Friday, 28 September 2012

Summer-end Fireworks on the Tokaido Line


EMU JR East 185 series stands at Atami Station on the Tokaido Main Line

Although it's still hot in the daytime, the mornings and evenings are now quite comfortable. Many Tokyoites have an end-of-summer melancholy feeling, and I am one of them. Regretting the passing summer, I visited Atami City to see the summer-end fireworks. As I mentioned in my blog on February 1st, Atami is well known as a resort city in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is located some 100km southwest of downtown Tokyo.

Japanese people have a love of fireworks. They add a sort of poetic charm to the summer season. From July to September, fireworks events are held in many areas. About 3,000 fireworks were set off in Atami (see the following picture). Being controlled by computers, they are very gorgeous and well programmed.

To get to Atami from Tokyo, you can choose from JR Central Tokaido Shinakensen or JR East Tokaido Main Line. If you choose Shinkansen, it's faster but expensive. If you choose Tokaido Main Line, it's exactly the opposite. I took the Tokaido Main Line this time, as I prefer a leisurely trip.

The top photo is the EMU JR East 185 series taken at Atami Station. The 185 series was launched in 1981 by Japan National Railways (JNR) to replace old express trains. A total of 227 units have been manufactured. After breakup and privatization of JNR in 1987, all units have been transferred to JR East. 31 years have already passed, but they still play an important role on the Tokaido Main Line.

 
Summer-end fireworks on the Atami Beach near Atami Stasion, JR East Tokaido Main Line

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pros and Cons, Design of the Tokyu 6000


EMU Tokyu 6000 series stands at Mizonokuchi Station, the Denentoshi-Oimachi Line

As I mentioned previously, the railway business in Tokyo is very competitive right now. Many companies are fighting for survival. Tokyu, which records sales of 3.5billion US dollars per year, is no exception. They are facing fierce competition from JR East and other railway companies (see my blog on February 14th). In this business circumstance, Tokyu has a clear strategy for survival: restructuring of the railway network. Take for instance, the Oimachi Line.

The Oimachi line used to be a short local line connecting Oimachi and Futako-Tamagawa. All-stations trains were operated slowly; however, the operation totally changed in 2009. All trains began to operate directly on the Tokyu- Denentoshi Line through Futako-Tamagawa, because the double-double track of the Denentoshi Line had been completed. In other words, the Oimachi Line had been extended substantially. The railway network had been reinforced.

Taking the above opportunity, Tokyu launched express trains on the Oimachi Line, using a new model, the EMU 6000 series. The red colored front mask is very unique (see the top photo). There are pros and cons among passengers about this design. Some people say "cool and futuristic", but others say "catchpenny robot".

As a rail-fan, I would like to compliment Tokyu's challenging spirit. Today, standardization is a keyword for many railway companies to reduce their capital expenditures. As a result, many trains have become very similar to each other. They are meat-and-potato vehicles.

I am looking forward to seeing new and unique second and third trains in Tokyo



Side view of EMU Tokyu 6000 series

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Nagano Color 115 and Summer End Scenery


EMU JR East 115 series (Nagano color) stands at Otsuki Station on the Chuo Line

The weather has become gradually cooler, giving Tokyoites a sense of the upcoming autumn. This summer was really sizzling. Visiting a cool environment was my only pleasure. Nagano was the best place.

Nagano Prefecture, which is surrounded by steep mountains, is located some 150km west of Tokyo. Millions of holidaymakers visit this mountain resort prefecture during the summer vacation season, as it is cooler than Tokyo.

I like Kurumayama Highlands on the Chuo Line. It is nearly 2,000m high above the sea, and famous for its beautiful scenery and alpine flora. Here you are afforded a 360-degree panoramic view of Mt. Fuji, the Yatsugatake Mountains and Japan Alps, which defies description.

The railway in Nagano Prefecture is also gorgeous. For instance, as I mentioned in my blog on June 22nd, the trains on the Koumi Line run in the highlands at an elevation of 1345 meters, which is Japan's highest railway track.

When I visited Kurumayama Highlands, I got on a local train on the Chuo Line. The EMU JR East 115 series, the so-called "Nagano color trains," are the major fleet there. They have ivory colored bodies with light blue and emerald colored stripes (see the top photo). It is a standard commuter train, launched in 1963. Nearly 2,000 units have been manufactured for 20 years, but most of them have been scrapped. Currently they are designated as an endangered species by rail-fans.

Autumn is just around the corner.

 
Summer end scenery of Kurumayama Highland near Kami-Suwa Station on the Chuo Line

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

F-Train II, Special Poster Train on the Odakyu Line


EMU Odakyu 3093F of 3000 series, F-Train II arrives at Kyodo Station

On July 20th, Odakyu Electric Railway launched a special poster train, "F-Train II" in commemoration of the first anniversary of "Kawasaki City Fujiko F Fujio Museum".

Fujiko F Fujio (1933-1996) was a famous Japanese cartoonist, who created popular comics, such as Doraemon, Perman and Kiteretsu. After his death, Fujiko F Fujio Museum was opened, and has been operated by Kawasaki Municipal Office, as he had been lived in Kawasaki City for long time. His original drawings and related materials are displayed in the museum.

F-Train II is a 10-car train, EMU 3093F of 3000 series wrapped in posters. It carries designs of Fujiko F Fujio's popular cartoon characters on the blue, pink, orange, yellow and green colored car bodies (see the top photo).

F-Train II has a tidbit of history. In 2011, Odakyu launched the first F-Train, but it was short lived. It was because the F-Train had violated the regulation of Tokyo Metropolitan Government. According to the regulation, Odakyu had to get a permit of the poster train prior to the operation. To make matters worse, the size of the cartoon characters had also broken the regulations. They were too large. For your information, the Odakyu Line penetrates not only Kawasaki City but also Tokyo Metropolis.

After a big fuss, the matter was settled. Odakyu has launched the second poster train, F-Train II. Although the size of the cartoon characters has shrunk, they have been revived on the body of an urban train on the Odakyu Line.

 
Closeup of the F-Train II, EMU Odakyu 3093F of 3000 series at Kyodo Station

More information about F-Train II (in Japanese): http://www.odakyu.jp/ftrain/

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Hokutosei, Another Overnight Sleeper to Hokkaido

Overnight sleeper train, Hokutosei (the Big Dipper) arrives at Hakodate Station
 
Along with Cassiopeia (see my blog on 25th June), I am going to show another overnight sleeper train from Tokyo to Hokkaido Island: "Hokutosei (the Big Dipper)".

Hokutosei is operated from Ueno, a suberb of Tokyo, and Sapporo, the main city of Hokkaido Island, everyday. It was launched in 1988, when Seikan Submarine Tunnel was opened. It covers a distance of 1214.7km in about 16 hours.

The passenger cars are blue colored 24 series, which are composed of A-sleepers (first class), B-sleepers (standard class), a power-supply car and a dining car (see the following picture). A mini-lobby and shower rooms are also supplied. Although the luxury of the interior doesn't come up to that of Cassiopeia, Hokutosei is also very popular among tourists.

I have been thinking for a long time that I would get on this train, but, it has not been realized due to professional commitments and a consequent lack of time. A 16-hour trip is a bit too long for me.
 
Instead, I could take a picture of this popular train arriving at Hakodate, the gateway station of Hokkaido Island. It was an early morning in August, when I visited Hokkaido on vacation. Hokutosei appeared at platform number 8 on time after a long overnight trip from Ueno (see the top photo). It was a 12-car train pulled by an altered current electric locomotive, the type ED79.

I felt that someday I will travel by Hokutosei.
 
Dining car Type SuShi 24 of the carriage 24 series, sleeper train, Hokutosei at Ueno station

More information about Hokutosei:
http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/routemaps/cassiopeia_hokutosei.html
Detailed information about Hokutosei (in Japanese):
http://www.jreast.co.jp/cassiopeia/hokutosei/

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Copper Mine Train in the Watarase Valley


A battery-operated mine train passes through the mining tunnel in Ashio Copper Mine

After getting off the open-air train at Tsudo Station on the Watarase Valley Railway (see my last blog), I visited an ex-copper mine in the Ashio area.

Ashio Copper Mine was found by local people in 1550. It had attained about 40% of domestic copper production in its peak period, but closed in 1979 due to resource depletion. After closing the mine, it has been preserved as an industrial heritage site.

A copper mine train is one of the main attractions in this spot. The track gauge is 914mm. The trains are battery-operated. The total length of the route is less than 1km, but it is rich in variation. The track is divided into two sections divided by the intermediate station. The section in the entrance side is a steeply inclined track with a rack-and-pinion system. A special locomotive using a Riggenbach style pulls carriages. The other section is a standard track mostly covered by a mining tunnel. Battery operated carriages are operated alone, after releasing the special locomotive at the intermediate station.

I was surprised that this mine train looks like the real thing. Before visiting the mine, I imagined that it must be something like playground equipment. You know the saying, "Seeing is believing".

It was very cool in the mining tunnel even in summer... 11 degrees Celsius throughout the year. I enjoyed seeing the history of the mining and a cool breeze passing through the tunnel.

That's what's keeping me going as a rail fan.

A battery-operated rack-and-pinion locomotive (left) and a bettery-operated mine train (right)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Open-air Train on the Watarase Valley Railway


Railcars Watarase Type WKT 550 (right) and WKT 500 (left) stand at Mizunuma Station

When I was a child, we could open train windows easily and widely. During hot summer days, passengers used to open the windows to ventilate trains.

Today, however, the situation has totally changed. We cannot open most of the train windows, because air conditioners have been installed. Here, then, is a "reversal" idea. Some railway companies have introduced "open-air" trains intentionally to make passengers enjoy the outdoor air.

Look at the top photo. It is a railcar, Watarase Valley Railway Type 550, launched in April this year. Passengers, most of them are holidaymakers, can enjoy a breeze crossing the Watarase River, as this railcar doesn't have glass windows on the side of the body. I got on this sightseeing train, "Torokko Wasshi" last month, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Watarase Valley.

I see your question... how is it to be managed, if it starts to rain? The answer is very simple. Passengers, who don't want to take a shower, should only move to the next car with glass windows. Fortunately, I didn't have any rain during the one-hour train journey.

Finally, I am going to mention a bit about the Watarase River Railway. As I mentioned on my blog on October 5th, 2011, it is a local line in the northern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is famous for the beautiful autumn leaves and popular attractions such as an ex-copper mine and superb hot springs. I will show you a copper mine train next time.

To be continued...

 
Railcar number WKT-551 of Type 550, "Torokko Wasshi" at Mizunuma Station

Friday, 7 September 2012

Fuji-san Express and Summer Scenery of Mt. Fuji


EMU Fujikyu 2000 series, Fujisan Express stands at Otsuki Station

It's already September, but the lingering summer heat is still intense. I got on the Fuji-san Express (Mt. Fuji Express) on the Fujikyu Line from Otsuki Station, and headed to the foot of Japan's highest mountain (3,776m above the sea level) to enjoy the cool breeze.

Connecting Otsuki on the JR East Chuo Line and Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi), Fujikyu is a local private railway in Yamanashi Prefecture. There are 16 stations over a total operating length of 23.6km. It is known as a steep mountain railway, as the difference of elevation between the highest and lowest points on the route is 499m. Its maximum grade is 40 per-mils.

As I introduced in my blog on September 22nd, 2011, Fuji Tozan Densha (Mt. Fuji Climbing Train) is famous among tourists, because the interior of the train looks like a living room. But, Fuji-san Express is also unique, as it has scenic seats in the first car of the train. Look at the top photo. The cockpit of the Fuji-san Express is upstairs. The passengers can enjoy a view through the wide front window.

After arriving at Kawaguchi-ko Station, I visited Lake Yamanaka, one of the five lakes around Mt. Fuji area. It was a bright day at the end of summer. I could clearly see the beautiful Mt. Fuji over the lake. Visitors were spending their last days of 2012 summer in their own way.

 
Summer scenery of Mt. Fuji over Lake Yamanaka near Kawaguchi-ko Station on the Fujikyu Line

More information about Fuji-san Express, Fujikyu Railway (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Seaside Line, Access to the Urban Resort in Yokohama


EMU Yokohama New Transit 1000 series arrives at Nojima-koen Station

If you are a Tokyoite, and want to visit a marine resort to spend a day relaxing, where would you wish to go? Probably, a tropical coral beach in Okinawa Prefecture is the best destination for you... but, if you have no time and/or money, where can you go? My answer is Yokohama City.

As I mentioned before, Yokohama is located some 20km southwest of Tokyo. Although, it is a densely populated, giant city, it also has a beautiful coastal area on Tokyo Bay.

The area I would like to recommend is the Kanazawa area on the Seaside Line of Yokohama New Transit. Kanazawa Seaside Line is a rubber-tired automated guideway transit (AGT) system with ATO (Automatic Train Operation). The line length is 10.6km between Shin-Sugita on the JR East Negishi Line and Kanazawa-Hakkei on the Keikyu Main Line. The EMU 1000 and 2000 series are their train fleet. One train is composed of 5 cars; and a total of 16 sets are in operation.

One of the famous resorts on this line is Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, which is an amusement park consisting of an aquarium, shopping mall, hotel and marina. Fireworks add a sort of poetic charm to this summer season. Nojima Park is also a famous spot. Beautiful sandy beaches still remain in this urban area; and visitors can enjoy walking, camping, having a BBQ and so on. Kanazawa Seaside Line is one of the best ways to access the urban marine resort from the Tokyo metropolitan area. 

EMU Yokohama New Transit 2000 series arrives at Namiki-chuo Station

More information about Seaside Line: http://www.seasideline.co.jp/lang/en/

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Blue Line, Main Transportation Artery in the Port City


EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000R series stands at Mitsuzawa-Shimocho Station

Yokohama is situated some 20km southwest of Tokyo, and is the second largest city in Japan. It has been developed as Tokyo's outport since the 19th century. Currently, it has an estimated population of 3.7 million.

The railway network in Yokohama is extensive. The major operators are JR East, Keikyu, Sotetsu, Tokyu... and one more, Yokohama Municipal Subway. They are part of a huge commuter railway network in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The first route of Yokohama Municipal Subway was opened in 1972 between Kami-Ooka and Isesaki-Chojamachi (5.2 km). Since then it has been extending its network. Currently, it has two routes (the Blue Line and the Green Line) for a total of 53.4km.

The Blue Line is the main transportation artery in Yokohama. Because of its line alignment, it has a total of 12 transfer stations to other railways making it very convenient. The track gauge is 1435mm and the electric collecting system is the third rail without pantograph, which is same as the subway Ginza and Marunouchi lines in Tokyo.


The EMU 3000 series is a main fleet of the Blue Line. It was launched in 1992. Since then, it has been repeatedly improved. Currently, there are 4 groups, which are 3000A, 3000N, 3000R and 3000S.

I sometimes take the Blue Line for a walk in Yokohama City. Whenever I ride the train, I am surprised that this subway has been changing rapidly. For example, the ATO (Automatic Train Operation) system with automatic platform gates was introduced recently.

The Blue Line is evolving.

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000S series arrives at Center-Kita Station on the Blue Line

More information about Transportation Bureau, City of Yokohama: http://www.city.yokohama.lg.jp/koutuu/english/
More information about trains on the Yokohama Municipal Subway Lines (in Japanese):