Friday, 30 May 2014

Scenic Waterfall on the Gotemba Line

EMU JR Central 313-3000 series stands at Yamakita Station on the Gotemba Line
It is late spring in Tokyo. The maximum daytime temperature reaches 25 degrees Celsius, meaning that the air-conditioners are starting to be used on the trains. I visited a cool spot, Shasui-no-taki (Shasui Fall) in a suburban area with my family at the weekend.

Shasui-no-taki is a famous waterfall in Kanagawa Prefecture, some 70km west of the downtown Tokyo area. It was designated as one of "the 100 best waterfalls in Japan" in 1990 by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

The Shasui Fall is composed of three separate plunges with a total height of 90 meters. It has been known since at least the 12th century when it was used by Buddhist clergies for purification ceremonies. The clergies stood underneath the fall, allowing the water to strike their heads and upper bodies. It has been a sacred spot for a long time.

To visit this scenic waterfall, take the JR Central Gotemba Line and get off at Yamakita Station. Your carriage will be a lovely 2-car train, the EMU 313-3000 series, which has been manufactured since 1999. A total of 28 sets, 56 units, have been manufactured so far. They are operated without conductors, so the driver has to operate the passenger doors and check tickets at unmanned stations. He (or she) always looks very busy.

The stylish "face" with white and orange colored stripes on the train is my favorite, but the difference in levels between the train floors and station platform needs improving.

Shasui-no-taki (Shasui Waterfall) is located near Yamakita Station on the JR Central Gotemba Line

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Little Dancer in Matsuyama City

Electric car Iyotetsu 2100 series stands at Dogo Onsen Station
As promised, I am going to show you a streetcar in Matsuyama City. It is operated on the Matsuyama City Line of Iyo Railway Company (Iyotetsu).

The electric car 2100 series is so called LRT (light rail transit). The definition of LRT is not clear, but it is typically an urban low-floor tram with a low noise level in Japan. The 2100 series is Japan's first low-floor electric car, launched in 2002. A total of ten units have been manufactured so far by Alna Sharyo in Osaka City. It is a short body streetcar with two 60kW induction motors controlled by an IGBT-VVVF inverter system. The track gauge is 1,067mm and the electric system is 600V DC overhead. There are five routes in the downtown area.

The 2100 series is frequently called "Little Dancer S". This nickname derived from the "dancing" image of the vehicle and the "little" size. "S" stands for short, as it is only 12m long. His (or her) brothers, namely, Little Dancer L, A3, A5, U, Ua and C2 are also seen in large cities throughout Japan.

I like the 2100 series, as it is clean and quiet, but the problem is its low passenger capacity... only 47. It is very crowded every day in rush hour. I hope that Iyo Railway will take note of passengers' grievances and make some changes.

Little Dancer is a new symbol in the historical castle city.

Electric car Iyotetsu 2100 series arrives at Dogo Onsen Station

Monday, 26 May 2014

Night View of Dogo Hot Spring

Electric car 2100 series stands at Dogo Onsen-mae (Dogo Hot Spring) Station on the Iyo Railway
It is 9 pm in Matsuyama City on Shikoku Island, some 700km west of Tokyo. Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku Island. The population stands at 0.52 million. It is a busy city as the administrative and the industrial center of Ehime Prefecture. Although the city center falls utterly silent, a suburban area is still full of people enjoying their weekend. Where is it?

It is Dogo Hot Spring on the Iyo Railway. Dogo is Japan's oldest hot spring, which was opened about 3,000 years ago. As a written record, there is an ancient text, in which Prince Shotoku took a bath in this hot spring in 596. The current main building was reconstructed in 1894, and was designated as a cultural asset of national importance in 1994. The nostalgic building and the public bath in it are very popular attractions for sightseers.

When I visited Dogo, rickshaw men were urging sightseers to take a rickshaw to meander through the surroundings. A family with small children was just about to leave with their hearts filled with excitement. It was a Saturday evening... children were allowed to stay up late.

To get to this historical hot spring, please take a streetcar of Iyo Railway from JR Shikoku Matsuyama Station, and get off at Dogo Onsen-mae (Dogo Hot Spring) Station. It takes about 20 minutes. I am going to introduce you to the newest model, the electric car 2100 series in an upcoming blog article.

To be continued...

Night view of the main building of Dogo Hot Spring near Dogo Onsen-mae Station

Saturday, 24 May 2014

DF50: Preserved Diesel Locomotive in Saijo City

Diesel locomotive DF50-1 is exhibited in Shikoku Tesudo Bunka-kan near Iyo-Saijo Station
Saijo is a small city in Ehime Prefecture, some 700km west of Tokyo. It has a population of 110,000 as of March this year. Saijo City was once famous for its heavy industries such as shipbuilding; however, it recently lost its lead position to the adjacent Imabari City. Saijo seems to lack a bit of energy.

Don't worry Mr. Mayor. Please keep in mind that you have rare resources in the form of railway museum, "Shikoku Tetsudo Bunka-kan". This unique museum has a precious preserved diesel locomotive (DL), unit number 1 of the Type DF50 (DF50-1). It was manufactured by Shin-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1957. DF50-1 was born the eldest unit of 138 brothers.

From the performance aspect, DF50-1 is a rather old locomotive. A classic diesel-electric transmission system had been adopted, since the advanced torque converter technology was immature in the 1950s. One 1,060PS diesel engine and six 100kW traction motors are equipped.

DF50-1 is a popular exhibition among children and rail fans. Its vermilion colored body is still fresh and cool. I saw many visitors taking family keepsake pictures behind this precious DL.

Saijo City took heart from the success of the railway museum. Currently, a new annex museum building is being constructed to exhibit nostalgic steam locomotive, Type C57. The new facility is planned to open in July this year.

Saijo City... he is wise who looks ahead.

EMU Shinkansen 0 series (left) and DF50-1 (right) are preserved in Shikoku Tetsudo Bunka-kan

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Early Summer in Kamakura

EMU Enoden 10 series runs on the coast near Kamakura-koko-mae (Kamakura High School) Sta.
It is early summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Although it blows a bit of a cool wind, the sun is strong, as if it were that of mid-summer. I enjoyed a stroll on the coast of Kamakura City with my family at the weekend.

Kamakura, about 40km south of Tokyo, is known as 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.

Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) is a convenient mode of transportation to get around the city. Connecting Kamakura and Fujisawa (10km), Enoden was opened in 1902. The track is single, and its electric system is 600V DC overhead. The gauge is 1,067mm. Along with the EMU 20 series, the EMU 10 series is a retro train on the line. It was launched in 1997 in commemoration of the Enoden's 95th anniversary. Only one set (set number 10-50) was manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo. Its blue and cream colored body with a decorated belt is very impressive.

Taking Enoden, we visited a small temple, Jojuin, near Gokurakuji Station. This temple is located on a small hill behind the coast. So, We could feel a fragrant breeze while praying. It was a quiet afternoon.

The beautiful coast and the retro designed train... early summer in Kamakura is a satisfactory spot to visit.

View from Jojuin Temple near Gokurakuji Station on the Enoden Line

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

EMU 113/115 Series: Revised Hiroshima Color

EMU JR West 113 series (revised Hiroshima color) stands at Yokogawa Station

The operation of railway vehicles is like a human life. One train is brilliant, but its lifespan is short; meanwhile, the other train is quiet, but its lifespan is long.

For instance, the Shinkansen train is brilliant. It is popular among the passengers, but, its lifespan is very short... only 15 years on average. Why so short? It is because of the high speed. Shinkansen train runs about five million kilometers in a time span of 15 years. It is the equivalent of 125 laps of the globe, so the equipment deteriorates rapidly.

On the other hand, a standard commuter train is quiet. It does not stand out, but some of them enjoy long life-spans. The EMU 113 and 115 series represents a long-life train. It is a standard commuter train launched in 1963. Nearly 5,000 units have been manufactured over 20 years. Although many 113 and 115 series have been scrapped, some of them are still around.

What is the secret of longevity? I think that it is because the 113 and the 115 series is an all-arounder. For example, the 115 series is able to operate in the snowy regions, as it has snow brake equipment. It is also able to operate on steeply sloping routes, as it has holding brake equipment. The 115 series is tough and strong!

The revised Hiroshima color is my favorite body color on the 113 and the 115 series. It is like a St#rb#cks Latte, isn't it? I'm in need of a break now. Let's go to the coffee shop.

EMU JR West 115 series (revised Hiroshima color) stands at Iwakuni Station

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Azalea Season in Komagome

EMU JR East E231 series passes through Komagome Station on the Shonan-Shinjuku Line
It is mid-spring in Tokyo. Following the Sakura (cherry) blossoms, many kinds of flowers paint the ground a rainbow of colors. Azalea is one of the reputable flowers in this season. There are many famous azalea viewing spots downtown, but Komagome is my favorite area, as we can find them not only in the town but also along the railway tracks.

Please look at the top photo. It is Komagome Station on the JR East Line. The azalea planting zone is seen both along the east bound Yamanote Line track and the westbound Shonan-Shinjuku Line track. The photo shows the nearly full blown azaleas along the Shonan-Shinjuku Line track. An orange and green striped train, the E231 series, is passing through the azalea flowers, which flourishes with pink colored blossoms. The E231 series is an EMU widely operated in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It was launched in 2000, and introduced to the Shonan-Shinjuku Line in 2001.

The following photo shows an azalea blooming garden near Komagome Station. It is Kyu-Furukawa garden with the mansion, which was constructed in 1917 by Furukawa Toranosuke. He made his fortune in the copper mining industry. This Western style garden is composed of Italian, French, and Japanese gardens; meanwhile, the mansion was constructed as a Renaissance style buiding. Currently, it is maintained by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and is designated as a Scenic Beauty by the central government.

The full blown station and the garden... they are gorgeous azalea viewing spots in Komagome.

Kyu-Furukawa Garden and Mansion near Komagome Station

Friday, 16 May 2014

Must-see Spot for Rail Fans

Streetcar 2100 series (left) and EMU 700 series (right) are seen near Ootemachi Station
Following the must-see spot for cinema fans, I am going to introduce you to a must-see spot for rail fans in Shikoku Island, some 700km west of Tokyo. It is located near Ootemachi Station in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture. We have a busy and giant subway Ootemachi Station in Tokyo, but this Ootemachi Station is small and quiet.

Where is the must-see spot in Ootemachi?

It is a level intersection of a railway and a tram line. This kind of intersection is only seen here in Japan. The railway is the Takahama Line; meanwhile, the tram is the Matsuyama City Line of Iyo Railway Company (Iyotetsu).

Please look at the top photo. You can see that the southbound Takahama Line train, EMU 700 series, is passing through the intersection, while the Matsuyama City Line tram, the 2100 series, is waiting for the passing train. The following photo shows that the northbound train, EMU 3000 series, is passing through the intersection and the streetcar, 2100 series, is waiting for the passing train. This spot holds rail fans' attention, as it is a precious picturesque spot for them.

For your information, the EMU 700 series is the ex-Keio 5000 series train. It was transfered to Iyotstsu from 1987 to 1994 after its retirement from the Keio Line. The EMU 3000 series also came from Keio Electric Railway in 2009 after its retirement from the Inokashira Line.

These ex-Keio trains are also atractive for rail fans.

Streetcar 2100 series (left) and EMU 3000 series (right) are seen near Ootemachi Station

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Must-see Spot for Cinema Fans

A young couple whispers on a bench of the platform in Shimonada Station on the Yosan Line
It is just a tiny station on a local line in Shikoku Island, some 700km west of Tokyo. The track is single and un-electrified. A diesel rail car stops once every two hours. Only a few incoming and outgoing passengers could be seen on the platform, but... it is very famous among cinema fans for movie tourism.

Where is that?

It is Shimonada Station on the JR Shikoku Yosan Line. This small station is located on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. The platform has a fabulous marine view, especially the lovely sunset over the archipelago.

When I visited there with my family, one young couple was there. Just like a clip from a movie, they were whispering on a bench of the platform... or just imitating a scene from the movie. It was a quiet afternoon spent at a local station. It was as I had imagined.

Abruptly, I heard the distant sound of diesel engines. It was diesel rail car, KiHa 54-0 series, approaching from the west. When the rail car arrived at the station, only three incoming and outgoing passengers were seen on the platform. After the rail car left, the station was wrapped in silence again.

For your information, KiHa 54-0 is a JR Shikoku's diesel rail car, launched in 1987. A total of 12 units have been manufactured so far. It has two 250PS diesel engines (Type DMF13HS) to go up the steep tracks of Shikoku Island.

A diesel rail car JR Shikoku KiHa 54-0 series leaves Shimonada Station on the Yosan Line

Monday, 12 May 2014

The 100th Anniversary of the Tojo Line: Part 2

Special train, Tobu 8111F (+81111F) passes through Shimo-Itabashi Station on the Tojo Line
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tojo Line, Tobu Railway Company operated a special train on the 1st of May, 2014. It was a 10-car nostalgic commuter train coupling 8111F and 81111F.

8111F (set number 8111) is a special train preserved in working condition. It was manufactured in 1963 by Nippon Sharyo as a 4-car train and became a 6-car train in 1971. An additional two cars were manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries. The orange and dark beige colored body retains the atmosphere of the typical Tobu train in the 1960s. 8111F was once retired from the track in 2011, but it was not scrapped. Surprisingly, this train was purchased by Tobu Museum as a preserved train in working condition. It means that 8111F would be operated as a special heritage train for special events and/or group tours.

Meanwhile, 81111F (not 8111F... do not get confused!) was manufactured as a 4-car train in 1982 by Fuji Heavy Industries. It is still an active commuter train, but its body was recently changed back to the original cream color in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tojo Line.

Everyone is here for the celebration. On May 1st, Tobu operated a special train on the Tojo Line coupling 8111F and 81111F between Ikebukuro and Shinrin-koen stations after the lavish departure ceremony held in Ikebukuro Station.

Congratulations for over a century of the Tojo Line!

Special train, Tobu 81111F (+8111F) passes through Naka-Itabashi Station on the Tojo Line

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The 100th Anniversary of the Tojo Line

Railway employees cerebrate the 100th anniversary of the Tobu-Tojo Line in Ikebukuro station yard 
The Tobu-Tojo Line is one of the main transportation arteries in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Ikebukuro, downtown Tokyo and Kawagoe City in Saitama Prefecture, Tobu-Tojo Line was opened on May 1st in 1914. Then, it was fully opened in 1925 between Ikebukuro and Yorii. The total line length is 75km. It carries an average of one million passengers per day.

Following the Keio Line of Keio Electric Railway Company, the Tobu Railway Company celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Tojo Line on May 1st this year. Tobu held a commemoration ceremony in front of the south entrance of Ikebukuro station yard.

I saw plenty of railway employees and rail fans in the station yard. Once "Kusudama", a decorated paper ball, was broken, a 100th anniversary decorated banner appeared from the ball. Railway employees including the stationmaster of Ikebukuro, then, took a ceremonial photograph with a happy grin.

Tobu also contrived many events to celebrate the 100th anniversary. For instance, they asked the public to come up with an episode on the Tojo Line under name of "My starting station story". The first episode has already been made into a comic, and has been uploaded onto the website of the Tobu Railway. It is a story of high school girl on the Tojo Line who aspires to become a school teacher.

I am going to report a special train for the 100th anniversary in an upcoming blog article. To be continued...

The 100th anniversary poster of the Tobu-Tojo Line

Thursday, 8 May 2014

EMU 6000 Series in Keio Rail Land

Unit number 6438 of the EMU Keio 6000 series is preserved in Keio Rail Land
Keio Rail Land is the newest railway museum in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It was opened by Keio Electric Railway Company on October 10th last year in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Keio Line.

Keio Rail Land exhibits train driving simulators and train instruments such as a pantograph, but more importantly, five units of historical trains are exhibited in an outside covered facility. They are the EMU 6000, 3000, 5000, 2010, and 2400 series, which were retired from the Keio and Inokashira lines.

The EMU 6000 series was operated until its retirement in 2011. It was launched in 1972 as the first long (20m) body commuter train on the Keio Line. A total of 304 units had been manufactured over 19 years by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi. Since the 6000 series was not transferred to other local railway companies after its retirement, most of the units have already been scrapped. Unit number 6738, which is exhibited in Keio Rail Land, is a precious survivor.

The 6000 series was not my cup of tea to be honest, when it was operated on the Keio Line. The design was not too hot... it looked tame compared to that of its predecessor, the 5000 series. It had low lighting in the area behind the cockpit. The spec was unspectacular... just DC compound motors with a field chopper control system... but now, it has become a nostalgic memory, because all the 6000 series have disappeared from the track.

Unit number 6438 (left) and 3719 (right) in Keio Rail Land near Tama-dobutsu-koen Station

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Peach Grove on the Tobu-Nikko Line

EMU Tobu 30000 series runs on the Nikko Line near Shin-Koga Station
Following the Kofu basin, I am going to show you the other peach blossom viewing spot in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It is Koga Sogo Park in Koga City, Ibaraki Prefecture, some 60km north of Tokyo.

Different from the Kofu basin, the peach trees in Koga Sogo Park are for ornamental use only. The flowers show a beautiful rich pink color, but the fruit is very small and inedible. I saw many people enjoying picnics under the full-bloomed trees.

To visit this gorgeous peach grove, I took a local train on the Tobu Nikko Line and got off at Shin-Koga station. The EMU 30000 series was my vehicle on the line.

The 30000 series was introduced in 1996 to replace the old EMU 10000 series. A total of 30 sets, 150 units, were manufactured between 1996 and 2003 by Alna Koki, Tokyu Sharyo and Fuji Heavy Industries. This group directly operates trains into Tokyo Metro-Hanzomon and Tokyu-Denentoshi lines. Several new devices, such as the IGBT-VVVF invertor control system, a one handle master controller, and high intensity discharge front lamps are equipped for the first time on Tobu trains.

The two large front glasses are my favorite. This front design is similar to that of the old 8000 series; however, the 30000 series is more attractive for me, because the display is installed on the "forehead" of its front mask. It is just a rail fan's obsession with train design, I am probably too picky.

Peach grove in Koga Sogo Park near Shin-Koga Station on the Tobu Nikko Line

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Toei 8500 Series on the Shared Track

Electric car Toei 8500 series runs on the shared track of the Arakawa Line
The Tokyo metropolitan area once had an extensive tram network. It was operated by several companies and local governments, such as Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyu Electric Railway, and Yokohama and Kawasaki city offices. Today, most routes have already been abolished due to heavy traffic jams; however, the Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan Government) Arakawa Line is one of the few precious survivors. Connecting Waseda and Minowabashi, its operating length is 12.2km. The track is 1,372mm dual-gauge. The electric system is 600V DC overhead.

A large part of the Arakawa Line is an exclusive track, but a short section remains as a shared track with a public road. We can see both trams and cars on the street between Ouji and Asukayama stops. Plenty of rail fans flock to this precious picturesque spot at the end of a week.

The electric rail car 8500 series is one of my favorite models on the Arakawa Line. It was launched in 1990 to replace the decrepit old cars. The introduction of the new model was 28 years to the day since the line opened in 1962, but production of the 8500 series was discontinued in 1993, as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government faced a budget shortfall; only 5 units had been manufactured by Alna Koki. The new model, 8800 series then debuted in 2009 in succession to the 8500 series.

I like the 8500 series, since the design is simple and stylish. Passengers will never grow tired of the design.

Electric car Toei 8500 series arrives at Ouji stop on the Arakawa Line
More information about the Toei Arakawa Line (movies):

Friday, 2 May 2014

Drink Station: Urban Oasis on the Blue Line

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000N series stands at Mitsuzawa-shimocho Station
Japan is a country of vending machines. There are over five million vending machines in this country. You can find a number of different machines everywhere, and they sell railway tickets, soft-drinks, snacks, noodles, rice, stamps, newspapers, magazines, batteries, and even paper fortunes in shrines.

You can see a "soft-drink station" in Sakuragi-cho Station on the Blue Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway. It is a small corner of the station yard. There are many soft-drink vending machines provided by a soft-drink vendor. Customers just buy a drink and take a breather over a canned coffee, tea or cola at the counter. It is simple, but good enough for busy city-dwellers as an urban oasis.

For your information, The Blue Line (40.4km) is the main transportation artery in Yokohama City, some 30km south of Tokyo. Because of its line alignment, it has a total of 12 transfer stations to other railways making it very convenient. The track gauge is 1,435mm and the electric system is 750V DC. The electric collecting system is the third rail without pantographs, which is same as the subway Ginza and Marunouchi lines in Tokyo.

The EMU 3000N series is one of the main fleet on the line. It was launched in 1999. A total of 7 sets, 42 units have been manufactured so far by Tokyu Sharyo. IGBT-VVVF inverter control and pure electrical brake systems are equipped. A black-colored belt on the front face is my favorite.

"Drink Station" in Sakuragi-cho station yard on the Yokohama Municipal Subway Blue Line