Tuesday, 30 October 2012

200 Posts and 200 Series

K47 set of the EMU JR East 200 series stands at Tokyo Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen

Thank you for your visit to Tokyo Railway Labyrinth. The number of my blog posts exceeded 200 last week. In the last year and a half, I have made many friends through this blog. They are mostly rail-fans as well as travelers of Japan. I hope that people all over the world will continue to enjoy my blog.

Well, in commemoration of the "200th" post in the blog, I am going to show the EMU "200" series train. Is it a bit of a stretch? As I mentioned in my blog on December 24th, 2011, the JR East 200 series is the EMU on the Joetsu Shinkansen. Connecting Tokyo and Niigata, the largest city on the Japan Sea, the Joetsu Shinkansen was fully opened in 1991 after challenging engineering work such as construction of the long Dai-Shimizu Tunnel (22.2km) in the Kanto Mountains. The total operating length is 269.5km. Currently, the maximum speed of the train is 240km per hour.

Among the 7 sets of remaining 200 series trains, K47 set is special as it maintains the original "Shinkansen Color". Look at the photo. It is beautifully two-toned in green and cream. This coloring started when the Tokaido Shinkansen was opened between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in 1964 (see my blog on January 2nd). For most of half a century, the original colored Shinkansen trains have been disappearing due to scrapping and renovation. Therefore, this K47 set is the last of original colored Shinkansen trains.

Everything flows, nothing stands still (by Heraclitus?).

Side view of unit number JR East 222-1510, K47 set, EMU 200 series

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Over the Century, Completion of Renovation Work

Northern half of the Marunouchi Entrance Building, Tokyo Station

On October 1st, JR East completed the renovation work on the main building of Tokyo Station. The red brick masonry of the Marunouchi Entrance Building has been brought back (see the top photo).

As I mentioned in my blog on February 27th, the Marunouchi Entrance Building was opened in 1914 as a main building of the central station in the Tokyo Metropolis. Since it had aged, the renovation work was started in 2007. In addition to the railway operation facilities being renovated, a gallery, hotel and underground car parking have been constructed inside. It is said that the total construction cost was 50 billion yen (625 million US dollars).

One of the topics of this renovation work is that the Marunouchi Entrance Building has been restored to be the same as it was when it opened. This building was severely destroyed by an air strike in 1945. It was repaired after WWII, but the design of the roofs were changed, because it was a stop-gap measure.

The newly restored roofs are composed of three elegant domes, which have oriental zodiac animal reliefs inside. Since opening of the new building, many people have been flocking to Tokyo Station (see the following photo) to take pictures in the domes, visit a cafe in the station hotel and so on. I especially saw many old people, who want to see the change of the station for themselves.

Over the century, Tokyo Station has changed from a terminal station to a sightseeing spot.

Interior of the Marunouchi-south Entrance, the Marunouchi Entrance Building, Tokyo Station

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Spider Lily Field on the Tobu Line

EMU Tobu 20000 series arrives at Tobu-Dobutsukoen Station

The season of spider lily (see my blog on September 26th, 2011) came again. I visited another spider lily field last month. My destination this year was Satte City, some 50km north of downtown Tokyo.

Satte, with a population about 54,000, is a small city in the eastern part of Saitama Prefecture. It has been growing as a post town of the Nikko Kaido (an old main road to Nikko) since the 14th century. Currently, it functions as a residential area for the people who commute to downtown Tokyo, Saitama City and so on.

A famous spider lily field is located on a bank, which is named Gongendou-tsutsumi, along Naka River. Local people have been working on planting spider lilies on the embankments to prevent slope failure and protect the environment. I like red colored spider lily flower very much as it's a signal of the coming of autumn after a severely hot summer.

To get to this gorgeous field, the Tobu-Nikko Line is convenient. I took the subway, Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line from downtown Tokyo, because trains on the Hibiya Line are directly operated into the Tobu Line. My vehicle was an EMU Tobu 20000 series.

The 20000 series trains were launched in 1988 to replace the old EMU 2000 series. A total of 13 sets, 104 units, have been manufactured by Tokyu-sharyo and Alna-sharyo. I like this train with its large front window. The russet brown colored stripe on the stainless steel body is also very elegant.

Spider lily field near Satte Station on the Tobu-Nikko Line

Monday, 22 October 2012

Linear Motor-driven Subway in Yokohama City

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 10000 series arrives at Center-Minami Station

The Green Line is the newest subway in Yokohama City, some 20km southwest of Tokyo. It was opened in 2008. Connecting Nakayama on the JR East Yokohama Line and Hiyoshi on the Tokyu Toyoko Line, the operating length is 13.1km.

Just like the Toei Ooedo Line (see my blog on November 23rd, 2011), linear motor technology is adopted for the train driving system on this new subway line. A linear motor is an electric motor that doesn't have a shaft. It moves in a straight line, while a conventional motor has a rotary movement. You can see a special box, a "reaction plate," between the rails (see the top photo). This technology allowed downsizing of the tunnel section.

The EMU 10000 series is a main fleet of the Green Line. They are short (15.6m) and small sized 4-car trains. A total of 16 sets have been manufactured and operated. The small pantograph on the roof is very cute, but the front face of the train is not my favorite, because it is like a combat robot in science fiction movies.

Yokohama City Transportation Bureau plans to extend the Green Line both eastward and westward. To the east, it will be extended to Tsurumi on the JR East Keihin-Tohoku Line. Meanwhile, to the west, it will reach Negishi on the JR East Negishi Line via Kami-Ooka on the Keikyu Line in the future. Once it is completed, the Green Line will be a circler line surrounding the downtown of Yokohama City.

Platform of Center-Minami Station on the Green Line, Yokohama Municiple Subway

Friday, 19 October 2012

EMU Type 0, New Model on the Chiba Urban Monorail

EMU Chiba Urban Monorail Type 0 arrives at Yoshikawa-koen (Yoshikawa Park) Station

Recently I visited Chiba City after a long absence. Among the many news items on railways in the city, the biggest one was the new model on the Chiba Urban Monorail: the Type 0 (see the top photo).

As I mentioned in my blog on October 25th 2011, Chiba City, which is located 40km east of downtown Tokyo, is the capital of Chiba Prefecture. This city has the world's longest suspension type monorail system: Chiba Urban Monorail.

Chiba Urban Monorail was partially opened in 1988 between the Sports Center and Chishirodai stations. Currently, the total line length is 15.2km. The EMU 1000 series, which was initially launched in 1988, has been operating as a 2 car train since then.

The new model, Type 0, was launched this July. It is also a 2 car train, and 3 sets have been manufactured so far. It was given the nickname Urban Flyer. The sky blue colored body with black face is urbanized and futuristic. Advanced technologies such as VVVF inverter control (variable-frequency drive) with regenerative braking system are applied.

One of the interesting features of this train is a floor window in the cockpit. It is equipped for passengers to view below the vehicle. It means that passengers can enjoy the feeling of floating in the air. That's why the nickname of the train is Urban Flyer.

Needless to say, I also enjoyed the flying experience in Chiba City as a birdman.

Interior of the EMU Chiba Urban Monorail Type 0

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

New Chofu Station, Elimination of Bottleneck

EMUs Keio 9000 and 8000 series stand at east-bound platform, new underground Chofu Station

On August 19th, Keio Electric Railway opened underground tracks around Chofu Station on the Keio-Main and Keio-Sagamihara lines (see the top photo). A total of 3.7km surface tracks have been moved underground.

Before completion of the new tracks, Chofu was a bottleneck station on the timetable, as the Main Line and the Sagamihara Line trains crossed on the surface (see the following photo). But, after the completion, a grade separated crossing has made it possible for the trains to be operated smoothly.

Another advantage of the underground tracks is the elimination of traffic jams at railway crossings. Chofu City with a population close to 230,000 is one of the major cities in the Tokyo metropolitan area. High concentrations of cars passing the railway crossings had been causing chronic traffic congestion. It has completely disappeared after completion of the construction.

The new Chofu Station has three stories below ground. The concourse is on the 1st basement floor, while the 2nd and 3rd basement floors are platforms for westbound and eastbound trains. 2 neighboring stations, namely Kokuryo and Fuda have also been moved underground.

Chofu Station was opened in 1913 as a terminal station of the Keio Line. Then, the line was extended to Hachioji in 1925. Meanwhile, passing the Tama River, a branch route, the Sagamihara Line was extended to Hashimoto in 1990. Before relocation of the tracks, a large number of local residents and rail-fans flocked to Chofu Station to take pictures and regret parting from the familiar ground level station.

EMU Keio 7000 series arrives at old ground level Chofu Station (August 2012)  

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Shin-Keisei Electric Railway, Small but Progressive

EMU Shin-Keisei 8800 series leaves Kita-Narashino Station

Shin-Keisei (New Keisei) is a private railway company in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. It is an affiliate firm of Keisei Electric Railway Company, and classified as a second-tier railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Matsudo on the JR East Joban Line and Tsudanuma on the Keisei Main Line, there are 24 stations over a total operating length of 26.5km.

The Shin-Keisei Line has a unique history in early times. It was constructed as a training line by the Railway Regiment of the ex-Japanese Army in 1929. Maybe that is why there are so many curves on the track of this line. After WWII, the railway track was sold to Keisei Electric Railway Company. Then, it was reopened as the Shin-Keisei Line of Shin-Keisei Electric Railway Company in 1947.

Although Shin-Keisei is a second-tier, they have a progressive spirit. For example, Shin-Keisei is among the first to manufacture the variable frequency drive (VVVF inverter control) train in Japan. That is an EMU 8800 series (see the top photo). Shin-Keisei also quickly introduced a pure electrical brake system and single-arm pantographs.

I often take the Shin-Keisei, because it is very convenient. The trains are directly operated into the Chiba Line of Keisei Electric Railway through Tsudanuma Station. I can reach Chiba City from northwestern cities in Chiba Prefecture without changing. Ivory colored with dark brown striped trains are also attractive for me as a rail fan.

The Shin-Keisei Line, it's small but progressive.

EMU Shin-Keisei 8000 series leaves Kita-Narashino Station

More information about trains on the Shin-Keisei Line (in Japanese):

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Double Decker 215 and Japan's Wine Producing Area

Double decker EMU, JR East 215 series leaves Katsunuma-budokyo Station on the Chuo Line

It is not yet widely known to foreigners, but Japan has been producing wine for 130 years. Most of the wineries are centralized in Yamanashi prefecture, west of Tokyo. It is said that the Yamanashi-produced "Koshu" is the main domestically produced wine.

The production of Japanese wine started in 1877, when two Japanese students returned from France. They had studied advanced wine producing technologies there, and established the first Japanese wine producing company in Yamanashi Prefecture. Today, we can enjoy fresh grapes and tasty wine there. Especially from September to November, fruit and wine lovers flock to Yamanashi to enjoy the great fall products.

To enjoy the fresh fruit and wine on site, it is convenient to take the Chuo Line. For your information, the drink driving laws are very strict in Japan and there is usually huge traffic jams on the express way on weekends.

Last month, I took a rapid train on the Chuo Line, and headed to Yamanashi Prefecture. I got on the EMU JR East 215 series, a double decker train. This EMU was launched in 1992 to eliminate congestion in rush hour. A total of 4 sets, 40 units, have been manufactured. On weekends, the 215 series transform themselves from commuter to sightseeing trains. The view from the upper floor is excellent.

After getting off at Katsunuma-budokyo (Katsunuma Grape Country) Station, I visited several vineyards, wineries and a restaurant. Although new wine was still in the making, I enjoyed as many fresh grapes as I could.

Vineyards near Katsunuma-budokyo Station on the JR East Chuo Line

More information about EMU 215 series (in Japanese): http://www.jreast.co.jp/train/local/215.html

Monday, 8 October 2012

The E531, AC-DC Dual System EMU on the Joban Line

EMU JR East E531 series stands at Ueno Station on the Joban Line

As I mentioned in my blog on August 20th, most of the commuter railways in the Tokyo metropolitan area are operated on direct current (DC). It is related to the characteristics of DC. The DC system requires many electrical substation facilities along the railway tracks, but the equipments on the trains is simple. In other words, the DC system is suitable for frequently operated commuter railways to reduce the total cost.

There is an exception though. It is the JR East Joban Line. The southern part of the route is a typical commuter line, but the alternate current (AC) system has been adopted on the north side of Toride Station. It means that the trains passing through Toride should have both AC and DC systems.

Look at the top photo. It is an EMU E531 series, an AC-DC dual system train on the Joban Line. This train is composed of 10 cars in main sets, with 5 cars in sub sets. Usually, it is operated as a 15-car train (a main set + a sub set) on the line. The gleaming stainless steel body with a dark blue colored stripe is an outward characteristic of the E531 series.

Another feature of this train is a double decker Green Car (First Class). Two Green Cars, namely Type SaRo E530 and 531, are incorporated in the main set. Green Cars are currently very popular among hardworking long distance commuters as a "Petit-zeitaku" (small luxury and enjoyment) on the way home.

JR East double decker Green Car (first class), Type SaRo E530 of the E531 series at Ueno Station

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Access to the Wild Animal Paradise in Kurodake

Kurodake Aerial Tramway

Following my blog on August 29th, I am going to show the other aerial tramway in the Daisetsuzan area, Hokkaido Island. That is the Kurodake Aerial Tramway.

The Daisetsuzan area has two faces... one as a rugged active volcano, and one as a mountainous land covered by deep forests. Asahidake Aerial Tramway, which I introduced in my previous blog, is located in the volcanic area; meanwhile Kurodake Aerial Tramway is operated in the deep forest area.

Connecting Sanroku and Kurodake stations, the line length of Kurodake Aerial Tramway is 1,650m. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is 670m. It was opened in 1967 under the name of the Sounkyo Ropeway. Currently, large sized gondolas, which can accommodate up to 101 passengers, are operated every 20 minutes. The travel time between two stations is 7 minutes.

After arriving at Kurodake Station, visitors can transfer to the chairlift, which leads to the 7th Station (1,520m above sea level) of Mt. Kurodake. When I visited there, it was very cool even in midsummer, as it showed 18 degrees Celsius.

The Kurodake area is a wild animal paradise. It harbors many rare species, such as the Kitakitsune (Hokkaido red fox), Ezo-shika (Hokkaido deer) and Higuma (Brown beer). But, the Ezo-shima-risu (Hokkaido striped squirrel) may show the highest encounter rate. I also saw many squirrels around the 7th Station of Mt. Kurodake, and captured their images in my photos. They are cute!

Kurodake is a wild animal paradise.

Ezo-shima-risu (Hokkaido striped squirrel) near 7th Station of Mt. Kurodake, Kurodake Chairlift

More information about Kurodake Aerial Tramway (in Japanese and English):

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Historic Storehouses Street on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line

EMU Seibu 2000N series leaves Shimo-Igusa Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line

Kawagoe City in Saitama Prefecture is located some 40km northwest of Tokyo, and known as a historic castle city. We can see many old houses, shops and ex-local government offices along streets.

The "Kurazukuri Zone (Old Storehouses Zone)" is one of the famous historic areas in Kawagoe City (see the following photo). Japanese, especially rich people, once had strong buildings called "Kura" for on-property storage of household tools on their premises. Since these buildings were very fire-resistant, they developed into residential buildings and shops. Today, the Kurazukuri Zone has become a culturally significant area where the atmosphere of a town 100 years ago can be experienced.

To get to Kawagoe City from downtown Tokyo, we can choose from three routes: JR East-Kawagoe, Tobu-Tojo or Seibu-Shinjuku lines. I took the Seibu-Shijuku Line from Takadanobaba in downtown Tokyo, and headed to Hon-Kawagoe Terminal, which is close to the Kurazukuri Zone. It took about one hour by express train.

I got on the EMU 2000N series. Among the train fleet on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line, I like the 2000N series best (see the top photo). The yellow colored body and two rounded large front lights are Seibu Railway's traditional design. Meanwhile, two large panoramic front windows with an emergency front door was an up-to-date style in 1988, when the 2000N series was launched. 24 years have already passed, but it is not out of date.

I enjoyed a short weekend rail trip and a walk in the town in the historic castle city.

Kurazukuri Zone (Old Storehouses Zone) near Hon-Kawagoe Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line

Monday, 1 October 2012

The E1, Retirement from Regular Trains

The double decker EMU, JR East Shinkansen E1 series stands at Tokyo Station (July 2012)

On September 29th, JR East revised the timetable of the Tohoku and the Yamagata Shinkansens. With this revision, the EMU E1 series have been retired from the regular trains.

The E1 series, the first double decker Shinkansen trains were launched in 1994. As I mentioned in my blog on July 17th in 2011, they have been manufactured as commuter trains, which transport large numbers of people during rush hour. For that purpose, one set of the E1 series consists of 12 cars, which can accommodate 1235 seats.

This train had contributed greatly to the commuter transportation, but it has the disadvantage of being a slow runner. A maximum speed of the E1 series is only 240km/hour. That is the main reason why the E1 series had to be retired. Currently, the maximum speed of the Tohoku Shinkansen trains is 275 or 300km/hour; therefore, the E1 series was a bottleneck in the timetable.

Barrier-free policies also might have affected the early retirement of the E1 series. As you know, many countries are promoting a barrier-free society, the same as Japan. A double decker train with stairs wouldn't be suitable for the future barrier-free society.

I got on the E1 series several times. I loved the scenic view from the upper floor, but the seats were cramped because of 3+3 seating configuration. In exchange for many passengers being able to sit, it lost its comfortableness.

Side view of the E1 series at Tokyo Station (July 2012)