A train operated by West Japan Railway Co. runs on the Sanko Line linking Shimane and Tottori prefectures on March 31, the last day of service after 88 years in operation. (The Asahi Shimbun)

GOTSU, Shimane Prefecture--Thousands of train buffs and one wild boar caused chaos on the final day of operations of an 88-year-old railway running along a river in the mountainside of the Chugoku region.

West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) closed down the 108.1-kilometer Sanko Line for good on March 31 because of dwindling passenger numbers.

The railway linked Gotsu, a city on the Sea of Japan side in Shimane Prefecture, with Miyoshi, a city in a mountainous area in Hiroshima Prefecture. The single track line was set up along the Gonokawa river, and it never did go electric.

It was the first line stretching more than 100 km to go out of service on Japan’s main island of Honshu since the division and privatization of Japanese National Railways in 1987.

Farewell events were organized at many stations, which were inundated with railway fans.

A total of 3,274 people got to ride on the railway on March 31. But there were so many people desperate to catch a final trip that the departure schedule at Gotsu Station was thrown into confusion.

JR West had to use buses to transport people who could not enter the trains.

Local residents came out to watch the trains pass through their neighborhoods, holding signs saying, “Thank you, Sanko Line.”

The final train arrived at Gotsu Station at 9:51 p.m. It was 24 minutes behind schedule because of a collision between a boar and a train running in the opposite direction on the tracks.

Part of the Sanko Line opened in 1930. The full line was completed in 1975 after work was interrupted several times because of damage during World War II and other reasons.

The railway once thrived as indispensable mode of transportation for people in the area, but the number of commuters shrank as the local population declined and more people started using cars.

The average number of passengers per kilometer dropped to 50 in fiscal 2014, the lowest rate among all lines operated by the six JR companies on Japan’s main islands.

A bus service now connects the municipalities along the line from April 1.