Friday, 8 February 2013

Impending Retirement, KuMoHa 123-1 "Mini-Echo"


Electric car JR East KuMoHa 123-1 "Mini-Echo" stands at Shiojiri Station on the Chuo Line

Following the EMU 651 series "Super Hitachi" (see my blog on January 28th, 2013), I am going to show you the other train that will retire soon.

In Nagano Prefecture, some 150km west of Tokyo, a lovely electric car has been operated on the Chuo Line since 1986. It is the JR East KuMoHa 123-1, "Mini-Echo". Originally, the Mini-Echo was manufactured as a baggage car in 1978. Then, it was modified to a passenger car due to weakening demand for load transport, resulting from an increase in truck deliveries.

The name, Mini-Echo refers to an old train in Nagano Prefecture. It had been shuttled on the same route as if it were an "echo". The KuMoHa 123-1 has also been shuttling between Shiojiri and Tatsuno stations. But, it was later named Mini-Echo, because it is a small one-car train.

On December 21st, 2012, JR East made a press release, in which it announced that the Mini-Echo will be retired from the track and replaced with new EMUs on March 16th, 2013.

Last week, I visited Nagano Prefecture to bid farewell to this lovely electric car. Despite the changeable weather, many rail fans were flocking to Shiojiri Station. They were enjoying this unique train in their own way. Some fans were taking photographs while others were reminiscing about their old memories. Of course, to enjoy the rattling sound of the Mini-Echo was a main event for them.

The last run of the Mini-Echo is planned on March 15th.

Side view of the electric car KuMoHa 123-1 "Mini-Echo" at Shiojiri Station on the Chuo Line