asakura village trams operate on the narrow main village street in mixed traffic on northern side of the road via the system most commonly known by the German name 'Straßenbahn-Gegenverkehr': outbound trams face oncoming automobile traffic head-on, while cars are obliged to pull over on the 'wrong' side of the road to yield for trams. After Asakura trams follow the northern shoulder of the intercity highway for the rest of the trip. Due to narrow right-of-way in many places outbound trams run against the inbound automobile traffic head on with very tight clearances. There are only 2 passing points - at the Asakura and Yashiro dori Stops. The Yashiro dori passing point looks like it was recently rebuilt, and older photos of the line show an alignment different from what it is today. The Ino terminal itself looks like a passing point alignment-wise, however it is used as a stub end single-track terminal. At the Ino terminal a well-preserved track leads behind the village roadside houses and ends with a small one-track storage yard, however, the track is physically cut off from the main line and lacks overhead. Another active small two-track storage yard is located at the Hotarubashi Stop, just short of the short turn Kagamigawabashi Terminal. There are no facilities and the yard is empty during the day. The passing points are located rather strangely, allowing for a 21-22 minute headway only. This prohibits uniform scheduling with departures on the hour on the entire east-west line, which constitutes perhaps the major flaw of the Kōchi tram operation. The first of the three single track segments, between Kagamigawabashi - Asakura, is somewhat shorter, allowing for additional peak hour trips to operate to Asakura. Most of the day 3/4 of all trips operate to Kagamigawabashi only, while 1/4 of trips go all the way to Ino. During the morning rush hour, however, 4/6 trips operate to Kagamigawabashi, with 1/6 continuing to Asakura, and 1/6 to Ino. During the evening rush hour the split is 3/5 to Kagamigawabashi, 1/5 to Asakura, 1/5 to Ino. During the morning rush hour only a few trips are operated via the unusual north-west pattern between the JR station and Masugata, six stops into the west line: there are 4 such trips from the JR station, and 2 trips toward the JR station. Otherwise the headways on the busiest stretch to Kagamigawabashi are the same as for the east line at 2-3 minutes during the am rush, 4 minutes during the pm rush, 5-6 minutes other times. The headway on the outer segment to Ino, however, could only be maintained at 21 minutes at all times. At passing points drivers exchange batoons (which actually look like hoops), one for each segment of single track.
Tosaden : 11 cars [1950,1957] + Teikoku Sharyō : 2 cars  + Tosaden : 2 cars  (of formerly 21 cars)
590 class Nippon Sharyō : 2 cars  ex-Gifu (2005)
600 class Tosaden : 21 cars  + Naniwa Kōki : 10 cars 
700 class Naniwa Kōki : 3 cars  ex-Shimonoseki (1971)
800 class Naniwa Kōki : 4 cars  ex-Shimonoseki (1971)
1000 class Tosaden : 2 cars, rebuilts from old cars
2000 class Tosaden : 3 cars  rebuilts from old cars (2000-2004)
101 Alna Kōki : 1 car  low floor
Heritage and special cars:
Strømmen (nickname 'the Gold Fish')  ex-Oslo
320 SGP M2d  ex-Graz
910 CCFL  ex-Lisbon
7 Tosaden  replica of 2-axle 1905 car
1 Tosaden  workcar using Brill 21E truck
Heritage cars (withdrawn):
2-axle Carris Remodelado ex-Lisbon
541 Simmering Type L motor  ex-Vienna
1606 Simmering trailer  ex-Vienna
1612 Carminati & Toselli Peter Witt  ex-Milan
6319 Tatra T3  ex-Prague
735 Esslingen GT4  ex-Stuttgart, sent to Fukui (04.2014)
Kōchi tramway has the oldest tramway fleet in Japan, with 90% of equipment dating from the 1950-1960s. There are only 6 trams that could be described as modern-looking: 2 cars of the 1000 class, and 3 cars of the 2000 class - all local carrier's rebuilts from older trams. In addition since 2002 Kochi owns one single low floor car 101 nicknamed 'Hartram'. It operates via the busiest segment of the east-west line between Monju dori or Ryoseki dori and Kagamigawabashi, thus covering only about 40% of the system. The rest of the lines do not have low floor service. The car operates on a special timetable, advertised in addition to the regular timetable. The special timetable lists days when car 101 is not operated due to routine maintenance, which is scheduled each 5th day.
Kōchi is famous for its fleet of old cars from Europe imported in the early 1990s. There are currently 3 such cars on the roster: the ex-Oslo, ex-Graz and ex-Lisbon cars. In addition there is the 1985 locally-built replica of the 1905 2-axle tram. These heritage cars operate for special occasions only, such as springtime festivals, late December or special charters. The 1952 box workcar 1 on a Brill 21E truck is usually used as a decorated car for special occasions such as the spring flower festival. The company also imported in the early 1990s and had in its possession for while: the classic Brill-type ex-Lisbon car; the ex-Vienna Simmering motor+trailer; the ex-Milan Peter Witt; and the ex-Prague Tatra T3. All these cars are no longer on the property, scrapped by about 2012. The ex-Stuttgart Esslingen GT4 was sent to Fukui in 04.2014 where it operates today in what assumed is a tourist-tram capacity.
Jack May, Ernst Plefka - photos
© 2002 Author: Yury Maller - Usage of material found herein for public display is possible with authors' permission only.
Special thanks: Jack May, Ernst Plefka - photos