Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Revisit the New Shuttle in Saitama Prefecture

EMU the New Shuttle 2000 series arrives at Shonan Station

The New Shuttle (Saitama Shin-toshi Kotsu) is a rubber-tyred automated guideway transit (AGT) system in Saitama Prefecture, the northern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. The operating line length is 12.7km between Omiya and Uchijuku stations. The route was opened in 1983 along the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines. Unlike the other AGT lines in Tokyo, a driver operates each train, it is not a driver-less operation.

Whenever I visit the Railway Museum (see my blog on January 1st, 2013), I take the New Shuttle. It is a unique transportation system in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Following the EMU 1010 series (see my blog on May 18th, 2011), I am going to show you the other types of train on the line.

The EMU 2000 series is a brand spanking new train (see the top photo). It was launched in 2007 to replace the old EMU 1010 series. Currently, 5 sets, 30 units are being operated. Each set has a different color. They are pink, orange, green, yellow and blue. The spec is also leading-edge. For example, the IGBT-VVVF inverter control system is applied.

The EMU 1050 series is the second generation train on the line (see the following photo). It was launched in 1990 for the entire opening of the route. Currently, 4 sets, 24 units are being operated. The spec is rather old these days, but it is still being operated as one of the main fleet.

The New Shuttle is the most lovable vehicle in the Tokyo metropolitan area for me.

EMU the New Shuttle 1050 series arrives at Haraichi Station

Monday, 28 January 2013

Count Down to the Last Run, EMU 651 "Super Hitachi"

EMU JR East 651 series, "Super Hitachi" passes through Kita-Senju Station on the Joban Line

On December 21st, 2012, JR East made a press release, in which they announced that a new timetable will begin on March 16th, 2013. At the same time, they announced that several types of old EMUs will be retired from the tracks and replaced with new EMUs when the timetable is changed.

One such retired train is the EMU 651 series, limited express "Super Hitachi" on the Joban Line. It was launched in 1989 to replace an old EMU 485 series and speed up the route between Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Fukushima, and Miyagi Prefectures. Its maximum speed is 130 kilometers per hour. A total of 9 sets, 99 units had been manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

One of the features of this train is its exterior. Specifically, a large LED display on the front is quite unique (see the photos). The white, olive gray and olive colored body is also funky fresh. Because of its coloring, rail fans call that "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 sometimes use the 651 Super Hitachi to visit Mito, the major city in Ibaraki Prefecture. Especially in March, it is the best season to view plum blossoms in Mito City. So, the 651 is "the plum viewing train" for me.

The last run of the EMU 651 series is planned on March 15th.

EMU JR East 651 series, "Super Hitachi" stands at Platform 17 of Ueno Terminal
More information about EMU JR East 651 series, Super Hitachi (in Japanese):

Friday, 25 January 2013

Another World in Midwinter on the Tokaido Line

Heading to Tokyo, EMU JR East 233-3000 series leaves Ninomiya Sta. on the Tokaido Main Line

Although it is very cold and snowy sometimes, we have "another world" in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I visited this unique spot, Azuma-yama (Mt. Azuma), this year again.

Azuma-yama is located near Ninomiya Station on the JR East Tokaido Main Line, some 70km southwest of downtown Tokyo. The 136-meter peak is less of a famous sightseeing spot than a recreation area for local people. It is just a small hill that you might see anywhere in this country.

Azuma-yama, however, is directly facing the Pacific Ocean to the south. Kuroshio (Black Stream), a warm ocean current, from the tropical region provides that area with a genial climate. If you climb up this small mountain in midwinter, you will find another world. Numerous canola flowers are blooming beautifully in the sunshine with snow-capped Mt. Fuji in the background (see the bottom photo). They are lovingly cared for by local people.

I could see the track of the JR East Tokaido Main Line from the summit. Penetrating the town of Ninomiya, it extended to the vanishing point. I saw a 15-car train, EMU 233-3000 series on the track, heading to Tokyo (see the top photo). It is 300 meters long, the longest commuter train in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I also viewed the Pacific Ocean on the far side of the train. It was blue colored, and contrasted with the green and orange colored train.

Azuma-yama, it is another world in midwinter in the Tokyo metropolitan area, never get tired of visiting it.

Winter scenery of Mt. Fuji over Canola flower garden at Azuma-yama Park near Ninomiya Station

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Silvery World on the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 1000 series passes through Chitose-Funabashi Station in a snowstorm
It is mid-winter in Japan. The daytime maximum temperature is lower than 10 degrees Celsius in Tokyo. In this season, the mountains block the cold, wet wind blowing from the northwest, which causes heavy snow to fall on the Japan Sea side. Then, only dry air comes to the Pacific side, such as the Tokyo metropolitan area.

However, once a low-pressure system as strong as a typhoon approaches the Pacific side, the Tokyo metropolitan area also experiences heavy snowfall. We call that a "bomb cyclone". On Monday, January 14th, a bomb cyclone hit Tokyo. The snow caused the delay of many train services. Fortunately, most of the offices in Tokyo were closed for the holiday. You have to be thankful for small mercies.

I had an errand to run, and had to go to Shinjuku on that day. While waiting for a local train on the platform of my nearest station on the Odakyu Line, I saw a heavily snow-crusted express train, EMU 1000 series, passing right in front of me (see the top photo). Great!

After boarding a local train, I saw a thick blanket of snow through a train window. There was snow as far as the eye could see. It was out-of-the-ordinary and exotic. We call that "gin-sekai (the silvery world)" in Japanese.

Finally, the train reached Shinjuku Terminal 20 minutes late. Although the train was delayed a bit, I could still make my appointment. Thanks, the Odakyu Line.

"Snow-crusted" EMU, Oakyu 2000 series arrives at Shinjuku Terminal

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Train View Spot on the Keikyu Line

EMU Keikyu 800 series approaches Shin-Bamba Station

I love walking both in the downtown and the countryside. It's fun finding or being inspired by some unforeseen scenery during walking. I am going to show one such scenery here.

One day last year, I was enjoying a city walk in the Shinagawa area, which is located in the southern part of downtown Tokyo. I have been to Shinagawa many times before, as my office was once located there so it was something like a routine. I was strolling along the Highway Route No.15, and looking about. When I stopped at a traffic light near Shin-Bamba Station on the Keikyu Line, I found a small sylvan place where I'd never been before. That was Shinagawa Shrine.

Shinagawa Shrine was opened in 1187 by Yoritomo Minamoto, the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate. To get to the main shrine, it takes 2 minutes walking along stone steps and a stone paved road.

The main shrine is a nice place to visit, but it might be more interesting if you climb up a small hill surrounded by trees near the main shrine. Local people call it "Shinagawa Fuji", because the profile is similar to Mt. Fuji.

After climbing up Shinagawa Fuji, I found a gorgeous train viewing spot. I saw red-body Keikyu trains frequently (see the photos). They were the EMU 800, 1000, 2100 series and so on. The trains stood out against the background buildings.

Shinagawa Shrine... it is an unknown train viewing spot in Tokyo.

EMU Keikyu 1000 series approaches Shin-Bamba Station

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Classic Funicular in Ooyama

Funicular "Tanzawa" leaves Ooyama-dera Station on the Ooyama Sightseeing Electric Railway

Along with Mt. Takao (see my blog on September 24th, 2011) and Mt. Mitake (see my blog on June 13th, 2012), Ooyama (large mountain) is an easy visiting sightseeing spot in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is located some 50km west of Tokyo, and designated as a part of Tanzawa-Oyama Quasi-National Park. To get to Ooyama, take the Odakyu Line and get off at Isehara Station. Then, you can take a bus to the foot of the mountain.

One of the things the visitors look forward to the most is a funicular of the Ooyama Sightseeing Electric Railway. Connecting "Ooyama Cable" and Afuri Shrine stations, the total operating length is 0.8km. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is 278m. It is very small scale; however, a number of holidaymakers take this lovely classic funicular to enjoy a vacation trip. The route was opened in 1931. The current funiculars, namely "Ooyama" and "Tanzawa" were launched in 1965, when the line was renovated.

Although the bodies of the funiculars were redesigned and renovated in 1994 and 2005, they still retain the classic atmosphere of the 1960s. For example, the three rounded lights and two large windows on the front are typical train designs of the 1960's. They are my favorite.

After arriving at Afuri Shrine Terminal, most of the tourists visit the shrine and enjoy a spectacular view of the Kanto Plain below and Sagami Bay with Enoshima Island in the distance.

Superb view from Afuri Shrine near Afuri Shrine Station on the Ooyama Sightseeing Electric Railway
More information about the Ooyama Sightseeing Electric Railway (in Japanese): 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

EMU 8500 Series, Sister Trains in Indonesia and Japan

8610F of the EMU KRL Jabodetabek 8500 series stands at Universitas Indonesia Station, Jakarta
Photo: Courtesy Faris Fadhli

As I mentioned before, Jakarta is a paradise for Japanese rail fans. More than 400 units of second-hand Japanese trains were operated. They never have enough trains, since this giant Indonesian city has achieved rapid development.

One such Japanese train is the EMU 8500 series, previously operated on the Tokyu Line in the Tokyo metropolitan area. This group was manufactured in the 1970s, and moved to Jakarta in the late 2000's. The specification is rather old, but it is very stout and trouble proof. It is quite popular among Indonesian passengers because of comfort cooling.

Look at the top photo. It was shot by an active young Indonesian rail fan, Mr. Faris Fadhli at Universitas Indonesia Station on the Jakarta-Bogor Route. The external shape of the 8500 series keeps the original, but the coloring is totally different from that in Japan (see the following picture).

I always admire Indonesian people's color sense, because they use distinct color designs. They created a blue, yellow and white colored face ... very cool. More amazingly, the first car, which is a "woman-only car", has very gaudy color on the side of the body.

I am also very happy, because the 8500 series still work well in operation in Jakarta, and were in good condition. I would like to thank the local railway engineers in Indonesia for their ceaseless effort.

I hope that these sister trains will be active both in Indonesia and Japan for long time.
8616F of the EMU Tokyu 8500 series arrives at Aobadai Station on the Denentoshi Line

Thursday, 10 January 2013

EMU 205-500 Series, the Innovator of the Local Line

EMU JR East 205-500 series arrives at Iriya Station on the Sagami Line
Following my last blog, I am going to introduce the other commuter train in Kanagawa Prefecture, EMU JR East 205-500 series on the Sagami Line.

The Sagami Line penetrates Kanagawa Prefecture from south to north. Starting from Chigasaki, a Pacific city to Hashimoto, an interior transportation key junction, the total operating length is 33.3km. The entire route is electrified but single track.

When I was a kid, I sometimes took this route, as my grandparents lived in Chigasaki City. They often took me to Samukawa Shrine to make a New Year's visit taking the Sagami Line. To be honest, I had a negative impression of the Sagami Line, because the trains, which were rail motor cars, Type KiHa 17, 20, 30 and so on, ran rather slowly, and the interior of the trains was dark.

The situation drastically changed when the Sagami Line was electrified in 1991. All rail motor cars left the Sagami Line, and new EMUs, 205-500 series were launched (see the photos). The new EMUs ran fast, and had a brighter interior. It was the time of change from a local to an urban commuter route for the Sagami Line.

Today, a 4-car train of the EMU 205-500 series is operated every 20 minutes during the daytime. Although, local residents hope for a double track, it has not yet been realized due to a lack of budget. I wish that further modernization of the Sagami Line will be realized soon.

The EMU 205-500 series, it is the great innovator of the local line.
EMU JR East 205-500 series leaves Chigasaki Station on the Sagami Line
More information about JR East 205 series (in Japanese):

Monday, 7 January 2013

EMU Sotetsu 7000 Series, Afterglow of the 1970’s

EMU Sotetsu 7000 series approaches Futamatagawa Station

I received an email from one of my blog readers, in which he wished to know more about commuter trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I couldn't help but agree with his remarks, as I haven't mentioned the commuter trains lately.

So, I am going to show you the EMU Sotetsu 7000 series as a lead-off train. As you know, Sotetsu is one of major private railway companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area (see my blog on July 8th, 2012). Starting from Yokohama, the main city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Sotetsu connects Ebina and Shonandai. There are 25 stations over a total operating length of 35.9km. The 7000 series is the longest-serving active EMU on the Sotetsu Line. It was launched in 1975. A total of 80 units have been manufactured.

I absolutely love this train, because the 7000 series has an afterglow of the 1970's. It was an epoch of great change for railway companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Following the rapid urbanization and growth of population, they were struggling to solve a serious shortage of transport. In this hostile environment, a stout and trouble-free train was necessary. The design of the 7000 series subsequently became rough with angular bodies, simple rounded front lights, and bare jumper cables in the front (see the following picture). From the present viewpoint, its equipment is also rather old, such as DC motors, bare disc brakes, and a resistance control system.

But, everything fills me with nostalgia now. I guess I'm getting old.
EMU Sotetsu 7000 series temporarily preserved at Atsugi Shunting Yard

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Hare's-tail Cotton Grass Community on the Tobu Line

EMU Tobu 6050 series stands at Tobu-Nikko Station

As I mentioned before, Tobu has an extensive railway network in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The total line length is 463.3km, the longest private railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Tobu Railway has two faces... one as a commuter railway in the densely populated area, and one as a local route in the countryside. The trains of Tobu Railway are also composed of two groups... one as an 8 to 10-car urban commuter train, and one as a 2-car short local train.

An EMU 6050 series is a standard local train operated in the countryside (see the top photo). It was launched in 1985, and is still a major fleet on the local routes. I love this train, as it makes me enjoy railway travel. The comfortable cross seats and large windows to capture the beautiful outside scenery can be relaxing. A white colored train body with red and orange colored stripes is my favorite.

One day last summer, I got on the EMU 6050 series and visited Senjogahara near Tobu-Nikko Station. Senjogahara, which is a part of Nikko National park, is famous for its beautiful highland marsh. We are only allowed to walk on the boardwalks, as the area is strictly preserved. While I walked there, I saw a gorgeous Hare's-tail Cotton grass community. It was pure white cotton weed, and spread all over the field (see the following photo).

Nothing beats railway travel and a nature walk.
Hare's-tail cotton grass community in Senjogahara near Tobu-Nikko Station
More information about EMUs on the Tobu Line (in Japanese):

Friday, 4 January 2013

Isumi Railway, Trans-Peninsula Route in the Boso Area

Rail-car,Type Isumi 200' approaches Kuniyoshi Station in the morning mist

As I mentioned before, there is a trans-peninsula railway in the Boso area in Chiba Prefecture, some 80km east of Tokyo. The western part of the route is Kominato Railway (see my blog on May 31st, 2012); and the other is Isumi Railway.

Connecting Kazusa-Nakano on Kominato Railway and Ohara on the JR East Sotobo Line, Isumi Railway forms the eastern part of the trans-peninsula railway. There are 14 stations over a total operating length of 26.8km. The route is single track and non-electrified.

This line was opened in 1930 under the name of Kihara Line of the state railway. Like other local lines, it had run a persistent deficit since it was opened. Due to years of losses, the management of the line was transferred to newly established Isumi Railway after the breakup and privatization of Japan National Railways in 1988.

Although decreasing passenger numbers caused the company to face difficult administrative times, the CEO, who was selected from the applicants, is continuing to radiate solutions. For example, the company sold the naming rights of the stations and constructed a new strategic station in front of a shopping mall.

Currently, Isumi Railway has 7 units of rail-cars. They are Type 200' (see the photos), 300 and KiHa 52. Type 200' was launched in 1988 as the first rail-car on the newly established Isumi Railway. A total of 7 units were manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries, and still 4 units are operated.

Isumi continues to fight for survival.

Rail-car,Type Isumi 200' stands at Kuniyoshi Station
More information about Isumi Railway (in Japanese):
More information about Rail-car, Type Isumi 200' (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Sister Museum Partnership with NRM York, UK

C57 135 with a commemorative plate of "Museum Partnership" between the NRM and the Teppaku

Happy New Year! The year 2013 has begun. At the opening of New Year, I am going to bring you some glad news.

On December 19th, the Railway Museum in Saitama Prefecture (Teppaku) established a partnership with the National Railway Museum in York, UK (NRM York). The two museums will work together on the preservation of showpieces and the technology of interactive exhibits such as driving simulators and so on.

The NRM York is the largest railway museum in the world. It has 85 years history and one million exhibits. Specifically, the world's fastest steam locomotive, LNER Class A4 4468, "Mallard" is very famous among Japanese rail fans. It ran to a world record of 203km per hour in 1938.

On the other hand, Teppaku was originally opened as the Transportation Museum by the Japanese government in downtown Tokyo in 1936. This museum was closed in 2006 due to the aging of its facilities; but, most of its showpieces moved to the newly-opened Railway Museum (Teppaku) in 2007.

In commemoration of the above partnership, a special photo exhibition on the NRM York is being held in Teppaku. In addition, I found a special commemorative sign board, "Sister Museum Partnership, The National Railway Museum, York, UK and The Railway Museum, Saitama, Japan" on the front of C57 135 steam locomotive (see the top photo).

Taking advantage of this opportunity, I show another exhibit in Teppaku, the electric locomotive ED17 1 (ex-ED50 1), which was imported from the UK in 1923 (see the following photo). It is also described as a "Crocodile" because of its appearance.

Congratulations on the sister partnership!

Electric locomotive ED17 1 (ex ED50 1), imported from UK in 1923
More information about steam locomotive, LNER Class A4, No 4468, "Mallard" in the NMR, York:
More information about electric locomotive, ED 17 1 in the Railway Museum, Saitama Prefecture: