E18 is a small gauge 600mm train steam engine literally tucked under an apartment building on a quiet, shaded side-street in northwest Tokyo—an ironic end for a machine of war. It sits, frozen in time, in coal black glory for all to admire.
During the Sino-Japanese Wars, the Japanese Army wanted the ability to quickly lay train tracks and deliver supplies, then just as quickly remove the laid tracks. They also wanted engines that were reliable, had large transport capacity, and that were stable in the mountainous terrain of Manchuria.
In 1921, they ordered and procured 25 stout coal-fired train engines from Orenstein and Coppell of Germany. Beyond their strength and reliability, the engines are unique in that power was able to be transferred to all wheels to provide stability on sharp curves.
E18 was effective in quickly delivering supplies to battlefields in Manchuria in the 1930s. In 1945, following the Pacific War, E18 was used by the Seibu Railway in Chiba until the 1950s. Its technology being obsolete, it fell into disuse and was stored at various warehouses through the 1960s.
In 1971, E18 was displayed with another engine, E109, at the UNESCO Village in Tokorozawa City until 2007, when it underwent restoration work and was displayed at Tokyo Big Sight for the JAM Convention. In August 2012, the engine found its new home here in the lovely Egota neighborhood, just a few train stops from Ikebukuro.