Monday, September 30, 2013

Motegi in Autumn: Black and Red

SL Express (C12 66 + OHa 50 series) runs on the up-hill grade track of the Mooka Railway
 
The season of the red carpet has come back. They extend a red carpet welcome to me here and there in the fields. Who are they?

They are Spider lily flowers. Spider lily is an autumn plant with red colored blossoms. I like this flower very much as it is a signal of the coming of autumn after a severely hot summer. Following my visit to Koma in 2011 and Satte in 2012, I visited Motegi Town in Tochigi Prefecture this year with my family to be welcomed by the seasonal red carpet.

Motegi is located some 100km north of Tokyo. To visit this quiet town, Mooka Railway is convenient. Connecting Shimodate and Motegi stations, the total operating length is 41.9 kilometers. This local railway has two units of steam locomotives (SLs), namely C11 325 and C12 66. Pulling classic passenger coaches (OHa 50 series), SL Express "Mooka" is operated every weekend (see the top photo). The SL's body is a beautiful shiny black, and the piercing whistle doesn't seem old at all.

After getting off at Motegi Terminal, we visited Shiroyama Park near the station. Shiroyama is a small mountain in the town. There was a castle from medieval times, which was abandoned in 1557. Currently it is open to the public as a scenic park. We enjoyed the gorgeous red carpets of Spider Lily blossoms on the slopes of the mountain (see the following photo).

Early autumn's Motegi is the season of the black-colored SL and the red-colored Spider Lily.

 
Spider lily field in Shiroyama Park near Motegi Station on the Mooka Railway

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Manseibashi, Revival of Abandoned Station

Ex-Manseibashi Station and the Chuo Line track
 
Manseibashi is an unforgettable place for me in Tokyo. When I was a kid, I often came to this place with my uncle to walk through the Transportation Museum. My favorite exhibition was an automatic door on the mock train. I pretended to be a train conductor and got absorbed in pressing the door switch all day long. The Transportation Museum has already been closed, but the same kind of attraction is still in use in the present Railway Museum in Saitama City.

There was another famous site among rail fans in the Manseibashi area. It was an old railway station that opened in 1912. This station had been functioning as a terminal of the Chuo Line, but was abandoned in 1943 due to a decrease in incoming and outgoing passengers. Since it's closure, it was forgotten about by Tokyoites except only a few rail fans. The old brick-built station has been falling into decay under the elevated railway tracks.

On September 14th, 2013, JR East opened a new commercial complex in the ex-Manseibashi station yard. The space under the elevated track is being reutilized. The old brick-covered pillars were renovated beautifully, and shops, cafes and restaurants have moved into the under-track space (see the top photo). Visitors can also climb up the old stairs and see the abandoned platform where a scenic restaurant has been opened. I could see the EMU 233 series passing through the ex-platform on the Chuo Line track (see the following photo).

Manseibashi Station reappeared in different forms in the twenty-first century.

 
EMU JR East 233 series passes through ex-Manseibashi Station on the Chuo Line
 
More information aboout the Manseibashi redevelopment project (in Japanese):

Friday, September 27, 2013

EMU 955 Series, "300X": Domestic Speed Record Holder

955-6 of the EMU JR Central 955 series, "300X" is preserved in SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
 
EMU JR Central 955 series, also known as the 300X, was a high speed test vehicle on the Tokaido Shinkansen. It was manufactured in 1995 by Mitsubishi Heavy industries, Nippon Sharyo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hitachi to develop new generation Shinkansen trains. The name "300X" meant that it would be a successor of the existing EMU 300 series.

In accordance with the aim of the development concept, many kinds of new technologies were adopted on the 300X train, such as bolster-less bogies with active suspensions and a body inclining device to maintain high speed on tight curves. The 300X was a six-car train composed of all motor cars. Each induction motor had 405kW power output to generate high speed. On July 26th in 1996, the 300X broke a domestic speed record on the test run. It was 443km/hour (275miles/hour).

As a rail fan, I like the body design of the 300X, which has two faces. The 955-6 on the Tokyo side has a round-wedge shaped; meanwhile the 955-1 on the Osaka side has cusp shaped mask, which is similar to a duckbill in Australia. Specifically, the round-wedge shaped car, unit number 955-6 is my favorite. Unfortunately, the round wedge-shaped mask was not adopted on the front of new generation train, the EMU 700 series.

In 2001, the 300X was retired from the track after taking precious data for developing new generation Shinkansen trains. Currently, unit number 955-6 of the 300X is preserved in SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya City.

 
Memorial plate on the 955-6 of the EMU 955 series, "300X"
 
More information about rolling stock in SCMAGLEV and Railway Park:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Old Ceramic Factory on the Higashiyama Line

EMU Nagoya Municipal Subway 5050 series stands at Nagoya Station on the Higashiyama Line
 
Noritake is Japan's representative ceramic tableware brand. It was established in 1904 in Noritake Village of Nagoya City. In commemorating the 100th anniversary of Noritake brand, a memorial garden was opened in 2001 on the premises of their headquarters, the very birthplace of modern pottery in Japan.

This area has already been completed as a role of their production base. The site of the main factory was changed to a forest and a garden, which are open to the public. Although most of the old buildings were demolished, some brick-built ones are still preserved. For instance, the following photograph shows old storage buildings, which were built in 1904 as some of the first buildings on this site. They were designated as the Nagoya City's historical construction property in 2012.

To get to this ex-factory garden, take the Nagoya Municipal Subway-Higashiyama Line and get off at Kamejima Station. The Higashiyama Line is the first subway line in the city. It was opened in 1957 between Nagoya and Sakae-cho stations (2.4km). The whole route was completed in 1982 between Takabata and Fujigaoka stations (20.6km). The track gauge is 1,435mm and the electric system is 600V DC with a third rail.

The EMU 5050 series is one of the major fleets on the line. It was launched in 1992 to replace old models. A total of 27 sets, 162 units, have been manufactured so far by Nippon Sharyo. The stainless steel body with yellow and white stripes is vivid for passengers.

 
Old strorages are preserved in ex-Noritake Factory near Kamejima Station on the Higashiyama Line
 
More information about the EMU Nagoya Municipal Subway 5050 series (in Japanese):

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tokyo Night Walk: Yaesu Entrance of Tokyo Station

EMU JR East 231-500 series stands at Tokyo Station on the Yamanote Line
 
Tokyo station is the largest railway terminal in Japan. It was opened in 1914 as a central station of the capital city of Japan. The surface and the 20 elevated tracks are used by the JR lines. Meanwhile, 10 underground tracks are allocated for the JR conventional and the Tokyo Metro subway lines.

Tokyo station has two faces. One of them is a historical aspect, which is represented by the Marunouchi (western) side. Last year, the Marunouchi entrance building was restored to be the same as it was when it opened. This building was severely destroyed by an air strike in 1945. It was repaired after WWII, but the design of the roofs was changed, because it was a stop-gap measure.

The other is a contemporary aspect, which is represented by the Yaesu (eastern) side. Recently, "Gran Roof" was opened as a new landmark of the Yaesu entrance. Gran Roof is a mock of a sail. Restaurants, cafes and kiosks were also opened in front of Gran Roof. In the evening, Gran Roof is beautifully lit up (see the following photo). It is like a sail of light.

In the meantime, we can see many trains in Tokyo Station even in the evening. The Yamanote Line train is well known as Japan's most crowded railway (see the top photo). The EMU JR East 231-500 series, an eleven-car train, runs every 3 minutes in the evening.

Tokyo Station doesn't sleep... a night-less station.

 
Night view of the Yaesu entrance

Sunday, September 22, 2013

EMU 183/189 Series, Old JNR-colored Limited Express


Set H81 of the EMU JR East 183/189 series (JNR color) stands at Shinjuku Station

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. During the JNR era, plenty of limited express trains like the one in the top photo were introduced all over Japan. You can see the characteristics of the JNR type limited express in the front design, body coloring and so on.

After privatizing, all JNR type limited express trains were ceded to each JR company. Since then, these trains were gradually scrapped or modified and lost the original designs. But, they are still alive and operating on some lines.

Look at the top photo. It is an example of JNR type limited express train, set number H81 of the 183/189 series standing at JR East Shinjuku Station. This model was launched in 1972. The body of this train is frequently called "JNR limited express color". Although JNR has been abolished, many rail fans are still boosterish about this coloring, as it fits into any kind of scenery in Japan from urban business centers to mountain forests.

41 years have already passed since it debuted, but the 183/189 series still plays an important role. Set H81 is mainly used for group tours including school excursions for junior high and senior high school students. The old train serves boys and girls who will bear the future world. It will be the final mission for this old JNR-colored limited express train before its retirement.

 
Side view of the EMU JR East 183/189 series (JNR color)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tokyo Night Walk: Gate Bridge and New Train

EMU JR East E233-7000 series arrives at Shinonome Station on the Tokyo Waterfront Railway
 
Further to Rainbow Bridge, I am going to show you the other gorgeous night view in Tokyo. Look at the following photo. It is the night view of Tokyo Gate Bridge. This bridge was opened last year, and is a 2.9km long road bridge across Tokyo Bay. Unlike Rainbow Bridge, it is not a part of the express road (Trans-Tokyo Bay Highway), but a toll free local street.

Due to two kinds of restrictions, the designing of the bridge was very difficult. One of them is the Aviation Law. The bridge location is close to Tokyo International Airport; therefore, it is prohibited to construct a tall suspension bridge. Another restriction is to secure vertical clearance for large vessels to enter the Port of Tokyo. Consequently, a truss-type design was adopted. The shape of the bridge became similar in appearance to a dinosaur. So, Tokyoites call this bridge "Dinosaur Bridge". Currently, it is brightly lit in the evening.

To visit this new landmark bridge, get off at Shin-Kiba Station on the Tokyo Waterfront Railway. Recently, a new train, the EMU JR East E233-7000 series debuted on the line. This model will replace the old EMU JR East 205 series soon. The shining stainless steel body with green-colored stripe is perfectly fresh. Most trains are directly operated into the JR East Saikyo Line for Omiya and Kawagoe.

The beautifully lit up bridge and the shining new train on the Tokyo Waterfront Railway... night walk in Tokyo is full of attractions.

 
Night view of Tokyo Gate Bridge near Shin-Kiba Station on the Tokyo Waterfront Railway

Thursday, September 19, 2013

EMU 22000 Series, Egg Train on the Kintetsu Line

EMU Kintetsu 22000 series runs near Shin-Oomiya Station on the Nara Line
 
As I noted in this blog before, EMU 22600 series is the main model of Kintetsu's limited express fleet. It was launched in 2009 to replace the old model such as the 12200 series. The rounded frontal mask is very cute and my favorite. It's just like an egg.

The 22600 series has an elder brother, whose name is the EMU 22000 series. It is the original Kintetsu "egg train", which debuted in 1992. Look at the following photo. Along with its rounded body, four rounded frontal lights are also very attractive for me. The 22000 series won the good design award from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 1993.

Regarding the specification, the 22000 series is known as the first limited express train to which Kintetsu applied advanced bolsterless bogies and the VVVF inverter control (valuable frequency drive) system with induction motors. The interior has been made progressively barrier-free. The 22000 series has wheelchair-accessible seats and toilets. The cabin doors have also been widened for the passage of wheelchairs.

I took the 22000 series on the Nara Line with my family in July. The interior had a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. The light gray-colored seat has a good level of hardness. It was very comfortable for us. We had a great view of the countryside of Nara Prefecture from the large window.

The EMU 22000 series... it is a lovely egg train on the Kintetsu Line.
 
EMU Kintetsu 22000 series arrives at Yamato-Saidaiji Station

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Yokohama Night Walk: the MM21 area and Yokosuka Line

EMU JR East E217 series stands at Yokohama Station on the Yokosuka Line
 
Minato Mirai 21, also known as MM21, is a large urban development area, and the central business district of Yokohama City, some 20km south of Tokyo. It is designed as a new urban center to connect Yokohama's traditional city centers such as Kannai and the Yokohama Station area. MM21 used to be a rail yard, a shipyard and wharfs of Yokohama Port.

The construction started in 1983. With the development of MM21, it has formed part of the business and central core of Yokohama City. Today, about 79,000 people are working in MM21. The illuminations of the MM21 area is one of the famous night leisure spots in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

In the meantime, I am going to show you an EMU, which comes to Yokohama Station. Look at the top photo. It is the blue and cream colored train, JR East EMU E217 series on the Yokosuka Line. The blue and cream body color has been a tradition of trains on the Yokosuka Line since 1951, when the EMU 70 series train was launched.

The E217 series was debuted in 1994 to replace an old EMU 113 series. It is a typical commuter train with eight doors per unit. Long seats are equipped; but cross seats are also allocated for long distance passengers in several cars. Most trains are directly operated into the Sobu Line via Tokyo Station.

Taking the Yokosuka Line, the night walk in MM21 of Yokohama City is my favorite in this early autumn season.

 
Night view of the Minato Mirai 21 (MM21) area from Yamashita Park

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Golden Lace and Classic Train on the Chichibu Railway

Classic EMU Chichibu Railway 1000 series runs near Nogami Station

Aki-no-Nanakusa is the seven representative autumn flowers in Japan. They are Ominaeshi (golden lace, Patrinia scabiosaefolia), Hagi (bush clover), Kuzu (kudzu), Nadeshiko (large pink, Dianthus superbus), Fujibakama (boneset, Eupatorium fortunei), Kikyo (Chinese bellflower) and Susuki (silver grass). They are small and tiny, but their simplicity has been very much admired by Japanese people.

Among these, I found a beautiful flower community of golden lace last week in the Chichibu region. They are yellow-colored small lacy blossoms planted in a small temple. Blowing in a gentle autumn breeze, they were swinging slowly. It is still hot in the daytime, but autumn is only just around the corner.

To enjoy these beautiful flowers, take the Chichibu Railway and get off at Nogami Station. A classic EMU 1000 series is your vehicle to get to the golden lace community. It was originally debuted in 1957 as a commuter train, the JNR (Japanese National Railways) 101 series. A total of 1,535 units were manufactured by JNR over 12 years. A total of 36 units were, then, moved to the Chichibu Railway in the 1980s to spend their second life, having escaped from being scrapped. Currently, only three sets, nine units of ex-JNR 101 series trains have survived.

The Chichibu Railway has already announced that all sets of the EMU 1000 series (ex-JNR 101 series) will be retired by the end of March, 2014.

The clock is ticking.

 
Golden lace flowers in Shinshoji Temple near Nogami Station on the Chichibu Railway

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Yokohama Night Walk: Yamashita Park and MM21 Line

EMU Yokohama Minato Mirai Railway Y500 series stands at Takashima Station on the MM21 Line 
 
Yokohama is situated some 20km southwest of Tokyo. It is the second largest city in Japan. Yokohama has been developed as Tokyo's outport since the 19th century. Currently, it has an estimated population of 3.7 million.

If you go to Yokohama Port, you can see an old ocean liner, Hikawa Maru preserved in front of Yamashita Park. She was launched in 1929, and ran a regular route between Yokohama, Vancouver and Seattle before WWII. She had a reputation for service that combined splendid food and beautiful art deco interiors. So, she was called "The Queen of the Pacific". Charlie Chaplin travelled on her for part of his Round the World Tour that he made in 1932.

During WWII, Hikawa Maru served as a hospital ship. She was, then, used as a cargo ship and passenger liner. Eventually, she was permanently berthed at Yamashita Park and preserved. Currently, it is open to the public.

To visit this old ocean liner, the subway Minatomirai Line (the MM21 Line) of the Yokohama Minatomirai Railway is convenient. Connecting Yokohama and Motomachi-Chuukagai (Motomachi-Chinatown), the total length is 4.1km. It was opened in 2004 as an access route to the urban development area, Minatomirai 21, in downtown Yokohama.

A stylish EMU Y500 series and the other EMUs are operated every 3 to 4 minutes throughout the day. All trains are directly operated into the Tokyu-Toyoko Line. So, it is very convenient from Shibuya in the downtown Tokyo area.

 
Hikawa Maru is berthed at Yamashita Park near Motomachi-Chuukagai Station on the MM21 Line

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tokyo Night Walk: Rainbow Bridge and Yurikamome Line

EMU 7200 series stands at Daiba-kaihin-koen Station on the Yurikamome Line
 
It is early autumn in Tokyo. During the daytime, I feel comfortable when I'm still, but as soon as I start moving around, it gets really hot. So, I find it is better to do a night walk and feel the cool rush of evening air.

A recommended night walk spot is the Tokyo Bay area near the city center. You can enjoy a gorgeous night view on the coast. Look at the following photo. It is Rainbow Bridge connecting the downtown area and New Tokyo Waterfront Subcenter. It was opened in 1993 as a double decked suspension bridge. Currently, Rainbow Bridge is illuminated colorfully in celebration of the decision to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

You can drive through Rainbow Bridge using both the expressway and the ordinary roads; but I recommend you take the Yurikamome Line to enjoy the beautiful night view in the bay area. Yurikamome is an AGT (automated guide way transit) line, which was opened in 1995 between Shimbashi in downtown Tokyo and the New Tokyo Waterfront Subcenter. The current total operating length is 14.7km. It is a small-sized driverless train with rubber-tires instead of steel bogies.

The top photo shows the latest model, the EMU 7200 series standing at Daiba-kaihin-koen Station. This model was launched in 1999 as the second generation train on the line. The major differences from the previously-existing 7000 series are the control system (from thyristor to variable-frequency drive) and an increased number of guide wheels.

To be continued...
 
Night view of Rainbow Bridge near Daiba Station on the Yurikamome Line
 
More information about the Yurikamome trains (in Japanese): http://www.yurikamome.co.jp/contents/hp0082/index.php?No=50&CNo=82

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

EMU Tokyu 9000 Series: Update

EMU Tokyu 9000 series arrives at Jiyugaoka Station on the Ooimachi Line

Tokyu is a major private railway company in the Tokyo metropolitan area. They have a labyrinthine railway network in the southwestern part of Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. Tokyu has been in a stable business position as the king of private railway companies in Tokyo; however, they can no longer rest on their laurels as the railway business in Tokyo has become very competitive in recent years.

Tokyu's new strategy is clear... "reorganization of the railway network" to secure passengers from an extensive region. For instance, the Tokyu-Toyoko Line was connected with the Tokyo Metro-Fukutoshin Line at Shibuya Terminal on March 16th this year. As a result, direct operations between Toyoko, Tokyo Metro, Tobu and Seibu lines were started. Tokyu expects a new flow of people from Tokyo Metro, Tobu and Seibu lines to the Toyoko Line, where Tokyu have many commercial facilities such as shopping malls, department stores and theaters.

What results have Tokyu had after reorganization of the line network? I don't care about their business, but I am getting worried about the trains. For instance, the EMU 9000 series has disappeared from the Toyoko Line. The 9000 series has been cut from eight-car to five-car trains, but still survives on the Ooimachi Line. It is good news for me, as the 9000 series is one of my favorite trains in Tokyo.

For the time being, I will be able to enjoy the distinctive groaning modulated sound being generated from the VVVF control system on the EMU 9000 series.

 
EMU Tokyu 9000 series arrives at Mizonokuchi Station on the Denentoshi Line

Monday, September 9, 2013

Preserved EL and Tunnel on the Chuo Line

 Electric locomotive EF64 18 is preserved in Katsunuma-budokyo Station on the Chuo Line
 
It is autumn harvest season again in the Tokyo metropolitan area. We can enjoy fresh grapes in Yamanashi Prefecture now. Last Sunday, I took a local train on the Chuo Line and got off at Katsunuma-budokyo (Katsunuma Grape Country) Station. There were vast vineyards extending on the slope in front of the railway station. Although new wine was still in the making, I enjoyed as many fresh grapes as I could, visiting several vineyards around the station.

After collecting fresh grapes, I visited ex-Oohikage Tunnel on the Chuo Line. It is a 1.4km long railway tunnel, opened in 1902. This tunnel had made a large contribution to the local economy, but it was abandoned in 1968, when the new tunnel was completed. Currently, ex-Oohikage Tunnel is opened to the public as a walking track. The inner wall of the tunnel was paved with smoke-covered brick. It is dark and thrilling to walk inside the tunnel.

A classic electric locomotive (EL), which was preserved in front of the station, was also attractive for me. It was unit number 18 of the EF64 manufactured by Toshiba in 1966. EF64 was a direct current electric locomotive and a specialist to be operated on steep tracks in mountain areas. Unit number 18 had been operated until 2005, pulling freight trains. This old EL spends the rest of his life warmly watching over the changing of the Chuo Line.


Fresh grapes, an ex-railway tunnel and an old preserved EL... Katsunuma was filled with attractions.

Ex-Oohikage Tunnel on the Chuo Line

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sulfur Cosmos Field on the Kanto Railway

DMU Kantetsu 2100 series (new color) approaches Mitsukaido Station
 
It is still hot in Tokyo. I took a stroll in the suburban area to look for the advent of autumn. My destination was Ibaraki Prefecture, which is located north of downtown Tokyo.

I visited Kokaigawa Fureai Park, since Sulfur Cosmos are at their best in this season. Together with Bush Clover, it is an early autumn flower that represents Japan. Kokaigawa Fureai Park is one of the prestigious fields of Sulfur Cosmos in the Tokyo metropolitan area. This park commands you a total of three million Sulfur Cosmos flowers during the height of the season. The large field along the Kokai River was filled with a carpet of dark yellow-colored flowers backed by Tsukuba Mountain.

To visit this vast Sulfur Cosmos field, take the Kanto Railway (Kantetsu) and get off at Shimotsuma Station. Kantetsu penetrates Ibaraki Prefecture from south to north. Connecting Toride and Shimodate cities, the total operating length is 51.1km. The whole route is un-electrified.

The DMU KiHa 2100 series is one of the main fleets of Kantetsu. It was launched in 1993. A total of 6 sets, 12 units were manufactured by Niigata Tekko. It is the Kantetsu's first DMU model, which has bolsterless bogies. Recently, a new coloring design was applied on their bodies (The old coloring design is here).

By enjoying the beautiful Sulfur Cosmos flowers and the new colored DMU, I spent a great weekend again.

 
Sulfur Cosmos field backed by Mt. Tsukuba in Kokaigawa Fureai Park near Shimotsuma Station

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bitter Decision of JR Hokkaido

DMU JR Hokkaido KiHa 281 series, limited express "Super-Hokuto" stands at Hakodate Station
 
JR Hokkaido made an announcement that the maximum speed of their limited express trains will decrease from 130 to 110km/hour from November this year. They have also decided to reduce the operations of the limited express trains on their three routes.

JR Hokkaido is one of the JR group railway companies operating in the northernmost island (Hokkaido) of Japan. It was established in 1987 after the breakup and privatization of Japanese National Railways. Just like the other companies, JR Hokkaido has been facing fierce competition from airlines and bus companies especially in the field of intercity transportation.

Since JR Hokkaido doesn't have a Shinkansen (super-express train) tracks, the only thing they could do was to increase the train speed on their conventional lines to attract passengers. But it had come back to haunt this company. Within the last couple of years, JR Hokkaido was accident-filled with derailments and vehicle fires. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but the accident rate of JR Hokkaido is said to be twice as much as the other railway companies.

What has actually been causing the high accident rate? It is said that the large load on the vehicles was the reason. Most of the vehicles that caused accidents were diesel multiple units (DMUs) for limited express trains equipped with a body tilting device to pass through tight curves at high speed. The equipments of these DMUs seems to be very complex and difficult to maintain in good condition.

As a rail fan, I hope for a resurgence of JR Hokkaido soon.

 
Side view of Type KiRo 280 of the DMU KiHa 281 series

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pinch Runner on the Chichibu Railway


Passenger train pulled by the electric locomotive type 100 leaves Nagatoro Station

As I introduced early this week, the C58 363 is a precious steam locomotive (SL) on the Chichibu Railway in Saitama Prefecture. It is a 1-C-1 type large SL coupled with a coal tender. The diameter of the driving wheel is 1,520mm.

On August 6th in 2012, this SL derailed in Hirosegawara Rail Yard while shunting. Fortunately, there were no injuries but the body of the SL leaned, and the front wheels were severely damaged. It was just before the autumn sightseeing season. Chichibu Railway didn't have a spare SL, so this local company suffered big losses. It took seven months for repairs to be carried out and resume SL operation.

When I visited the Chichibu Railway last autumn, an electric locomotive (EL), type DeKi 100 was operated as a "pinch runner" of the SL. It was manufactured in 1956 for freight train operations. Pulling the unfamiliar passenger coaches, the EL was performing its job well; however, I missed the SL, which was loved by rail fans, children and local people.

Getting on the EL-pulling train, I visited a Dahlia garden near Chichibu Station. Dahlia is an autumn flower originally from Mexico in 1842. Showing vivid colors, large flowers are popular among flower lovers. We can see many kinds of Dahlia flowers in this garden. They are pink, purple, orange colored and so on.

I couldn't get on the reputable SL train, but fully enjoyed the "pinch runner" train and the beautiful Dahlia garden on that day.
 
Dahlia garden near Chichibu Station on the Chichibu Railway

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nostalgic Tram in Surfer's Paradise

A surfer (left) and the EMU Enoden 1000 series (right) near Enoshima Station

As I introduced before, Kamakura is a historic city where the bakufu (shogunate government) was located from 1185 to 1333. This city is located on the Pacific Ocean to the south. Meanwhile, there are steep mountains to the north, east and west as a natural fortification in the Samurai (warrior) era.

This city has another face. It is also famous for marine sports such as surfing and yachting. Do you love surfing? To be honest, I love skiing, but I never got into surfing. Probably, I have a prejudice against marine sports. In Kamakura, there are plenty of surfing addicts. For instance, the Inamuragasaki area is well-known as a surfer's paradise in the Tokyo metropolitan area. You can see many kahunas (or shark biscuits?) on the sea on the weekend.

The main transporter in this surfer's paradise zone is Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden). Enoden, connecting Kamakura and Fujisawa (10km), was opened in 1902. The track is single, and its electric system is 600V DC overhead. Look at the top photo. It is an EMU 1000 series, which has been operating since 1979. It is fun for me that the small-sized lovely train snakes on a curve near Enoshima Station.

To the left of the EMU 1000 series (see again the top photo), you can see a surfer, who is heading to his favorite spot. His beloved surfboard is perfectly installed on the right side of the bicycle. It is well thought out, isn't it?

 
EMU Enoden 1000 series arrives at Hase Station

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stadium of Stars on the Akasawa Forest Railway

Unit number 136 of the diesel locomotive type F4 is preserved in Akasawa Forest Railway Museum
 
When I visited the Kiso area last month, one of my purposes was to see the star-filled night sky. It is said that Kiso is one of the most beautiful night sky areas in Japan, as it is located in a sparsely populated countryside which is high above sea level. A lot of space enthusiasts visit this area throughout the year.

Unfortunately, it was slightly overcast when I stayed at a hotel nearby Akasawa Forest Railway station. It was far from perfect, but I could see the beautiful Milky Way backed by southern constellations. It was a memorable night.

In the meantime, I am going to show you the other locomotive, which used to be operated on the Akasawa Forest Railway. It is a diesel locomotive (DL), unit number 136 of the Type F4 (F4-136). This DL was manufactured in 1956 by Sakai Seisakusho. After being operated on Hokkaido Island, it was moved to the Kiso area in 1962. A magnificent full-scale DL with B-B type bogies and dual-cab is attractive for rail fans.

The F4-136 had been operated until 1976 on the forest railways in the Kiso area; but it didn't have many lines because of its complex mechanism. Maintenance and inspection seemed to be difficult for engineers on the small forest railway.

Currently, the F4-136 is exhibited in the Forest Railway Museum adjacent to the track of Akasawa Forest Railway. I hope that it will be revived and operated again someday.

 
The Milky Way backed by southern constellations

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rush of Cool Air on the Chichibu Railway

"Paleo-express" pulled by the steam locomotive C58 363 on the Chichibu Railway

I just celebrated New Year, but I can't believe that it is September already. Before introducing the topics of autumn, I would like to keep to the subject of summer a bit more.

We witnessed record heat this summer. The maximum temperature was 41 degrees Celsius, which was the record-high in Japan. The only thing I could do was escape the city at the weekends to go to cool places. Oku-Chichibu is one of the famous recreation areas in the western suburb of Tokyo. By taking the Chichibu Railway, we can reach a deep and cool forest easily from downtown Tokyo.

Fudotaki Waterfall is located in the forest of the Oku-Chichibu area near Mitsumine-guchi Station on the Chichibu Railway. The height of the fall is only 50m, but it is a paradise in summer, as visitors can feel a rush of cool air there.

To get to this cool waterfall, you should ride on the "Paleo-express" train pulled by a steam locomotive (SL), the C58. A total of 431 Type C58 units had been manufactured since 1938; but, currently, only one unit, number 363 is operated. The 363 was manufactured by Kawasaki Sharyo in 1944, and had been operated on the Japanese National Railways. It was once retired in 1972, but came back to the track in 1988 to pull a sightseeing train, the "Paleo-express".

The cool waterfall and the nostalgic SL, the Chichibu Railway is full of attractions.
 
Fudotaki Waterfall near Mitsumine-guchi Station on the Chichibu Railway
 
More information about "Paleo-express" on the Chichibu Railway (in Japanese):