Since the opening of the Odakyu Line in 1927, this line has had a record of about 2.1 million passengers per day. There are three lines: the Odawara Line, which runs from Shinjuku Station to Odawara Station; the Enoshima Line, going from Sagami-Ono Station to Katase-Enoshima Station; and the Tama Line, running from Shin-Yurigaoka Station to Karakida Station. Many traveling to Japan would have at least once got on this line to go to Hakone, a popular onsen resort by using the limited express train, Romancecar. In comfort unbeaten on many trains, this luxurious tourist train ferries travelers in no seconds to areas like Hakone and Enoshima. This much loved express train is now exhibited at a permanent two-storied exhibition facility, ROMANCECAR MUSEUM, which is the first of its kind run by Odakyu Railway which just made its grand opening in April 2021.
1st Floor: Gallery
Odakyu Electric Railway had been storing their retired rail cars at the garage in Ebina and Kitami, however, wasn’t open to the public at all times, but only during special events. For a decade, the company was planning to build a museum to showcase such collections of rail cars that show history and prestige. And finally, their dreams came true. Located adjacent to Ebina Station, the museum is easily accessible as soon as you exit the west ticket gate and walk along the pedestrian deck to the left. While the exterior seems just a plain building and doesn't look like a typical museum with banners and signs hanging on the wall, it's the inside that matters greatly.
Behind this museum, there is a Ebina inspection depot, which is directly connected to the railroad tracks. When the museum was built, it was designed to look like a conversion of an inspection depot, which resulted in a clean and simple building. And this simplicity is what complements the beautifully stored rail cars and exhibitions inside. In order of oldest to youngest, five different successive generations of the limited express train, Romancecar is on display on the first floor.
Built around the 1920s in the Taisho Period where Japan underwent rapid modernization and societal change, this MOHA 1 was a modern train for its time with high performance using the latest technology at that time. It was used to run between the current Shinjuku and Mukogaoka-yuen Station. Partially made from wood, this train has an antique interior with a lavishing sofa. Unlike the trains seen now, there was no cab but only a bar to separate the area from passengers.
Just like an inspection depot, over at the main gallery, visitors can take a close look from top to bottom of the different successive generations of Romancecars. From the front, 7000 series "LSE (Luxury Super Express)", 3100 series "NSE (New Super Express)", and 3000 series "SE (Super Express)" are lined up. At the back are the 10000 series "HiSE" (High Super Express) and the 20000 series "RSE" (Resort Super Express). The calm lighting of the gallery in contrast to the lights inside the trains makes the trains even more dignified. Visitors can go inside some of the trains to see the interiors. Compared to MOHA 1, the interiors look more less similar to the ones running now. But the ceiling seems to be lower. There are traces of history here and there with stains on the number plates and the curtains. Moreover, the diffused lighting enhances the shadow on the walls and the seats make the interior look old and gloomy as if traveled back in time.
Odakyu's Romancecars are known for their traditional facilities, such as the full-fledged observation deck seating on the front and the articulated bogie. On the far end of the gallery, 1000 series (HiSE) with a burgundy stripe on a white body shows these features. Having such articulated bogies is rare in Japan and said to make the body shorter when compared to other trains for construction reasons. Moreover, because of the bogies, there is less swaying in the front and the rear directions. And less noise in the cabin due to the absence of bogies under the floor of the passenger compartments. Just a side note but the TGV, the French high-speed railroad, also uses articulated bogies.
This 10000 series train was introduced in 1987 in a high-decker structure to raise the floor height for a better view. But in 2000, when the Barrier-Free Transportation Law was enacted, this 10000 series was forced to retire due to its high floor structure making it difficult to turn barrier-free at the time. Later, some were taken over by Nagano Electric Railway and became the Nagano Electric Railway 1000 series "Yukemuri". This train continues to run on the Shinano Road in its original burgundy color.
Across from the 10000 series is the 20000 series which is the first double-decker train by Odakyu. Among the trains exhibited, this is the most recent one.This train was manufactured in 1991 to merge with the Gotemba Line. In order to unify its use with the JR Tokai Line, it did not have observation seats, nor did it have an articulated bogie. Instead, this double-decker car had special seats called "Super Seats," which were equivalent to JR's Green Cars with its green mark on the inside, which was rare for Odakyu cars. The lower floor was equipped with a semi-private room while the upper floor has the similar interior as we see on the Romancecar today, but with a minor difference like colors. The in-train sales ended in March 2021, and it is now impossible to see these mini-kitchen for in-train sales preparation in operation today.
2nd Floor: Diorama Park and Kids' Romancecar Park
Up until here, the museum may look suited for train enthusiasts only, however, the second floor gives a completely new look. The second floor is divided into two areas, the Diorama Park and the Kids’ Romancecar Park. This diorama park is one of the key features that Romancecar Museum emphasized as it faithfully recreates the features and attractions of the towns alongside the Odakyu line in a HO scale from Shinjuku to Odawara and to Hakone station in a single room. Screens on the wall are projected with different effects and together with the music, the Diorama Park is a perfect place to spend the relaxing afternoon. Drinks are available to purchase at the cafe inside the museum and visitors can take them around in most areas of the museum.
While the Diorama Park featured a very detailed view of the neighboring cities that Odakyu Line covers, over by the Kids' Romancecar Park, a pastel-colored simple diorama made with paper is displayed in the center. The hidden magnet below the white railway track allows the crafted paper trains and houses to run over. With an additional 500yen, visitors can create their train and houses on spot and enjoy playing it on the diorama.
Also, there is a playground in the shape of a limited express train, a Romancecar where children can run around the adventure course, and a playhouse too. There is even a toddler space too. A bit more educational for those wanting to expand their understanding on railroads might want to head over to the interactive digital art area on the 2nd floor. Or learn the history over at the Romancecar Academia on the 1st floor.
Overall interior of the museum is well reflecting the museum’s theme, “A railroad museum that both adults and children can enjoy” since there is pretty much everything needed to satisfy all ages, all genders with different capabilities and physical strength. Even the simulator, which is one of the key attractions at most railway museums has been moderated so that adults can ride on it too. The simulator uses the cab of 7000 series LSE and the ceilings are set low to faithfully recreate the actual height of the cab. Driver would have to throw his/her legs forward in order to drive. For a tall person, they might feel cramped. Visitors can choose to drive from three different routes; Hadano to Hon Atsugi, Hon Atsugi to Machida, or Seijo-Gakuenmae to Shinjuku station. There are three levels of difficulty from introductory to advanced levels. Only for the Seijo-Gakuenmae to Shinjuku route, there is an introductory course. Participation fee is 500 yen per session, and tickets are sold by lottery.
Just like most other museums, bringing home some memory of the experience is a plus. Right before exiting the ROMANCECAR MUSEUM, a museum shop offers varieties of items that are only available here. From original train-shaped luggage tags to snacks and toys in collaboration with popular characters to many more, there are over 40 items to choose from.
Rooftop: Station View Terrace
While most of the exhibition is indoors, the museum also has a rooftop terrace perfect for live viewing the actual Romancecar and other trains running below. Or just for a leisurely day out under the sun, this rooftop terrace will surely serve as a new off the beaten path for a quick break from the bustling city.
Romancecar Museum Clubhouse
With no additional fee, anyone can drop by at an open, glass-walled Romancecar Museum Clubhouse with natural lighting. The clubhouse offers menus that reproduced the original cakes that were served on the Romancecar with other finger foods like hot dogs.
※The exhibition and the contents of the museum are subject to change
Directly accessible via pedestrian deck from West Exit of Ebina Station on Odakyu Line, Sotetsu Line, and JR Sagami Line.