Thursday, 28 February 2013

The 30th Anniversary of the Yukarigaoka Line

EMU Yamaman 1000 series arrives at Yukarigaoka Station on the Yukarigaoka Line
 
November 2nd, 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Yukarigaoka Line in Chiba Prefecture. Yukarigaoka is a typical new town in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It has been developed since the 1970s as a commuter town of Tokyo. The current population is about 16,000.

To get to this new town from downtown Tokyo, take the Keisei Line and get off at Yukarigaoka Station. You should then transfer to the Yukarigaoka Line owned by Yamaman Company.

The Yukarigaoka Line was opened in 1982 as a rubber-tyred automated guide-way transit system (AGT). The operating line length is only 4.1km. Unlike the other leading-edge AGT lines in the Tokyo metropolitan area, a driver operates each train. It is not a driver-less operation.

The main fleet of the Yukarigaoka Line is the 3 car train, EMU 1000 series. A total of 3 sets, 9 units were manufactured by Nihon Sharyo in 1982. Three sets of trains are fondly referred to as "Koala 1, 2 and 3" each. Of course, Koalas are native to Australia, not Japan; but they are very popular among Japanese children. For your information, the name of the new town "Yukarigaoka" means a hill of eucalyptus, which is also an Australian tree. As you know, Koalas usually spend almost their entire life, even while sleeping, in eucalyptus trees.

I visited the Yukarigaoka Line last weekend. It was a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Most of the passengers were families with small children. It was like a theme-park ride.
 
EMU Yamaman 1000 series heads to Yukarigaoka Terminal on the Yukarigaoka Line
 
More information about the Yukarigaoka Line (in Japanese):
Movie of the 30th anniversary of the Yukarigaoka Line and the EMU Yamaman 1000 series:

Monday, 25 February 2013

KiHa 52 125, Classic Rail Car on the Isumi Railway


Classic diesel rail car, KiHa 52 125, Express "Isumi", stands at Kuniyoshi Station, Isumi Railway

Following the standard diesel rail car, Type 200' (see my blog on January 4th, 2013), I am going to show you the other car, Type KiHa 52, on the Isumi Railway today.

Isumi, which is a local railway company in Chiba Prefecture, is well known for drawing sightseers. The operation of a classic diesel rail car is one of the major events on weekends to attract passengers.

Isumi Railway introduced a classic rail car, No. 125 of Type KiHa 52 to the Track in 2011. KiHa 52 125 was manufactured in 1965 by Niigata Tekko. It had been operated on the JR West Ooito Line, but was retired to be replaced with new DMUs in 2010. Isumi then purchased this classic rail car to promote sightseers.

The body of KiHa 52 125 is frequently called "JNR color". JNR, which stands for Japanese National Railways, was Japan's largest railway network. It was split into seven railway companies and privatized as the JR Group in 1987, due to financial difficulties. Although JNR has been abolished, many rail fans are still boosterish about this coloring, as it fits into any kind of scenery in Japan.

I got on this classic rail car recently. It was beautifully maintained. The plate of "Express, Isumi" on the front of the rail car was very cool and nostalgic. The sound of two DMH17H diesel engines was still powerful. During the operation, the rattling sound from the track was like sweet music to my ears.
 
Frontal face of the classic diesel rail car KiHa 52 125 on the Isumi Railway

Saturday, 23 February 2013

TX-2000, AC-DC EMU on the Tsukuba Express Line


EMU Tsukuba Express TX-2000 series arrives at Kita-Senju Station

Tsukuba Express (TX) is a new commuter railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Following the TX-1000 series (see my blog on September 1st, 2011), I am going to show you the other type of train, EMU TX-2000 series, on this route.

The TX-2000 is an AC-DC dual system train, which is composed of 6 cars (see the top photo). Its maximum speed is 130 kilometers per hour. The gleaming stainless steel body with a V-shaped front mask and red colored stripes is an outward characteristic of this train.

Why is it a dual system train? It is because the Tsukuba Express Line consists of two parts. The southern part of the line has adopted the direct current (DC) system, meanwhile the alternate current (AC) system is applied on the north side of Moriya Station. It means that the trains passing through Moriya should have both AC and DC systems. For your information, the TX-1000 series (see my blog on September 1st, 2011) is a DC train, which can be operated only in the southern part, between Akihabara and Moriya stations.

The other feature of the TX-2000 is its pantographs. You can see a lot of white colored insulators by the pantographs for the high voltage AC system (see the following picture). Needless to say, the function of the insulators is to isolate the train body from the electric circuit.

The EMU TX-2000 series, it is a brand sparkling new train in Tokyo.

Pantograph of the AC-DC dual system train, EMU TX-2000 series
 
More information about Tsukuba Express (TX): http://www.mir.co.jp/en/about_tx/ 

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Fujikyu 1000 "Keio Color", Revival of the Great Train


EMU Fujikyu 1000 series "Keio Color" arrives at Otsuki Station

The railway business in the Tokyo metropolitan area is very competitive. Many companies are fighting for survival. Specifically, private railway companies in the countryside are suffering profound damage due to a decreasing population on the railway lines and competition with automobiles.

One of the saviors are enthusiastic rail fans. They visit the local railways regardless of the expense, if newsworthy trains are operated on the lines. So, many local railway companies are launching special trains to promote rail fans.

One such train is the revival of the colored EMU on the Fujikyu Railway. Connecting Otsuki on the JR East Chuo Line and Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi), Fujikyu is a local private railway at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Recently, Fujikyu launched a new train, EMU 1000 series "Keio color". This model is an ex-Keio 5000 series, which was a very reputable commuter train in Tokyo from the 1960s through the 1990s. Curved front windows and double rounded front lights of this 43-year-old train are nostalgic, but still very cool.

Fujikyu has revived its body color to that of the Keio era. It is ivory white with a burgundy stripe (see the photos). It has a strong appeal to the rail fans, who know the gallant appearance of the Keio 5000 series from the 1960s through the 1990s. As a consequence, many rail fans are flocking to the Fujikyu Railway.

I thought Fujikyu's maneuver was simply glorious.

EMU Fujikyu 1000 series "Keio Color" stands at Otsuki Station

Sunday, 17 February 2013

SL Express on the Mooka Railway


SL Express "Mooka" (C12 66 and passenger coaches, OHa 50 series) stands at Nishidai Station
 
In Japan, several railway companies operate steam locomotives (SLs) to promote sightseers. They vary from giant companies, such as JR East, to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

One such SME is Mooka Railway in Ibaraki Prefecture in the northern part of the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Shimodate and Motegi stations, the total operating length is 41.9 kilometers. The whole route is an unelectrified single track.

Mooka has two units of SLs, namely C11 325 and C12 66. Pulling classic passenger coaches, the C11 and the C12 are operated as "SL Express, Mooka" on weekends and holidays.

I got on this SL train from Shimodate to Nishidai station last week. The SL on duty was a lovely C12 66, manufactured in 1933 by Hitachi, Ltd. (see the top photo). It had been preserved in Fukushima Prefecture for long time; however, it came back into operation in 1994 to pull the SL Express train. The body is a beautiful shiny black, and the piercing whistle doesn't seem old at all.

Despite it being a very cold wintertime, a lot of passengers were boarding this special train. They were families with small children, couples and rail fans. The passengers were waving to the local people along the track. At the same time, the local people were also waving back and smiling to the passengers. It is the latest railway culture on this route.

SL Express on the Mooka Railway... it is a heartwarming train in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Classic passenger coach, OHaFu 50 33 stands at Nishidai Station on the Mooka Railway
 
More pictures of SLs on the Mooka Railway: http://www.moka-railway.co.jp/gyarary01.php

Thursday, 14 February 2013

EMU 701, Standard Commuter Train in the Tohoku Area

EMU JR East 701 series (Akita color) stands at Aomori Station on the Oou Main Line

Following the sightseeing train, DMU KiHa 48 "Minori" (see my blog on February 5th, 2011), I am going to show you the other train in the Tohoku area.

EMU JR East 701 series is a standard commuter train in Sendai, Akita, Morioka, and the other cities in the Tohoku area. It was launched in 1993 to replace the old commuter EMUs and the passenger coaches. Different from EMUs in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the 701 series is an AC (alternate current) train.

The greatest contribution of launching this train was to speed up travel time and provide air-conditioners. The Tohoku area is located in the northern part of Japan. It is cooler than that of Tokyo; however, it is rather hot in midsummer. On the contrary, there is a lot of criticism of this train for decreasing the seating capacity.

In the meantime, the coloring of the bodies of the 701 series varies by areas. For instance, it has a pink colored stripe in the Akita district (see the top photo), and is green colored in the Sendai district (see the following photo). The 701 series trains have a number of other colors, such as blue, light blue, and purple. This color variation is joyful for rail fans.

With regard to the specification, the 701 series has a high level of efficiency. Specifically, the recently-manufactured group has a brand new system, such as IGBT-VVVF control and regenerative braking.

EMU JR East 701 series... it is a contemporary standard commuter train in Tohoku area.

EMU JR East 701 series (Sendai color) stands at Sendai Station on the Tohoku Main Line

More information about EMU JR East 701 series (in Japanese): http://www.jreast.co.jp/train/local/701.html

Monday, 11 February 2013

Mysterious Pond and Hybrid Train on the Koumi Line


Hybrid train, DMU JR East KiHa E200 series with roof top lithium-ion batteries (left)
 
Yatsugatake (Eight Peaks) and its surrounding area is one of my favorite spots in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It lies in a high altitude region. The coolness of summer is special.

The foliage season in the Yatsugatake area is also attractive. Specifically, I like to visit Shirokoma-ike where we can view a mysterious pond and beautiful autumn leaves (see the following picture). It is over 2,100 meters above sea level. The best season there is from late September to mid-October.

To visit this magnificent prospect, JR East Koumi Line is convenient. It is a beautiful highland railway (see my blog on June 22nd, 2012). One of the features on this route is that a state-of-the-art hybrid train, KiHa E200 series, is operated (see the top photo).

The KiHa E200 was launched in 2007. Using a diesel engine, induction motors and lithium-ion batteries, the KiHa E200 is a hybrid powered train. The induction motors also act as generators during braking. Electricity is generated and the batteries are charged when the brakes are applied.

I got on this hybrid train last year. I found that it was very quiet at the time of start-up, as it started using battery power and induction motors. Then, the diesel engine started operation, when the train reached around 10 kilometers per hour. I was caught by a strange feeling, which I have never experienced before.

DMU JR East E200 series, hybrid train... it is the beginning of a new age of railways in Japan.

Autumn color of Shirokoma-ike near Yachiho Station on the Koumi Line
 
More information about hybrid train, DMU JR East KiHa E200 (in Japanese):

Friday, 8 February 2013

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

DMU KiHa 48 "Minori", Harvest of the Travel to Tohoku


DMU JR East KiHa 48 "Minori" arrives at Sendai Station on the Tohoku Main Line

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Sendai City in the Tohoku District. It is located about 300km north of Tokyo, and is the main city of Miyagi Prefecture. Sendai was hit by the 3.11 giant earthquake and tsunami in 2011, but local people seemed to have recovered from the shock of the disaster.

After my appointment, I encountered a sightseeing train at JR East Sendai Station on the way back home. A two-car train with a brown and gold colored body...it was DMU KiHa 48 "Minori (harvest)" (see the photos). This train is operated between Sendai and Shinjo in Yamagata Prefecture. It is popular among tourists since the route has many magnificent prospects, such as deep valleys, unspoiled countryside, and hot springs with clouds of white steam.

The Minori was manufactured in 2008 at JR East Koriyama Factory. It is composed of 3 rail cars (KiHa 48-546, 549 and 550), but I saw only 2 units (KiHa 48-546 and 550) on that day, probably because it was off season. The cabin was very spacious. It was equipped with luxury reclining seats, viewing decks, and a midway. Most of the passengers were couples, families and groups from work. I wished I was them, but I didn't mind, because I took some pictures. Next time I'll stay longer in Sendai and board this train.

DMU KiHa 48, Minori, it was the harvest of my travel to Tohoku.

DMU JR East KiHa 48 "Minori" stands at Sendai Station on the Tohoku Main Line
 
More information about DMU KiHa 48 "Minori" (in Japanese):

Saturday, 2 February 2013

EMU Odakyu 4000 Series, Train in the Year of the Snake


EMU Odakyu 4000 series "squirms" its body at the Ayase Rail Yard, the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line

I just celebrated New Year, but I can't believe it is February already. Time really flies. Before introducing the topics of this month, I would like to keep to the subject of January a bit more.

2013 is the Year of the Snake, according to the oriental zodiac. Asian people believe that a snake is considered a divine messenger. As you may know, snakes cast off their skin. It is a symbol of regeneration.

I associate with the Year of the Snake with the EMU Odakyu 4000 series. The "face" of the train is a snake in itself. The two front lights look like eyes. The coupler is similar to a tongue in a mouth. Once the 4000 series runs on a curve or a slope track, it is very snaky (see the top photo).

The 4000 series was launched in 2007 for the direct operation between the Odakyu and the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda lines. I often use this train to go to my office. Apart from its scary snaky look, I am satisfied with its high performance and comfortable ride. For example, the 4000 series has advanced equipment such as a pure electrical brake system. It also has a backup operating system, which is robust and fault-tolerant. Even if the main system is dead, the 4000 series casts off its skin, and survives by using another system.

The EMU Odakyu 4000 series... it is a train to be worthy of the Year of the Snake.

EMU Odakyu 4000 series, "Snaky Train" passes through Chitose-Funabashi Station
 
More information about EMU Odakyu 4000 series (in Japanese):
http://www.j-trec.co.jp/rw/oer4000.html
More information about comuuter trains on the Odakyu Line (in Japanese):
http://www.odakyu.jp/company/business/railways/train/#section-2