Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The 90th Anniversary of the Karasuyama Line

Diesel rail cars JR East Type KiHa 40 arrive at Niida Station on the Karasuyama Line

The JR East Karasuyama Line is a short local route in Tochigi Prefecture. The line penetrates the beautiful countryside of rice paddies and gently undulating hills. Connecting Hoshakuji and Karasuyama, the total operating length is 20.4km. The whole route is an un-electrified single track. A 2-car train, diesel rail cars, Type KiHa 40 (see my blogs on May 2nd and 17th, 2013) is operated hourly on average (see the top photo). Most of the trains are directly operated into the Tohoku Main Line to Utsunomiya.

On April 15th, 2013, the Karasuyama Line marked the 90th anniversary of its train operation. The line had to face many challenges before its anniversary. For instance, it was originally planned as a connecting route between the Tohoku Main Line and Joban Line; but only opened partially in 1913. In 1968, the Karasuyama Line fell into a crisis of abandonment, as it looked to be a "money-losing route".

Today, the Karasuyama Line has a bright future. On November 6th, 2012, JR East made an announcement that Japan's first battery driven EMU, EV-E301 series, will be introduced to this local line in 2014. The EV-E301 has a composite of ordinary electric and storage battery systems. It will be operated as an ordinary EMU on the electrified track between Utsunomiya and Hoshakuji using pantographs. It will then change into battery cars on the un-electrified track between Hoshakuji and Karasuyama. After arriving at Karasuyama Terminal, the EV-E301 will charge its battery at a charging facility.

Putting up "the 90th anniversary" plate, the diesel rail cars Type KiHa 40 stand at Hoshakuji Station