The Red List of Trains in Japan

JGR Class C56

A static display owned by Kanagawa Rinkai Railway.

Data (as of 16 Jan 2022)

Status: Preserved
Constructed in: 1935-42
Number built: 165*
Registered: 2

*Including four introduced to Karafuto Prefecture (South Sakhalin) and one to a private railway.


The Class C56 is a type of 2-6-0 steam locomotive developed by the Ministry of Railways (Japanese Government Railways). It was developed as a small and light locomotive for rural lines, but it was also capable of hauling a long-distance train. 160 were introduced to JGR network, four to South Sakhalin and one to Yubetsu Railway in Hokkaido (permanently closed in 1970). This article focuses on those used by JGR and JNR (Japanese National Railways).

The C56 was used on rural lines such as Hidaka Main, Echigo, Koumi and Nanao Lines, but 90 out of 160 locomotives were transferred to Thailand by requisition during the Second World War. Those in Thailand were mainly used on Burma Railway (also known as Death Railway, named after infamous forced labour committed by the Japanese authorities), and many of them were lost in accidents and even suicide attacks by the Imperial Japanese Army. After the war, 46 locos were restored and used by Royal State Railways of Siam (two of which were returned to Japan in 1979), and twelve are said to be used in Burma.

After the war, those in Japan were mostly used for stopping services and freight trains in Nagano, Niigata, Ishikawa, Hiroshima Prefectures and southern Kyushu, and a few were also used as shunters in Hokkaido and Yokohama. All C56 locomotives retired by 1974, a year before JNR withdrew all steam trains from mainline.

Current Operations & Future Prospects

Two locos are currently registered on the list. The one JR West owns had been used mostly for steam trains in Shiga and Yamaguchi Prefectures until 2018, but its mainline certificate has been expired. Today, it is preserved at Kyoto Railway Museum. Oigawa Railway also uses one for its steam trains on mainline.

Two C56s are also preserved by State Railway of Thailand.

(Updated: 16 Jan 2022)

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