Saturday, 20 October 2018

Old Astronomical Observatory on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East E353 series, limited express Super-Azusa, passes through Mitaka station

It is mid-Autumn in Japan. The maximum daytime temperature in Tokyo is around 20 degrees Celsius. It is the best season for strolling. I visited a suburban area with my family on the weekend. Our destination was Mitaka on the JR East Chuo line.

Many people think that Mitaka is just one of the average commuter cities in Tokyo Metropolis, but that is not everything. Mitaka has a large forest in the southern part of the city. There is an old astronomical observatory in the forest area. Its formal name is the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). It was opened in 1888 under the name of the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory. Most of the observation apparatus are already old and not used anymore, but visitors can freely observe those historical apparatus, for example a large refracting telescope, whose diameter is 65 centimeters. In contrast to the old observation apparatus, there is a state of the art large dome theater on the site. Visitors can learn the structure of the universe using 3D glasses. It is very beautiful and instructive. The background music is also comfortable. The good news is that it is all free of charge. Thank you NAOJ.

On the way back home, I enjoyed taking railway pictures at Mitaka station. It was getting dark, but I fortunately could shoot a state of the art limited express train, Super-Azusa, the EMU E353 series passing through the station. It was a good finale to the weekend.

Old refracting telescope is exhibited in the National Astronomical Observatory in Mitaka City

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

EMU 209-1000 Series: Transfer to the Chuo Line

EMU JR East 209-1000 series arrives at Abiko station on the Joban line

On September 1st, the Workers' Union of the JR East Hachioji Branch Office, whose members are mainly crew of the Chuo line trains, announced that the EMU 209-1000 series on the Joban line will soon be transferred to the Chuo line. Then, on September 5th, JR East Company also announced that the final operation of the 209-1000 series on the Joban line will be conducted on October 13th this year.

As you may know, the commuter train model on the Chuo line is only the EMU E233 series. It must be enough for JR East as things are. Why does the 209-1000 series have to be transferred from the Joban to the Chuo line now?

The gimmick is as follows. JR East currently plans to renovate and connect additional cars for the existing Chuo line trains. For instance, toilets will be newly equipped. The Green Cars (the first class cars) will be added to test for improvement in the quality of services. During the above work period, trains on the Chuo line will be shorthanded, so that the 209-1000 series will be temporarily invited from the Joban line.

There are only two sets of the EMU 209-1000 series operated on the Joban line. It is impossible to be directly operated onto the Odakyu line due to its technical specifications. In other words, the 209-1000 series is a burden on the Joban line at the moment.

I hope for success of the 209-1000 series on the Chuo line... its new post.

EMU JR East 209-1000 series stands at Abiko station on the Joban line

Official information about the EMU JR East 209 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Last Chapter of the 115 Series in Niigata: Part 2

"Shonan color" of the EMU 115 series in the Niigata area (June, 2014)

Subsequent to my last post, I am going to continue to show you the other color designs of the EMU 115 series in the Niigata area.

"Shonan color" of the 115 series used to be seen in many places in Japan. The Shonan color train has a beautiful two-tone orange and green painted body. Needless to say, Shonan is the zonal area along the Pacific Ocean coast in Kanagawa Prefecture. It is a residential area along the Tokaido main line. From the 1960s to 1980s, many "Shonan color" trains were operated on the Tokaido main line and the local lines throughout Japan, but they have been disappearing one after another. Niigata is currently a precious area to see the Shonan color trains.

"Nostalgic Niigata color" of the 115 series is also my favorite color design. It is a two-tone red and yellow. This color design was adopted specifically in the Niigata area, as it is very vivid backed by white snow. Niigata Prefecture is known as a snowy country. Trains with the nostalgic Niigata color was once abolished in 1978 but revived later upon requested by rail fans.

Incidentally, the EMU 115 series has already disappeared from the Chuo, Ryomo and the other lines. Certain sets are still operated in the western part of Japan such as the Hiroshima area, but it has continuously been decreasing. In the Niigata area, 7 sets of the 115 series are still operated having the attention to local people and rail fans.

"Nostalgic Niigata color" of the EMU 115 series in the Niigata area (left) (June, 2018)

Official information about color variation of the 115 series in the Niigata area (in Japanese):