Thursday, 31 October 2013

D51 498: Late-blooming Superstar

Steam locomotive D51 498 is exhibited in Takasaki Rail Yard
Following the steam locomotive (SL), type C61, I am going to introduce my blog readers to the other SL, which was exhibited on Takasaki Railway Communication Day.

Type D51 was Japan's biggest force of locomotive fleet. A total of 1,115 units were manufactured from 1935 to 1950. It is a 2-8-2 (Whyte notation) type SL that has a tender attached. Currently, unit number 498, namely D51 498, is the only one that is operated on the tracks in Japan.

D51 498 was manufactured in 1940 at Takatori Works of Japanese Government Railways. Starting from Okayama Depot, it was moved from one depot to the next. Its mission had been to pull freight trains. This SL was retired from the tracks in 1972 and preserved in front of Gokan Station on the Joetsu Line, Gunma Prefecture.

In 1988, D51 498 was moved back to Oomiya Depot to prepare for its revival. After maintenance, it resumed operation in December of that year. Its first mission was to pull "Orient Express '88" from Ueno to Oomiya. For your information, Orient Express '88 was a special event train operated from Paris to Tokyo via Hong Kong using NIOE passenger coaches.

Currently, D51 498 spends its second working life, pulling sightseeing trains in the Takasaki area. It is very popular among families and rail fans. The large pillow-shaped feed water heater behind the smokestack is my favorite. D51 498 is a late-blooming superstar on the iron tracks.
D51 498 (left), EF 55 1, EF65 501, EF60 9 and rail fans on Takasaki Railway Communication Day

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Ex-Seibu Train on the Joshin Line

Set number 2 of the EMU Joshin 150 series arrives at Higashi-Tomioka Station
After enjoying the event on Takasaki Railway Communication Day, I visited Takasaki-based local line, Joshin Electric Railway. Joshin connects Takasaki and Shimonita, a foot town of Mt. Myogi. The route was opened in 1897 under the name of Kouzuke Railway. The line is 33.7km long with 20 stations. My target was the EMU 150 series, which had been moved from Seibu Railway. It is a group of classic commuter trains, manufactured in the 1960s at Tokorozawa Works of Seibu Railway in Saitama Prefecture.

Look at the top photo. It is set number 2 (unit number 153 and 154) of the 150 series manufactured in 1968. The frontal mask is slightly convex and has two large windows. Two rounded lights are attached on the lower part of the front. This set was moved to Joshin in 1994. Currently, it is used as a poster train to promote the local zoo, Gunma Safari Park. The zebra-patterned body is very unique.

The following photo shows the other type of the 150 series, set number 1 (unit numbers 151 and 152) manufactured in 1964. The frontal mask is gabled and has three windows. Two small lights are attached at the top of the front. This set was moved to Joshin in 1992. It is similar to ex-Japanese National Railways' commuter trains, such as the EMU 101 and 103 series... very nostalgic.

I really enjoyed the reunion with the ex-Seibu trains.

Set number 1 of the EMU Joshin 150 series arrives at Higashi-Tomioka Station

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Autumn Colors in Yamanashi Prefecture

EMU JR East E257 series, limited express "Kaiji" arrives at Katsunuma-budokyo Station
The autumn deepens in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The leaves still keep green in the city; but they have started to change in the high altitude area. I visited a high mountain in Yamanashi Prefecture with my family to admire the tinted autumn foliage.

We took a bus in front of Kofu Station on the Chuo Line. Our destination was Hakuou Valley, which was a great spot for enjoying the beautiful autumn leaves. The leaves start to change from early on in the valley, because it is a plateau over 1,000 meters above sea level. When we visited there, the valley was at the height of the fall foliage. They were glowing red, brown and yellow in the sunlight backed by the blue sky. We really choked up for words.

On the way back home, we stopped over at Katsunuma-budokyo Station to make a short visit to our favorite vineyard. The grape leaves were still keeping green, and the vineyard was still open; but the farmer told us that it was the last day to open the vineyard this year. We were lucky to pick this year's final fresh grapes.

Before sundown, we hopped on the Chuo Line train again. Our vehicle was the EMU JR East 257 series, limited express "Kaiji". The E257 series has an attractive feature for passengers. It has large windows to provide passengers with gorgeous scenery. We enjoyed beautiful evening scenes through the window on the way back to Tokyo.
Autumn leaves in Hakuou Valley near Kofu Station on the Chuo Line

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Turtle Stone on the Kintetsu Line

EMU Kintetsu 6400 series stands at Kashiharajingu-mae on the Minami-Osaka Line
I am going to show you some more pictures of my summer trip this year to Nara Prefecture.

Look at the following photo. It is "Kame-ishi (Turtle Stone)" in Asuka Village. As I mentioned before, Asuka is the roots of our country. It was the Japan's capital from 592 to 694. In the village, we can see many historical buildings and Buddha statues. Turtle Stone is one of the monuments in this area. The size is 2.8m in width, 3.6m long and 1.8m high. It weighs 10 tons.

The stone is shrouded in mystery. Nobody knows what the purpose of the megalithic structure was, and when it was made. There is a description about Turtle Stone in an ancient temple document, which was written in 1196. The Asuka area has many megalithic structures other than Turtle Stone. Some of them were found from ancient burial mounds, which were constructed from the second to the 8th century. So, I think that Turtle Stone was also made at that time.

To see this mysterious stone, take the Kintetsu Line and get off at Kashiharajingu-mae Station. It takes about 40 minutes from Osaka City by the narrow gauge (1,067mm) train on the Minami-Osaka Line. The EMU 6400 series is one of the main fleets on the line (see the top photo). It was launched in 1986 to replace the old model. A total of 33 sets, 66 units, have been manufactured so far.

Turtle stone in Asuka Village near Kashiharajingu-mae Station

Saturday, 26 October 2013

C61 20: Glory Days on the Michinoku Tracks

Steam locomotives C61 20 (left) and D51 498 (right) stand at Takasaki Rail Yard
Following the electric locomotive, EF 55 1, I am going to show you the other exhibition on Takasaki Railway Communication Day. Look at the top photo. It is a steam locomotive (SL), type C61, a 4-6-4 (Whyte notation) type SL that has a tender attached. A total of 33 units were manufactured from 1947 to 1949 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Sharyo. Currently, unit number 20, namely C61 20 is the only one that is operated on the track.

C61 20 has a glorious history. It was manufactured in 1949 by Mihara Factory of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the western part of Japan. The mission of C61 20 was to pull limited express trains, such as Hatsukari (flight of geese) and Hakutsuru (white crane). It was indeed a star on the Michinoku (the northeastern part of Japan) tracks.

In the meantime, C61 20 was once retired from the tracks in 1973 with the progression of electrification throughout Japanese railways. It had been preserved in a park in Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture since 1974.

In 2010, C61 20 was sent to Oomiya Rail Yard to resume the operation. Thanks to the rail fans in Isesaki City, this SL had been kept in good condition for 36 years in the public park. It was NOT damaged by vandalism. There was no property-loss.

Currently, C61 20 spends its second working life, pulling sightseeing trains in the Takasaki area. The star SL has come back to the iron tracks.

Cockpit and tender of C61 20

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Night View of Tokyo Station Yard

EMU JR Central N700 and 700 series stand at Tokyo Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen
As I mentioned before, my office is located on the 21st floor of the building next to Tokyo Station. I can see many kinds of trains from my desk every day ... it's indeed fun at work.

Look at the following photo. It's the night view of Tokyo Station yard from my office. The station yard is beautifully lit up in the evening. What an excellent view it is! Tracks, platforms and landscape look like a diorama (model railway) at the Railway Museum. The construction and development of the Tokyo Station area is continuing. Currently, renovation of the Yaesu Entrance (left-hand) side is proceeding at a good rate. I can see a continuous stream of arriving and leaving trains.

What is it like inside the station yard in the evening? Look at the top photo. It is a night view of the Tokaido Shinkansen tracks. It is a busy time, as many bullet trains arrive at and leave the station frequently. Passengers, who come back to Tokyo from their holiday tours or business trips, are in a state of chaos in the concourse.

You can see the EMU N700 series (left) and the EMU 700 series (right) standing at the station. The average frequency of the train operation interval is four minutes. One train is composed of 16 cars, which can accommodate 1,324 passengers; therefore, the Tokaido Shinkansen is able to transport 19,860 passengers per hour with a top speed of 186MPH. It is a phenomenal feat, isn't it?

Night view of Tokyo Station Yard

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

EF55 1: Streamlined EL Built in 1936

Classic ELs EF55 1 (left) and EF 65 501 (right) are exhibited in Takasaki Rail Yard

I am going to give you more detail about the exhibitions on Takasaki Railway Communication Day.

Look at the top photo. The left-hand electric locomotive (EL) is type EF55, which debuted in 1936. A total of three units were manufactured by Hitachi, Nippon Sharyo-Toyo Denki and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Currently, unit number 1, namely EF55 1 is the only one that is preserved in Takasaki Rail Yard.

The EF55 was a star on the tracks before WWII. It pulled Japan's representative limited express trains, such as Tsubame (swallow) and Fuji. After WWII, the EF55 functioned as a special EL to pull trains for U.S.-led military coalition, which temporary occupied Japan.

EF55 1 is already 77-years old; however, the brown-colored body still shines beautifully. Currently, it is preserved in the rail yard in working condition. This is the first time I have seen the EF55. I was deeply struck with its beauty. It might be just a "machine" for lay public, but it is a rare beauty for rail fans.

In the meantime, the right-hand EL is type EF65, which debuted in 1965. A total of 308 units were manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and other manufacturers. EF65 501, which I show in the photo, was a specialist for pulling limited express trains, such as Fuji and Hayabusa (falcon) on the Tokaido Main Line.

EF65 501 is still in active service in the Takasaki area, although many of its colleagues have already retired from the front line of the railway tracks.

Side view of EF 55 1 and EF 65 501

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Tokyo Night Walk: Classic Tower and State-of-art Subway

EMU Toei 12-000 series (1st batch) stands at Tocho-mae Station on the Ooedo Line
What do you associate Tokyo with? Perhaps, Tokyo reminds you of Tokyo Tower. Although, Tokyo Tower ceded its highest tower position to Tokyo Sky Tree in 2011, it is still a popular sightseeing spot in the capital city of Japan.

Tokyo Tower was completed in 1958. The tower stands 333m (1,093ft) high. It is the second-tallest artificial structure in Japan. The double-decked Main Observatory is located at 150m (490ft), while the smaller Special Observatory reaches a height of 250m (820ft). The tower had been used to broadcast signal outlets for mass media; however, it is currently utilized only for FM radio, since the signal outlets function has been moved to Tokyo Sky Tree, which is 634m (2,080ft) tall.

Tokyo Tower is also known as a good night viewing spot. It is brightly lit up in the evening, and has several illumination patterns. When I visited the tower last weekend, the "Landmark Light" pattern was applied; but unfortunately, the lower part of the tower was not lit up, probably because of maintenance.

To get to this classic tower, the nearest railway station is Akabanebashi on the subway, Toei Ooedo Line. This new line was completed in 2000. One of the features of the Ooedo Line is that linear motor technology is adopted for the train driving system. You can see a special box, "reaction plate" to drive linear motors between the rails on the track.

The state-of art subway and the classic tower... night walk in Tokyo is a joyful attraction.

Night view of Tokyo Tower near Akabane-bashi Station on the Ooedo Line

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Great Success of Takasaki Railway Communication Day

Classic ELs, EF55 1 (left), EF65 501 (center) and EF60 19 (right) are exhibited in Takasaki Station
Takasaki, which is located some 100km north of Tokyo, is known as the city of locomotives. For instance, the JR East Takasaki Regional Office has two precious steam locomotives (SLs). Joshin Electric Railway, which is a Takasaki-based local private railway company, also has a precious classic electric locomotive (EL), namely type DeKi 1.

The Takasaki Regional Office of JR East held a unique railway event in the station yard yesterday. It was "Takasaki Tetsudo Fureai Day (Takasaki Railway Communication Day)" to exhibit their precious locomotives, and was open to the public. There were two SLs, three ELs and one diesel locomotive. The other rolling stock, such as classic passenger coaches and maintenance vehicles, were also displayed.

My favorite exhibit was a brown-colored, direct curent system EL, type EF55 (see the top photo). It was a streamlined locomotive that debuted in 1936. A total of three units were manufactured by Hitachi, Nippon Sharyo-Toyo Denki and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Currently, unit number 1, namely EF55 1 is only preserved in working conditions in Takasaki Rail Yard.

I saw plenty of rail fans, families and couples, flocking to the site. The visitors could also enjoy shopping, such as delicious lunch boxes and cakes, using local foodstuff. The event was indeed a great success. Specifically, all railway employees were very friendly and kind. I am truly grateful to JR East Takasaki Regional Office to have held this special event. I look forward to going there within the next year.

Steam locomotive C61 20 and rail fans

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Urban Street Car Bound for Japan’s Oldest Hot Spring

Electric car, type MoHa 50 (2nd batch) leaves Ookaido Stop on the Shinai Line, Iyo Railway
Matsuyama is the largest city in Shikoku Island. The population now stands at 0.52 million. It is a busy city as the administrative and the industrial center of Ehime Prefecture, but Matsuyama also has an important sightseeing spot in the downtown area.

Look at the following photo. It is the main building of Dogo hot spring. Dogo is Japan's oldest hot spring which opened about 3,000 years ago, judging from unearthed articles. As a written record, there is an ancient text, in which Prince Shotoku took a bath in Dogo Hot Spring in 596. The current main building was reconstructed in 1894, and was designated as a cultural asset of national importance in 1994. As you may know, this building is a model of "Aburaya" in Spirited Away, which is the famous Japanese animated fantasy film.

To get to this urban hot spring, take a street car of Iyo Railway from JR Shikoku Matsuyama Station. It takes about 20 minutes. The top photograph shows the second manufactured group of the electric car, Type MoHa 50 on the tram line. Unit number MoHa 69, which I show in the photo, was manufactured by Naniwa Koki in 1962. Different from the first manufactured group, the top roof is shallower, and the body is lighter than those of the first manufactured group of cars.

Getting on an urban street car and visiting the old hot spring... it is a unique attraction in Matsuyama City.

Main building of Dogo hot spring near Dogo Onsen Station on the Iyo Railway

Friday, 18 October 2013

Street Car and Whirling Wave in Ehime Prefecture

 Electric car, type MoHa 50 (1st batch) leaves Ookaido Stop on the Shinai Line, Iyo Railway
Following the classic Botchan train, I am going to show you a standard street car on the Matsuyama City Line. Look at the top photo. It is an electric car type MoHa 50 of Iyo Railway. Type 50 was manufactured from 1951 to 1965 by Naniwa Koki and Teikoku Sharyo. Although this group of street cars is being replaced by the new tram, type MoHa 2100, it is still one of the main fleet on the Shinai (Matsuyama City) Line.

The electric car unit number 57, which I show you in the top photo, belongs to the first manufactured group of the type 50. The rounded high roof with a large single front light is nostalgic and is my favorite. The roof top air conditioners are bit of an eyesore, but we have no alternative to maintain a comfortable cabin condition in the hot summer.

In the meantime, I am going to show you a photogenic spot in Ehime Prefecture. Look at the following photo. It is a whirling wave in Kurushima Channel, offshore Imabari City. This place is famous for its very fast tidal current due to a special topographic situation. The maximum speed is 10 knots/hour (11.5MPH). We can observe the fast current with whirling waves on a special sightseeing boat.

As you may know, "keep right" is a global rule for marine traffic; however, Kurushima Channel is the one place in the world, where "keep left" is applied depending on tidal conditions.
Whirling wave is observed in Kurushima Channel, Seto Inland Sea 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Classic Train and State-of-art Bridge in Ehime Prefecture

Botchan Train runs on the Matsuyama City Line, Iyo Railway
I visited Ehime Prefecture on family duty last weekend. Ehime is located on Shikoku Island, which is some 700km west of Tokyo. It was a short visit without any train travel, but I could shoot some train photographs, because my family gave me a chance to save my face as a rail fan.

Look at the top photo. It is Botchan Train in Matsuyama City. This train is a revival of the old light railway, which was operated from the 1880s to the 1920s. The operator is a local private company, Iyo Railway. This train has been operated on the city tram line since 2001.

Unfortunately, the steam locomotive (SL) is NOT real. It is a diesel locomotive (DL). Before the introduction of Botchan Train, there was a big argument, since a real SL would cause harm to the urban environment. Needless to say, a SL blows black smoke. Eventually, the railway company decided to manufacture a DL that resembled a SL. For your information, this replica SL blows water vapor from the smokestack instead of black smoke.

Following the classic train, I am going to show you another photogenic object in Ehime Prefecture. Look at the following photo. It is Kurushima Channel Bridge connecting Shikoku and Ooshima islands. This bridge was opened in 1999 as a part of a highway route between Honshu (the Japanese main island) and Shikoku. The total length is 4.1km. It is famous for its night view, being lit up every weekend.

Sunset view of Kurushima Channel Bridge in Imabari City

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Carp Train and Impregnable Castle on the Sanyo Line

L-13 set of the EMU JR West 115 series, "Carp Train" leaves Ajina Station on the Sanyo Main Line
Hiroshima is playing its way to a victory over its rivals. Am I talking about a story of railways? No, I am not. I am talking about baseball. The 2013 Japanese professional baseball has come to the final stage. Hiroshima Carp was a dark hose, but they are gaining force. Beating Hanshin Tigers, Carp booked a spot in the play-off games with Yomiuri Giants in the Central League. I don't have any relatives in Hiroshima, but I extend my most sincere congratulations to Hiroshima people. I hope that Carp is going to play a good match with the Giants.

In commemoration of the victory of Hiroshima Carp, I am going to show you "Carp Train" on the Sanyo Main Line. It is operated by the Hiroshima Regional Office of JR West to support and promote Hiroshima Carp. It is an EMU 115 series-based, and the body is wrapped in red, which is the Carp's team color. It is also decorated with team logos and characters. Carp Train holds a special place in the group of the 115 series.

In the meantime, I am going to show you a snapshot of Hiroshima Prefecture. It is Fukuyama Castle in front of Fukuyama Station on the Sanyo Main Line. This hedgehog was constructed in 1622 by a feudal load, Katsunari Mizuno. Although the original building was destroyed by an air raid during WWII, the castle is a symbol of the strong power among local people even now.

Tower of Fukuyama Castle near Fukuyama Station on the Sanyo Main Line

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Celebration of World Heritage... Everywhere

Displaying the celebration plate, EMU Izu-Hakone 5000 series arrives at Wadagahara Station
As I mentioned before, Mt. Fuji was added to the UNESCO list of the World Heritage sites on June 22nd this year. Taking this opportunity, many industries, such as hotels and tourism businesses, are exploring new business opportunities. Railway companies are no exception.

For instance, Fujikyu is displaying a celebration plate on the front of all their trains; whereas JR East changed the name of their sightseeing train from "Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi)" to "Fuji-san (Mt. Fuji)" to promote passengers to visit the new World Heritage site.

Izu-Hakone Railway is also capitalizing on the fame of the new World Heritage site. Look at the top photo. It is the EMU 5000 series on the Daiyuzan Line. You can see a large celebration plate on the front of the train, congratulating on the listing of World Heritage. The train with a special plate is photogenic for rail fans, but there is a question about this plate.

Is the Daiyuzan Line close to Mt. Fuji?

The Daiyuzan Line is situated in Kanagawa Prefecture; whereas Mt. Fuji is located in Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. The administrative area is different. The distance between the Daiyuzan Line and Mt. Fuji is about 35km. It is not close. Furthermore, we cannot see Mt. Fuji from the Daiyuzan Line trains.

Let's not be too argumentative. Whatever the case may be, the listing of the new World Heritage is good news for all Japanese people, because Mt. Fuji is a symbol for Japan.

The celebration plate on the front of the EMU Izu-Hakone 5000 series

Friday, 11 October 2013

EMU 52 Series, Streamliner in the 1930’s

KuMoHa 52004 of the EMU 52 series is preserved in SCMaglev and Railway Park, Nagoya City
Following the world's fastest train, MLX 01 series and the domestic high speed record holder, 955 series, I am going to show you an elegant old EMU in SCMaglev and Railway Park in Nagoya City.

Look at the top photo. It is KuMoHa 52004 of the EMU 52 series manufactured in 1937. The 52 series had been operated by Japanese Government Railways (later Japanese National Railways) since 1936, mainly for express trains in the Osaka metropolitan area. A total of 12 units were manufactured by Kawasaki Sharyo and Nihon Sharyo in 1936 and 1937.

Streamliners are timeless popular trains among rail fans as well as passengers. Specifically, the EMU 52 series was called "Gyorai-gata (torpedo-shaped)", and later affectionately-called "Ryuden (streamlined electric car)" by Osakan. The electric welded body without rivets is very smooth and beautiful. The interior is also very elegant. The wooden walls, the orderly rows of seats and rounded ceiling lights are luxurious and nostalgic.

The 52004 was retired in 1978 with the operation on the Iida Line. Currently, only two units of the 52 series, namely KuMoHa 52001 and 52004, are preserved as precious historical electric cars in Osaka (Suita Depot of JR West) and Nagoya (SCMaglev and Railway Park). The 52004 was moved to SCMaglev Railway Park in 2011, when the park was opened.

It was a very precious experience for me as a Tokyoite to see this elegant historical train, which had been operated in the Osaka metropolitan area.

Interior of KuMoHa 52004

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Tokyo Night Walk: Marunouchi Entrance of Tokyo Station

EMU JR East E233 series stands at Tokyo Terminal on the Chuo Line
As I mentioned before, JR East completed the renovation work on the Marunouchi Entrance Building of Tokyo Station last October. The red brick masonry of the building has been brought back. The Marunouchi Entrance Building was opened in 1914 as a main building of the central station in the Tokyo Metropolis. Since it had aged, renovation work was started in 2007.

Look at the following photo. It is a night view of the southern half of the Marunouchi Entrance Building. A red-colored brick building is beautifully lit up by illuminations. You can see an elegant dome, which was restored to be the same as it was when it opened. As you may know, this building was severely destroyed by an air strike in 1945. Although it was repaired after WWII, the design of the roof was changed, because it was a stop-gap measure.

In the meantime, the top photo shows the EMU JR East E233 series, standing at Tokyo station on the Chuo Line. The E233 series is a train for my "everyday use" to go to the office. As a commuter, I also use this platform everyday. It is located just behind the Marunouchi Entrance Building so it is very convenient for me to get on the train. The problem is that the platform is located at a high place, as the Chuo Line is on an elevated track. It takes 1 minute 26 seconds to reach the platform on an escalator.

Night view of Marunouchi Entrance Building in Tokyo Station

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

2013 Summer Scenery in the Water Country

EMU JR East 209 series passes through Lake Kitaura on the Kashima Line

It's still very hot in Japan, although we are already in October. According to the weather report, the daytime maximum temperature in many places reached 30 degrees Celsius yesterday. In commemoration of "the second summer", I am going to show you a memory of the 2013 midsummer scenery in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Is that a bit of a stretch?

Suigo is located in the eastern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. It lies astride the prefectures of Ibaraki and Chiba. Being surrounded by large rivers and lakes, Suigo is known as the water country. The small rowboat has been a means of transportation for local people since medieval times. Today, rowboats are rich tourism resources, as visitors can enjoy precious experiences by boarding the small boats.

To get to this traditional water country, take the JR East Kashima Line and get off at Junikyo Station. It takes about two hours from downtown Tokyo. Connecting Katori and Kashima Soccer Stadium, the total operating length of the Kashima Line is 17.4km. All trains are directly operated into the Narita Line for Sahara and Narita. Furthermore, some of them are extended to Chiba and Tokyo. Four or 6-car trains, the EMU 209-2000 and 2100 series, are in service as local trains on the Kashima Line. It was previously operated in the central part of Tokyo, and sent to this local line in 2010 after interior renovation.

You will find a vast sky and a beautiful lake in front of the station.

Summer scenery in Lake Yodaura near Junikyo Station on the Kashima Line

Monday, 7 October 2013

Vermilion-colored Train in Odawara

EMU Odakyu 1000 series arrives at Odawara Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway
Odawara is a major city located some 80km southwest of Tokyo. It functions as a key junction of transportation in the western part of Kanagawa Prefecture. JR East, JR Central and Izu-Hakone Railway have large stations there. Odakyu and Hakone Tozan Railway also have a large shared terminal adjacent to the JR station.

Odawara Station is a popular spot among rail fans, since many kinds of trains belonging to the five companies are seen there. Out of all the trains, the vermilion-colored EMU, Odakyu 1000 series must be the rarest one. The EMU 1000 series is my "everyday use" train to go to the office, but the color of the body in Odawara is different.... why?

The reason is as follows. Hakone Tozan is a mountain railway to climb up the Hakone Volcano. The route is divided into two parts. The lower section between Odawara and Hakone-Yumoto is a narrow gauge (1,067mm) track with a 1,500V DC system, while the upper section between Hakone-Yumoto and Gora is a standard gauge (1,435mm) track with a 750V DC system.

The lower section is integrally-operated with the Odakyu Line, because it functions not only as a sightseeing railway, but also as a commuter route for local people. High transportation capacity is required in this section. So, the company chose the integrated operation with the Odakyu Line. As a result, Hakone Tozan Railway borrowed the EMU 1000 series from Odakyu, and vermilioned it as a sign of the Hokone Tozan train.

EMU Odakyu 60000 series (left) and 1000 series (right) in Odawara station yard

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Sayonara, Shuttle System in Narita Airport Terminal 2

A vehicle of the shuttle system in Narita Airport Terminal 2 runs backed by an aircraft. (March, 2012)
According to a media report, the shuttle system in Terminal 2 of the New Tokyo International Airport (Narita Airport) was abandoned on September 26th, 2013. The shuttle system was opened in 1992 to transport flight passengers between the newly constructed Satellite Building and pre-existing Main Building of Terminal 2. It had transported a total of 200 million passengers for 21 years.

The shuttle system was an automated people mover, being operated on a 279m long track. It took one minute between the main and the satellite buildings. The system was manufactured by Nippon Otis Elevator Company, which specializes in elevators and escalators. The shuttle system was not a railway, but a horizontal elevator. A vehicle was attached to a cable that moves it, like a funicular. The four vehicles did not have wheels; instead, they floated on a 0.2mm layer of compressed air.

I used this shuttle system frequently. It was a good system since the vehicle was spacious and was operated frequently. Thanks to the shuttle system, I could rush onto the aircraft, even if I arrived at the airport at the last-minute before the gate closed.

What happened after the abandonment of the shuttle system? According to the above media, a moving walkway between the main and the satellite buildings was opened on September 27th to replace the shuttle.

Arigatou (thank you) and sayonara (goodbye) to the shuttle in Narita Airport Terminal 2.

A vehicle and tracks of the shuttle system in Narita Airport Terminal 2 (March, 2012)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Steam Locomotive Type 9600 in Kyu-roku-kan Museum

SL 49671 is preserved in SL Kyu-roku-kan Museum in Mooka Station yard on the Mooka Railway

The main exhibit in "SL Kyu-roku-kan Museum" is steam locomotive number 49671 of Type 9600, manufactured in 1920. Type 9600 is a 2-8-0 (Whyte notation) type steam locomotive that has a tender attached. A total of 770 units had been built by Kawasaki Sharyo and other manufacturers since 1913.

The assignment of the 9600 was to pull freight trains. It is particularly notable that Type 9600 pulled a 2,000 ton coal train in Hokkaido Island (the northernmost island in Japan). It was very strong, wasn't it? Some units were sent to China as well during WWII, having converted a narrow gauge (1,067mm) into a standard one (1,435mm).

All of the type 9600s had been retired from tracks by 1976, but more than forty units are still preserved throughout Japan, as they are very popular among rail fans. The "9600" is responsible for the museum's name, "SL Kyu-roku-kan (96 museum)" in Mooka City. Unit number 49671 is still "operated" in front of visitors on the museum site using compressed air. This special event is held three times a day every weekend.

Please look at the top photo. You can see the museum building just behind the locomotive. The design of the building was made in the image of a steam locomotive. It is quite unique.

Mooka is indeed a City of SL (steam locomotive).
Side view of unit number 49671 of the Type 9600 steam locomotive

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Toei-Shinjuku Line: 1,372mm Gauge Subway Route

EMU Toei 10-300 series stands at Higashi-Oojima Station on the Toei-Shinjuku Line
Tokyo is the most congested city in Japan. This giant city has been expanding both above and underground. Subway lines are typical of the latter. A total of 13 lines are now operating on 329km of track.

There are two subway operators in Tokyo. One is Tokyo Metro Company, and the other one is Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei). Tokyo Metro has nine routes, while Toei has four.

The Toei-Shinjuku Line was opened in 1978 as Tokyo's 10th subway route. Connecting Shinjuku, a subcenter of Tokyo and Motoyawata, an interchange station with the JR East Sobu Line, the total operating length is 23.5km. Most trains are directly operated into the Keio Line, which is a major private railway in Tokyo. So, you can see both Toei and Keio trains on the line.

Shinjuku is the largest railway terminal in the world. Six companies' trains are operated into this giant terminal. A total of 3.24 million incoming and outgoing passengers use this station a day. The other terminal, Motoyawata, is located in Chiba Prefecture. It means that Tokyo Metropolitan Government constructed a subway line outside Tokyo as well.

One of the features of the Toei-Shinjuku Line is that the track gauge is 1,372mm despite most railway track gauges in Japan being 1,067 or 1,435mm. The 1,372mm is quite unique. It is because the pre-existing Keio Line has a 1,372mm gauge.

I would like to talk about the history of the 1,372mm anomalistic gauge in Japan someday in the future.

EMU Keio 9000 series stands at Higashi-Oojima Station on the Toei-Shinjuku Line

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Old Rail Car and Outdoor Art on the Mooka Railway

Diesel rail car KiHa 20 247 is preserved in SL Kyu-roku-kan Museum in Mooka Station yard
When we strolled in the Spider lily field in Shiroyama Park near Motegi Station, we found a lot of objects in the park. They were ceramics, dyed goods and wooden sculptures, produced by local artists. During the Spider lily blooming season, Motegi Satoyama Art Festa was being held in parallel.

The concept of the Art Festa is quite unique. The artists, who would like to join the festa, are required to get inspiration from the nature of the park to spark their creativity. They have to develop their exhibition sites themselves and eventually, their exhibits are placed in harmony with the natural surroundings. My favorite exhibits were the ceramic moles, which appeared from the ground (see the following photo). They looked very unique and cute being surrounded by the full blooming red-colored spider lilies.

On the way back home, we stopped off briefly in SL Kyu-roku-kan Museum in Mooka Station yard. This museum is operated by Mooka Railway to show their precious, preserved vehicles. The admission is free. Thank you!

One of my favorite vehicles is an old diesel rail car, KiHa 20 247 that was manufactured in 1959 by Tokyu Sharyo. Type KiHa 20 has been operated on the Japanese National Railways, but is currently operated on a local private railway in the western part of Japan only. It is indeed a precious exhibit.

The old diesel rail car and the unique outdoor art... we saw a lot of precious exhibits on the Mooka Railway last weekend.

Outdoor art in Shiroyama Park near Motegi Station on the Mooka Railway

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Bay View on the Yurikamome Line

EMU Tokyo Waterfront New Transit 7000 series leaves Daiba Station on the Yurikamome Line
In response to my blog on the night view of Rainbow Bridge and the Yurikamome Line, one of the readers sent me a comment in which he requested a daytime view of Rainbow Bridge and the Yurikamome Line.

Look at the following photo. It is a daytime view of Rainbow Bridge from a pedestrian deck near Daiba Station on the Yurikamome Line. You can see the suspension bridge connecting the downtown Tokyo area and New Tokyo Waterfront Subcenter. Tokyo Tower can also be seen behind the bridge. The tower and the bridge are illuminated colorfully at nightfall. You can also see an island just before the bridge. It is an artificial island, which was constructed by Tokugawa Shogunate (Japan's feudal government) in 1852. A gun battery was installed on the island to protect Edo City (present Tokyo) from Western countries' fleets.

The top photo shows a train running on the elevated track near Daiba Station on the Yurikamome Line. Yurikamome is an automated guide way transit (AGT) system that was opened in 1995. The EMU 7000 series is a small-sized driverless train with rubber-tires instead of steel bogies. The building behind the track is Fuji Television Network, which is one of the major broadcasting stations in Japan. The globe that you can see in the upper part of the building is an observation gallery. It is said that you can view the gorgeous scenery of Tokyo Bay from there, but I haven't been to see it yet.

View of the Tokyo Bay from a pedestrian deck near Daiba Station on the Yurikamome Line