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):

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):

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 Meguro 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 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Rail Yard Tours on the Saitama Railway

EMU SR 2000 (left) and Tokyo Metro 9000 series (right) in the Urawa-Misono Rail Yard
October is the month of railways in Japan, which was originated from the opening of Japan's first railway that was completed on October 14th in 1872 between Shimbashi and Yokohama stations. In commemoration of this special day, the Japanese Government designated October 14 as Railway Day in 1994. Since then, many railway companies have started to hold special public events in October such as rail yard tours and/or special memorial train operations.

This year, Saitama Railway (SR) held a public rail yard tour on October 25 in their Urawa-Misono Rail Yard. It was a bright and clear day. I saw many families with small children, young couples and rail fans in the yard, which is normally closed to the public.

SR exhibited their EMU, the 2000 series, in the rail yard. Next to the 2000 series, the Tokyo Metro 9000 series and the Tokyu 3000 series were also lined up for rail photo lovers. For your information, the Tokyo Metro and the Tokyu trains are directly operated onto the SR Line.

Along with the train exhibitions, many activities were also seen in the yard. For example, maintenance vehicle tours were very popular attractions for the kids. A farm products fair held by the local farmers in the yard was also popular among young mothers. I should say the event was most successful for all visitors.

I am going to introduce the trains on the SR line next time. To be continued...

Maintenance vehicle tours in the Urawa-Misono Rail Yard