Thursday, 31 December 2015

Senior Runner on the Seto Inland Sea Coast

EMU Sanyo Electric Railway 3000 series (steel body cars) arrives at Sanyo-Shioya Station

Following my previous post, I am going to continue to introduce Sanyo Electric Railway today.

Sanyo Electric Railway Line was partially opened between Hyogo and Suma in 1910. The route was then fully opened in 1941. The company started the mutual direct operation with Kobe Rapid Transit Line via Nishidai Station in 1968.

The route is composed of the Main Line (54.7 km-long double track between Nishidai and Sanyo-Himeji) and the Aboshi Line (8.5 km-long single track between Shikama and Sanyo-Aboshi). The whole route is electrified with a 1,500 V DC overhead electric system. The gauge size is 1,435 mm. Trains are operated every 7 to 8 minutes on average.

My favorite train is the oldest one, EMU 3000 series launched in 1964. A total of 133 units had been built for 21 years by Kawasaki Sharyo. The subject of rail fans' scrutiny is its variation. There are many kinds of the 3000 series such as steel body cars, aluminum body cars, 3-car trains, 4-car trains and so on.

The steel body train is my most favorite. Its specification is rather old, but the body is beautifully painted ecru with orange and dark brown colored stripes. The rounded double frontal lights and panoramic windows are very nostalgic. The aluminum body train is also attractive, as it has a modern and urban feel.

The EMU Sanyo Electric Railway 3000 series... it is an evergreen senior runner on the Seto Inland Sea Coast.

EMU Sanyo Electric Railway 3000 series (aluminum body cars) arrives at Sanyo-Shioya Station

Monday, 28 December 2015

Sanyo Electric Railway: The Third Way to Osaka City

EMU Sanyo Electric Railway 5000 series arrives at Sanyo-Shioya Station

One of the features in urban railways in Japan is that many companies are in competition to attract passengers. It might be hard to imagine for foreigners, but it is caused by the high-density railway network in the urban areas. It allows the passengers to choose the best route to get to their destinations.

For instance, let's suppose that you live in Himeji City, and need to visit Osaka, which is the business center of the western part of Japan. You can choose from three routes... the Shinkansen, the Sanyo Main Line or Sanyo Electric Railway.

JR West's Sanyo Shinkansen is the fastest transportation from Himeji to Shin-Osaka. It covers 92 km in only 29 minutes. The problem is its high cost. Another problem is that you have to transfer to the Tokaido Main Line at Shin-Osaka to get to Osaka Station.

The second route is JR West's Sanyo Main Line. It takes about one hour from Himeji to Osaka Station without having to transfer. The other good news is that you can use the rapid-service train without an extra charge.

The third route is taking Sanyo Electric Railway. It is a second-tier local private railway company. The Sanyo trains are directly operated into Kobe Rapid Transit and Hanshin Electric Railway, and get to Osaka-Umeda Terminal. It takes more than one hour and a half, a bit slow; however, the Sanyo train is the cheapest transportation from Himeji to Osaka.

To be continued...

EMU Hanshin 8000 series arrives at Sanyo-Shioya Station on the Sanyo Electric Railway
More information about Sanyo Electric Railway:

Friday, 25 December 2015

Sendai Airport Transit: Access to the Green City

EMU SAT 721 series stands at Sendai Station
Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku District, some 350 km north of Tokyo. It has a population of 1.05 million. JR East's Tohoku Shinkansen is the most convenient transportation from Tokyo to this large city, but an airplane must be more convenient from other areas such as Osaka, Fukuoka and Sapporo.

Sendai Airport is located 17 km south of the city center. If you arrive at Sendai Airport, you can access the downtown area by train, called Sendai Airport Access Railway. This railway consists of two sections. One of them is Sendai Airport Line of Sendai Airport Transit (SAT). The other is a part of JR East's Tohoku Main Line. The tracks are both electrified (20,000 V AC – 50Hz). The gauge size is 1,067mm, and the Sendai Airport Line is single, but the Tohoku Main Line is double. Both SAT and JR East operate their own trains alternately every half an hour on average.

SAT operates the EMU 721 series on this route. It is a sister train of the JR East E721 series. The SAT 721 series was launched in 2007, when the Sendai Airport Line was opened. Its sky blue colored body with a yellow stripe is vivid and is my favorite.

In the meantime, Sendai is known as the Green City. It is densely populated, but many green forests are preserved here and there. Zelkova tree-lined streets such as Jozenji and Aoba are also reputable and famous among Japanese people.
Scenic view of Sendai City near Sendai Station
More information about Sendai Airport Transit:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Abukuma Express: Local Railway in the Tohoku District

EMU Abukuma Express 8100 series arrives at Fukushima Station

Abukuma Express (Abukyu) is a local railway company in the Tohoku District. The route extends to the northern part of Fukushima and the southern part of Miyagi prefecture. Connecting Fukushima and Tsukinoki, its operating length is 54.9 km. The track is electrified and single. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 20,000 V – 50Hz AC overhead.

Abukyu Line was originally opened under the name of the Marumori Line between Tsukinoki and Marumori station by Japanese National Railways in 1968. The route was then transferred to the newly established Abukuma Express Company in 1986. This company had constructed the remaining route between Marumori and Fukushima. The route was fully opened in 1988. The trains are operated every half an hour to one hour. In the morning, some trains are directly operated into the JR East Tohoku Main Line to Sendai, which is the largest city in the Tohoku District.

Abukyu's main fleet is the EMU 8100 series, which is a 2-car train consisting of one motor car and one trailer. A total of 9 sets, 18 units, were built by Nippon Sharyo in 1988. This model is similar to the JR Kyushu's EMU 713 series, but I prefer the 8100 series, as the front design of the 8100 series is more stylish.

Abukyu shares the station with Fukushima Kotsu at Fukushima Terminal, so you can see both Abukyu and Fukushima Kotsu trains at the same platform. It is a great pleasure for rail fans.

EMU Fukushima Kotsu 7000 series (left) and Abukuma Express 8100 series (right)

Saturday, 19 December 2015

2015 Tobu Fan Festa in Minami-Kurihashi Rail Yard

From left to right, EMU 350, 1800, 200 and 100 series, Tobu express trains

Following the Toyoda Train Festival held by JR East, I am going to show you the other event recently held for rail fans.

On December 6th, Tobu Railway held an annual event, the "2015 Tobu Fan Festa", in Minami-Kurihashi Rail Yard on the Nikko Line. I saw that several thousands of rail fans and families visited this event. Joining a photo session, I could get beautiful shots of Tobu train formations. One of them was a whole formation of the Tobu express trains, namely the EMU 350, 1800, 200 and 100 series. The other one was a commuter train formation including the EMU 8198F, 8111F and the latest model 60000 series.

Specifically, the revival colored train, 8198F of the EMU 8000 series, was dazzling. It was painted dark blue with a yellow stripe. This coloring was the revival of the "Flying Tojo" train, which was operated from 1949 to 1962 on the Tojo Line. As its name suggests, Flying Tojo was said to be named after the famous British express train, the Flying Scotsman.

In the meantime, do you know how to transport the Tojo Line train onto the Isesaki Line; nevertheless these two lines are separated? The gimmick is as follows. The two lines are connected via Chichibu Railway at Hanyu and Yorii stations. To pass through the Chichibu Railway, some Tobu trains have a special safety device for Chichibu Railways, namely the ATS-Chichibu-type. This special deadheaded operation is also very popular among rail photo lovers.

From left to right, EMU 8198F, 8111F and 60000 series, Tobu commuter trains

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Scenery Drawn by Hokusai

EMU Tobu 10030 series comes to across Sumida River backed by Tokyo Skytree

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a famous artist in the Edo Period (1603-1868). He was born in Edo (present Tokyo) and brought up there. He published more than 30,000 works in his life. Sumida River, which flows through his hometown from north to south, was one of the subjects of his works. He portrayed many bridges across Sumida River. They were arched and beautiful. Although all bridges have already been reconstructed, their names still carry on.

I sometimes enjoy a stroll on the bank of Sumida River. Whenever I visit there, I understand why Hokusai got absorbed in drawing this river. It flows through the crowded downtown area, but the river is broad and spacey in contrast. The bridges across the river are vivid and beautiful. Sumida River offers us some space and a relaxing time.

The contemporary scenery along Sumida River is also attractive. I could see a beautifully shining Tobu train coming across the bridge. It was a 6-car train, set number 11651 of the EMU 10030 series. The feature of the 10030 series is its stainless-steel body without corrugations on the side bodies.

For your information, I could also see the Tokyo Skytree (634 m) behind the railway track. The Tokyo Skytree was opened in 2012 as Tokyo's new TV broadcasting tower. It is a landmark in the downtown Tokyo area, and very popular among sightseers. To be honest, I have never been there, since it is always crowded. Am I contrary?

Kuramae Bridge across Sumida River near Asakusa Station on the Tobu Line

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Night Heron on the Keikyu Line

EMU Keikyu 1000 series (stainless-steel made) stands at Shinmachi Rail Yard

Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan. This megacity is located about 20 km southwest of Tokyo, and has been developed as Tokyo's outport since the 19th century. Currently, it has an estimated population of 3.7 million. The downtown area is a concrete jungle. You can see skyscrapers such as the MM21 area, but you can still find nature even in the densely populated suburban areas.

I visited Yokohama last month, as something came up. After finishing my meeting, I stopped at a railway crossing nearby Shinmachi Rail Yard on the Keikyu Line to take train pictures. On the way back to Yokohama Station, I enjoyed walking along a small river. It was a typical densely built-up residential area. When I passed through a gentle curve of the stream, I found a big bird on a persimmon tree. It was not a crow. What was it?

It was a 50 cm-long night heron perching on a branch. The white spots on the wings showed that he (or she) was still young. I was surprised that such a big bird lives in the urban residential area. Neecless to say, I was absorbed in clicking my camera shutters to shoot this rare big bird. I hope that the environment for night herons is protected in the future.

In the meantime, I could shoot the stainless-steel made EMU, the 1000 series, stored in the Shinmachi Rail Yard. My favorite rare train was not there, but I found a rare bird on that day.

A night heron perches on a persimmon tree near Kanagawa Station on the Keikyu Line

Thursday, 10 December 2015

NRA to the Chichibu Area

EMU Seibu 10000 series, New Red Arrow (NRA), stands at Yokoze Station
Seibu Railway operates limited express trains using special EMUs, the 10000 series. It is Seibu's flagship model, and goes by the name of New Red Arrow (NRA). The NRA is a 7-car train, which was launched in 1993 to replace the old Red Arrow, EMU 5000 series. A total of 12 sets, 84 units, have been built by Hitachi, Ltd. The NRA is operated on the Ikebukuro and the Shinjuku lines every half an hour to one hour. I often use it to visit the Chichibu area, where we can enjoy beautiful countryside.

22 years have already passed since the NRA was launched. The NRA is a bit out-dated. For instance, the sound of DC motors is rather noisy as a limited express train. I look forward to hearing the company anouncement of a post-NRA debut.

On May 16th this year, Seibu Railway gave a press release announcing that a new sightseeing train will be launched in spring of next year. It won't be a new limited express train to replace NRA, but a "restaurant train" renovated from the exsisting 4000 series. According to the company, the new sightseeing train will be a 4-car train consisting of two dining cars, one kitchen car and one passenger car with a multipurpose space. Seibu is concentrating on the development of this sightseeing train at this moment. The new NRA will be launched in the next stage after the sightseeing train.

So, be patient!
EMU Seibu 10000 (left) and 4000 (right) series stand at Seibu-Chichibu Station

Monday, 7 December 2015

New Station Building on the Keio Line

Takao-sanguchi new station building on the Keio-Takao Line,

Mt. Takao is a popular sightseeing spot in the Tokyo metropolitan area. In the Michelin Voyager Pratique issued in 2007, it was granted the highest rank of three stars. Since then, not only Japanese, but also foreign hikers have been flocking to this suburban mountain.

Takao-sanguchi on the Keio-Takao Line is the gateway station to Mt. Takao. It takes less than one hour from Shinjuku, a sub-center of Tokyo Metropolis. Recently, Keio Electric Railway has completed the renovation work of the station building as a part of passenger services. The new station building was designed by famous architect, Kuma Kengo. He excels at designing using natural materials. For instance, Hoshakuji Station on the JR East Utsunomiya Line is his reputable work. You can see a large roof made of timbers at Takao-sanguchi Station. It covers a large part of the station yard, and is beautifully illuminated after sunset.

A hot spring has also been opened recently in the station. Keio Electric Railway drilled a well in the station yard, and found the hot water bed in the subsurface. The hot spring is located next to the entrance of the station, so, you can visit there just before going back home. After enjoying hiking, you need to take a bath to relieve fatigue, don't you? The name of the hot spring is "Gokuraku-yu (Paradise Hot Spring)". As its name suggests, the hot spring will provide you with a relaxation like paradise.

Platform of Takao-sanguchi Station on the Keio-Takao Line

Friday, 4 December 2015

East i-E: Inspection EMU for Narrow Gauge Tracks

EMU JR East E491 series, "East i-E" stands at Hachioji Station on the Yokohama Line

I am going to show you a very rare train today... JR East's inspection EMU, E491 series called "East i-E".

Along with the EMU E926 series, "East i", for the Shinkansen tracks (1,435 mm gauge size), the EMU E491 series, "East i-E", is an AC/DC inspection EMU for narrow gauge tracks (1,067 mm gauge size). The E491 series was launched in 2002 to replace old inspection trains, the 443 and the MaYa 34 series. Only one set, 3 units was built by Kinki Sharyo and Hitachi.

The mission of the E491 series is to inspect signals, overhead wires and tracks both for alternate and direct current sections. Car number KuMoYa E491-1 has a signal inspection system and a pantograph for measurement. Car number MoYa E490-1 has an overhead wire inspection system and a pantograph for power collection. KuMoYa E490-1 has a track inspection system and another pantograph for measurement.

JR East does not release the timetable of the E491 series, so, it is difficult to see and take pictures of this inspection train. Fortunately, I recently came across "East i-E" at Hachioji Station on the Yokohama Line. Needless to say, many rail-fans found this rare train, and clicked their camera shutters on the platform.

For your information, JR East also has an inspection train called "East i-D" for un-electrified tracks. It is also a very rare train. I am going to upload the photograph, if I come across it by good fortune.

KuYa E490-1

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Umeda: Symbol of the Hankyu Kingdom

Hankyu Umeda Terminal

Hankyu is a major private railway company in the Kansai area including Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe cities. It has a total of a 140 km-long extensive line network centering on Umeda Terminal near JR Osaka Station. A total of 1.4 million passengers use it every day. The gauge size is 1,435 mm. All the route is electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

If you want to see what Hankyu is, please visit their Umeda Terminal. Once you stand in the entrance of the platforms, you will see 43 automated ticket gates arranged side by side. After passing through the gate, you will then see ten bay platforms and nine tracks. Wax makes the platform floors shine. Except for JR group stations such as Tokyo and Osaka, Umeda is the largest private railway terminal in Japan. You can see the "Hankyu maroon" colored trains arrive and depart the terminal continuously.

Umeda Terminal was opened in 1910 by ex-Minoo-Arima Electric Light Railway. The present terminal was completed in 1973 as an elevated station. It is located on the 3rd floor of the Hankyu Terminal Building, where offices, shopping malls and restaurants are also located. The best place to look over the large terminal might be a coffee shop in the terminal. It is famous among rail fans, but all seats were taken when I visited there in summer this year. I think I am going to save it for later.

Umeda Terminal... it is a symbol of the Hankyu Kingdom.

Platform 9 of Umeda Terminal

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Exploring Photogenic Spots on the Joshin Line

EMU Joshin 6000 series travels between Sano-no-watashi and Negoya stations

Along with subways, some of the railways are annoying for rail photo lovers in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The Joshin Line of Joshin Electric Railway is a typical example. Joshin is a small private railway company in Gumma Prefecture, some 100 km north of Tokyo. Connecting Takasaki on the Joetsu Shinkansen and Shimonita, a mountainfoot town of Mt. Myogi, the route penetrates some beautiful countryside in the northern part of Kanto Plain.

What are the problems of the Joshin Line for rail photo lovers?

Firstly, there are very few separate platforms in the stations on the line. A separate platform is an idealized condition, because we can shoot the whole train from the opposite platform. As far as I know, only Joshu-Tomioka Station has a separate platform, but that place is in the shade all day long.

Secondly, almost all overhead wire polls stand on the southern side of the single track on the line. It means that the photo images of trains on the sunny side are interrupted by overhead wire poles and their shadows.

After exploring the whole route, I have eventually found the best photogenic spot on the line. It is a gentle curve located between Sano-no-watashi and Negoya stations. Although it takes about 20 minutes from Negoya Station by walking, the place is worth a visit. In the morning, we can obtain beautiful photo images of the whole trains in a direct light condition.

There is no stopping me taking railway photos.

EMU Joshin 200 series passes through the other photogenic spot in the afternoon

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

New Model to the New World Heritage Site

EMU Joshin 7000 series approaches Negoya Station

As I introduced before, Tomioka City is famous for the ex-state-owned Tomioka Silk Mill. It was opened in 1872, importing technology and machines from France. The main objective of the silk mill was to set up modern industries in Japan and to catch up with the West. Since then, Tomioka Silk Mill had been operated for 115 years until 1987. Last year, it was designated a World Heritage Site. As a result, visitors have increased drastically. They can see the brick buildings and old machines along with volunteer guides.

A local private railway company, Joshin Electric Railway, has taken measures to transport the flocking visitors to the new World Heritage Site. The company has introduced a new model, EMU 7000 series, to reinforce their transportation ability.

The 7000 series is a 2-car train (KuMoHa 7001 and KuHa 7501) with one motor car (1M1T) built by Niigata Transys. It is a direct current train with VVVF inverter electric control (variable frequency drive) system. The interior has comfortable semi-cross seats. High sound reduction performance is achieved.

For your information, Joshin Electric Railway connects Takasaki, a major city in Gumma Prefecture and Shimonita, a mountain foot town of Mt. Myogi. The line is a 33.7km-long single track with 20 stations. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead and the gauge size is 1,067 mm. The nearest station to the ex-silk mill is Joshu-Tomioka.

The EMU Joshin 7000 series... it is a new model accessing the new World Heritage Site.
EMU Joshin 7000 series stands at Joshu-Tomioka Station

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Holy River on the Sangu Line

Diesel Railcar KiHa11-300 leaves Iseshi Station on the Sangu Line

Isuzu River is a clear stream in Mie Prefecture, some 470 km southwest of Tokyo. It is beautiful and limpid, but not only that. Isuzu River is a holy river, which appears in Japanese myths. For instance, Princess Yamatohime-no-mikoto, who was a daughter of Emperor Suijin, was said to wash her skirt in river water.

Isuzu River flows in the Inner Shrine of Ise Grand Shrine. It is a holy place for local people. Its origin is unknown, but according to the literature in China, the shrine dates back to at least the era of Emperor Yuryaku, who ruled in the middle of 5th century. Ise Grand Shrine is surrounded by a deep green forest.

To get to this holy river, there are two routes from Nagoya Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen. One is the Kintetsu and the other is JR Central lines. Generally speaking, Kintetsu is more popular among tourists, so, I am going to introduce you to the JR Central route today. Am I perverse?

The JR Central Sangu Line is a 29.1 km-long short local route connecting Wake and Toba stations. It is an un-electrified single track. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. Two or three-car diesel trains are operated every 30 minutes to one hour. If you come from Nagoya, the rapid train, "Mie", is convenient, as it is directly operated onto the Sangu Line via the Kansai Main and the Kisei Main lines. Your exit station is Iseshi. Have a nice trip.

Isuzu River near Iseshi Station

Thursday, 19 November 2015

KuHa 201-1: Preserved Top Number Car

JR East KuHa 201-1 is exhibited in Toyoda Rail Yard for the 2015 Toyoda Train Festival
Following my previous post, I am going to continue to show you the other train, which was exhibited in the 2015 Toyoda Train Festival in Toyoda Rail Yard. It was KuHa 201-1 of the EMU 201 series.

The 201 series is a direct current commuter train developed by Japanese National Railways. The prototype car was launched in 1979. A total of 1,018 units have been built for six years by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo and Hitachi. The 201 series has already been retired from the tracks in the Tokyo metropolitan area, but is still operated in the Osaka area such as the Osaka Loop Line.

The KuHa 201-1 is a top number unit of the 201 series. It was built as the first mass-produced car in 1981, and was retired from the track in January, 2008. Seven years have already passed since it was preserved in Toyoda Rail Yard, but it is still in good condition. The vermilion colored body is still vivid. You can see the black colored jumper plug, which was restored on the front of the car after retirement from the track. It is for reproduction of KuHa 201-1's original style. I was very impressed that JR East staff put their heart into this historical train.

I am not sure what it will happen to it after this, but hope that KuHa 201-1 will be moved to the Railway Museum in Saitama City in the near future, otherwise it is just a useless treasure.

"KuHa 201-1", the top number car

Monday, 16 November 2015

Train Festival on the Chuo Line

The whole formation of the commuter trains on the Chuo Line
Autumn is a train festival season in Japan. Thousands of rail fans and families flock to rail yards, which are open to the public. For instance, I visited Shin-Keisei's Kunigiyama, Saitama Railway's Urawa-Misono Rail Yards and JRF's Sumidagawa Station last year. I also visited JR East's Uchihara and Takasaki Rail Yards in 2013. This year, I visited JR East's Toyoda Rail Yard on the Chuo Line. It was opened to the public as an event known as the 2015 Toyoda Train Festival.

One of the main events in Toyoda Rail Yard was a train photo session. Specifically, the whole formation of the commuter trains on the Chuo Line was very beautiful and photogenic. They were the EMU E233, E231-500, 211 series and so on. Many rail fans including me were absorbed in clicking their camera shutters. I also enjoyed the inspection shed, where many sets of the E233 series were stored. I could have enough time to observe the bogies and underfloor equipment there. An exhibition of several kinds of pantographs was also interesting for me to understand their mechanism.

I am truly grateful to JR East Toyoda Rail Yard staff to have held this special event on the weekend. They were very friendly and kind to visitors. The festival was indeed a great success, because plenty of people enjoyed the festival safely. I am going to introduce several trains being exhibited at this event from next time.

To be continued...
JR East E233 series is stored in the inspection shed of Toyoda Rail Yard on the Chuo Line

Friday, 13 November 2015

Hankai Mo 247: Old Japanese Streetcar in Edmonton City

Electric car, Edmonton Radial Railway Society 247 (ex-Hankai 247) in Edmonton City
(Photo: Kevin Volkmann)

One of my blog readers kindly sent me his photographs of an old Japanese streetcar, ex-Hankai Mo 247, in Edmonton City, Alberta, Canada. I am going to show you his beautiful photos today. Thanks, Kevin-san, for providing me with these precious photos.

Hankai Tramway is a small private company belonging to Nankai Electric Railway group in Osaka Prefecture. It has two tram routes in the southern part of Osaka and Sakai cities. The total operating length is 18.7 km, which was mostly opened in the early 20th century. The track is double and electrified. The gauge size is 1,435 mm. Its electric system is 600 V DC overhead.

The electric car Mo 247 of the Hankai Mo 205 series was built by Hirose Sharyo in 1947. The Mo 205 series was launched in 1937. A total of 46 units have been built for eleven years straddling WWII. It has an 11 m-long small body with three large frontal windows. The single rounded front light on the top of its face is definitely my favorite.

The Mo 205 series was retired from the track in 1990 being replaced by the new model, Mo 701 series. Most of the Mo 205 series have been scrapped, but Mo 247 fortunately escaped from dismantling and moved to Canada, crossing the Pacific Ocean. Currently, it is operated on the preserved railway in Edmonton City. Judging from the photos, it is still in good condition. I appreciate the fact that Canadian people cherish this precious old Japanese streetcar.

Interior of ex-Hankai 247 streetcar in Edmonton City, Alberta, Canada
(Photo: Kevin Volkmann)

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Silver Grass Field on the Izukyu Line

EMU Izukyu 2100 series, Alpha Resort 21, arrives at Ajiro Station (March, 2013)
Along with Sengokubara on Hakone Mountain, Hosono Highland is famous for the silver grass field on the Izu Peninsula. Silver grass is listed as one of the seven autumn grasses in Japan. It has been used for the roofs of farmers' houses as well as feedstuff. When I visited Hosono Highland last week, a lot of rabbit ears of silver grass were still seen in the field. They have already changed color from green to silver, and further to gold. I could enjoy the swinging silver grass in the breeze using both my eyes and ears.

To get to this vast silver grass field, please get off at Kawazu Station on the Izukyu Line. It takes about two and a half hours by the limited express train, Odoriko, from Tokyo Station. It will be directly operated from the JR East Tokaido Main Line onto the Izukyu Line.

Izukyu is a private railway based on the Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture. Connecting Ito on the JR Line and Izukyu-Shimoda, its operating length is 45.7 km. The track is single and electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. It was opened in 1961 as a sightseeing line to promote tourism to the Izu Peninsula. Among the Izukyu train fleet, a gorgeous train, EMU 2100 series, "Alpha Resort 21", is my favorite, but it has been under inspection in Izu-kogen Depot since September. A bit disappointing!

Silver grass field near Kawazu Station on the Izukyu Line

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Classic ELs on the Gakunan Railway

Electric locomotive ED40 2 of the Class ED 40 is preserved in Gakunan-Fujioka station yard

Following my previous post, I am going to continue to show you the rolling stock on the Gakunan Railway. After arriving at Gakunan-Fujioka, I enjoyed taking photographs of old electric locomotives (ELs), which were preserved in the station yard.

The EL Class ED 40 was my target to shoot. It was built by Nippon Sharyo in 1965 for Matsumoto Electric Railway (present Alpico Kotsu). After using it for material transportation of hydroelectric power plant construction, two units of the Class ED 40 were moved to Gakunan Railway in 1971. The Class ED 40 is a direct current EL with an axis arrangement of Bo-Bo (UIC notation). It has four DC motors with rheostatic control system. Its total rating power is 512 kW (one hour). It is quite unique that the door is equipped on the front, which means that the crew has to climb up the deck on the front at first. He (or she) then enters the cockpit from the front door. Unfortunately, the freight transportation of Gakunan Railway has been suspended since 2012, so, the Class ED 40 sleeps in the rail yard every day.

For your information, Gakunan Railway was partially opened between Yoshihara and Yoshihara-honcho in 1949 using a freight line of Nissan Heavy Industries. The route was then fully inaugurated in 1953 between Yoshihara and Gakunan-Enoo stations. The track is electrified and single. The gauge is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

Electric locomotive ED40 3 of the Class ED 40 is preserved in Gakunan-Fujioka station yard

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Classic Train on the Gakunan Railway

Electric car 7003 of the 7000 series travels on the Gakunan Railway
It was my first visit to Gakunan Railway in three years. The last time, my encounter with the ex-Keio train, EMU 8000 series, was very impressive. I also stopped by a park featuring Japanese mysterious legend, Taketori Monogatari (the tale of the bamboo cutter), near Hina Station. This time, I embarked on another type of electric car, the 7000 series, and headed to Gakunan-Fujioka Station, where the depot of the railway is located.

Gakunan is a small private company based in Fuji City, about 140 km west of Tokyo. Connecting Yoshihara on the Tokaido Main Line and Gakunan-Enoo, its operating length is 9.2 km. The track is single and the gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Ex-Keio stainless-steel cars, called 7000 and 8000 series, are operated every 30 minutes on average.

Different from the 8000 series, the 7000 series is operated as a single car. It has two driving cabs on both sides of the car. The color of the "face" is also different. The 7000 series has a vermilion colored "face", meanwhile the 8000 series is painted with a green color. The 7000 series was launched in 1996 to replace the old model, the 5000 series. A total of three units, namely DeHa 3101, 3102 and 3103, have been moved from Keio to Gakunan Railway.

After twelve minutes' riding, I got off the 7000 series at Gakunan-Fujioka Station. The purpose of my visit to this station was to see an old electric locomotive.

To be continued...

Electric car 7002 of the Gakunan 7000 series arrives at Yoshihara Station

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Japan's Largest Retarding Basin on the Tobu Line

EMU Tobu 10030 series arrives at Yagyu Station on the Nikko Line

A retarding basin holds the water temporary during heavy rain. It then slowly releases the water through natural or man-made drainage channels. The Watarase retarding basin (hereafter WRB) is known as Japan's largest retarding basin, which is located in the central part of Kanto Plain, some 70 km north of Tokyo.

WRB was constructed from 1910 to 1927 to decrease floods of the Watarase, Tomoe and Omoi rivers, but there is another reason to make it. WRB was the control basin for settling mineral poison from Ashio Copper Mine. As I mentioned before, the incident of Ashio mining pollution occurred around Watarase River in Tochigi and Gumma prefectures at the end of the 19th and the beginning of 20th century. The mine was closed in 1973 after declining copper production. Currently, the Watarase River has become clean and WRB was registered as a wetland under the Ramsar Convention in 2012.

To visit this large artificial basin, please take the Tobu-Nikko Line and get off at Yagyu Station. Yagyu is a small station, where only local trains stop. The operation interval is about every half an hour. Most of the southbound trains are bound for Minami-Kurihashi. My vehicle was a 4-car train, the EMU 10030 series. It is Tobu's standard commuter train launched in 1988. The electric control system is an old chopper type, but the 10030 series has brand new bead-press stainless-steel bodies, bolster-less bogies and auxiliary power units. The air compressors are also new ones and silent.

Watarase Retarding Basin near Yagyu Station on the Tobu-Nikko Line

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Access to the Holy Mountain: Part 3

The gondola number 2 of the Eizan Ropeway (aerial tramway), Keifuku Electric Railway

Following my previous post, I am going to continue to show you the access route to Mt. Hiei from the Kyoto Prefecture side.

After getting off the funicular at Cable-Hiei Station, I transferred to the aerial tramway, the Eizan Ropeway Line of Keifuku Electric Railway. The aerial tramway on Mt. Hiei was originally opened in 1928 by Kyoto Dento, which was an electric power company; however, it was suspended during WWII. The new route was opened in 1956 by Keifuku Electric Railway Company. Connecting Rope-Hiei and Hiei-sancho (the summit of Mt. Hiei) stations, its route length is 486 m. The height difference between the highest and the lowest points on the route is 131 m. The operation interval is 8 to 24 minutes. It takes 3 minutes from Rope-Hiei to Hiei-sancho Station.

After arriving at Hiei-sancho Station, I visited Enryaku-ji temple. It was very cool because the temple was located about 800 m above sea level. On that night, I stayed at Shukubo (temple lodging) and had a Shojin Ryori. It was Budhist cuisine, which was similar to vegetarian food. Shojin Ryori contains vegetables, beans and rice, but neither fish nor meat.

Non-Buddhist is also welcome to stay there as a guest. Drinking beer or sake (Japanese rice wine) is also allowed. Furthermore, guests can join the morning praying at the main hall of Enryaku-ji temple, if you wish. It will be your unique experience in Japan.

Monju-ro of Enryaku-ji Temple

Monday, 26 October 2015

Access to the Holy Mountain: Part 2

Funicular Ke 1 of the Eizan Cable Line, Keifuku Electric Railway

Following my previous post, I am going to continue to show you the access route to Mt. Hiei from the Kyoto Prefecture side.

After getting off the train at Yase-Hieizanguchi Terminal, I transferred to the funicular, Eizan Cable Line of Keifuku Electric Railway. The Eizan Cable Line was opened in 1925 by Kyoto Dento, which was an electric power company. Connecting Cable-Yase and Cable-Hiei stations, its route length is 1.3 km. The route is a unique S-shaped curve. The track gauge size is 1,067 mm. The maximum inclination of the route is 27.9 degrees. The height difference between the lowest and the highest points on the route is 561 m, which is the largest of funicular lines in Japan. The operation interval is 15 to 30 minutes. It takes 9 minutes from Cable-Yase to Cable-Hiei Station.

The vehicles are third generation ones called Ke 1 and Ke 2, which were built by Mukogawa Sharyo in 1987. Each car can accommodate 136 passengers. The outer design is rather old, but its large windows provide passengers with fantastic views of the green forest and the steep mountain. Four pantographs on the roof is very unique.

After arriving at Cable-Hiei Station, I transferred to the aerial tramway, namely the Eizan Ropeway. Space does not permit me to introduce you to this tramway, so, I am going to show you it in my next post.

To be continued...
Hokke So Ji-in (left) and Amida-do (right) of the Enryaku-ji Temple

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Eizan Main Line: Access to the Holy Mountain

Electric car Eiden 700 series arrives at Demachiyanagi Terminal on the Eizan Main Line

Hiei-zan (848.3 m) is a mountain that straddles the eastern part of Kyoto and the western part of Shiga Prefecture. It faces Japan's largest lake, Biwako, on the Shiga Prefecture side. Hiei-zan is known as the holy mountain, since the famous Buddhist temple, Enryaku-ji, is located there. It is a large Tendai monastery founded by Saigyo (767-822). The precinct yard, which is composed of three areas in Mt. Hiei, is very large. Each area has many halls, such as Konpon-chudo (the main hall) of the National Treasure.

To get to this holy mountain, there are several access routes from Kyoto and Shiga prefectures. I took a train from Kyoto city to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station and transferred to the funicular and the aerial tramway. My vehicle was a small electric car, the Eizan Electric Railway (Eiden) 700 series. This tiny car was launched in 1987 to respond to the introduction of the ATS (automatic train stopping) system, air-conditioners and driver-only operation (train operation without a conductor on board).

The 700 series is a 15.7 meter-long car operated as a single-car train. It is lovely and popular among tourists. The mechanical and electrical equipment of the 700 series is rather old, but this classic car matches the historical Kyoto streetscape and the deep green forest in the foot of Mt. Hiei.

I am going to report the connecting funicular and aerial tramway line in my next post. To be continued...

Konpon-chudo (the main hall) is shrouded in a morning mist

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Nostalgic Warehouses Quarter in Tochigi City

EMU Tobu 100 series, "Spacia", stands at Tochigi Station on the Nikko Line. 

Tochigi is a city with the third largest population in Tochigi Prefecture, about 90 km north of Tokyo. It has a population of 160,000.

Along with Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture, Tochigi is famous for its historic storehouses quarter. They were constructed along Uzuma River during the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), because Tochigi was grown as a commercial city using water-transport on the river. Today, many old storehouses are still preserved in good condition and used as museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. The best season to visit Tochigi City is from April to May. You can see numerous carp streamers spanned above Uzuma River to pray for children's healthy growth.

To get to this nostalgic storehouses quarter, please take the Tobu-Nikko Line and get off at Tochigi Station. If you live in the western part of Tokyo, I suggest that you use the limited express train from JR East Shinjuku Station. This gorgeous train is jointly operated by Tobu Railway and JR East, and directly operated onto the Tobu-Nikko Line via Kurihashi Station.

Your vehicle is the EMU 100 series, "Spacia", which was launched in 1990. A quarter of a century has already passed, since it debuted. Tobu Railway recently gave a press release announcing that the new model, EMU 500 series, will debut in 2017. The 500 series will be a 3-car train with an active suspension system.
Old warehouses quarter near Tochigi Station