Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tokyo Night Walk: Year-end Sunset on the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 3000 series stands at Kyodo Station
 
Only one day is now left in 2013. I left to go shopping at a nearby station area for some New Year food. I also enjoyed a stroll while I was out. After the shopping, I headed up to the rooftop garden of Kyodo Station Building to see the sunset in the western sky. The garden was ornamented with winter illuminations. Numerous LED lights were shining white, green, and pink colored.

It was winter twilight. I could see the beautiful bright colors of the sunset in the western heavens; meanwhile, it was deep ultramarine colored at the zenith. The winter sky was cool and clear. Faraway mountains, such as Fuji and Tanzawa, could be seen backed by the sunset glow.

When I arrived at the platform of Kyodo Station to go back home, an eastbound local train, EMU Odakyu 3000 series, was standing at track number 3. The 3000 was a train for my everyday use. Although it was just a standard commuter train with no character, it looked especially good that evening, shining under the station illuminations. The New Year vacation gave me an extraordinary feeling.

The 3000 series was launched in 2001 to replace the old trains, and reinforce the fleet of Odakyu commuter trains. A total of 47 sets, 332 units have been manufactured so far by Nippon Sharyo, Tokyu Sharyo, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The pure electrical brake system was adopted for the leading model of Odakyu Electric Railway.
 
Sunset view from Kyodo Station Building on the Odakyu-Odawara Line

Sunday, December 29, 2013

At the End of Mt. Fuji Year

EMU Fujikyu 1000 series, "Fuji-Tozan Densha" stands at Ootsuki Station

Only two days are left in 2013. People in Tokyo are rushing all the time to complete their work and meet their year-end deadline.

2013 was the year of Mt. Fuji in Japan. As I mentioned before, Mt. Fuji was added to the UNESCO list of the World Heritage sites on June 22nd this year. Taking this opportunity, many industries, such as hotels and tourism businesses, are exploring new business opportunities. Fujikyu Corporation is no exception.

Fujikyu is a small private railway company at the foot of Mt. Fuji. It had a rare opportunity to expand its business this year. The share price of Fujikyu in the Tokyo Stock Exchange hit its highest price since 1990 this year. As you may know, 1990 was the peak of the "bubble economy" in Japan.

One of the reputable trains on the Fujikyu Line is "Fuji Tozan Densha", unit number MoHa1205 (Aka-Fuji) and MoHa1305 (Ao-Fuji) of the EMU 1200 series (ex-Keio 5000 series). The interior of this train looks like a living room. There are even bookshelves and showcases. During the trip, passengers can fully enjoy this "living room", and relax as if they are at home.

In the meantime, I am going to show you an evening view of the Kofu Basin backed by Mt. Fuji at the year end. It was beautifully illuminated under the clear winter sky. 2013 was indeed the year of Mt. Fuji.
 
Sunset view of Kofu Basin backed by Mt. Fuji

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ex-Keio Train on the Kamikochi Line

EMU Alpico (ex-Keio) 3000 series arrives at Nishi-Matsumoto Station on the Kamikochi Line
 
When I visited Matsumoto City last week, I fought the clock and had an opportunity to hold a reunion with a good old train in the early morning.

The EMU Alpico 3000 series, also known as the ex-Keio 3000 series, was launched on the Kamikochi Line in 1999. A total of 4 sets, 8 units, have been introduced so far. They were originally manufactured for the Inokashira Line of Keio Electric Railway Company in Tokyo in the 1960s and 1970s.

My grandpa, who passed away in 1999, was a railway engineer of Keio Electric Railway Company. I still remember that I visited Eifuku-cho Rail Yard with my grandpa and saw the 3000 series there for the first time. It was brand spanking new and the stainless steel body was shining brilliantly in my eyes.

Since then, I have always had a special fondness for these trains. Even after their retirement from Keio, I cannot forget them, and often visit several local railways, which have taken over the 3000 series, such as Jomo and Gakunan railways.

The Alpico 3000 series has some special features. For instance, it is operated without conductors on board to save manpower costs. For that purpose, a tariff and a fare box are installed behind the driver's seat. Another feature is that passengers are permitted to carry their bicycles onto the train.

A reunion with Alpico 3000 series (ex-Keio 3000 series)... I had a pleasurable time in Matsumoto City.

 
EMU Alpico (ex-Keio) 3000 series stands at Matsumoto Station on the Kamikochi Line

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Increase in Smiles on the Seibu Railway

EMU Seibu 30000 series, the Smile Train, approarches Nishi-Tokorozawa Station
 
Seibu had been a peculiar private railway company that had been managed by members of a single family. That family had been keen about the real estate industry rather than the railway business. In consequence, the trains on the Seibu Line had been old-fashioned and unpolished over a period of time.

In the early 2000s, Seibu was involved in a big scandal. The owner family broke a Security and Exchange Law. The company lost its reputation as a private railway company. Since then, Seibu has been trying to reduce the effect of the owner family and dedicate itself to modernization of the management style.

One of the symbols of newly-emerged Seibu is the EMU 30000 series, called the Smile Train. It was launched in 2008. Needless to say, its front view looks like a smiling face. Until then, they only placed importance on the operating functions of trains of the Seibu Line, but, the design concept of this new train is that "trains bring smiles to the people". It is totally different from their previous ones.

The 30000 series is manufactured by Hitachi. A total of 124 units have been introduced so far. It is still manufactured every year. As a result, passengers have a greater opportunity to ride on this brand new train.

Honestly speaking, the 30000 series is not my cup of tea as a rail-fan, because the design of this train is eccentric; but I don't think there's anything wrong with an increase in "smiles" on the Seibu Line.

 
"Double smile" is seen near Nerima Station on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Reunion with the Old Super-Hitachi

EMU JR East 651 series (left) is exhibited in Uchihara Rail Yard on the Joban Line
 
When I joined the event for "Mito Railway Communication Day" last month, I met some old familiar EMUs on the site. One such train was the EMU 651 series, "Super-Hitachi".

As I mentioned before, the 651 series was launched as a limited express train on the JR East Joban Line in 1989. Replacing an old EMU 485 series, it speeded up the route between Tokyo, Ibaraki, Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures. The maximum speed was 130 kilometers per hour. A total of 9 sets, 99 units had been manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The 651 series once retired from the track in March this year; but, recently, it revived, and is operated as a limited express, "Fresh-Hitachi" for one round service per day.

One of the features of this train is its exterior. Specifically, a large LED display on the front is quite unique. The white and olive gray colored body is also funky fresh. Because of its coloring, rail fans call it the "tuxedo body (penguin suit body)". The spec of the train is rather old these days; however, it has lots of fans who enthusiastically "worship" this train.

I enjoyed a long-awaited reunion with the old Super-Hitachi, the 651 series. The only complaint was that the exhibited train was NOT provided with electric current on the site. It is probably because the railway company considered visitors' safety; however, sad to see the "not lit up" LED display on the train.

 
Side view of the EMU JR East 651 series (right)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Tulip on the Minato Line

Classic diesel rail car, Hitachinaka KiHa 205 is seen on the Minato Line
 
Finally autumn has gone and winter is here in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The leaves have started defoliating. The maximum daytime temperature is about 10 degrees Celcius.

Although it has a short flowery season, we can see beautiful blossoms of winter tulips in several places. The winter tulip, also known as Ice Tulip, blooms in mid-winter instead of spring. The bulb of an Ice Tulip is kept in the fridge, and experiences a "pseudo-winter" in advance. The bulb is, then, planted outside. It flowers even in December, as it has already experienced a cold winter in the fridge.

To see this winter gift, I visited Hitachi Kaihin Park on the very day of the winter solstice. It is located near Ajigaura Station on the Minato Line of Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway. Connecting Katsuta on the JR East Joban Line and Ajigaura, the line is only 14.3km with 9 stations. The whole route is un-electrified single track.

The top photo is the classic diesel rail car, KiHa205, which was manufactured in 1965 by Teikoku Sharyo. After retirement from Mizushima Rinkai Railway, KiHa205 was moved to Hitachinaka Rinkai Railway in 1996.

This rail car is frequently called "JNR type". JNR, which stands for Japanese National Railways was split into seven railway companies and privatized. During the JNR era, plenty of diesel rail cars like the top photo were introduced to railways all over Japan. You can see the characteristics of JNR type railcars in the front design, body coloring and so on.

 

 Winter tulip is seen in Hitachi Kaihin Park near Ajigaura Station on the Minato Line

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shinano: The Longest Daytime Limited Express in Japan

EMU JR Central 383 series, limited express "Shinano" arrives at Matsumoto Station
 
I had an opportunity to visit Matsumoto City in the Chubu District. It is located about 200km west of Tokyo, and is the second largest city of Nagano Prefecture. Matsumoto has grown as the castle city of the lords of Matsumoto Province since the 16th century. We can still see the beautiful castle tower in the center of the city as it was.
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After my assignment, I shot some trains at Matsumoto Station on the way back home. We can see many kinds of trains there, as three companies' trains come to this station, namely JR East, JR Central and Alpico Kotsu.

The photo shows an EMU, JR Central 383 series, limited express "Shinano", which is an old name of Nagano Prefecture. This train is known as Japan's longest daytime limited express other than Shinkansen. Connecting Osaka, the largest city in the western part of Japan, and Nagano, the main city of Nagano Prefecture, the total operating length is 441.2km. It takes 5 hours and 18 minutes if you ride on the entire route.

The 383 series debuted in 1994 to replace the old EMU, 381 series. A total of 17 sets, 76 units have been manufactured by Nippon Sharyo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi. One of the outstanding features of this train is its curve passage performance. By tilting the train's body, the 383 series achieved an operation speed of 35km per hour higher than that of standard trains on a 600m curve.

 
EMU JR Central 383 series (a cab with a gangway in the front) arrives at Matsumoto Station
 
More information about the EMU JR Central 383 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Weathercock House and Kobe's First Subway Train

EMU Kobe Minicipal Subway 1000 series stands at Shin-Kobe Station on the Seishin-Yamate Line
 
Before leaving Kobe City, I visited the Ijinkan (foreigner's mansion) area again. As I mentioned before, the Ijinkan area is dotted with residences built by foreigners, who arrived in Kobe after the port opened in the late 19th century. It became a popular sightseeing spot with its exotic atmosphere.

The bottom photo is Kazamidori-no-yakata (Weathercock House) built by German trading merchant, Gottfried Thomas in 1904. It is a three-story house made of brick and stone. A weathercock on the pointed roof is a good accent to this house. Currently, it is owned by Kobe City. The building was designated as a cultural asset of national importance in 1978. I saw many sightseers visiting this famous spot.

After visiting Weathercock House, I got on a train on the Kobe Municipal Subway again, and headed to Shin-Kobe Station to take the Sanyo Shinkansen for Tokyo.

The top photo shows the oldest subway train in Kobe, the EMU 1000 series on the Seishin-Yamate lines. It was launched in 1977 when the subway route was opened. A total of 18 sets, 108 units, have been manufactured so far by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The 1000 series won the Laurel Prize in 1978. It is an annual award presented by Japan Railfan Club for the most outstanding technical and well designed train that debuted in the previous year.

This is the last post on my trip to Kobe City this year. It has become 7 posts long. Thanks for reading.

 
Weathercock House in Kobe City

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snow-capped Fuji from Shinkansen Window

Set number Z2 of the EMU JR Central N700 series arrives at Tokyo Sta. on the Tokaido Shinkansen
 
Along with "Ekiben (a meal for railway passengers)", the scenery from the train window is a source of amusement for railway travelers. Specifically, on the Tokaido Shinkansen, the scenery of Mt. Fuji is the greatest pleasure. We can see the beautiful stratovolcano on the right side along the run of the westbound Shinkansen train, if the weather permits.

The bottom photo is the snow-capped Mt. Fuji shot from Nozomi super express train near Shin-Fuji Station. It was a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky. It was an excellent opportunity to shoot this symbolic mountain.

My main problem was how to shoot this scenery through the bullet train window. The super express Nozomi was going at top speed, over 270km/hour, on the track. To focus a camera on both the far mountain and the near city area is not easy. I selected the highest shutter speed, a 1/8,000 second, and waited for a chance. It was about 47 minutes after leaving Tokyo Station. I released the shutter just after passing through Shin-Fuji Station.

In the meantime, Nozomi super express is the fastest Shinkansen train on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines. Its maximum speed is 300km/hour. Nozomi goes from Tokyo (Japan's capital city) to Osaka (the largest city in the western part of Japan) in just two and a half hours. The vehicle for Nozomi super express is the EMU N700 series (see the top photo). It is the latest model on the Tokaido and the Sanyo Shinkansen lines launched in 2005. 

 
View of Mt. Fuji (3,776m) from the Shinkansen window 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Indonesian Railway Update: Test Run of the 205 Series

Set number HaE 11 of the EMU ex-JR East 205 series (test run train) stands at U.I. Station
Photo: Faris Fadhli
 
I have received news from an active Indonesian rail fan again. Test runs of the ex-JR East EMU have started in Jakarta. My thanks go to Mr. Faris Fadhli, who kindly sent me the photo.

The top picture is the EMU ex-JR East 205 series standing at Universitas Indonesia Station on the Bogor Line. As I mentioned before, the railway operator, KRL Jabodetabek, is pursuing modernization of the railway network in Jakarta. All non-air conditioned trains have been taken off the route. Instead, they have been importing air conditioned secondhand EMUs from Japan.

The JR East 205 series is a direct current EMU, which debuted in 1985. It has been widely operated on the urban lines in Tokyo. A total of 23 sets, 230 units, have been introduced to the Saikyo Line. The 205 series has gabled stainless bodies with a dark green colored stripe. It has been a daily occurrence for me to see these trains in Shinjuku Station.

It is time for the 205 series to retire... they are a bit old; but they still have a role. The retired 205 series recently arrived in Indonesia to spend their new life. They are being modified to the local style. The coloring design was changed from a dark green colored stripe to a flashy red-yellow mask and belt... very cool!

The Indonesian local operator plans to import a total of 180 units of the 205 series. I wish the 205 series well for its new life in Jakarta.

 
Set number HaE 26 of the EMU JR East 205 series stands at Shinjuku Station (May, 2012)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tokyo Night Walk: Shinjuku Minamillumi

EMU JR East E231 series stands at Shinjuku Station on the Shonan-Shinjuku Line
 
Autumn has gone and winter is here in Tokyo. The leaves on the boulevard trees have already turned yellow and brown, and started defoliating. Once a cold wave comes, it always snows in the Tohoku District on the Japan Sea. In contrast, it is always clear in the regions here on the Pacific Ocean. 2000-3000m high mountain ranges, which run nearly the full length of the country, give the Japan Sea and the Pacific Ocean sides of Japan vastly different climatic patterns.

Winter is known as a season of "street illumination". Urban streets are nicely decorated with millions of LED lights. It is not known exactly what the origin of this event was; but I think that it can be traced to the Christmas lights to attract customers to shopping malls.

The bottom photo is a night view of the southern entrance of Shinjuku Station. As you may know, Shinjuku is the world's largest railway station. Trains of five companies and one public corporation arrive at and leave this giant terminal. The ridership of Shinjuku is 3.5 million passengers per day. You can see passengers pass through the illuminated street, called "Minamillumi".

In the meantime, we can see frequently arriving and departing trains of JR East from Minamilumi. The top photo is the EMU E231 series on the Shonan-Shinjuku Line. It was evening rush hour, and passengers were in a hurry to get home.

There are only twenty days left in this year.

 
Shinjuku Minamillumi near Shinjuku Station

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

EMU 9000 Series: Hankyu Maroon a la Mode

EMU Hankyu 9000 series stands at Hankyu-Sannomiya Station on the Hankyu-Kobe Main Line
 
Hankyu is one of the major railway companies in Japan. It operates about a 140km long line network in the Kansai (Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto) area, and carries an average of 1.95 million passengers per day.

As is the case with Tokyo, the railway business in the Kansai area is competitive. Many companies, such as JR West, Kintetsu, Keihan, Hanshin and Hankyu are fighting to attract passengers. In 2006, Hankyu and Hanshin merged into a single entity, namely Hankyu Hanshin Holdings. The direct cause of the management integration was to contain the impact of hedge funds; however, I think that it had a close connection to "the flow of history". It means that the two companies needed to survive at a time when the labor force is shrinking because of the falling birth rate and the aging population in Japan.

All the trains on the Hankyu line have been keeping up a tradition for a long time. It is "Hankyu maroon"... the body color of the trains. This color is like a chocolate or a dark brown shell of a sweet chestnut. It is very popular among passengers as an elegant color. The EMU 9000 series is also Hankyu maroon in color. But, different from the other Hankyu fleet, it has a white stripe on the top. It is like an ice cream on a chocolate cake, and a good accent with this train.

EMU 9000 series... it is a "Hankyu maroon a la mode".

EMU Hankyu 9000 series arrives at Hanakuma Station on the Hankyu-Kobe Kosoku Line

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Municipal Subway and Port Area in Kobe City

EMU Kobe Municipal Subway 2000 series arrives at Sannomiya Station on the Seishin-Yamate Line
 
Going back to my visit to Kobe, I am going to show you some more spots and railways in Kobe City.

The bottom photo is a night view of the port area. Japan opened the country to foreign trade and diplomatic relations in 1854 after a 215-year-long closure. Kobe was opened as a trading port in 1868, fourteen years after the promulgation of the Treaty of Peace and Amity between the U.S. and Japan.

Currently, this area is popular among tourists as a leisure spot as well as a historical district. You can see a beautiful hourglass tower in the photo. It is Kobe Port Tower built in 1963. This tower is known as the first illuminated building in Japan.

The top photo is a train on the Kobe Municipal Subway. it was opened in 1977 as the sixth municipal subway in Japan. Currently, four routes are operated in the urban area. Its total line length is 30.6km.

The photo shows the second oldest train, the EMU 2000 series on the Seishin and Yamate lines. It was launched in 1988 when the direct operation between Kobe Municipal Subway and Hokushin Kyuko Railway started. Different from the other Japanese trains of the same generation, the electric control system of the 2000 series is a little old... the armature chopper. A total of 4 sets, 24 units, have been manufactured so far by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The muted two-toned (dark green and greenish gray) body is my favorite.

 
Night view of the port area in Kobe City
 
More information about the EMU Kobe Municipal Subway 2000 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, December 8, 2013

4110F: Shibuya Hikarie Train

4110F of the EMU Tokyu 5050-4000 series "Shibuya Hikarie Train"  is seen on the Seibu Line
 
Nine months have passed since the Tokyu-Toyoko Line was connected with the Tokyo Metro-Fukutoshin Line at Shibuya Terminal on March 16th this year. As a result, direct operations between Toyoko, Tokyo Metro, Tobu and Seibu lines were started. It means that we came to see the Tokyu trains on the Seibu Line.

Look at the top photo. It is 4110F of the Tokyu 5050-4000 series, "Shibuya Hikarie Train" running on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line. 4110F is a unique poster train to promote Shibuya Hikarie, which is a Tokyu skyscraper and retail complex, which opened in 2012. It is located just above the new Tokyu Shibuya Station. Tokyu expects a new flow of people from Tokyo Metro, Tobu and Seibu lines to the Toyoko Line, where Tokyu have many commercial facilities such as shopping malls, department stores and theaters. Shibuya Hikarie is the Tokyu's flagship commercial facility.

The standard 5050-4000 series train has red and pink colored stripes on its stainless body; meanwhile, 4110F of the 5050-4000 series (Shibuya Hikarie Train) has a gold colored stripe on the body. Gold is the symbol color of Shibuya Hikarie. The 5050-4000 series was first manufactured in 2011. A total of 10 sets, 100 units, have been manufactured so far by Tokyu Sharyo. It is a ten car train (6M4T) with a VVVF (Variable Voltage and Variable Frequency) control system and induction motors.

4110F, Shibuya Hikarie Train is the Tokyu's running billboard.

 
"Shibuya Hikarie Train" passes through Nishi-Tokorozawa Station on the Seibu Line
 
More information about Shibuya Hikarie Train (in Japanese):

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gondola Lift and "Ijinkan" in Kobe City

Kobe-Nunobiki Ropeway (gondola lift) in Kobe City
 
As I mentioned before, Shin-Kobe on the Sanyo Shinkansen is quite a unique urban station, since it is backed by the steep Rokko Mountains. This station is known as a starting point for a visit to Mt. Yotsugi, where a large herb garden is located. It takes about ten minutes by gondola lift from Herb-en Sanroku station, which is next to Shin-Kobe.

The formal name of the gondola lift is Kobe-Nunobiki Ropeway. It was opened in 1991 to transport sightseers to the large herb garden at the summit of Mt. Yotsugi. Connecting Herb-en Sanroku and Herb-en Sancho, the line length is 1,460m. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is 330m. Six-seater gondolas are able to transport 1,060 passengers per hour.

After visiting Mt. Yotsugi, I headed to the Kitano area in the northern part of Kobe City. Kitano is dotted with residences built by foreigners, who arrived in Kobe after the port opened in the late 19th century. It became popular sightseeing spot, "Ijinkan (foreigner's mansion)".

The Ijinkan area with its exotic atmosphere has Western-style houses and art museums... perfect for a leisurely stroll; however, the charm of Kitano is not only the sightseeing, but also the many shops frequented by the locals with laid-back atmospheres... established bars, live jazz clubs, cafes, restaurants serving cuisine from around the world, boutiques and imported jumble shops. I saw many sightseers visiting this famous spot in the city.

 
Uroko house in the Ijinkan area near Herb-en Sanroku Station on the Kobe-Nunobiki Ropeway

Friday, December 6, 2013

EMU 5500 Series: New Jet Car on the Hanshin Line

5505F of the EMU Hanshin 5500 series stands at Mikage Station
 
After enjoying the gorgeous night view at Mt. Rokko, I went down the mountain to come back to the downtown Kobe area. I got on a train on the Hanshin Line at Mikage Station. Mikage is just the name of a place; but, it has special significance for geologists. We call granite "Mikage-ishi" in Japan, since it has been produced for building stones in this area.

My vehicle from Mikage Station was the EMU 5500 series. It is an EMU for local trains (all-stations trains). Originally, the 5500 series was planned to debut in 1996 to replace old EMUs; however, Hanshin Electric Railway Company faced no choice but to debut it one year earlier. What happened?

On January 17th, 1995, a big earthquake hit Kobe City. More than 6,400 people were killed. The railways were also severely damaged. Hanshin lost many trains. That's why they had to introduce the 5500 series ahead of schedule.

The EMU 5500 series is a 4-car train. All of the units have electric motors to secure a high acceleration force. On the Hanshin Line, distances between stations are very short; therefore, the company needs trains with fast acceleration to speed up operations. As you may know, there are many competitors in this area, such as JR West and Hankyu lines.

The 5500 series has fast acceleration. It takes only 21 seconds to reach a speed of 80km/hour, which is the fastest acceleration on any train in Japan.

The nickname of the 5500 series is "New Jet Car".

 
5501F of the EMU Hanshin 5500 series stands at Mikage Station

More information about the EMU Hanshin 5500 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Night Viewing Spot on the Rokko Cable Line

Funicular, unit number 1 and 3 on the Rokko Cable Line (Operation is suspended) 
 
The Rokko mountain range is a resort area of Kobe City, some 600km west of Tokyo. It is located just behind the urban area. Development of Rokko started as a cottage area for foreigners in the late 19th century. The Rokko mountain range is also known as a night viewing spot. Along with Hakodate and Nagasaki, it is known as one of the three major night viewing spots in Japan.

To enjoy the night view, the most reputable route is to take the Rokko Cable Line. This funicular route was opened in 1932. Connecting Rokko Cable-shita and Rokko-sanjo, the total operating length is 1.7km. It is the second longest funicular route in Japan. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is 493m. The train is operated every 20 minutes. It takes 10 minutes from Rokko Cable-shita to Rokko-sanjo station. To transport flocking sightseers, the operating company introduced 2 sets of 2-car trains, namely, unit number 1+3 and 2+4 in 1999.

On September 16th this year, a large scale typhoon hit Kobe City. The Rokko Cable Line was severely damaged due to rock fall. Currently, the operation is suspended, and substitute bus services are being provided. The operating company is speeding up the reconstruction effort and the company recently made an announcement that the operation will be resumed in late January next year.

I wish the funicular route a speedy recovery.

 
Night view of Kobe City and Osaka Bay from Rokko-sanjo Station on the Rokko Cable Line
 
More information about the Rokko Cable Line (in Japanese): http://www.rokkosan.com/cable/

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shin-Kobe: Station in Crevasse between Tunnels

Passing through Rokko Tuunel, EMU N700 series arrives at Shin-Kobe Station
 
Kobe is located some 600km west of Tokyo. The population in this city now stands at 1.54 million, which is the sixth largest in Japan. Kobe is a busy city as the administrative center of Hyogo Prefecture, but it also has several important sightseeing spots.

The gateway to Kobe City is Shin-Kobe Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen. It is quite a unique station, as Shin-Kobe is located in a crevasse between two long tunnels, namely Rokko and Kobe (see the photos). The station is backed by the Rokko Mountains.

Shin-Kobe Station is a base for sightseeing. For instance, it is a starting point for going on a hike to the Nunobiki falls, where four major falls discharge out of steep slopes into Ikuta River. It takes only ten minutes on foot from the station. Shin-Kobe is also known as a starting point for a visit to Mt. Yotsugi, where a large herb garden was opened. It takes about ten minutes by a gondola lift from Sanroku Station, which is next to Shin-Kobe Station.

If you get off from the Shinkansen train at Shin-Kobe Station, you will find a steep mountain just behind the eastbound platform. It will create a lot of confusion for you, since the scenery is like a mountain resort. But, don't forget! it is a genuine gateway station to the giant city.

In the meantime, I have linked to an American rail fan's website, "Sodai gomi". Please enjoy the beautiful pictures about world travels and trains.

 
EMU N700 series leaves Shin-Kobe Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Indonesian Railway Update: Domestic EMUs in Jakarta

EMU KRL Jabodetabek KFW I-9000 series stands at Jati Negara Station in Indonesia
Photo: Faris Fadhli
 
I have received news from an Indonesian rail fan. A domestically-manufactured EMU has been launched in Jakarta. My thanks go to Mr. Faris Fadhli, who kindly sent me the photo.

Look at the top picture. It is the type KFW I-9000, manufactured by PT INKA, Indonesian Railway Industries this year. It is an air conditioned 4-car narrow gauge EMU. The VVVF (variable frequency drive) electric control system with induction motors is equipped technically assisted by Siemens. A total of four sets, 16 units have been manufactured so far. The European style (?) rounded stainless steel body is quite unique. The ten rounded front lights are also eye-catching... but what for?

When I was stationed in Indonesia from 2007 to 2011, I often rode Indonesia's first domestically-produced EMU, namely the type KRL-1 (see the following photo). It was also produced by INKA, using European railway technologies. The KFW I-9000 is the second domestic EMU in Indonesia.

Recently, the railway operator, KRL Jabodetabek (Jakarta Metropolitan Electric Commuter Railway, a subsidiary of Indonesian National Railway, PT KAI), is pursuing modernization of the line. For example, all non-air conditioned trains have been taken off the route. Instead, they are importing air conditioned secondhand EMUs from Japan, such as the Tokyo Metro 6000 series and the JR East 205 series.

I wish Jakarta further success in the modernization of its railways, as improvements of public transportation, specifically railway networks, are essential for this growing giant city.

 
EMU KRL Jabodetabek KRL-1 series stands at Tanjung Priok Station in Indonesia (April, 2009)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

EMU 485 Series: Senior of the Hitachi Alumni Meeting

KuRoHa481-1028 of the EMU JR East 451 series is exhibited in Uchihara Rail Yard
 
One of the features of the Mito Railway Communication Day event was that Uchihara Rail Yard became the venue of the "Hitachi Alumni Meeting" on the Joban Line. It means that previous and present trains for limited express, Hitachi, were brought together at the festival site.

The senior train was the EMU 485 series, which was operated from 1972 to 1998 as the first generation EMU of limited express, Hitachi. The 485 series was launched in 1968 as an AC-DC dual electric system train on the Japanese National Railways (JNR). It was able to be operated on both 50Hz (eastern part of Japan) and 60Hz (western part of Japan) sections of AC system tracks. Plenty of units were manufactured from 1968 to 1979 by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo, Kinki Sharyo, Kisha Kaisha, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi (not a train, but a company name).

The body of the exhibited train is frequently called "JNR limited express color". Although JNR was split into seven railway companies and privatized as JR Group in 1987, many rail fans are still boosterish about this coloring, as it fits into any kind of scenery in Japan from urban business centers to mountain forests. For your information, the exhibited train was set number K1 that came the all way from Niigata Rail Yard for this festival.

Currently, the K1 is operated as limited express train, "Hokuetsu", which connects Niigata and Kanazawa along the Sea of Japan.

 
The third generation (left) and the first generation (right) Hitachi limited express trains

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

EF510-510: Superstar EL on the Northern Track

Electric locomotive EF510-510 is exhibited in Uchihara Rail Yard near Uchihara Station
 
One of the eye-catching exhibits at the festival site of Mito Railway Communication Day was an electric locomotive (EL), unit number 510 of the type JR East EF510 (EF510-510). Along with EF510-509, this EL was manufactured in 2010 by Mitsubishi Electric and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Currently, it belongs to Tabata Operation Office (Tabata Rail Yard) in Tokyo.

Type EF510 is an AC-DC dual current narrow gauge EL operated by JR Freight and JR East. It debuted in 2002 to replace the old EL, type EF81. The EF510 is a Bo-Bo-Bo (UIC notation) type EL that has six 565kW traction motors. IGBT-VVVF (variable frequency drive) is adopted as an electric control system. The nickname is "Eco-power Red Thunder".

The main assignment of EF510-510 is to pull an overnight sleeper train, "Cassiopeia". As I mentioned before, Cassiopeia is the most reputable sleeper train in Japan. Connecting Ueno and Sapporo, it is directly operated from the Tokyo metropolitan area to the northern island of Japan, namely Hokkaido, passing through the 53.85-kilometer-long Seikan Submarine Tunnel. It takes about 17 hours to get to Sapporo from Ueno.

For that purpose, EF510-510 has a silver metallic body, which coordinates with Cassiopeia passenger coaches, namely the E26 series. It was sparkling in the late autumn morning sun in Uchihara Rail Yard... very beautiful. A meteor-like yellow star on the side of the body also provides a good snap for rail fans.

EF510-510... it is a superstar EL on the northern track.

 
Front view of the electric locomotive EF510-510

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Great Success of Mito Railway Communication Day

 Several trains are exhibited in Uchihara Rail Yard near Uchihara Station on the Joban Line
 
Following the Takasaki Railway Communication Day, the other unique railway festival was held in the Tokyo metropolitan area last weekend. It was "Mito Tetsudo Fureai Day (Mito Railway Communication Day)", held by the Mito Regional Office of JR East. The site was Uchihara Rail Yard near Uchihara Station on the Joban Line. Four sets of EMUs, one electric locomotive and several maintenance vehicles were exhibited to be open to the public.

At the entrance of the site, I saw that the members of Mito Railway Children Association (Mito-RCA) were handing out flyers for the event. Dressed in matching uniforms, they were lovely and polite. At the site, I saw plenty of rail fans, families and couples, shooting photos, taking a tour of the cockpits of the EMUs and so on. A mini train pulled by a mini steam locomotive was also very popular among the children.

The visitors could also enjoy shopping for delicious lunch-boxes and cakes made with local foodstuffs. I enjoyed a bowl of hot noodles served by local chefs for a reasonable price. They were handmade "soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)"... very delicious.

I am truly grateful to JR East Mito Regional Office and other staff such as Mito-RCA members, local chefs and shopkeepers to have held this special event. The festival was indeed a great success. I will introduce several trains being exhibited at this event from next time. To be continued...

 
A mini train is operated at the festival site

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tama Zoo Train on the Keio Line

7801F of the EMU Keio 7000 series, "Tama Zoo Train" arrives at Takahata-fudo Station
 
On the way to Keio Rail Land a couple of weeks ago, I saw a special poster train on the Keio Line. Look at the photo. It is set number 7801 (7801F) of the EMU 7000 series, "Tama Zoo Train", arriving at Takahata-fudo Station.

The 7000 series debuted in 1984 to enhance transportation capacity on the Keio Line. A total of 190 units have been manufactured for 12 years by Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. A field chopper control system was adopted originally. It was later changed to the VVVF (variable frequency drive) system with induction motors, as part of a renovation project.

Tama Zoo train (7801F) was manufactured in 1993 by Tokyo Sharyo. It is a 4-car poster train to transport sightseers to Tama Zoo on the Keio-Dobutsuen Line (the Keio-Zoo Line). You can see various animal stickers on the body. They are lions, tigers, koalas, giraffes, monkeys and so on. It is popular among children on the line.

The Keio-zoo line is a feeder route of the Keio Main Line. It was opened in 1960. Connecting Takahata-fudo and Tama-dobutsukoen-mae (Tama Zoological Park) stations, the line length is 2km only.

Tama Zoo train runs without a conductor on board because the Keio-zoo Line normally has fewer passengers than the main line; but, on weekends, 10-car express trains with conductors on board are directly operated into this feeder route from Shinjuku Terminal to transport holidaymakers.

 
Side view of the Tama Zoo Train

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bullet Train and Classic Bus in Fukuyama City

EMU N700 series approaches Fukuyama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen
 
During my visit to Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku Island last month, I stopped over at Fukuyama City in Hiroshima prefecture on the way back home. Fukuyama is located in Honshu Island; but, it is easy to hop there from Shikoku Island, passing through the bridges over the Seto Inland Sea.

When I reached Fukuyama City, I found that a classic bus was parking on the street (see the following photo). It was a bonnet bus operated by Tomotetsu, a local bus company. This nostalgic vehicle, type BX341, was manufactured by Isuzu Motors in 1958. It was powered by a 120-horsepower engine. The number of passenger seats is 27; meanwhile, the maximum passenger capacity is 47 persons. It was indeed well maintained. The BX 341 is operated as a relief or a chartered service only. Although, I didn't have an opportunity to ride it this time; I was lucky to shoot the photograph of this nostalgic bus.

Before leaving Fukuyama, I visited Fukuyama Castle. This hedgehog was constructed in 1622 by feudal load, Katsunari Mizuno. Although the original building was destroyed by an air raid during WWII, the restored castle is a symbol of the strength of the local people. I could view the beautiful urban scenery of Fukuyama including the elevated Sanyo Shinkansen track from the top of the castle tower (see the top photo).

This is the last post on my trip to Ehime and Hiroshima prefectures this year. It has become 4 posts long. Thanks for reading.

 
A classic bonnet bus, type Tomotetsu BX341 manufactured by Isuzu Motors in 1958

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Autumn Color of the Mysterious Lake

EMU JR Central 313 series passes through Fuefuki River Bridge on the Minobu Line
 
An "autumn leaves front" is making a plunge from the high mountains to the plain. I enjoyed autumn leaves in Yamanashi Prefecture again last weekend with my family.

My destination was Lake Shibire in the central part of the prefecture. It is located some 100km west of Tokyo. The lake is surrounded by steep circular mountains, which are estimated as outer ring mountains of a volcanic caldera. The lake surface is 880 meters above sea level. The foliage season of Lake Shibire is very attractive. We could see red, yellow and brown colored leaves that made a nice contrast with the blue sky and the mysterious lake (see the following picture). The best season there is from late-October.

On the way home, I stopped over Mitama-no-yu Hot Spring again. It is my favorite spot because we can enjoy a superb "onsen" (hot spring) while viewing the beautiful Kofu Basin and its surrounding mountains. It was a bright and clear day. I could see Yatsugatake Mountains (2899m at the highest) to the north, as well as Mt. Kaikoma (2,967m) in the Southern Japanese Alps to the south.

Viewing the trains on the JR Central Minobu Line was of course my main attraction there as a rail fan. I could see the stylish EMU 313 series local trains, passing through the Fuefuki River Bridge (see the top photo). The local trains were operated a couple of times an hour.

I had a really good weekend again.

 
Autumn color of Lake Shibire near Ichikawa-Daimon Station on the Minobu Line