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2010.05.24

さよなら、会津鉄道キハ8500

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 この週末は、会津地方を訪れてきた。一応、旅関係の仕事だ。

 会津といえば会津鉄道。この地で、約10年にわたり活躍してきた「AIZUマウントエクスプレス」キハ8500が、5月30日をもって引退する。仕事は、この車両とは全く無関係だったのだが、せっかくなので何枚か写真を撮ってみた。

 キハ8500は、元々名古屋鉄道の特急用ディーゼルカーだ。1991年から、名鉄名古屋駅から美濃太田を経由して国鉄/JR高山本線に乗り入れ、高山までを結ぶ特急「北アルプス」として活躍していた。

 しかし、「北アルプス」は2001年9月限りで廃止。車両は会津鉄道に譲渡され、2002年から料金不要の快速列車「AIZUマウントエクスプレス」として第二の人生を歩んでいた。

 製造から19年と聞くと、鉄道車両としてはまだまだ古くないように感じるが、実際に乗ってみると、窓ガラスは傷だらけで、外装も汚れやハゲが目立つ。それでも、大型のリクライニングシートはふかふかで、乗車券だけで乗れる車両とは思えない豪華さだ。

 歴史あるキハ8500の引退は残念だが、「AIZUマウントエクスプレス」には、31日から新型車両AT700・750形が充当される。こちらは、どこかのお下がりではない完全な新造車で、「東武の特急スペーシアにも見劣りしない」(会津鉄道)、豪華なリクライニングシートを備えるとのこと。

 安くて贅沢な列車の旅を楽しめる会津鉄道。頑張ってるなあ。

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