Friday, 30 August 2013

The 45th Anniversary of the EMU 6000 Series

EMU Tokyo Metro 6000 series passes through Chitose-Funabashi Station on the Odakyu Line
While I changed my commuter route from the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line to the JR East Chuo Line last year, I still sometimes take the Chiyoda Line to visit downtown Tokyo, such as the Akasaka and the Omotesando area. The main fleet on the Chiyoda Line is the green-colored EMU, 6000 series.

The Tokyo Metro 6000 series debuted in 1968, when I was a child. The futuristic asymmetric frontal design and shinning aluminum body with green colored stripe were very impressive. The specification of the 6000 series was also rather futuristic, as it was equipped with an armature chopper control device together with a regeneration brake system. A total of 36 sets, 353 units have been manufactured for 22 years. It was elected as a winner of the Laurel Prize by the Japan Rail Fan Club in 1972.

Currently, the electric system of most 6000 series trains has been renovated from the armature chopper to the VVVF control (variable-frequency drive) with induction motors. I am always astonished that technological innovation in the railway industry is very fast. The scrapping of the old sets has started since 2010, since the brand new EMU 16000 series was launched to replace the 6000 series.

The time has changed; however, I would stress that the design of the 6000 series still looks "futuristic", even 45 years later after its debut. Congratulations on the 45th anniversary of the EMU 6000 series on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line.

EMU Tokyo Metro 6000 series leaves Kashiwa Station on the Joban Line

Thursday, 29 August 2013

2013 Sunflower Festival on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East 115 series "Yokosuka color" stands on a siding in Ootsuki Rail Yard 
It is late summer in Japan. The maximum daytime temperature is still over 30 degrees Celsius, but, it is getting cool especially in the evening. I visited the sunflower festival in Hokuto City of Yamanashi Prefecture again this year. In the festival ground, nearly 600,000 sunflowers were blooming on six hectares. It was very vivid and gorgeous.

To visit this vast sunflower field, take a local train on the Chuo Line. The joy of the railway travel on the Chuo Line is that passengers can enjoy looking at splendid clear streams and beautiful mountain ranges.

Additionally, rail fans can enjoy riding on the EMU 115 series, "Yokosuka color" train on the Chuo Line. The 115 series is a standard local train, launched in 1963. Nearly 2,000 units have been manufactured for 20 years. But most of them have already been scrapped. Currently, many rail fans visit the Chuo Line to ride on and take pictures of these survivors.

For your information, the "Yokosuka color" is a traditional two-toned (dark blue and beige) color developed by ex-Japanese National Railways. I tried to ride on the Yokosuka color 115. But, unfortunately, my vehicle was the other model on that day. Instead, I could take pictures of the Yokosuka color 115 at Ootsuki Station, since it was standing on the siding in the rail yard. The Yokosuka color 115 was beautifully maintained as the elder of the Chuo Line.
Sunflower field near Nirasaki Station on the Chuo Line

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Carp Streamer on the Suigun Line

Diesel rail car, JR East type E130 stands at Hitachi-Daigo Station on the Suigun Line
It is a bit of an unseasonal topic, but I am going to show you a traditional event in Japan. The 5th of May is called "Children's Day" in Japan. Parents celebrate their children's birth and pray for their healthy growth by putting up carp-shaped banners, namely "Koinobori," in their gardens.

What is a Koinobori? It is a carp streamer. When a carp flows upstream, he (or she) uses all his (or her) physical power to jump over obstacles, even waterfalls. So, Koinobori is a symbol of power for children to grow up. I saw a school of Koinobori in the Fukuroda area of Daigo Town in Ibaraki Prefecture (see the following photo). It was in May this year.

To visit this carp streaming area, take the JR East Suigun Line and get off at Fukuroda Station. Connecting Mito, a major city in Ibaraki Prefecture and Asaka-Nagamori in Fukushima Prefecture, the total operating length is 147km. The whole route is unelectrified and is a single track.

The DMU, KiHa E130 series is operated on the line. It is usually operated as a two-car train, which consists of the bluish green-colored type KiHa E131 and the type E132. But one more car, the vermilion-colored type KiHa 130 (see the top photo) is also coupled in the section nearby a major city.

The vividly colored carp streamers and the colorful train... both fit the blue sky in the countryside on the Suigun Line.

Carp streamers near Fukuroda Station on the Suigun Line

Sunday, 25 August 2013

View of the Japanese Southern Alps on the Minobu Line

EMU JR Central 373 series, limited express "Fujikawa" runs on the Minobu Line

The Japanese Southern Alps, also known as the Akaishi Mountains, is a mountain range in the central part of Honshu Island, bordering Nagano, Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. It has nine peaks, which are higher than 3000 meters above sea level. Of those, the highest one is Mt. Kita (3193 meters) in the northern part of the range.

To visit this elegant mountain range, take the JR Central Minobu Line. Connecting Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture and Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, the total operating length is 88.4km. The whole route is electrified. The section between Fuji and Fujinomiya is a double track; meanwhile, the other interval is a single track. The track gauge is 1067mm, and the electric system is 1500V DC overhead.

The limited express "Fujikawa" is a representative train on the Minobu Line. Using a stylish EMU 373 series, Fujikawa is operated every two hours on average. Most trains are directly operated into the Tokaido Main Line to Shizuoka. For your information, Fujikawa is the name of the river along the Minobu Line. Fujikawa (Fuji River) takes its water from Mt. Nokogiri in the Japanese Southern Alps.

The 373 series was launched in 1995 to replace an old express train, the EMU 165 series. A total of 14 sets, 42 units have been manufactured so far by Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi. Normally, the 373 series is operated as a 3-car train.

The stylish EMU 373 series suits the elegant Japanese Southern Alps.
View of the Japanese Southen Alps from Nekko near Ichinose Station (March, 2013)

Saturday, 24 August 2013

300 Meter-long Commuter Train on the Joban Line

EMU JR East E231 series arrives at Kashiwa Station on the Joban Line
Tokyo has been expanding since the 17th century as a main city of Japan. Currently, the population of the Tokyo metropolitan area is about 30 million, 10 million of whom use railways to go to their offices or schools everyday. 10 million is an astronomical number, isn't it?

Railway companies can't keep their arms crossed. Most of the major companies have been reinforcing their transportation capacities over the decades. For example, construction of double-double track is an effective solution; however, it is quite expensive. More frequent train operation is another means to increase transportation capacity. But, there is a technical limit, even if the railway signal system is improved.

The realistic method is to make longer trains. Currently, the longest passenger train in Japan is the super-express train on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinakansens. It consists of 16 units of 25 meter-long cars, so that it attains a total length up to 400 meters. Apart from the Shinkansen bullet train, the other long one is the 300 meter-long JR East train operated on several commuter lines.

Look at the photo. It is an example of a 300 meter-long train, the EMU E231 series, on the Joban Line. It is composed of 15 units of 20 meter-long cars. In the rush hour, this snaky long train is operated every 3 minutes on average, but it is still packed.

The Joban Line... what a busy line it is!

EMU JR East E231 series stands at Kashiwa Station on the Joban Line
More information about the EMU JR East E231 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Electric Car, KoDe 165 on the Daiyuzan Line

Electric car Izu-Hakone KoDe 165 stands on the siding near Daiyuzan Station

In Japan, many railway companies have their own construction vehicles. The mission of these vehicles is to transport railway employees and materials. They also pull the trains, which head to the inspection yard. In many cases, the construction vehicles are ex-passenger cars, which have been retired from commercial operations. In other words, they are the remaining survivors which have escaped from being scrapped. So, the construction vehicles are rare and very popular among rail fans.

KoDe 165 is no exception. It is a construction vehicle on the Daiyuzan Line of Izu-Hakone Railway. It has a long history on the tracks. The KoDe was manufactured in 1928 as MoHa 30166 passenger electric car on the Japanese Government Railways (present JR Group). In 1960, it was moved to Sagami Railway, and used as a passenger car known as KuHa 2510. In 1976, it was transferred again to Izu-Hakone Railway, and used as a passenger car with a name change to MoHa 165. Eventually, it was modified to a construction vehicle known as KoDe 165 in 1997. For your information, "KoDe" stands for a "construction electric car" in Japanese.

The KoDe is usually asleep on the siding near Daiyuzan Station. It is easy to take a picture of the KoDe from the railroad crossing or the platform. The nostalgic body design with its vivid yellow color is my favorite. The problem is that we seldom see the "moving" KoDe.

To shoot the moving KoDe will be my next project.

Electric car KoDe 165 (left) and EMU 5000 series (right) on the Dayuzan Line
More information about the electriccar and the EMU on the Dayuzan Line (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Dining Car on the Shinkansen

Interrior of the dining car, type 168 of the EMU Shinkasen 100 series
The railway business in Japan is very competitive right now. Many companies are fighting for survival. JR Central and JR West, which operate the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansens, are no exception. They are facing fierce competition from airline companies. In this business circumstance, these companies are required to promote the efficiency of transportations.

As a mass rapid transit, a dining car on the railway is a nuisance. It takes up too much space on the train. To make matters worse, the operation cost is very high. As a result, most of the dining cars on the railways in this country have been gradually withdrawn. Currently, only few trains, such as gorgeous overnight sleepers, have dining cars.

The Tokaido and the Sanyo Shinkansen trains also used to have a dining car. One of the examples is the type 168 of the EMU 100 series. The 168 was commissioned in 1989 as a double decked dining car, but retired from the track in 2000. It is composed of dining in the upstairs part and a kitchen-kiosk in the downstairs part.

I have once used the Shinkansen dining car. It was very scenic and spacious. Enjoying a glass of stout and sandwiches, I was able to relax and take a short rest during busy travel. It was back in the 1990s. Time really flies.

Currently, the 168 dining car is preserved in SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya City. You can see the gorgeous dining car as it was operated on the track.

Double decked dining car, type 168 of the EMU Shinkansen 100 series
More information about SCMAGLEV and Railway Park:

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Reunion with the Shinkansen 100 Series

EMU Shinkansen 100 series is exhibited in SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
What is a requirement for a good looking woman? Perhaps a long nose is essential for a beauty. As the saying goes, if Cleopatra's nose had been shorter, the whole face of the earth would have changed. It is the same with a train. The EMU Shinkansen 100 series has a long nose; meanwhile, the 0 series is cob-nosed. The 100 series is more beautiful than the 0 series, isn't it?

The EMU Shinkansen 100 series was launched in 1985 as the second generation Shinkansen train by Japanese National Railways. A total of 66 sets, 1056 units had been manufactured for seven years by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and the other makers. The purpose of the introduction of the 100 series was to replace the degraded first generation Shinkansen train, the 0 series, which had been operated since 1964.

The most outstanding feature of the 100 series was its exterior appearance. The design of the frontal mask became sharper than that of the 0 series. The shape of the front lights was also changed from round to horizontally long. The specification of the trains was also upgraded. As a result, the maximum speed of the 100 series was raised up to 230 km/hour.

Unfortunately, the 100 series was retired by 2012 to be replaced by new models. Currently, you need to visit SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya City, if you wish to reunite with the 100 series. She is still as beautiful in the park as it was operated on the tracks.

EMU Shinkansen 100 series (left) and 0 series (right)

Monday, 19 August 2013

New Commuter Line in Nagoya City

EMU Nagoya-Rinkai-Kousoku 1000 series approaches Komoto Station on the Aonami Line
Nagoya is an expanding city in the central part of Japan. As a territory of the huge Toyota Group, this city has been enjoying prosperity even during the recession period after the "bubble economy burst" in Japan.

The railway network has also been continuously developed in Nagoya. One of the new routes is the Aonami Line in the southern part of the city. The Aonami Line, which connects Nagoya and Kinjo-futo (15.2km), used to be a freight line. Although it was an old feeder line of the Tokaido Main Line, the track then reopened as a contemporary commuter line in 2004. For changing from the freight to the commuter line, the track was upgraded and elevated. As a result, all railroad crossings were abolished. It was good news for car drivers as well. Automatic platform gates to prevent passengers from falling off the platform edge are also equipped in all stations.

Currently, 4-car commuter trains are operated every 10 to 15 minutes on the double track. In addition, freight trains are also operated in between busy commuter train operations. Looking at both commuter and freight trains is a good amusement for rail fans.

For your information, the fleet of the commuter trains on the Aonami Line is the EMU 1000 series manufactured by Nippon Sharyo. Applying induction motors with a variable-frequency drive system, it has a standard specification as a contemporary commuter train. It is unremarkable in looks, but separated passenger seats may be one of the features of this train.

Freight train pulled by DD51 passes through Sasashima-Raibu Station on the Aonami Line
More information about the EMU Naoya-Rinkai-Kousoku 1000 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Old Baldwin in the Forest

Baldwin 60874 is preserved in Forest Railway Museum on the Akasawa Forest Railway
After enjoying the "torokko train" on the Akasawa Forest Railway, we visited the Forest Railway Museum adjacent to the railway station.

The main exhibit in the museum is an old steam locomotive, Baldwin 60874 imported from the USA. It was manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia City in 1929. A total of ten locomotives were manufactured for the forest railways; however, only the 60874 has been preserved to display in the museum. The 60874 is a small locomotive with a 0-4-2T configuration. The total length is 19 feet 12 inches, while the weight is 25,000 pounds. A large smokestack to recover fire sparks is an external character. The metallic roundel nameplate of the locomotive is still spanking clean.

Local people had been calling the American locomotives "Keiben (light transit)" and loved them. But, they couldn't compete with time. The 60874 was retired in 1959 to be replaced by a diesel locomotive. It had been operated on a total of 420,000km. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an opportunity to be operated again. In the mornings of every weekend, the 60874 is pulled out from the depot by a diesel locomotive, and displayed as a precious preserved locomotive to the museum visitors. It still looks in good condition. I hope that the 60874 will be come back to the forest railway track someday in the future.

The old American Baldwin suits the deep green forest in Japan.

Nameplate of the steam locomotive

Friday, 16 August 2013

361MPH, World Record Holder of Train

SCMAGREV MLX01 series is preserved in SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, Nagoya City 
Human beings have been pursuing technology to run faster since inventing vehicles. The present world's fastest train speed is 581 km/hour (361mile/hour) recorded by MLX01 series on the Yamanashi SCMAGLEV Test Line in 2003.

SCMAGLEV, which stands for superconducting magnetic levitation railway, is a magnetically-elevated train developed by JR Central and the Railway Technical Research Institute. With SCMAGLEV, a train is levitated a short distance away from a guideway using magnets to create lift. It means that the train doesn't need to have any contact with the rails. To propel the train, linear motor technology is applied. A linear motor is an electric motor that doesn't have a shaft. It moves in a straight line, while a conventional motor has a rotary movement. These technologies contribute to speed up trains.

The Yamanashi SCMAGLEV Test Line is currently being upgraded to revenue service specifications, as well as being extended from its original length of 18.4 to 42.8 kilometers. Commercial operation is planned to start in 2027. JR Central is fully privately funding the cost of constructing this line, which will operate at 500km/hour to connect Tokyo and Nagoya in just 40 minutes.

In accordance with the extension of the test line, JR Central introduced the first generation of SCMAGLEV trains with revenue service specifications, which is known as the L0 series at the Yamanashi SCMAGLEV Test Line in June, 2013. The L0 series has replaced the MLX01 series. The test run of the L0 will be started at the end of the year.

Side view of the SCMAGLEV MLX01 series
More information about SCMAGLEV and Railway Park:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Preserved Railway in the Akasawa Forest

"Torokko"  train arrives at Forest Railway Museum Station on the Akasawa Forest Railway
Kiso is a mountainous area in the southwestern part of Nagano Prefecture. It takes about two hours from Nagoya City by the JR Central's Chuo Line trains. Forestry is a major industry in the area.

The forest railway had been used to support the logging of cedar forests in the region. The first line was opened in 1916. Since then, the labyrinthine network had been constructed back to back. It had become an extensive network, whose peak total operating length was 400km; however, it had been abolished by 1976 due to the evolution of truck transport.

In 1987, rail fans heard one piece of happy news. A part of the ex-forest railway was re-opened as a preserved railway in the Akasawa forest. Currently, a total route of 1.1km is operated between Forest Railway Museum and Maruyama-watashi stations on the weekend.

The forest train consists of a lovely diesel locomotive (DL), type AFT and five small passenger coaches. The type AFT DL was manufactured in 1996 by Hokuriku Heavy Industries, Ltd. A 132ps engine was equipped, and its maximum design speed is 40km/h. The track gauge of the line is 610mm.

Passenger coaches are the so-called "torokko" type. Torokko is characterized by a lack of windows on both sides of the coaches. So, passengers can admire the outside view, such as beautiful forests and fresh streams without looking through windows.

The torokko train on the preserved railway is the star of the Akasawa forest.

Rail fans and the "torokko" train on the Akasawa Forest Railway

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sardine Tornado on the Meiko Line

EMU Nagoya Municipal Subway 2000 series stands at Nagoyako Station on the Meiko Line
The hot summer still continues in Japan. According to the weather report, the daytime maximum temperature in several cities reached 40 degrees Celsius last weekend. I took a short midsummer holiday, and took a trip with my family. This year's destination was the central part of Japan, Aichi and Nagano prefectures.

We stopped over in Nagoya, a major city of Aichi Prefecture first. It was a very hot day. The least we could do was to go somewhere cool. An aquarium matched our needs. Nagoyako Suizokukan is a world-class public aquarium in the vicinity of Nagoya Port. There are many aquatic animals and attractions there. For instance, dolphin and killer whale shows are two of the major attractions, which are popular among children. But, I like "Sardine Tornado" the best.

What is Sardine Tornado? It is the feeding time for Japanese sardines. When the keepers feed, a school of sardines chases the baits, and forms a "tornado" in the glass-sided tank. The school itself looks like a creature with a spirit.

To get to this cool spot, the Meiko Line of Nagoya Municipal Subway is convenient. Nagoya Municipal Subway is one of the major transporters, which has a total of 6 routes on a 93.3km long labyrinthine railway network in the city. The track gauge of the Meiko Line is 1435mm. The electric system is 600V DC using a "third rail" without catenaries. The EMU 2000 series is the main fleet on this line.

"Sardine Tornado" in Nagoya Port Aquarium near Nagoyako Station on the Meiko Line
More information about the EMU Nagoya Municipal Subway 2000 series (in Japanese):

Monday, 12 August 2013

Night View of Nagoya Station

EMU Shinkansen N700 series stands at Nagoya Station
Nagoya is situated some 350km west of Tokyo, and is Japan's fourth largest city in population after Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. As of the year 2010, this city had an estimated population of 2,264,000. Nagoya has been developing rapidly as the central city of the Chukyo metropolitan area, whose total population is about 9,110,000.

The railway network in Nagoya is extensive. The major operators are JR Central, Meitetsu, Kintetsu... and one more, Nagoya Municipal Subway. They are part of a huge transportation network in the Chukyo metropolitan area. Nagoya Station is located in the center of the network. If you visit Nagoya from Tokyo taking the Tokaido Shinkansen, you will arrive at platform 16 or 17. The Shinkansen trains arrive at these two platforms alternately due to frequent operation. It is very busy with a train arriving at a minimum of every three minutes. One train is composed of 16 cars and the total length is 400 meters.

At nightfall, Nagoya Station is still very busy. For instance, the westbound Tokaido Shinkansen trains are operated until 22.57; meanwhile the last eastbound commuter train on the Tokaido Main Line leaves Nagoya at 24.20. It is almost same as busy terminals in Tokyo.

You can see the beautiful night view of Nagoya Station from the station building, namely JR Central Tower. It is composed of 51 and 53-storey twin buildings and it is the world's largest train station complex by floor area. A department store and a hotel are located in the buildings.

Night view of Nagoya Station and the downtown area

Friday, 9 August 2013

Nostalgic School and Loco on the Suigun Line

Steam locomotive, C12187, is preserved in Hitachi-Daigo Station on the JR East Suigun Line
There are more attractive spots besides Fukuroda Waterfall on the JR East Suigun Line. I visited ex-Uwaoka Primary School near Hitachi-Daigo Station.

Uwaoka Primary School was established in 1879 as a local school in the countryside of Ibaraki Prefecture. The current school building was constructed in 1911. Despite the school being abolished in 2001 due to a decreasing number of pupils, the school building has been preserved as it was when the pupils went there.
For example, the desks and chairs are arranged in parallel rows. Pupils' paintings are still displayed on the wall. The teacher's handwriting on the blackboard also still remains. Everything is nostalgic.

Because of its precious facility, ex-Uwaoka Primary School is often chosen as a location for films and dramas set in Japan's old days. I still remember that a famous Japanese drama, "Ohisama" was shot in this ex-primary school in 2011.

In the meantime, I found a nostalgic steam locomotive (SL), C12187 on the way to ex-Uwaoka Primary School. It was displayed in front of Hitachi-Daigo Station. According to the explanation plate, the C12187 was manufactured in 1938 by Nippon Sharyo. After being operated on the railways on Kyushu Island, it was moved to the Suigun Line in 1967. Unfortunately, it was retired from the track in 1971, but has been preserved as an historical exhibit of Daigo Town in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The nostalgic School and the SL... the JR East Suigun Line is attractive for tourists.

Ex-Uwaoka Primary School near Hitachi-Daigo Station on the JR East Suigun Line

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

EMU E657 Series, "Capybara Express" on the Joban Line

EMU JR East E657 series, "Super-Hitachi", arrives at Mito Station on the Joban Line
There are not enough opportunities for me to get on the JR East Joban Line train. I only take it once or twice a year on average, but, whenever I get on, something happens on the line. Last weekend was no exception.

I took the Joban Line to visit Ibaraki Prefecture last Saturday to enjoy a stroll in the countryside. When I arrived at Ueno Station to get on a limited express train, I was shocked into silence. Hundreds of people were waiting for the train on platform number 16. Most of the passengers were young. What was going on?

It was because "Rock in Japan Festival 2013" would be held in Hitachi Coastal Park in Ibaraki Prefecture. A mob of rockers were flocking to the concert taking the Joban Line. The limited express train, "Super-Hitachi" was more crowded than that of commuter trains during rush hour in Tokyo. I had to stand the whole way to Mito Station on a jam-packed train.

Changing the topic. The limited express train, Super-Hitachi is currently operated using the new EMU, E657 series. The old limited express trains, the 651 and the E653 series were retired from the line as of March 15th, 2013. The new train is more comfortable, has a high spec and offers good services, but, the spot in the sun is its design.

Look at the photo. The frontal mask looks "capybara". It is cute, but, seems less fast as a 130km/hour top speed limited express train. Am I picky about trains?

EMU JR East E657 series, "Super-Hitachi", stands at Mito Station on the Joban Line
More information about the EMU E657 series:
More information about the EMU E657 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Scenic Waterfall on the Suigun Line

DMU JR East KiHa E130 series stands at Hitachi-Daigo Rail Yard on the Suigun Line
It is hot midsummer in Japan. A breath of fresh air in the sight of a waterfall must be cooling. One of the famous falls in the Tokyo metropolitan area is Fukuroda Waterfall in Ibaraki Prefecture. The total height of the fall reaches 120m; while the width is 73m. During winter, the falls may freeze, known as a frozen fall. Fukuroda Waterfall is designated as one of Japan's Top 100 Falls.

To visit this gorgeous spot, the JR East Suigun Line is convenient. Connecting Mito, a major city in Ibaraki Prefecture and Asaka-Nagamori in Fukushima Prefecture, the 147km long route penetrates a mountainous area at the foot of the Yamizo Mountains. The whole route is unelectrified and is a single track.

Lovely DMU KiHa E130 series is a train on this line. It is usually operated as a two-car train, but a three-car train is also operated in the section nearby a major city. A shining stainless body with yellow and blue-colored accents is vivid. This DMU was launched in 2007 to replace the old DMU KiHa110 series. A total of 39 units have been manufactured so far by Tokyu Sharyo and Niigata Transys. The width of the body is wider than that of KiHa110, so the interior of the E130 is more spacious than the 110 series.

Sitting back on the scenic seats, passengers can enjoy a beautiful landscape along Kuji River. It is special to the railway travelers.
Fukuroda Waterfall near Hitachi-Daigo Station on the JR East Suigun Line

Monday, 5 August 2013

Cassiopeia Summer 2013

Electric locomotive EF510-509 for the overnight sleeper train, "Cassiopeia", stands at Ueno Station
As I mentioned before, Cassiopeia is the most reputable sleeper train in Japan. Connecting Ueno and Sapporo, Cassiopeia is directly operated from the Tokyo metropolitan area to Hokkaido Island passing through the 53.85-kilometer-long Seikan Submarine Tunnel. It takes about 17 hours to get to Sapporo from Ueno.

To book the seats is very difficult, as it is very popular among travelers. Especially, in the summer holiday season, it is called a "platinum ticket". As you may know, it is cool even in summer in Hokkaido, since it is located in the northernmost part of the Japanese archipelago.

One day, I visited Ueno Station to see Cassiopeia in the summer season. It was hustle-bustle on platform number 13. Most passengers were families, who would spend their vacations on Hokkaido Island. They were taking pictures of Cassiopeia train before leaving the station.

Cassiopeia is a 12-car train pulled by an electric locomotive (EL), type EF510-500. The EL of the day was the silver-colored EF510-509 of the Tabata Rail Yard (see the top photo). Having displayed the plate of "Cassiopeia", the shining body was very cool. This locomotive would be switched to type ED79 to pass through the Seikan Tunnel. It would be, then, switched again to the diesel locomotive, type DD51 on the un-electrified route on Hokkaido Island.

At 4.20pm, Cassiopeia left for Sapporo right on schedule. Many passengers waved their hands smiling and relaxing. Enjoy the ride and journey to Hokkaido. Next time it is my turn.
SuRoNeFu E26-1 of the carriage JR East E26 series, overnight sleeper train, "Cassiopeia"

Thursday, 1 August 2013

RFD-N2, New Rail Flaw Detection Vehicle

RFD-N2 vehicle (left) and the EMU JR East 231-500 series (right)

I take the JR East Chuo Line to go to my office. My exit station is Tokyo, which is one of the largest terminals in Japan. While walking around the station, I am likely to encounter a special vehicle standing on a siding nearby the Yamanote Line track. What is it?

It is a rail flaw detection (RFD) vehicle of Japan Railway Track Consultants Company (NSG). According to NSG's website, wear, fatigue and corrosion of rails develop day by day through the repeated running of trains, depending on the environmental conditions of the places where the tracks are laid. A tiny flaw on the rail surface caused by fatigue gradually gets bigger and might lead to breakage. A problem with rails affects the train service. It is very important to identify any flaws inside the rail that are not visible on the exterior.

The RFD vehicle is equipped with the latest flaw detection system to identify any rail flaws and measure the wear of rail tops, contributing to accident prevention. Specifically, RFD-N2 flaw-detection vehicle, which was introduced in 2011, has a rail-top image monitoring system.

Unfortunately, I have never seen firsthand the RFD-N2 running on the track. It is probably operated in the middle of the night, after the last train. I don't know whether RFD-N2 is self-propelled or not; but at least I can't identify any pantographs on the roof. I will report again if I found out the data.

Side view of RFD-N2 vehicle
More information about the inspection vehicles: