The Red List of Trains in Japan

JNR KiHa 185 series

The original livery

Data (as of 6 Jul 2024)

Status:  Vulnerable 
 (JR Shikoku)
 Least Concern 
 (JR Kyushu)
Constructed in: 1986, 1988
Number built: 52
Registered: 51


This article is about KiHa 185 series (diesel). Do not be confused with 185 series (electric).

The KiHa 185 series was the last limited express train that Japanese National Railways developed. Even at that time, JR Shikoku was highly likely to be suffered from low revenue so that it was crucial for Shikoku to have brand new trains before the privatisation.

As the series was for rural areas, it was designed to form two coaches while other limited express trains were much longer. To reduce costs, the KiHa 185 series was based mostly on suburban diesel trains rather than KiHa 181 series. The most distinctive feature is the stainless-steel body, as no other limited express of JNR had one.

The series entered service in Shikoku, replacing KiHa 58 series and promoting express to limited express services (i.e. raising fares). The series was mainly used for Limited Express Nampu (Okayama - Kochi) via the new Great Seto Bridge. However, since many motorways were constructed across the island of Shikoku, JR Shikoku developed more faster diesel train 2000 series. As the KiHa 185 series suddenly became redundant, 20 carriages were resold to JR Kyushu in 1992.

Since then, there has been little changes to the series. Both JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu refurbished them. Some of them were converted to rail tour units.

Current Operations & Future Prospects

JR Shikoku uses them for Limited Express Muroto (Tokushima - Mugi), Tsurugisan (Tokushima - Awa-Ikeda) and few Uzushio (Takamatsu - Tokushima). At weekends and on holidays, tour trains Iyonada Monogatari (Matsuyama - Yawatahama), Shioku Mannnaka Sennnen Monogatari (Tadotsu - Oboke) and Shikoku Tosa Toki no Yoake no Monogatari (Kochi - Kubokawa) run. These annoyingly long names can be translated as "The tale of Iyo Sea", "The tale of a thousand years in the middle of Shikoku" and "Shikoku Tosa, the tale of dawn of a new era" respectively, but there are no official English names. Furthermore, a few carriages are used for stopping services in Matsuyama area.

JR Kyushu uses them for Limited Express Aso (Kumamoto - Miyaji), Trans-Kyushu Limited Express (Kumamoto - Beppu) and Yufu (Hakata - Beppu via Kurume and Oita). In addition, there is a seasonal service A-Train (Kumamoto - Misumi).

JR Shikoku plans to replace the series by financial year 2031, while JR Kyushu has not announced anything about withdrawal.


JR Shikoku's units have sky blue bands.

Some of those owned by JR Shikoku, which are mainly for Tsurugisan, are painted slightly differently.

(Updated: 6 Jul 2024)

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