Japan's Premier Train Collection: Saitama Railway Museum

 I've mentioned Japan's obsession with trains before. Train merchandise is everywhere, people line up on the platforms to take pictures of rare trains, and as far as hobbies go collecting and operating model trains is pretty high on the list.
 It only makes sense that there would be some railway museums in Japan. There are three in Tokyo, including the best one in Japan.
 Located in Omiya, a short ride north of Tokyo proper, the Saitama Railway Museum is huge, and the collection is very impressive. Here's an old Hokkaido railway car, and a cross section of a steam locomotive.
 There are plenty of old cars on display, including several imperial rail cars (left) and passenger cars.
 Many can be entered, others just viewed from outside.
 The trains are new and old; there's a working turntable which is demonstrated a few times each day and plenty of unique machinery.
 From bullet trains (this one houses a simulator of some sort) to freight cars, visitors can see it all!
 If you get tired, just hop onto the platform and step onto a train. You'll always find a seat!
 I think it's great that you can go in the old and new cars, compare the seats and lighting, and it's all indoors and climate controlled.

 There is at least one sleeping car on display; you can't go inside but you can see it in various arrangements through the windows.
 The complex is arranged in a long rectangle; outside one of the short ends are a couple mroe high speed trains that can be boarded.
 There's also a larger model bullet train. They were taking it off the track by the time I got outside.
 There's plenty for the kids to climb on outside, too, with a train-themed playground.
 Heading back inside, there is an upstairs display that includes a lot of smaller train items.
 The view up here is great, which will allow visitors to get a good idea of the layout and see the trains from a different perspective.
 Some of the displays include things that train aficionados collect: station stamps, tickets, and model trains.
 There's also a large model train layout. I think visitors can operate trains.

 Is that a roller coaster I see at the amusement park?
 There's a large room packed with station signage and equipment.
 Some of the signs hang on the wall, while others are displayed in cases.
 The other short end of the long rectangle has some operatable miniature trains (for a charge).
 There's also a viewing deck for passing bullet trains. I caught two trains passing by at the same time! There's a second set of tracks along the outside of the bullet train tracks, which are where the New Shuttle operate.
 The operable mini trains are pretty small, but hold several people. You can stop at train stations and everything! It looks fun.
 You can also ride a mini bullet train (for a charge) across a short distance. It doesn't go very fast.
 There's also a model station at this end, with ticket machines, service counters, and gates. Plus a train waiting at the station! This station even has a name: Teppaku Station.
The museum has several simulators indoors for free, at a first-come-first-served basis, and they usually get reserved for the whole day very quickly - if you want to use a simulator or drive one of the small trains outside, arrive early to make your reservations. There are a couple gift shops and some food selection, including bento (lunch boxes) that you can't normally get in Tokyo. You probably can eat the food in some of the trains, though I don't know about the actual rules.

Admission is 1000 yen, and you'll get your money's worth. I stayed for several hours wandering around, taking literally hundreds of pictures, and looking at the displays. The museum is open 10:00-18:00 (closed Tuesdays), but it's important to allow a long time to explore the entire complex. Some things (like the turntable rotation) happen a few times a day - check with the museum when you arrive for schedules. Access is easy via train - from Omiya Station, take the New Shuttle to Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan Station; the museum entrance is right at the station exit.

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