Saturday, 28 February 2015

Sayonara, EMU Keisei 3300 Series

EMU Keisei 3300 series travels on the Kanamachi Line (September, 2012)
Old trains in Tokyo retire one after another. On February 12th, Keisei Electric Railway made a press release announcing that the EMU Keisei 3300 series will be retired from the track by the end of February.

The 3300 series was launched in 1968 for direct operating trains between the Keisei and the Toei Asakusa Subway lines. A total of 54 units have been manufactured for five years by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and Kisha Kaisha. Its specification is rather old (DC motors with a rheostatic control system); however, the 3300 series still keeps a beautiful figure on the track.

I like this nostalgic train, as the four large front lights are very cute. When I was a child, the Keisei train was synonymous with the 3300 series. It was called Akaden (the red train), since the body color was red at that time. The 3300 series really goes with the nostalgic old town of Tokyo.

For your information, the successor of the 3300 series is the EMU 3000 series. It was launched in 2002 and is still manufactured to replace the old trains on the Keisei Line. I know that the 3000 series is a modern commuter train with latest specifications, but I get a cold impression from this train with its stainless steel body.

If there's a beginning, there will be an end (Japanese proverb). The last run of the 3300 series is planned on February 28th. Sayonara (good bye), the Keisei 3300 series.
EMU Keisei 3000 series travels on the Keisei Main Line (September, 2014)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Narcissus Blooming Season on the Uchibo Line

EMU JR East 209-2100 series and the full-blown narcissus in Iwai Station on the Uchibo Line
It is still cold in Japan. The daytime maximum temperature is lower than 10 degrees Celsius, but the sun is getting stronger in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I am sure that spring is just around the corner and I can't wait for a genial season. Following last year, I visited Chiba Prefecture with my family to see the narcissus blossoms. Our destination was Iwai on the JR East Uchibo Line. It takes about one hour and 40 minutes from Tokyo Station by the limited express train, "Sazanami (Ripple)", the EMU 257-500 series.

When we visited Iwai last weekend, the narcissus blossoms were at their peak. They had bloomed in fields, on slopes, on riversides and in gardens. The sweet smell of the flowers attracted my family; while, I enjoyed taking photographs of flowers.

After coming back to Iwai Station, I found a narcissus garden adjacent to the platform. I could shoot the local train, EMU 209-2100 series, backed by full blown narcissus flowers. The 209 series was originally debuted in Tokyo in 1993 to replace the old commuter EMU, the 103 series. It has induction motors with a VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) control system.

The EMU 209 series was, then, introduced onto the Uchibo Line in 2009 under the names of the 209-2000 and the 209-2100 series, after the original 209 series was renovated. Different from the original 209 series, the 209-2000 and 209-2100 series have semi-cross seats in the first and last cars.
Full-blown narcissus on the bank of Iwai River near Iwai Station on the JR East Uchibo Line

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The 100th Anniversary of Takarazuka Revue

Memorial plate of "the 100th anniversary of Takarazuka Revue" is displayed on the 8000 series

One of the features of private railway companies in Tokyo is their diversification of business. For example, almost all major companies have their own department stores on their lines. The other example is the real estate business. Railway companies own land and develop housing and condominiums to rent or sell on their lines. An unusual business example is the sponsoring of professional baseball teams. The most famous of one is the Saitama Seibu Lions, which is owned by Seibu Railway in the Tokyo Metropolitan area.

Railways in Osaka are also not to be outdone by those in Tokyo. For instance, Hakyu Railway has a revue and their theater in Takarazuka City on the Hankyu Takarazuka Line. Takarazuka Revue is a famous musical troupe featuring an all-woman cast. It was established in 1914, so last year marked its centennial. Since the revue side is unfamiliar territory to me, please review an example of the stage information in the website of Takarazuka Revue.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Takarazuka Revue, Hankyu Railway displays a celebration plate on the front of their trains. Please look at the pictures. It is the EMU 8000 series with a special plate. The 8000 series is a standard commuter train, which was launched in 1989 for the Kobe and the Takarazuka lines. A total of 102 units have been manufactured over nine years by Alna Koki. The so-called architrave-style front mask is a typical design of the trains in the 1990s.

EMU Hankyu 8000 series (with the memorial plate) stands at Juso Station on the Takarazuka Line

Saturday, 21 February 2015

C11 245: Preserved SL in Fujisawa City

Steam locomotive C11 245 is preserved in Fujisawa City in Kanagawa Prefecture

I visited Fujisawa City in Kanagawa Prefecture last week, as something came up. After finishing my meeting, I stopped at a public park in the city to see a preserved steam locomotive (SL), ex-JGR (Japanese Government Railways) C11 245.

The SL, Class C11, was launched in 1932 to reinforce the transportation capacity on the local lines throughout Japan. It is a 2-6-4 type (Whyte notation) small tank locomotive. A total of 381 units have been manufactured over 18 years. Unit number 245, namely C11 245, was manufactured in 1943 by Nippon Sharyo, and had been used for passengers and freight transportation in the northern part of Japan. After its retirement from the track, C11 245 was moved to Fujisawa City in 1975 to be preserved.

Since then, C11 245 has been carefully maintained. It still has a good shine. Who looks after this SL? The answer is the local children's group, called Fujisawa SL Children's Association. According to their website, this association has 25 members consisting of primary and junior high pupils. They not only maintain the SL, but also operate a mini railway in the park. One year training is required to become a "driver" of the mini trains. It is indeed hard work, isn't it?

For your information, a sister SL of C11 245, namely C11 292, is also preserved in front of Shimbashi Station on the Tokaido Main Line.
Side view of C11 245

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Fine View of Winter Fuji from Taikanzan

EMU Hakone Tozan 2000 series (new color) stands at Hakone-Yuomoto Station

I visited Hakone Mountain in Kanagawa Prefecture again. It was a beautiful and sunny day for visiting the countryside. In this season, the northern mountains block the cold, wet wind blowing from the northwest, which causes heavy snow to fall on the Sea of Japan side and sends cold, dry air to the Pacfc side of the archipelago. So, it stays fine for many days in the Tokyo metropolitan area except in the high mountains such as Mt. Fuji.

My purpose of visiting Hakone was to see the winter view of Mt. Fuji (3,776 m above sea level). I climbed up Taikanzan (1,012 m above sea level), which is one of the peaks of Hakone Somma. From Taikanzan, I could see the beautifully snow-capped Mt. Fuji rising behind Lake Ashinoko.

To get to this scenic viewing spot, please get off at Taikanzan stop on the Hakone Tozan Bus. It takes about two and a half hours from Shinjuku Station in the downtown Tokyo area, using connections of Odakyu Electric Railway, Hakone Tozan Railway and bus services.

On the way to Taikanzan, I came across a new colored train, set number S2 (KuMoHa 2003 + KuMoHa 2004) of the EMU Hakone Tozan 2000 series at Hakone-Yumoto Station. The original body color has been changed to match the new model, EMU 3000 series, for coupling.

What is the new model, 3000 series? I beg that you wait for a moment. I will report it soon

Scenic view of "Winter Fuji" from Taikanzan near Hakone-Yumoto Station

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Old 4000 Series from Danish Rail-fan's Photo Album

EMU Odakyu ex-4000 series arrives at Yamato Station on the Enoshima Line (1995 or 1996)
Photo: Nicolai Okkels
I am going to show you an old train picture in the Tokyo metropolitan area from a Danish rail-fan's photo album. My thanks go to Mr. Nicolai Okkels, who kindly sent me the picture.

The EMU 4000 series is famous for Odakyu's representative commuter trains. Specifically, it is frequently used for the direct operation train between the Odakyu and the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda lines, but do you know that Odakyu once had another 4000 series on their track.

Please look at the top photo. It is the EMU Odakyu old 4000 series. The old 4000 series was launched in 1966 to reinforce Odakyu's transportation capacity. A total of 92 units had been manufactured by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo, Kawasaki Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Different from the present 4000 series, the old 4000 series has white colored steel bodies. The electric system was also rather old... DC motors with a rheostatic control system. Especially, the early batch of the old 4000 series had nose suspension drive system, which made a nostalgic rattling sound.

The top photo was probably shot at Yamato Station on the Odakyu-Enoshima Line in 1995 or 1996. Climbing up the sloped track, a short 4 car local train of the old 4000 series was just entering the station yard. It has two large front lights, but only one light was on to save electricity.

The old and the new Odakyu 4000 series... I feel a swift passage of time.

Odakyu new 4000 series arrives at Kyodo Station on the Odawara Line (2014)

Saturday, 14 February 2015

JRF Class EF66-100 for High Speed Freight Trains

Pulling a containerized freight train, the EL Class JRF EF66-100 travels on the Tokaido Main Line
Although the freight trains of Japanese National Railways (JNR) used to be the main of freight transportation in Japan, the volume of rail freight transportation has been decreasing since the 1970s due to the expansion of expressways. In 1987, JNR was split into seven JR group companies, which were mostly regional passenger railway firms, but a rail freight company, namely JR Freight (JRF), was also established to operate the freight trains on a nationwide scale, using the other JR group companies' tracks.

Even after JRF started its operation, the volume of rail freight transportation has remained low; however, their business has been moving back into profit due to the increasing demand for environmental protection and the management efforts to introduce new locomotives and freight cars for express deliveries.

The electric locomotive (EL), class EF66-100 is one of JRF's main EL fleets with a direct current electric system. It debuted in 1989 to reinforce JRF's transportation capacity. A total of 33 units have been manufactured so far by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The original EF66 was debuted by JNR in 1968 to pull high speed freight trains at a maximum speed of 100 km/hour. The new EF66-100 is more evolved and the design of the body has been changed to more sophisticated one.

Currently, the new model, class EF210 is gradually replacing the EF66, but, I hope that the EF66-100 will continue to be operated the same as it has been up until now.

Pulling a containerized freight train, the EL Class JRF EF66-100 travels on the Musashino Line

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Fossil Bed on the Abiko Branch Line

EMU JR East 231 series travels near Kioroshi Station on the Abiko Branch Line

Along with trains, fossil collection is my lifelong hobby. For instance, I often visited fossil localities in the Tokyo metropolitan area, when I was a boy. Kioroshi in Chiba Prefecture was one of my favorite spots.

The Kioroshi Formation is young marine sediments, which were deposited about 125,000 years ago. At the time of the sedimentation, it was a warm climate and the sea level was higher than at present. Today, we can observe the densely-fossiliferous beds here and there in the Kioroshi Formation. The fossils are various kinds of bivalves, spiral shells and sand dollars... very beautiful.

In my boyhood, Kioroshi was just a small village. I could get fossils as much as I liked. It was a paradise for me, but today, Kioroshi has totally changed. Housing land development has been promoted to give residences for urban commuters. The fossil beds have been designated as a national natural treasure to preserve. As a matter of course, collecting fossils is strictly prohibited.

To visit this precious natural heritage, please take the JR East Abiko Branch Line and get off at Kioroshi Station. 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. Unlike my boyhood, modern commuter EMUs, the 231 series are operated every half an hour on the line. It takes just an hour from the downtown Tokyo area.

Fossiferous rock is seen near Kioroshi Station on the JR East Abiko Branch Line

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

JR West 500 Series: Update

EMU JR West 500 series stands at Fukuyama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen (November, 2012)
I was asked a question from one of my blog readers regarding an update of the EMU JR West 500 series on the Sanyo Shinkansen. In answer to your question...

The 500 series is operated between Shin-Osaka and Hakata stations. They make 11 westbound and 8 eastbound trips per day. One of the recent topics of the 500 series is the "Kansenger" poster train. Kansenger is an imaginary character created by JR West. He is a hero for kids to promote Shinkansen and to improve manners on the trains.

The EMU JR West 500 series was launched in 1997 as the Super-express train, Nozomi (hope). A total of 9 sets, 144 units have been manufactured by Hitachi, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo and Nippon Sharyo. The canopy architecture with the long front nose to reduce air resistance and tunnel boom is very popular among rail-fans. Many people think that the 500 series is the most beautiful train in Japan.

The EMU 500 series had been operated on the Tokaido and the Sanyo Shinkansens with a maximum speed of 300km per hour; but after the debut of the N700, the 500 series has been gradually retired. Although it has been shortened from 16 to 8 cars per set, and decreased its maximum speed from 300 to 285km per hour, the beautiful tubular body with a sharp long nose is still alive and kicking.

I wish the 500 series well for its life on the track for a long time.
EMU JR West 500 series arrives at Fukuyama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen (November, 2012)

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Rare Train on the Chiyoda Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 06 series stands at Yoyogi-Uehara Station on the Chiyoda Line

I have already introduced the trains on the subway Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line to you several times, but there are some left to do. One such train is the EMU 06 series, which I am going to show you today.

The Chiyoda Line was opened in 1969 as the sixth subway route in Tokyo. Connecting Yoyogi-Uehara and Kita-Ayase, the total operating length is 24 km. A total of 1.11 million passengers take this route each day. To operate this urban trunk subway line, a total of 61 sets of trains are required every day. They are covered by the Odakyu 4000 series, the JR East 209 and 233 series, the Tokyo Metro 6000, 16000, 05... and the 06 series. This 06 series is very rare train, because Tokyo Metro has only one set of the 06 series.

The EMU 06 series was launched in 1973 to reinforce the transportation capacity on the Chiyoda Line. The external design of the 06 series is similar to that of the 07 series being operated on the Yurakucho Line, but it must be remembered that the EMU 06 has the IGBT-VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) control system, which was first adopted on the EMU 06 series in Japan.

Riding on the 06 series is my favorite thing to do. Owing to the high gear ratio of its driving system, I can enjoy the comfortable high-pitched tone of the electric motors. Am I a bit geeky?

EMU Tokyo Metro 06 series (left) and the 6000 series (right)
More information about the EMU Tokyo Metro 06 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Wintersweet Blossoms on the Chichibu Railway: Revisit

EMU 7000 series travels on the Chichibu Railway (August, 2014)
It is the coldest season of the year in Japan. Northerly winds bring cold, dry air over the Tokyo metropolitan area. The daytime maximum temperature is lower than 10 degrees Celsius every day. However, just outside the downtown area has already been filled with hints of spring here and there. I recently visited Mt. Hodo in Saitama Prefecture to see the full-blown wintersweet two years to the day since 2012.

As you may know, wintersweet is a flowering plant, which has yellow colored blossoms from December to February. I love full-blown yellow colored wintersweet backed by an ultramarine winter sky. Specifically, large-flowered "full moon wintersweet" and its sweet perfume is my favorite.

To get to this gorgeous spot, please take the Chichibu Railway and get off at Nagatoro Station. As I didn't have time to shoot the recent train photos, I am going to show you a picture, which was taken last year.

The EMU Chichibu 7000 series was launched in 2009 to replace the old 1000 series. It is the ex-Tokyu 8500 series, which had been operated on the Denentoshi Line for a long time. A total of 2 sets, 6 units, were transferred to the Chichibu Railway after their retirement from Tokyu.

Unit number 7002 was originally a non-driving middle car in Tokyu era. It means that the "face" was newly manufactured before its debut on the Chichibu Railway. The shining stainless face in bright natural light is very beautiful.

Wintersweet blossoms on Mt. Hodo near Nagatoro Station on the Chichibu Railway

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The 120th Anniversary of the Sobu Line

Special memorial plate for the 120th anniversary of the Sobu Line

I just celebrated the New Year, but I can't believe that it is February already. Before introducing more about the topics of 2015, I would like to keep to the subject of last year a bit more.

In July, 2014, JR East celebrated its 120th anniversary of train operation on the Sobu Line. Going back to the history of the Sobu Line, it was opened between Ichikawa and Sakura stations in Chiba Prefecture by Sobu Railway Company in 1894. The Sobu Railway continued to build an extension of the line toward the east and reached Choshi Terminal in 1897. On the other hand, the westward extension was a bit slow. It reached Ochanomizu in the downtown Tokyo area in 1932.

Chiba Branch Office of JR East held many events commemorating the 120th anniversary such as a special train operation and a ceremony, but I couldn't attend them, as I was continually busying myself with my affairs. Instead of sharing the event photos with you, I am going to show you a special memorial plate displayed on the front of set number B28 of the EMU E231 series on the Sobu Local Line. It was made by train crews of Narashino Depot. You can see a round plate with a thank you message on it. For your information, the E231 series is a main fleet of Sobu Local Line along with the 209-500 series.

EMU JR East E231 series stands at Tsudanuma Station on the Sobu Local Line