Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Streetcar with Christmas Decorations

Electric car, number 9001 of the Toei 9000 series stands at Arakawa-kuyakusho-mae Stop
The 2014 Christmas season has passed. How did you spend the Christmas holidays this year? I am not a Christian, but I could also feel Christmas here and there in Tokyo. For instance, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei) operated a special streetcar during the Christmas season. It was car number 9001 of the electric car 9000 series on the Arakawa Line.

As you know, the Arakawa Line is a precious survivor of the tram route in Tokyo. It had been operated as two routes, namely Route 27 and 32. They were integrated into one route, the Arakawa Line, in 1974. Connecting Waseda and Minowabashi, its operating length is 12.2 km. The track is 1,372 mm-size gauge and double. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead.

The electric car 9000 series is the latest model on the line. It was commissioned in 2007. A total of 2 units have been manufactured so far by Aluna Sharyo. Each unit has a different color, red (car number 9001) and blue (car number 9002). Although the specification of the 9000 series has been modernized, the exterior design and interior atmosphere of this model remains retro-inspired.

You can see a Christmas wreath on the front of car number 9001. Santa Claus and the other Christmas characters are also seen on the side windows. They are beautiful and lovely. National flags of Japan (Rising Sun flags) were also displayed on December 23rd, which was the Emperor's Birthday.

Only two days are now left in 2014.
Side view of the electric car 9001 with Christmas decorations

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Tankoro Festival on the Enoden Line

Front view of car number 108, the electric car Enoden 100 series, "Tankoro"
Following the rail yard tour on the Shin-Keisei Railway, I am going to show you the other public event, which was recently held by Enoshima Electric Railway.

Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) is a convenient mode of transportation to get around the historical Kamakura City, which is located about 40 km southwest of Tokyo. Connecting Kamakura and Fujisawa on the Tokaido and Odakyu lines, its operating length is 10 km. The track is 1,067 mm-size single, and its electric system is 600 V DC overhead.

The public event, "Tankoro Festival", was held in Enoden's Gokurakuji Rail Yard. The main exhibition was... of course, Tankoro. What is Tankoro? It is an old electric car, which is being kept in an operational state in the rail yard. Tankoro, whose formal name is "electric car, number 108 of the Enoden 100 series", was manufactured in 1931 by Niigata Tekko. He (or she) is the 8th boy (girl) of the 100 series brothers (sisters).

The specification of Tankoro is very old. Direct electric control and straight air brake systems are still used, but it is very handsome and nostalgic. The frontal mask is slightly convex, and it has three large windows. A large single round light is attached at the top of the front. The green and cream colored riveted body with window sills and window headers tell us the long history of this train.

I am truly grateful to Enoshima Electric Railway Company to have held this special event.

Car number 108 of the electric car Enoden 100 series (Tankoro) is exhibited in Gokurakuji Rail Yard
More infomation about car number 108 of the electric car Enoden 100 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Histric Street on the Nagareyama Line

EMU Ryutetsu 5000 series arrives at Heiwadai Station
Along with the old artificial river, I am going to introduce the other picturesque spot in Nagareyama City.

Nagareyama has been developed as a center of an inland water transportation system since the 18th Century. Thanks to the water transportation, Nagareyama has prospered for a long time. It has gorgeous shopping streets such as Dozo-dukuri, which are made of timbers, but the walls were coated with stucco for resistance to fire. The photo below was built as a draper's shop in 1890. It is a kaleidoscope shop now.

Currently, Nagareyama, which has a population of about 170,000, became a commuter city rather than the center of the inland water transportation. Many people go to their offices and schools in Tokyo by train. One of the must-be-remembered railways for rail-fans is the Ryutetsu Nagareyama Line. It is a small local railway, connecting Mabashi on the JR East Joban Line and Nagareyama (5.7 km). The entire route is an electrified single track. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead and the gauge size is 1,067 mm.

The rolling stock on the Nagareyama Line is the EMU ex-Seibu 101 series. It was moved to Ryutetsu in 2009 and named the 5000 series. A total of five sets are operated on the track. They are light blue, red, yellow, orange and green. The 2-car trains are operated every 15 minutes on average.

A visit to Nagareyama is interesting all the way through.

The old shop near Heiwadai Station on the Ryutetsu Line

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Rail Yard Tours on the Shin-Keisei Line

Shin-Keisei trains are exhibited in Kunugiyama Rail Yard near Kunugiyama Station
I had forgotten to post my blog entry about one more railway event in October this year. It was the rail yard tour on the Shin-Keisei Line.

Shin-Keisei (New Keisei) is a private railway company in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. It is an affiliate firm of Keisei Electric Railway Company, and classified as a mid-sized railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Matsudo on the JR East Joban Line and Tsudanuma on the Keisei Main Line, there are 24 stations over a total operating length of 26.5km. The track is a 1,435mm-size and electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Most of the route is a double track, and 6-car trains are operated every 10 minutes on average during the daytime.

The event was held in Kunugiyama (Sawtooth Oak Mountain) Rail Yard near Kunugiyama Station. Joining a photo session, I could get a beautiful shot of a whole formation of Shin-Keisei trains. The new colored trains were dazzling. They are white and pink colored EMUs, 8800 and 8900 series. Both of them are Shin-Keisei's main fleet on the track.

In the meantime, many other activities were also seen in the yard. The same as the Saitama Railway event, maintenance vehicle tours were very popular attractions for the kids. I also saw a crowd of people buying Shin-Keisei's railway goods such as a 2015 calendar.

I am truly grateful to Shin-Keisei Electric Railway to have held this special event.

Crew cabin of the EMU Shin-Keisei 8800 series is open to the public in Kunigiyama Rail Yard

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Newcomer on the Shonan Monorail Line

Set number 4 of the EMU 5000 series travels on the Shonan Monorail Line
I visited the Shonan Monorail Line two years to the day since 2012. Anything new? Yes, a new train, set number 4 of the EMU 5000 series was launched in February of this year.

First of all, let me explain the Shonan Monorail Line. This route was opened in 1970 as the second suspended type monorail line in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Ofuna on the JR East Tokaido Line and Shonan-Enoshima stations, the operating length is 6.6 km. The track is single and the electric system is 1,500 V DC. The route passes through industrial and residential quarters in the Kamakura Mountain area. Trains are operated every 7.5 minutes during the daytime.

The EMU 5000 series is the main fleet on the line. It was launched in 2004 to replace the old model, the 400 series. One set of the train is composed of three motor cars. The IGBT-VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) electric control system is on board and the maximum operating speed is 75km per hour.

A total of four sets, 12 cars have been manufactured so far by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The latest set, namely, set number 4 (car number 5606, 5207 and 5608), has yellow-colored stripes on the aluminum alloy body; meanwhile, the other three sets have red, blue or light green-colored stripes on the bodies. The large windows to view the beautiful scenery of Kamakura Mountain are my favorite.

Riding on the 5000 series monorail train... enjoy a short journey to Kamakura.
Set number 4 of the EMU 5000 series stands at Nishi-Kamakura Station
More information about the EMU Shonan Monorail 5000 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Advent of Winter on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East 233 series stands at Ochanomizu Station on the Chuo Line
Autumn has gone and winter is here in the Tokyo Metropolis. The maximum daytime temperature is less than 10 degrees Celsius every day. The leaves on the ginkgo trees have already turned yellow and started defoliating. Once a cold wave comes, it always snows in the areas on the Sea of Japan. In contrast, it is always clear in the regions here on the Pacific Ocean. The high mountain ranges, which run nearly the full length of the country, give the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean sides vastly different climatic patterns in this country.

I am going to introduce two spots this time of year in the city center on the Chuo Line, which is my commuting route.

The top photo shows colored leaves in the Ochanomizu Station area. Many trees are seen in Yushima Seido, which was established as Japan's first national school in the 17th century. The commuter train on the left is the EMU JR East E233 series on the Chuo Rapid Line. You can also see subway tracks of the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line adjacent to the Chuo Rapid Line.

The second photo is a street view in the Moto-Akasaka area near Yotsuya Station. This area is located near the state guest house in the city center. Since it was the weekend, the area was very quiet. There were far fewer cars on the road than on weekdays. I could enjoy viewing the beautiful colored leaves along the street.

Time flies so quickly and the year 2014 is ending soon.

Colored leaves are seen near Yotsuya Station on the Chuo Line

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Newcomer on the Tokyu Tamagawa Line

EMU Tokyu 1000-1500 series arrives at Numabe Station on the Tokyu Tamagawa Line
Following the Seibu Tamagawa Line, I am going to show you the other Tamagawa Line in Tokyo... the Tokyu Tamagawa Line.

The Tokyu Tamagawa Line was opened in 1923 as a part of the Mekama Line. The route was split into two lines, namely the Meguro and the Tamagawa lines, in 2000 for the restructuring of Tokyu's railway network. The current operating length of the Tamagawa Line is only 5.6 km, connecting Kamata and Tamagawa stations. The route is a 1,067 mm-sized double track and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

Along with the 7000, 7600 and 7700 series, the EMU 1000-1500 series is the main fleet on the Tokyu Tamagawa Line. The 1000-1500 series was originally launched in the early 1990s on the Tokyu Toyoko Line. Some of the units were moved to the Tamagawa Line after modification this year. Currently, 3 sets of 3-car trains are operated on the line.

The 1000-1500 series is my cup of tea, as the coloring of the bodies is my favorite. It is basically the same as the 7000 series, which debuted in 2007 as new-model cars. Two single-armed pantographs equipped on the roof of car number 2 are a good accent. Induction motors with the new IGBT-VVVF inverter electric control system are on board.

The EMU 1000-1500 series... welcome to the Tokyu Tamagawa Line. I wish these trains well for their new lives on the line.

EMU Tokyu 1000-1500 series stands at Kamata Terminal on the Tokyu Tamagawa Line

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Changing Osaka Loop Line

EMU JR West 201 series stands at Osaka Station on the Osaka Loop Line
Along with the Yamanote Line in Tokyo, Osaka also has a loop line in the center of the city. The route name is Osaka Loop Line, no less.

The size of the Osaka Loop Line is two-thirds of the Yamanote Line. It has 19 stations on the 21.7 km-long route; meanwhile, there are 29 stations on the 34.9 km-long on the Yamanote Line. The EMU 201 series is a main fleet on the line. It was launched in 1979 to replace old models such as the 103 series. A total of 1,018 units have been manufactured for commuter lines in the Tokyo and Osaka areas, but it has already disappeared from the Tokyo area.

One of the features of the 201 series is that the armature-chopper control system is equipped on the train. It makes a signature buzzing sound during acceleration and deceleration. So, I felt very nostalgic when I rode the 201 series on the Osaka Loop Line. Although, the 201 series is my favorite as a rail fan, it is unpopular among Osakans, since it is "dirty, dark and worn-out".

JR West recently made a press release announcing that the renovation project of the Osaka Loop Line has started. It includes renewal of the stations and launching of a new model, the 323 series, which will debut in 2016. You can see the promotion movie about the changing Osaka Loop Line in the JR West's website.

Osaka Loop Line... it is a changing urban route, both the trains and the scenery.
Night view of the changing Osaka Station area

Thursday, 11 December 2014

EMU 225 Series: Rapid Train to the Suburb of Osaka

EMU JR West 225-5000 series stands at Mikunigaoka Station on the Hanwa Line

The EMU 225 series is the JR West's latest model for rapid service trains in the Osaka metropolitan area. It was launched in 2011 on the Tokaido (the 225-0 series) and Hanwa (the 225-5000 series) lines.

The greatest characteristic of the 225 series is its high level of collision safety. In response to the Amagasaki rail crash, which occurred in 2005, this new model has a special crumple zone to mitigate collision shock to passengers, just in case. The other feature is that all cars have motors, but each car has both driving wheels and non-driving wheels (so-called 0.5M system) to equalize each car's behavior. The specification of the train is modern, being equipped with induction motors and IGBT-VVVF (variable frequency drive) electric control system.

Riding on the 225 series, I visited Daisenryo Tumulus in Sakai City. It is said that this large tomb was constructed in the early 5th century, as the mausoleum of Emperor Nintoku. It is in the shape of a keyhole and is 486 meters long.

Today, it is an off-limits area controlled by the Imperial Household Agency. Visitors are allowed to enter only the gate of the tomb, but I could feel the hugeness of it. Thanks to it being "off-limits", the nature in the tomb has been retained perfectly, even though it is surrounded by a residential area. I could see the beautiful colored leaves along the moat and hear the birds chirping from the forest in the tomb.
Daisenryo Tumulus is located near Mozu Station on the JR West Hanwa Line

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Kyo-train: The Hospitality of Hankyu Railway

 Set number 6354F of the EMU Hankyu 6300 series, "Kyo-train", stands at Juso Station

I have never seen this most Osakan of all trains. It is beautifully painted, elegantly designed and luxurious, but no extra fee is needed for boarding. What is it? It is 6354F of the EMU 6300 series, "Kyo-train", of Hankyu Railway.

Hankyu is one of the major private railway companies in Osaka. It operates about a 140-km-long railway network in the Osaka metropolitan area including Kobe and Kyoto cities. The track is 1,435mm gauge and electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

As is the case with Tokyo, the railway business in the Osaka metropolitan area is competitive. Many companies are fighting to attract passengers. For that purpose, Hankyu recently launched a luxury train to promote passengers to travel to Kyoto. That is the Hankyu's flagship model, "Kyo-train". Kyo-train was originally manufactured as an 8-car train by Alna Koki in the late 1970s. It was renovated and re-launched as a luxury 6-car train in 2011. For your information, the meaning of "Kyo-train" is Kyoto train.

The body of Kyo-train is beautiful and elegant. Its color is called "Hankyu maroon", which is like a chocolate or a dark brown shell of a sweet chestnut. The bodies are also decorated with illustrated gold-colored traditional Japanese fans. More importantly, the interior of the train is very luxurious. Specifically, cars number 4 and 5 have nostalgic box seats, reflecting the image of traditional houses in Kyoto.

Kyo-train... it is the hospitality of Hankyu Railway.

Set number 6354F of the EMU Hankyu 6300 series, "Kyo-train", leaves Juso Station
More information about Kyo-train (in Japanese):

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Osaka: Another Kingdom of Railways

Two sets of the EMU JR West 321 series stand at Osaka Station on the Tokaido Main Line
Osaka, which is located some 500 km west of Tokyo, is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. The population of the area now stands at 18.64 million. More than 1.2 million people commute into Osaka City every day.

Along with Tokyo, the railway network in the Osaka metropolitan area is very extensive and labyrinthine. It is composed of JR West, JR Central, Keihan, Kintetsu, Hankyu, Hanshin, Osaka Municipal Subway and other smaller railways. As a rail fan, I prefer the railways in Osaka to those in Tokyo to be honest. It is because the railways in Osaka have a great variety of trains. The design of the trains is also more unique than that of trains in Tokyo.

If you wish to see how the trains are going in Osaka, please visit JR West's Osaka Station. You will get a glimpse of the railways in Osaka there. This giant station has eleven tracks, where both inter-city express and local commuter trains arrive and depart all day long. More importantly, Osaka Station forms a giant "station complex" in conjunction with adjacent Umeda Station of Hankyu, Hanshin and Osaka Municipal Subway. A total of 26 tracks are seen in the Osaka-Umeda station complex.

I recently visited Osaka with my family. It was a short stay, but I could ride on some Osaka trains to visit reputable sightseeing spots. So, I am going to introduce some of the Osaka trains from next post.

To be continued...

Panoramic view of JR West Osaka Station

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Tokyo Night Walk: Shinjuku Southern Terrace

EMU JR East E351 series, "Super-Azusa" stands at Shinjuku Station
Once again, it is the season of "street illuminations" in Japan. We can see a lot of beautiful decorations on the urban streets, which are nicely illuminated by millions of LED lights. It is not known exactly what the origin of this event was; but I think that it can be traced to the Christmas lights to attract customers to shopping malls.

Today, I am going to show you the illuminations on the Southern Terrace near Shinjuku Station first. You can see train passengers passing through the illuminated street, called "Minamillumi" at this time of year. I think that this year's illuminations are simple, but more sophisticated than last year. A glowing clock on the Docomo Tower Building can also be seen behind the illuminated street.

After enjoying the street illuminations, I saw a limited express train, Super-Azusa, the EMU E351 series, standing at Shinjuku Station. This train was launched in 1993 for passing through tight curves at high speed in the mountain ranges on the Chuo Line. Just before entering the tight curves, the train automatically tilts its body to mitigate the centrifugal force. A total of 12 sets (8-car and 4-car trains), 60 units, have been manufactured so far by Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi.

Recently, JR East made a press release announcing that a new express train, the EMU E353 series would be launched on the Chuo Line soon. The E351 series is not going to be operated for very long.

Night view of the Southern Terrace in front of Shinjuku Station

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

White Train on the Seibu Tamagawa Line

EMU Seibu New 101 series arrives at Musashi-Sakai Terminal on the Seibu Tamagawa Line
It is commonly confused by foreigners, but there are two Tamagawa lines in Tokyo. One is the Tokyu Tamagawa Line and the other is Seibu Tamagawa Line. I am going to introduce the Seibu Tamagawa Line today.

The Seibu Tamagawa Line is a short local route in the western part of Tokyo. Connecting Musashi-Sakai on the JR East Chuo Line and Koremasa near Tama River, the operating length is only 8 km. The track is a 1,067mm-size single and electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead, and 4-car trains are operated every 12 minutes.

This route was opened in 1917 to transport gravel from the Tama riverbed to large cities for construction. It is similar with the history of the JR East Nambu Line. The route was, then, changed to a commuter line in 1967.

The rolling stock of the Tamagawa Line is the EMU new 101 series, which was launched in 1979. A total of 4 sets, 16 units, have been operated on the Tamagawa Line since 2010. Different from the other Seibu trains, the body color of the new 101 series on the Tamagawa Line is white. Its specification is rather old as DC motors with a rheostatic control system are still used.

Since the Tamagawa Line is isolated from the other Seibu Railway network, all trains are transported from Musashi-Sakai Terminal to Musashigaoka Rail Yard via JR lines for inspections. We can see a connecting track between Seibu and JR East lines at Musashi-Sakai Terminal for that purpose.

EMU Seibu New 101 series leaves Shiraitodai Station on the Seibu Tamagawa Line

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Late Autumn on the Tokyu Setagaya Line

Set number 305 of the electric car Tokyu 300 series stands at Yamashita Stop on the Setagaya Line
An "autumn leaves front" is going southward in Japan. It is also making a plunge from the high mountains to the plains. The leaves on the urban trees have turned red, yellow and brown. I enjoyed a stroll around my home.

Kitazawagawa Greenway is my favorite walking trail. It was originally a small stream, named Kitazawa River, but was covered and changed to a greenway for flood disaster prevention several years ago. Although the beautiful stream has become a culvert, trees on the river banks have been preserved just as they were.

After walking the greenway, I reached Yamashita Stop on the Tokyu Setagaya Line. I could see the beautiful bright colors of the sunset in the western heavens; meanwhile, it was a deep ultramarine color in the eastern sky. Trains backed by this ultramarine colored sky give photographers many beautiful subjects. The twilight hour is the most photogenic period for me.

I shot several trains arriving at the Yamashita stop. They were electric rail cars, 300 series. As I mentioned before, the 300 series is the only model operated on the Setagaya Line. A total of 10 sets have been manufactured so far. Each set is a different color. They are red, light blue, blue, green, yellow, orange, turquoise green, dark pink, light purple and ex-Tamaden color. This time, I am going to show you the dark pink colored tram, set number 305F, as the top photo.
Kitazawagawa Greenway (left) near Yamashita Stop on the Tokyu Setagaya Line

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Musashino Line: Tokyo's Outer Ring Railway

EMU JR East 205 series arrives at Koshigaya Lake Town Station on the Musashino Line
Large cities in the world expand over the surrounding countryside. Tokyo, whose former name was Edo, is no exception.

Edo was a small little-known fishing village in the 15th century on the Kanto Plain. It became a castle city, when the headquarter of the Tokugawa Shogunate was opened there in 1603. Since then, Edo has been expanding for over 400 years. Currently, the population of the Tokyo metropolitan area is about 38 million, 8 million of whom commute to their offices by trains every day. With the expansion of the Tokyo metropolitan area, not only radiated railways between the urban area and the suburbs, but also ring railways to connect the suburbs have become necessary. The JR East Musashino Line is a good example of a ring railway.

The Musashino Line was opened in 1973 as Tokyo's outer ring railway. Connecting Tsurumi in Kanagawa Prefecture and Nishi-Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture, its operating length is 100.6 km. The section between Tsurumi and Fuchu-Honmachi (28.8 km) is a freight line, while the section between Fuchu-Honmachi and Nishi-Funabashi (71.8 km) is a passenger and freight line. The entire route is an elevated or underground double track with 1,067 mm-gauge. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The orange colored trains, the EMU 205 series and the 209-500 series are the major fleet on the line. 8-car passenger trains are operated every ten minutes on average, but it is always crowded. The Musashino Line functions as an inter-suburbs railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

EMU JR East 209-500 series arrives at Musashi-Urawa Station on the Musashino Line

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The EMU 787 Series: Kirishima Express

EMU JR Kyushu 787 series, Kirishima Express stands at Miyazaki Station on the Nippo Line
Following the historical places, I am going to show you a beautiful natural place in Miyazaki Prefecture today.

Kirishima is a volcanic region located on the border between Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures. There are many craters, which emit volcanic gas and water vapor, in the area. Although Kirishima sometimes becomes a violent active volcano, it also has beautiful scenery such as the autumn colors of the leaves. This area was designated as one of Japan's first national parks by the government in 1934.

To get to Kirishima, JR Kyushu Nippo Main Line is convenient. It takes about 80 minutes from Miyazaki by the EMU 787 series, Kirishima Express train. The 787 series is an alternate current (AC) electric train launched in 1992. A total of 140 units have been manufactured by Hitachi and Kinki-Sharyo for eleven years. The 787 series won the 1993 Blue Ribbon Prize by Japan Railfan Club as the best train that debuted in 1992.

The most distinctive feature of this train is its outer design. The metallic body with robotic faces is very unique. It is totally different from that of the other express trains designed by ex-Japanese National Railways, for example the EMU 485 series. The gauge size of the 787 series is 1,067 mm and the electric system is 20,000 V - 60Hz AC overhead. The maximum speed is 130 km per hour.

A trip to Miyazaki is interesting all the way through.

Mt. Nakadake (1,332m) in the Kirishima Mountains near Kirishima-jingu Station
More information about the EMU 787 series (in Japanese): http://www.toretabi.jp/history/vol22/01.html

Saturday, 22 November 2014

EMU 3000 Series and Restructuring of Railway Network

EMU Tokyu 3000 series arrives at Tamagawa Station on the Tokyu Meguro Line
One of my blog readers recently requested the introduction of the EMU Tokyu 3000 series. So, I am going to show you this urban commuter train in conjunction with the restructuring of Tokyu's railway network.

Tokyu is a major private railway company. They have a clear strategy for enhancement of competitivenesss... restructuring of the railway network. Take for instance, the Meguro Line. The Meguro Line, which was a part of the ex-Mekama Line, used to be a local route connecting Meguro and Kamata, but the operation totally changed in 2000. The Mekama Line was split into two routes, namely the Meguro and the Tamagawa lines at Tamagawa Station. All trains on the Meguro Line began to operate directly into the Tokyu Toyoko, Tokyo Metro Namboku and Toei Mita lines. In other words, the ex-Mekama Line was restructured. Currently, the trains on the Meguro Line are operated from Urawa-Misono (Saitama Railway) in the north to Hiyoshi (Tokyu Toyoko Line) in the south. It has boosted the convenience for passengers.

Taking the above restructuring opportunity, Tokyu has launched a new 6-car train, the EMU 3000 series. The first set was launched onto the Toyoko Line as an 8-car train, but it was moved to the Meguro Line shortly after.

A total of 13 sets, 78 units, have been manufactured so far by Tokyu Sharyo. All sets are operated on the Meguro Line with the Tokyu 5080, Toei 6300 (see the following photo), Tokyo Metro 9000 and SR 2000 series. For your information, the Y000 series on the Kodomonokuni Line is a sister train of the 3000 series.

EMU Toei 6300 series arrives at Tamagawa Station on the Tokyu Meguro Line

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Old Castle Town on the Nichinan Line

Diesel rail car JR Kyushu Type KiHa 40-8000 travels on the Nichinan Line near Obi Station
Obi is a small town in Nichinan City, Kyushu Island, which is located about 1,300 km southwest of Tokyo. It has grown as the castle town of the lords of Hyuga-Obi Province since the 16th century. Although the main tower was demolished during the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century, we can still see some castle buildings and the stone walls that surround the castle. Along with the castle ruin, the old samurai residential area is a popular sightseeing spot in Obi Town. Looking at the old samurai residences and storehouses, the visitors can soak in the ambiance of the samurai era.

To get to this historical town, JR Kyushu Nichinan Line is convenient. Connecting Minami-Miyazaki on the Nippo Main Line and Shibushi in Kagoshima Prefecture, its total length is 88.9 km. Most of the route is a non-electrified single track. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. A one-car or two-car train, the diesel rail car Type KiHa 40 series is operated every hour on average. The train runs without a conductor on board because it has fewer passengers than the main line.

The KiHa 40 series was launched in 1977 to replace old models such as the KiHa 10 series. A total of 888 units had been manufactured for six years. The KiHa40 brothers are seen across the country such as Hokkaido Island, the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Chugoku District. The white body with a blue stripe is called Kyushu-color train on the Nichinan Line.

Old samurai residential area in Obi Town near Obi Station

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Miyazaki: The Place of Mithology

EMU JR Kyushu 817 series stands at Miyazaki Station on the Nippo Main Line
Miyazaki Prefecture is located in Kyushu Island, some 1,300 km southwest of Tokyo. Currently, it has a population of 1.17 million, which is the 36th out of 47 prefectures in Japan. Miyazaki is known as a sub-tropical prefecture, which has high annual hours of sunshine. Thanks to its climate, mango is a reputable product there.

Miyazaki has another face... the place of mythology. We can find many myths in this historical prefecture. For instance, Udo Shrine, which is located in the southern part of the prefecture, has a mythological history. According to the legend, this shrine was opened in the reign of emperor Sujin, who was estimated to run the country from the third to the fourth century, to enshrine the grandson of the sea-god. Today, we can see the beautiful main building in a marine cave on the coast of the Sea of Hyuga.

Although Miyazaki bursts with mythology and historical places, the railways in this prefecture are modernized. You can see many modern trains, if you go to Miyazaki Station on the JR Kyushu Nippo Main Line. For example, the EMU 817 series is a typical standard commuter train in the Miyazaki city area. The 817 series was launched in 2001 to replace the old models such as the 415 series. It is a 20,000 V - 60 Hz - AC train for a 1,067-mm gauge track. A total of 65 sets (2-car and 3-car trains), 139 units, have been manufactured so far by Hitachi.

To be continued...

Udo Shrine is located on the coast of the Sea of Hyuga in Miyazaki Prefecture

Saturday, 15 November 2014

"Difficult to Read" Stations on the Abiko Branch Line

EMU JR East 231 series arrives at Kioroshi Station on the Abiko Branch Line of the Narita Line
The JR East Abiko Line is a branch line of the Narita Line. This route was opened in 1901 by ex-Narita Railway Company. Connecting Abiko on the Joban Line and Narita on the Narita Line, there are 10 stations over the total operating length of 32.9 km. The track is a 1,067-mm-gauge single track and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. JR East's standard commuter train, the EMU E231 series (a 5-car or a 10-car train), is operated every half an hour on average.

One of the features of this route is that there are many "difficult to read" stations on the line. As you may know, Japanese people use Kanji in conjunction with Hiragana and Katakana for written language. Kanji, which are normally used for name of the place, are ideographical representations of objects and ideas. In other words, there are several readings for one Kanji character. That is the great difficulty of the Japanese language, even for Japanese people.

For instance, Abiko, which is the terminal of the line, is very difficult to read. I think that strangers, who don't know the Tokyo metropolitan area, cannot read it. They probably read it "Wagasonshi". Kioroshi Station is also difficult to read. Strangers read it as "Kinoshita" beyond any doubt because Kinoshita is a common family name in Japan. There are many other difficult to read stations such as Ajiki and Shimousa-Manzaki on the Abiko Branch Line.

Travelling on the Abiko Branch Line is a fun quiz hour for strangers.

EMU JR East E231 series stands at Abiko Station on the Abiko Branch Line of the Narita Line

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Old Regulating Gate on the Tokaido Line

EMU JR East E217 series (Shonan color) runs under pedestrian bridge spanning the Tokaido Line 
We, urban dwellers, sometimes find a heritage from an unexpected place. Rokugo Suimon is a typical example.

Last month, I joined a walking event held by JR East with my family. The departure place was Kamata Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line. We passed through a traditional retail mall and a non-descript residential area. It was no longer new. I thought I had seen it all before, but I found something new when we reached the bank of Tama River.

It was an old regulating gate named Rokugo Suimon on the border between the main river and a side stream. It was the place where I often pedal through by bicycle. I wonder why I hadn't noticed it before. Rokugo Suimon was constructed in 1931 by the ex-Home Ministry. The purpose of the construction was to prevent regurgitation of water from the main river to the side stream. The brick-cladded quoin posts were very nostalgic and beautiful. It was shining in the gentle autumn sunlight.

After enjoying the classic regulating gate, we crossed over a pedestrian bridge spanning the JR East Tokaido Main Line. I could see that the Shonan-colored (orange and green-colored) EMU, E217 series, was just running under the bridge. As I have introduced before, the Shonan-colored E217 series is a rare train. Only 2 sets, 30 units, are operated on the Tokaido Main Line. Such a rarity fascinates rail-fans and draws them to the track.

Enjoying the old regulating gate and the rare train... it was a good hair day.

Rokugo Suimon (regulating gate) is located near Kamata Station

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Electric Locomotive Type EH500: Kintaro

Electric locomotive Type JRF EH500 (right) is exhibited in Sumidagawa Station

Following the Type HD300, I am going to show you the other locomotive, which was exhibited in the 2014 Sumidagawa Station Freight Festival last month. It was a red-colored large electric locomotive (EL), Type JR Freight (JRF) EH500.

To digress a little...

Kintaro is a famous samurai in Japanese folklore. It is said that he is a hero of imagination based on a real character. Kintaro was born in 959 in Kanagawa Prefecture near Hakone Mountain. After growing up in Kanagawa, he went to Kyoto, and served Minamotono Yorimitsu, who was one of the early samurais in Japan. An anecdote that Kintaro made famous was his strength. He practiced sumo wrestling with bears on Hakone Mountain. So, Kintaro has become a synonym for a man of strength.

The JRF's EL, Type EH500, called Kintaro is a locomotive of strength. It was launched in 1997 to replace old models such as the Type ED75 and ED79. A total of 81 units have been manufactured so far by Toshiba. Kintaro is an AC (20,000V, 50/60Hz) - DC (1,500V) triple mode locomotive operated on the 1,067mm gauge tracks. Being coupled in two units, the UIC indication of a wheel arrangement for the EH500 is (Bo-Bo)+(Bo-Bo). It has eight 565kW induction motors with a VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) control system. Pulling cargo container wagons, its maximum speed is 110 km per hour.

The EH500 is really the Kintaro of electric locomotives.

"Kintaro" logo on the body of the EH500

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The HD300: JRF's Silent Hybrid Switcher

Hybrid locomotive Type JRF HD300 is exhibited in Sumidagawa Station
Following the rail yard tours on the Saitama Railway, I am going to show you the other public event held in October this year.

JR Freight (JRF) is one of the JR group railway companies. It was established in 1987, when the ex-Japanese National Railways were split into seven companies. Different from the other JR group companies, JRF operates their trains on a nationwide scale, using the other JR group companies' tracks.

JRF recently held a public event called "2014 Sumidagawa Station Freight Festival" in Tokyo. Hundreds and hundreds of families with children, couples and rail fans flocked to the station yard that day, because it was a bright and clear day. The main event was an exhibition of JRF's locomotive fleet. For instance, a switcher, named Type HD300, drew a crowd. The HD300 is a hybrid locomotive launched in 2010 to replace old diesel switchers such as the Type DE10. A total of 17 units have been manufactured so far by Toshiba.

The HD300 has dual electric power sources, namely a diesel generator and lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Permanent magnet synchronous motors (PMSM) with VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) electric control system are on-board. I have once seen the operation of the HD300 and was surprised that it was very quiet. It is said that the noise of the HD300 is 10 dB lower than that of the old DE10. The HD300 is an eco-friendly locomotive.

To be continued...

Sumidagawa Freight Station yard 

More information about JR Freight (JRF): http://www.jrfreight.co.jp/english/business/ontime.html

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Old Artificial River on the TX Line

EMU TX-2000 series arrives at Yashio Station on the Tsukuba Express (TX) Line
It is mid-autumn and the best sort of season for a stroll in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I visited Nagareyama City in Chiba Prefecture with my family at the weekend.

Nagareyama is an old city in the western part of the prefecture. The famous Edo River meanders through the western border of the city. Edo River, also known as Edo Drainage Channel, is an artificial river to drain water from the large Tone River to Tokyo Bay. Construction was started in 1594 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who became the first tycoon in the Tokugawa Shogunate later. It was a difficult task and took 60 years to complete. Today, the bank of the Edo River has an excellent green way.

To visit this spacey place near a high-density urban area, the Tsukuba Express (TX) Line is convenient. TX is a new commuter route, which opened in 2005. Connecting Akihabara in downtown Tokyo and Tsukuba, which is a science city in Ibaraki Prefecture, the total operating length is 58.3 km. The track is double and its gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead between Akihabara and Moriya, while 20,000 V AC between Moriya and Tsukuba. The maximum operating speed of the trains is 130 km per hour.

It takes only 20 minutes from Akihabara to Minami-Nagareyama, which is the nearest station to the bank of the Edo River. The silver shining stylish trains, namely TX-1000 and TX-2000 series, are operated every five minutes on average during the daytime.

Scenic view from the bank of Edo River near Minami-Nagareyama Station on the TX Line

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

EMU 2000 Series: Sole Model on the Saitama Railway

EMU SR 2000 series arrives at Tamagawa Station on the Tokyu Maguro Line
Let me start where I left off last time.

Saitama Railway (SR) is a short local commuter line connecting Akabane-Iwabuchi in Tokyo Metropolis and Urawa-Misono in Saitama Prefecture. The track is double and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. Most of the route is constructed underground. All the trains are directly operated onto the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line and some of them are extended onto the Tokyu Meguro Line.

The EMU 2000 series is the sole model owned by SR. It was launched in 2001 when the SR Line was opened. A total of 10 sets, 60 units, have been manufactured so far by Kawasaki Heavy Industries in collaboration with Kinki Sharyo. The 2000 series is a 6-car train with three motor cars (3M3T). The body is made of aluminum alloy, but the doors are made of stainless steel to save on costs. The technical specifications are the same as those of the Tokyo Metro 9000, the Tokyu 3000 and the 5080 series for direct operations.

The Automatic Train Operation (ATO) system is adopted on the SR Line. A driver just pushes a button after the doors close. The train is, then, operated automatically to the next station. The driver doesn't need to drive the train, but he (or she) is on board for safety. The same system is also adopted on the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line.

The human-machine system must be the most powerful safety mechanism.

EMU SR 2000 series stands at Tamagawa Station on the Tokyu Meguro Line