Tuesday, 19 June 2018

GSE: New Odakyu Romance Car

EMU Odakyu 70000 series, Romance Car "GSE", passes through Shibusawa station

On March 17th this year, Odakyu Electric Railway Company launched a new luxurious train, the EMU 70000 series, "Romance Car GSE (Graceful Super Express)".

What is Romance Car? It is Odakyu's venerable train. Odakyu first launched a resort train in 1935 as the "hot spring express"; however, it was forced to stop operating due to World War II in the 1940's. After the war, Odakyu resumed the operation of the express in 1950 under the name of Romance Car. 

An epoch-making event occurred in 1957, when they launched the EMU 3000 series, Romance Car SE. This train reached 145 kilometers per hour; the world's fastest record of a narrow gauged railway at that time. Then, Odakyu launched new Romance Cars one after another. They are the EMU 3100 series (NSE), the 7000 series (LSE), the 10000 series (HiSE), the 20000 series (RSE), the 30000 series (EXE), the 50000 series (VSE), the 60000 series (MSE) and the 70000 series (GSE).

GSE has an upper-deck cockpit so that the passengers can enjoy the view ahead. It is the same as NSE, LSE, HiSE and VSE. On the other hand, GSE is not articulated cars but standard EMU (electric multiple unit). It is the same as RSE, EXE and MSE. In other words, GSE combines the features of two pre-existing types of Romance Cars.

The body color of GSE is "rose vermilion", which is outrageous for passengers. It is definitely my favorite color. The Odakyu Romance Car is going to a new stage.

EMU Odakyu 70000 series, Romance Car "GSE", passes through Ebina station

Official information about Odakyu Romance Car lineup:
Official movie about the EMU 70000 series, Romance Car "GSE":

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Accumulator Train on the Karasuyama Line: Update

Dropping the pantographs, EMU JR East EV-E301 series travels on the Karasuyama line

I visited the JR East Karasuyama line for the first time in three years. What was new with this local line in Tochigi Prefecture?

Three more sets of the state-of-art accumulator train, EV-E301 series, were introduced to the line on March 4th last year. The accumulator train is an EMU (Electric Multiple Unit), which has lithium ion accumulators. The train is operated with accumulators on a non-electrified Karasuyama line, and the power is supplied by 1,500 V DC catenaries via pantographs on an electrified track, such as the Tohoku main line. 

As a result, all the old diesel rail-cars, namely, the KiHa40 series, disappeared from the Karsuyama line. The KiHa40 series on the Karasuyama line was the only route where we can see these JNR-type old rail-cars in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The last run of the KiHa40 was conducted on March 3rd, 2017.

Incidentally, the Karasuyama line is a 20.4-km-long route, connecting Hoshakuji and Karasuyama stations, and it is a 1,067-mm-wide single track. There are several sightseeing spots along the line, including beautiful waterfalls and natural flower fields

Dropping its pantographs, the EV-E301 series is operated by the electric power supplied by two sets of 600 V-95 kWh lithium ion accumulators. It has induction motors with a VVVF (variable frequency drive) control system. It is also able to recharge its power while braking, using the regenerative braking system. I was surprised that the train operated so smoothly and with such a low noise level.

EMU EV-E301 series is charged up at Hoshakuji terminal for next trip

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Hachioji Castle Ruins: Silence in the City

EMU JR East E233 series arrives at Takao Station on the Chuo main line

I recently visited Hachioji City in the western part of the Tokyo Metropolis for a meeting. After finishing my meeting, I enjoyed walking in the suburban area of the city. My destination was the ruins of Hachioji Castle. The castle was constructed by Hojo Ujiteru, a feudal lord of Musashi Province, in the 16th century. Along with the ruins of Takeda Castle in Hyogo Prefecture, Hachioji Castle was nominated as one of Japan's Top 100 Castles by the Japan Castle Foundation in 2006.

The ruins were located in the steep mountains and surrounded by deep forests. It was a very dark and quiet place even in the daytime, and the only sound was the songs of the birds. Although most of the buildings had been destroyed by the battles in the 16th century, the stone foundations of the castle still remain in the mountain. The scenery of Hachioji City and the western part of Tokyo Metropolis from the top of the mountain were very beautiful.

To visit Hachioji Castle ruins, the nearest station is Takao on the Chuo main line and the Keio Takao line. As you know, the Chuo main line is one of the busiest commuter routes in Tokyo Metropolis. The orange-colored commuter train, the EMU E233 series, is frequently operated, whose electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. A total of 688 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo, J-TREC, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Superb view from Hachioji castle ruins near Takao station on the Chuo main line

Official information about the EMU JR East E233 series (in Japanese):