Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Second Anniversary of Tokyo Railway Labyrinth

EMU JR East E2-N series stands at Tokyo Station on the Nagano Shinkansen

Tokyo Railway Labyrinth had its second anniversary this month. I thank all my blog readers for supporting me over the last two years.

When I started the blog, I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. At that time, my home country, Japan was facing difficulties, including tsunami and nuclear power plant disasters that followed a giant earthquake. Japan seemed temporally lost. Fortunately, most of the railways were saved by the earthquake resistant construction. But, some routes are still suspended due to the damage caused by the tsunami and the nuclear power plant problem.

In commemoration of the second anniversary of my blog, I am going to show you a train with the number "2" in the name... the EMU E"2"-N series. Is it a bit of a stretch?

The EMU JR East E2-N series is the Nagano Shinkansen train. It is the brother of the E2-J series, which is the main fleet on the Tohoku Shinkansen. The E2-N series is operated with a maximum speed of 260km/hour; meanwhile the E2-J is designed to run at 275km/hour. The maximum speed of the E2-N is lower than that of the E2-J; however, the E2-N can run nimbly up a 30 per mill of steep incline at Usui Pass at high speed.

For your information, the largest outward difference between E2-N and E2-J series is the color of the stripe on their bodies. The E2-N series has a red colored stripe, while the E2-J has a pink colored one (see my blog on November 7th, 2012).
EMU JR East E2-N series stands at Tokyo Station on the Nagano Shinkansen

Monday, 29 April 2013

Azalea Season in Tokyo

EMU JR East E257 series passes through Sendagaya Station on the express track
It is late spring in Tokyo. Following the Sakura (cherry) blossom, many kinds of flowers paint the ground a rainbow of colors. You should certainly not miss the azalea blooming week in Tokyo. There are a lot of famous viewing spots downtown, but don't forget about the railways as well. You can find many little-known azalea viewing spots along the tracks.

Look at the photos. It is Sendagaya Station on the JR East Chuo Line. The azalea planting zone is seen along the east bound express track. Currently, it is flourishing with pink colored full blown azaleas. The white colored EMU, E257 series and orange striped EMU, E233 series belong in the azalea blossoms. Don't miss them!

For your information, the E257 series is an EMU for the limited express Azusa and Kaiji. It is also used as a Commuter Liner (see my blog on November 26th, 2012) on the Chuo Line. It was launched in 2001 to replace the old EMU, 183 and 189 series. A total of 21 sets, 154 units have been manufactured by Hitachi, Kinki Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo.

Meanwhile, the E233 series is a standard commuter train on the Chuo Rapid, Ome and Itsukaichi lines. It was commissioned in 2006 to replace the old EMU, 201 series. A total of 74 sets, 688 units have been manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, JR East Niitsu Factory and J-TREC.

The full blown azaleas are expected to last a week.
EMU JR East E233 series passes through Sendagaya Station on the express track of the Chuo Line 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

65km Commuting Route in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area

EMU JR East 205 series arrives at Itabashi Station on the Saikyo Line

Tokyo has been expanding both above and underground... and in one more way, horizontally. Tokyo is an exploding city because of housing land development. Currently, the population of the Tokyo metropolitan area is about 30 million. Commuting time for workers never seems to get shorter.

One of the longest commuting routes in Tokyo is the TWR-Saikyo-Kawagoe Line. This route is composed of three sections, namely the Tokyo Waterfront Railway (TWR) Line, the JR East Saikyo Line and the JR East Kawagoe Line. The total length of the route is about 65km.

In the central part of Tokyo, the route shows an urban face. The TWR Line train passes through business centers in the Tokyo Bay Area. Tokyo Harbor Tunnel connects the divided city areas between Shinagawa and the Waterfront Sub-center.

The train, then, passes through large downtown areas such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro on the Saikyo Line. The route also penetrates suburban residential areas in the northern part of Tokyo Metropolis (see the top photo) and Saitama City. Most of the section is an elevated double track.

Eventually, the train enters the countryside between Omiya and Kawagoe on the Kawagoe Line. You can see paddy fields mixing with residential quarters. The route is partly single track as a local line (see the following photo).

It takes about 90 minutes, if you travel the entire route. It is probably one of the longest commuting routes in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Don't hurt your back!

EMU TWR 70-000 series arrives at Nishi-Omiya Station on the Kawagoe Line

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Checkered Railcar on the Mooka Line

Diesel railcar, Mooka Type 14 stands at Nishidai Station on the Mooka Line

As I mentioned in my blog on February 17th, 2013, Mooka Railway is famous for its steam locomotive (SL) train operation. Many families and rail fans flock to this local line to enjoy the nostalgic SL train on weekends. Connecting Shimodate and Motegi stations, the total operating length is 41.9 kilometers. The whole route is an un-electrified single track.

What other rolling stocks does the Mooka Railway have? The diesel rail car, Type Mooka 14 is the main fleet for ordinary transportation on the track. The Type 14 railcar was launched in 2002 to replace old cars of Type 63. A total of nine units have been manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries and Nippon Sharyo. It is the so-called "LE-DC", which was designed by Fuji Heavy Industries as a standard diesel railcar for local lines. Many local railway companies have introduced this car as their main fleet. For your information, "LE" stands for light and economical, meanwhile "DC" stands for diesel car.

One of the features of the Type 14 is its body. It is checkered with green color. A red colored stripe with a white dashed line is added in the lower half of the body. It is quite unique. It seems to be clearly divided between the yea-sayers and the nay-sayers among rail fans.

I personally like this coloring as a rail fan. I think Japanese people are usually quiet. So at least the coloring of the train should be flashier.

Diesel railcar, Mooka Type 14 and SL train stand at Nishidai Station on the Mooka Line

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Shortest Subway Line in Tokyo

EMU Tokyo Metro 5000 series arrives at Ayase Station on the Kita-Ayase Branch Line

I assumed that I had already introduced all of the labyrinthine subway routes in Tokyo in my blog; but, there are some left. Today, I am going to show you the shortest subway route in Tokyo... the Kita-Ayase Branch Line.

As its name suggests, Kita-Ayase Branch Line is a feeder route of the Chiyoda Line, which is one of the main lines operated by Tokyo Metro. Connecting Ayase on the Chiyoda Line and Kita-Ayase near Ayase Rail Yard, the total operating length is only 2.1km. The entire route is an electrified double track. Three car trains are operated every 15 minutes on average.

The rolling stock on duty on the line is the EMU 6000 and 5000 series (see the top photo). The 5000 series is a rather old EMU that was manufactured in 1967. A total of two sets, six units are still operated on the line. All of them are made of aluminum. For your information, sisters of the 5000 series (stainless-steel cars) are also operated in Jakarta Indonesia, after retirement from Tokyo Metro in 2007 (see my blog on May 27th, 2011).

As it is a short local line, the conductor is not on board the train. The driver operates the passenger doors. To prevent passengers from falling off the platform edge, automatic platform gates are equipped at the stations (see the following picture).

The Kita-Ayase Branch Line... it is an urban local line in downtown Tokyo.

Automatic platform gates to prevent passengers from falling off the platform edge at Ayase Station

Thursday, 25 April 2013

EMU Seibu 4000 Series, Train Concerned

EMU Seibu 4000 series stands at Chichibu Station on the Chichibu Railway (November, 2012)
Seibu Railway is in commotion. A major shareholder, who is a foreign investment fund, calls for a radical solution to recover company earnings rapidly. One of the requests is to abandon a money-losing railway route.

Seibu Railway had been known for being managed by members of a single family. But, after a scandal involving them breaking a Security and Exchange Law in the early 2000s, the company has been trying to dedicate themselves to modernization of the management style. The foreign investment fund had been supposed to be a "deus ex machina" after the crisis. What happened in these 10 years?

I think the key point is the difference of management style between Western countries and Japan. Japanese management tends to think that railway companies should promote public benefit rather than be profit-oriented. It is difficult to say which kind of management style is correct, but the difference in their way of thinking is evident to anyone.

By the way, which route is in danger of abandonment? It is the Seibu-Chichibu Line. Connecting Hanno and Seibu-Chichibu, the total operating length is 19km. The entire route is electrified and single track. The major fleet on the line is the EMU 4000 series, which was launched in 1988 to improve passenger services. This EMU is also directly operated into the Chichibu Railway for sightseers, who head to the famous sightseeing spots such as Nagatoro and Mitsumine.

The fate of the Seibu-Chichibu Line and the EMU 4000 series lies in the shareholders' hands.

EMU Seibu 4000 series stands at Mitsumine-guchi Sta. on the Chichibu Railway (November, 2012)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

EXE, Multipurpose Romance Car on the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, Romance Car "EXE" passes through Chitose-Funabashi Station

Following the EMU "MSE" 60000 series (see my blog on April 23rd, 2013), I am going to show you the other Romance Car model on the Odakyu Line.

The EMU "EXE" 30000 series (see the top photo) is the first multipurpose Romance Car. EXE stands for "Excellent Express". It was commissioned in 1996 to replace the old model, the EMU "NSE" 3100 series (see my blog on June 16th, 2012). Since one set of the train is composed of ten twenty-meter cars (a total length of 200 meters), it has a greatly increased passenger capacity. One set can be broken up into six and four car sections to enhance operational flexibility as a multipurpose Romance Car.

When the EXE was launched, I thought it terrible that this model had destroyed the traditional Romance Car design, which has the cockpit was up stairs. I thought, "the Romance Car is not special anymore". I was discouraged. 
In fact, the EXE was unpopular with many people. After launching the EXE, the Romance Car passengers to Hakone had been decreasing rapidly, until the new Romance Car, "VSE" 50000 series came on the scene in 2005 (see my blog on January 14th, 2012). To the EXE's credit, this train is not totally a bad thing. One of my favorite points is its reclining seat; it has a good level of hardness which is very comfortable for me.

One person's junk is another person's treasure.
EMU Odakyu 30000 series (cab with a gangway in the front) passes through Atsugi Station
More information about Odakyu Romance Car: http://www.odakyu.jp/english/romancecar/

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Fifth Anniversary of MSE, EMU Odakyu 60000 Series

EMU Odakyu 60000 series, Romance Car "MSE" passes through Chitose-Funabashi Station
As I mentioned in my blog on June 25th, 2011, EMU Odakyu 60000 series, "MSE" is the newest model of the Romance Car fleet (see the top photo). It is operated between Shinjuku, a sub center of Tokyo, and Hakone, Gotemba and Enoshima, which are famous resorts in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The recent trend of the romance car is to be used not only as a resort train, but also a commuter express. MSE is also operated between downtown Tokyo areas, such as Otemachi and Hibiya on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line and Karakida, a commuter town in a western suburb of Tokyo.

MSE was launched in 2008. The train body is a metallic blue color with red and white stripes. It is composed of 10 cars, but one set can be broken up into six and four car sections to enhance operational flexibility. Timber-styled non-burnable materials are used heavily for the interior, such as the passenger seats and the walls. It offers the passengers peace and comfort.

On March 15th, 2013, Odakyu celebrated the 5th anniversary of the MSE operation. In commemoration of the 5th anniversary, a special sticker is being displayed on the front of the train (see the following photo). Time really flies.

I sometimes use the MSE to go back home after a hard day. While in the car, I am able to relax and enjoy reading or listening to music, while having a soft drink. It's indeed a "Petit-zeitaku" (small luxury and gratification) for Tokyoites.
A special sticker is displayed on the front of Romance Car "MSE"

Monday, 22 April 2013

"Ryomo", Northern Kanto Express on the Tobu Railway

EMU Tobu 200 series (Type 250), limited express, "Ryomo" passes through Morinji-mae Station
The EMU 100 series, "Spacia" is a reputable limited express train on the Tobu Railway (see my blog on October 19th, 2011 and July 23rd, 2012). Connecting the downtown Tokyo area and Nikko, a World Heritage Site, Spacia is a flagship train on the Tobu Railway.

But, there is another limited express train on the Tobu Railway. It is the EMU 200 series, "Ryomo" (see the photos). Different from Spacia, Ryomo is an inter-city express mainly for business use. Connecting the Tokyo Metropolis and the cities in the northern part of Kanto District, such as Tatebayashi, Ashikaga, Oota and Akagi, it is operated every hour or every half an hour on the Isesaki, Kiryu and Sano lines.

The 200 series was launched in 1991 to replace the old train, the EMU 1800 series. A total of 10 sets, 60 units have been manufactured so far by Tokyu Sharyo and Alna Sharyo companies. Specifically, the newest set, Type 250 has adopted the advanced electric system, such as the VVVF inverter (variable-frequency drive) and the induction motor.

I like this train, as it gives me a comfortable ride. The cushion of the reclining seat has a good level of hardness. The cabin is quiet enough. The seat pitch is long enough with a foot rest. If I am allowed to wish so much, the exterior design should be more sophisticated as a modern limited express train.

It is not easy to reach perfection in trains.
EMU Tobu 200 series (Type 200), limited express, "Ryomo" stands at Akagi Terminal

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Lawn Cherry Garden on the Tobu Line

EMU Tobu 10000 series leaves Morinji-mae Station on the Isesaki Line

Shibazakura (lawn cherry) is a cherry-like pink-flowered short grass, which is originally from North America. It blooms in April to May in Japan as a mid-spring flower. Along with Fuji Shibazakura Field (see my blog on December 14th, 2012), Tatebayashi is one of the reputable lawn cherry viewing spots in the Tokyo Metropolitan area. More than 250,000 lawn cherries are growing in the area that covers 8 hectares (see the following picture).

To get to this gorgeous spot, take the Tobu-Isesaki Line, and get off at Morinji-mae Station. It takes about one hour from Kita-Senju, which is a northern terminal of Tokyo Metropolis. The EMU 10000 series is my favorite on this route (see the top photo). It was launched in 1983 as a new generation commuter train on the Tobu Railway. A total of 118 units have been manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo, Alna Sharyo and Fuji Heavy industries.

I like this shining staunch stainless-steel body with corrugations, a group of small air conditioners on the roof and a simple maroon colored body stripe. They are rather old, but nostalgic for me, since it has been a familiar train since I was a student.

For your information, usually, local trains only stop at Morinji-mae Station, but the limited express train "Ryomo" also stops there in the weekend of the peak blooming season of the lawn cherry. I will introduce the limited express on the Tobu-Isesaki Line next time.

Lawn cherry garden near Morinji-mae Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line

Saturday, 20 April 2013

2nd Generation Railcar on the Watarase Valley Railway

Diesel railcar, WKT-501 stands at Oomama Rail Yard on the Watarase Valley Railway

Following the Torokko train (see my blog on April 19th, 2013), I am going to show you the other rolling stock on the Watarase Valley Railway.

Watarase River Railway was opened in 1989 handing over the Ashio Line from JR East. When the railway was opened, a total of 7 new diesel rail cars were introduced. The main fleet was called "LE-car II series", which was manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries. "LE" stands for light and economical. As its name suggests, many parts, such as the framework of the body and the air conditioners, had been adopted from those of buses to save on costs. I saw many LE-car II series rail cars throughout Japan in the 1990s and the 2000s.

More than 20 years have passed since then. The LE-car II series has become older. The final LE-car II series on the Watarase River Railway, unit "Wa 89-101" was retired in March of this year. It marked the end of an era.

What next? Don't worry. The second generation rail car has already been launched. It is the WKT series that was manufactured by Niigata Transys Company. The first unit, WKT-501 was debuted in 2011 (see the photos). The body length is 18.5m, which is longer than that of LE-car II. The power output of the engine has also increased.

From now on, the WKT series will carry the next-generation diesel rail cars on the track of the Watarase Valley Railway.

Side view of the diesel rail car, WKT-501 stands at Oomama Rail Yard

Friday, 19 April 2013

Coming up Soon, 2013 Torokko Train Operation

Torokko train stands at Ashio Station on the Watarase Valley Railway (September, 2012)

The cherry blossom season is finally ending, and the temperature in Tokyo is rising day by day. It exceeds 20-degrees Celsius, if the weather is clear.

It is time to resume the operation of the "Torokko" train. Torokko is an open-air train to make passengers enjoy the outdoor air. Watarase Valley Railway has announced that this year's Torokko train operation will be started on April 20th. Watarase River Railway is a local line in the northern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is famous for the beautiful valley and popular attractions such as an ex-copper mine (see my blog on September 13th, 2012) and superb hot springs.

Look at the top photo. This is the Torokko Train, which is operated on the Watarase Valley Railway. A powerful diesel locomotive, Type DE10, pulls four coaches and ascends the chasm of the Watarase River. The middle two carriages are so-called "torokko" style cars, which are characterized by a lack of windows on the both sides of coaches. "Torokko" got its name from a mining cart, which also has no windows.

Getting on the Torokko train, the passengers can admire the outside view, such as beautiful forests, fresh streams and quiet farming villages without looking through windows. What happens if it starts to rain? Don't worry. The answer is simple. Passengers who don't want to get wet only have to move to the next car with glass windows.

Torokko train ... it is a star on this small local railway.

Torokko train passes through Watarase River near Souri Station (September, 2012)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Keiyo Line, Rapid Transit in the Bay Area

EMU JR East 233-5000 series arrives at Kasai-Rinkaikoen Station on the Keiyo Line

Tokyo is a coastal city facing the Pacific Ocean. Between Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, Tokyo is located in the innermost part of Tokyo Bay. The history of the bay area is described as a history of landfill. When the heavy industries were the focus of development in the 1950s to the 1970s, the construction sites were obtained by reclaiming land from the offshore area in Tokyo Bay.

The JR East Keiyo Line was fully opened on the reclaimed land in the Tokyo Bay area in 1990. Connecting Tokyo and Soga, the total operating length is 43km. The entire route is an underground or elevated, electrified and double track.

The trains are operated every 3 to 6 minutes on the Keiyo Line. The main fleet of the rolling stocks is the red striped EMU, E233-5000 series (see the top photo). It is the fastest and most convenient transit in the Tokyo Bay area.

One of the features of the Keiyo Line is that the new business centers have been developed on the route. For instance, Kaihin-Makuhari is the largest sub-center in the eastern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. There are soaring skyscrapers and everywhere you look there are parks filled with greenery and light. The streets in Kaihin-Makuhari are designed in a grid. You can see articulated buses in the city, since the roads are wide enough to accommodate large and long vehicles (see the following picture).

Articulated bus of the Keisei Railway leaves Kaihin-Makuhari Station on the Keiyo Line

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Shimpu in Springtime, Shangri-La on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East 115 series (Nagano color) leaves Shimpu Station on the Chuo Line

Shimpu is a small station on the JR East Chuo Line. It is located in a mountain range between Kofu Basin of Yamanashi Prefecture and Suwa Basin of Nagano Prefecture. Usually, it is a very quiet local railway station. On average, only about 60 passengers use that station each day so there isn't any staff located there.

Once a year, Shimpu turns into a busy station. It is peach blooming season. In April, the hills around Shimpu Station are filled with pink colored peach blossoms (see the following photo). Yellow colored canola blossoms also add a touch of color to the scenery. Many flower lovers flock to and get off at this station to enjoy the cheerfulness of the springtime. Visitors listen to the larks on the paths in the peach field. They mark the beginning of spring.

To get to this Japanese Shangri-La from Tokyo, take the local train on the JR East Chuo Line from Takao Station. The local trains, the EMU 115 series, are operated every half an hour on average (see the top photo). The limited express trains do not stop at Shimpu.

Train passengers can also enjoy looking at splendid clear streams and beautiful mountain ranges to and from Shimpu on the train. It is another benefit for the tourists who travel by train.

Shimpu in Springtime, it is a Shangri-La on the Chuo Line.

Peach trees near Shimpu Station on the JR East Chuo Line

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"Dancing Girl", Traditional Express to Izu Peninsula

EMU JR East 185 series, "Odoriko" passes through Izu-Taga Sation

As I mentioned in my blogs from April 9th to 12th, 2013, many kinds of trains are operated in Izu Peninsula. They include scenic sightseeing trains and nostalgic ex-commuter trains. Today, I am going to show you another one in the peninsula, which is the EMU JR East 185 series, "Odoriko" (see the top photo).

The 185 series, Odoriko was launched in 1981 to replace old EMUs, such as the 153 and the 183 series. The Odoriko is operated between Tokyo and Izu Peninsula as a limited express train. Odoriko means "a dancing girl" in Japanese.

The name of the train comes from the famous novel, "Izu no Odoriko (The Dancing Girl of Izu)" by Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. "The Dancing Girl of Izu" was published in 1926 as the first work of his literature to achieve great popularity. The story is about a youth's transitory love. A twenty-year-old young man, who was feeling lonely because he was an orphan, met a dancing girl in Izu Peninsula while he was travelling there. Through the meeting and heart-to-heart exchange with her, he was healed and was eventually drawn out of his loneliness.

As the train name suggests, a profile of a dancing girl is displayed on the front of the train (see the following picture). Having bobbed hair, putting rouge on her cheeks and wearing a "kimono" (traditional Japanese clothes), she looks like a typical old-fashioned girl.

Odoriko... it is a traditional express to Izu Peninsula.

Display on the front of the EMU JR East 185 series, "Odoriko"
More information about the EMU JR East 185 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Electric Car DeHa 5, Absolute Gem in the Tobu Museum

Electric car DeHa 5 (Type DeHa 1) is exhibited in the Tobu Museum

Following the American steam locomotive in the Railway Museum (see my blog on April 13th, 2013), I am going to show you the other railway heritage, an old electric car, "DeHa 5" in the Tobu Museum.

DeHa 5 (Type DeHa 1) was the first electric car on the Tobu Railway (see the top photo). It was launched in 1924 to be operated between Asakusa and Nishiarai. A total of 5 units (DeHa 1 to 5) were manufactured by Nihon Sharyo Company. But, most of the electric instruments such as the motors and the control systems were imported from the U.S. (Westinghouse Electric Corporation), because Japan didn't have a high enough level of industrial power at that time.

A slightly curved front body, five front windows, a large single rounded front light, a double roof and two large pantographs...all this is very nostalgic. The interior of the DeHa 5 is also attractive (see the following picture). Blue colored long moquette seats and large rounded room lights are very nostalgic. A brown colored wooden floor gives it a feeling of warmth. The varnished and polished floor has a nice smell. The instruments under the floor, such as the control system and the compressor are large and closely tied. The bogies are also classic. They seem heavy and staunch.

I was totally hooked on this nostalgic rolling stock. The electric car Tobu DeHa 5... it is an absolute gem in the Tobu Museum.

Interior of the electric car DeHa 5
More information about preserved rolling stocks in the Tobu Museum (in Japanese):

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Class 7100, American SL in the Railway Museum

Steam Locomotive No. 7101, "Benkei" (the Class 7100) of the ex-Japanese Government Railways

I visited the Railway Museum in Saitama City with a British rail fan. He is an authority of steam locomotives (SLs). So, taking the opportunity, I learnt much about SLs from him as an absolute beginner.

Look at the top photo. It is unit number 7101 of the Class 7100 SL on the ex-Japanese Government Railways. The Class 7100 was imported from the U.S. from 1880 to 1889. A total of 8 units were manufactured by H. K. Porter, Inc. in Pittsburgh, and had been used on Hokkaido Island. The unit number 7101 was called "Benkei", who is the famous Japanese warrior monk in the 12th Century. The Class 7100 has 3 ft sized driving wheels with the 2-6-0 axle configuration. Being outfitted with a cow catcher, a large smokestack and a wooden cockpit, it is a typical American style locomotive.

Behind the Class 7100 SL, a classic passenger carriage was exhibited (see the following photo). It looks like a scene from a western movie. This carriage is the KoToKu 5010, which was also imported from the U.S. in 1880. The KoToKu 5010 was manufactured by Harlan and Hollingsworth Company in Delaware. It had also been operated on Hokkaido Island as a VIP car. Being equipped with an air brake system, the KuToKu 5010 was the state of the art passenger carriage in the 19th Century.

With the American style classic SL and elegant passenger carriage, I enjoyed the atmosphere of the good and old days of railways in Japan.

Passenger carriage KoToKu 5010 of the ex-Japanese Government Railways

More information about the Class 7100 SL and KoToKu 5010 passenger carriage:

Friday, 12 April 2013

Nostalgic Ex-Tokyu Train on the Izukyu Line

EMU Izukyu (ex-Tokyu) 8000 series stands at Atami Station on the JR East Ito Line
Along with the EMU 2100 series (see my blog on April 9th, 2013), the EMU 8000 series is another main fleet on the Izukyu Line (see the top photo). It is the second handed rolling stock, which has been moved from Tokyu Railway to spend its second life after retirement .

The EMU 8000 series is filled with my high school memories and stories about my stay in Indonesia (see my blog on September 17th, 2011). When I was a high school student, I took the Tokyu-Toyoko Line from Shibuya, and got off at Gakugei-daigaku Station to go to school every day. It was only a 10-minute trip, but I used the 8000 series every day.

Thirty years later, I was reunited with the 8000 series in Jakarta, Indonesia, when I moved there as a geologist of an oil exploration company. A total of 3 sets of the 8000 series were operated there after retirement from Tokyu. Whenever, I rode the 8000 series in Jakarta, I was always encouraged by this Japanese train, because it still worked well in operation and was in good condition.

Currently, a total of 15 sets, 45 units of the 8000 series are operated on the Izukyu Line. The scenery outside the train window was great (see the following photo). Although, the interior has been renovated, they still preserve the atmosphere of the 1970s. Nostalgia ran deep in my mind.
Scenery from train windows on the JR East Ito Line near Izu-Taga Station 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Winter Sakura on the Izukyu Line

EMU JR East 251 series, "Super View Odoriko" passes through Izu-Taga Station on the Ito Line

Following the introduction of the Izukyu Line (see my blog on April 9th, 2013), I am going to show you the famous winter Sakura (cherry blossoms) on the line.

Kawazu is a small town located in the southern part of Izu Peninsula. Until the 1970s, it was a quiet town, which had hot springs and a beach. But in the 1980s, it drastically changed with the beginning of the annual Kawazu Sakura Festival in winter.

The Kawazu Sakura, otherwise known as "Winter Sakura" was found by chance in 1955 in Kawazu Town. It is thick and pink-colored, and blooms for longer than normal Sakura. It has been lovingly cared for and planted by local people. Today, visitors can see the beautiful Kawazu Sakura blossoms in February which is two months earlier than the normal Sakura. Needless to say, many tourists flock to this small town to enjoy an early spring mood.

To visit this Winter Sakura town from Tokyo. A limited express train, "Super View Odoriko" (the EMU JR East 251 series) is convenient. The 251 series was launched in 1990 as a sightseeing train. A total of 4 sets, 40 units have been manufactured by Kawasaki heavy industries and Kinki Sharyo. As the train name, "Super View" suggests, the 251 series boasts a superb view from the cabin, since the floor is higher than that of a normal train.

Winter Sakura and the train with a superb view; a trip to Kawazu is a fully packed holiday for Tokyoites.

Full-blown Winter Sakura trees near Kawazu Station on the Izukyu Line
More information about JR East 251 series, "Super View Odoriko":

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Sunzu Line, Route to the 1200-year-old Hot Spring

EMU Izu-Hakone 3000 series (steel body train) leaves Mishima-Tamachi Station

Along with Izukyu (see my blog on April 9th, 2013), the Sunzu Line of Izu-Hakone Railway is another private railway route in Izu Peninsula. Connecting Mishima, a large city in the eastern part of Shizuoka Prefecture, and Shuzenji, a 1,200-year-old hot spring town, there are 13 stations over a total operating length of 19.8km. The entire route is an electrified single track.

The origins of Shuzenji hot spring date back to the year 807, when a prominent Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi visited there. It became famous in the Meiji period (1868-1912), when inns with indoor baths for visitors seeking hot-spring cures were constructed. Then, the Sunzu Line was fully opened in 1924, and the town became much busier with tourists.

One of the main fleets on the Sunzu Line is the EMU 3000 series, which was launched in 1979. A total of six sets, 18 units, have been manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo Company. The first four sets of the rolling stock are steel (see the top photo), but the second two sets are stainless-steel (see the following picture).

Currently, the trains are operated every 12 to 15 minutes. Some of the trains are directly operated into the JR Line. From Tokyo, it takes about two hours by the Odoriko Express train to Shuzenji Station.

At Shuzenji, which has a history going back 1,200 years, we can forget about the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy a luxurious hot spring.

EMU Izu-Hakone 3000 series (stainless-steel body train) arrives at Mishima-Tamachi Station
More information about the trains on the Sunzu Line (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

EMU Izukyu 2100 Series, Scenic Train in Izu Peninsula

EMU Izukyu 2100 series, "Resort 21", stands at Izu-Taga Station on the JR East Ito Line

Along with Mt. Fuji and the Hakone mountains, Izu Peninsula is one of major resort areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Being located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Izu is famous for the joys of its ocean and mountains with hot springs.

To get to this resort area, Izukyu Railway is convenient. Connecting Ito and Izukyu-Shimoda, the total operating length is 45.7 kilometers. The entire route is an electrified single track. The trains on the Izukyu Line are directly operated into the JR East Ito Line to Atami and Tokyo. Ito is the gateway to the Izu Peninsula; while Shimoda is famous for being the place which opened Japan. Accepting US Commodore Perry's request, the Tokugawa Shogunate signed a treaty opening Shimoda and Hakodate ports to U.S. trade in 1854.

One of the features of trains on Izukyu Railway is its passenger services. Specifically, EMU 2100 series, "Resort 21" is quite unique. To enjoy gorgeous mountain and ocean views, sloping tiers of seats are equipped in the front of the train. The passengers can enjoy a front view through the cockpit. It is an irresistible attraction for rail fans as well as sightseers.

A total of 5 sets, 40 units of the 2100 series have been manufactured since 1985. Currently, 3 sets of the trains are still being operated on this beautiful route. EMU Izukyu 2100 series, Resort 21... it is the major attraction for visitors to Izu Peninsula.

In the meantime, I have linked to the website, Oekraine Anders run by an active rail fan of the Netherlands. Please enjoy informative Ukrainian railway topics.

Front view through the cockpit window of the EMU Izukyu 2100 series, "Resort 21"

More information about the EMU Izukyu 2100 series, "Resort 21":

Monday, 8 April 2013

New Shimokitazawa Station, Clean but Deep

EMU Odakyu 3000 series arrives at new underground Shimokitazawa Station

Following Keio Chofu (see my blog on October 17th, 2012), Keikyu Kamata (see my blog on November 15th, 2012) and Tokyu Shibuya (see my blog on March 20th, 2013), another railway construction has been completed in Tokyo.

Odakyu has been setting up a new Shimokitazawa Station underground together with double-double tracks (see my blog on March 23rd, 2013). After 9 years of challenging work, the first half of the underground double track was completed on March 23rd in 2013. All the trains have been moved to run on the new tracks. The two neighboring stations, namely Higashikitazawa and Setagaya-Daita have also been moved underground.

It seems to have been a very challenging construction, because a bi-level tunnel needed to be drilled just under the present surface tracks. Currently, half of the double track has been completed. The new Shimokitazawa Station is three stories below ground. The concourse is on the 1st floor of the basement. The 3rd floor of the basement is a platform for the double track, which has been just completed. Meanwhile, the 2nd floor is still under construction for another double track.

Although the new underground Shimokitazawa Station is clean and bright, it is a bit deep. It takes 5 minutes to transfer to the Keio-Inokashira Line; while it took only one minute when the old ground level station was used. The escalator between the concourse and the platform is also very crowded. There is a long line during rush hours.

It is hard to satisfy all requirements.

Platform of the new underground Shimokitazawa Station

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Pasmo and Suica, Expanding Valid Areas

Poster to announce the expansion of Pasmo and Suica service area

As I mentioned in my blog on January 29th, 2012, Pasmo and Suica are prepaid IC transit cards for railway and bus passengers in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The function of Pasmo and Suica are the same. The only difference is the issuer. Pasmo is issued by private railway and bus companies, whilst JR East issues Suica.

Pasmo and Suica are interoperable. You just need to make a binary choice, but, up until recently, these IC cards have only been interchangeable within the Tokyo metropolita area. In other words, passengers, who visit the outside of Tokyo, have had to obtain the other local IC cards to travel around each area.

On March 23rd, 2013, the situation drastically changed. The ten IC cards of Japan's eleven major transit authorities have become interchangeable. These ten cards include Suica and Pasmo in Tokyo, Kitaca in Hokkaido, Pitaca and Icoca in Osaka and so on. I have seen posters to announce the expansion of the Pasmo and Suica service area at Chitose-Funabashi, my nearest station (see the top photo). I have also found a new IC card charging machine at Shimokitazawa Station on the Keio-Inokashira Line recently (see the following photo).

Once you get an IC card and deposit some money, you can take almost all railway and bus routes in Japan now. It is convenient for shopping as well, because these cards can also be used as electronic money. I couldn't be happier as a Pasmo holder to hear the news.
New IC card chargng machine at Shimokitazawa Station on the Keio-Inokashira Line
National interoperable mass transit IC card system guide:

Friday, 5 April 2013

2013 Sakura Season in Tokyo, Part 3

1725F of the EMU Keio 1000 series leaves Nishi-Eifuku Station on the Inokashira Line

Before closing the 2013 Sakura (cherry blossom) season in Tokyo, I am going to introduce the Sakura blossoms in a suburban residential area. As I mentioned in my blog on April 8th, 2011, I was born in a western suburb of Tokyo, along the Keio-Inokashira Line. Although it has become a typical residential area currently, I could see some crofts and empty lots around my house when I was a kid.

The Kanda River ran through the residential area near my house. It was a small stream, which came from Inokashira Park. I often played crawfishing and threw stones on the river bank. Although it was a fun-packed river for kids, flooding during the typhoon season often caused serious problems. In the 1980's, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government conducted improvements to the river to prevent flooding. As a result, the scenery of the river has drastically changed. The native landscaping has disappeared, while the risk of flooding has reduced. The other highlight was the planting of Sakura trees on the river bank.

Today, the Sakura trees on the Kanda River have grown, and entertain many visitors in the blooming seasons. I also enjoy walking along the river and viewing Sakura every year (see the following photo).

In the meantime, The Keio-Inokashira Line is famous for its "rainbow colored" train bodies. The top photo shows one of the seven colors, namely "light green" of the EMU 1000 series (see the top photo). The trains are also fun-packed on the Keio-Inokashira Line.

Full-blown Sakura trees along Kanda River near Nishi-Eifuku Station on the Keio-Inokashira Line

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Train Cleaning Crew, Miracle 7 Minutes

Lining up on the platform in Tokyo Sta., the train cleaning crew members wait for an arriving train.

If you get on a Shinkansen train at Tokyo Station, you should look for a group of men and women in matching uniforms. Lining up on the platform, they wait for an arriving train (see the top photo). When the train arrives, they bow politely to the train passengers (see the following photo). Then, after the opening of the train doors, they bow again to the disembarking passengers.

Who are they? They are the train cleaning crew at Tokyo Station. Their mission is to clean the cabin of the Shinakansen train, while it stands at Tokyo Station. They have only 7 minutes to complete their job, otherwise the train will be delayed.

Their work has been praised by many people. For example, a major foreign news service has reported on the cleaning crew. The crew has gotten a lot of TV coverage as well. They are now stars. A popular book about them has also been published.

Indeed, they seem to be very quick. They are more like cleaning engineers than cleaners. According to the aforementioned book, one female crew member said, "I swallowed my pride when I became a cleaner; but, then I regained my pride after I put my back into the train cleaning." They are thoughtful words of inspiration.

As I write, the professional train cleaning crew is on the stage of Platforms 20 to 23 in Tokyo Station.
The train cleaning crew members bow politely to the passengers of the arriving train.