Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tight Railway Schedule on the Keio Line

EMU Keio 8000 series (left) approaches the preceding 9000 (right) series near Meidaimae Station
Keio is one of the busiest railway lines in Japan. Its congestion during rush hour is well known among Tokyoites. Currently, this company operates 30 trains of 20m long 10-car trains in the peak one hour toward the city center on the double track section.

It's too soon to be surprised. You will see "a train jam" during rush hour, if you visit a major station such as Meidaimae. While one train is standing at the station for passengers getting on and off, the next train is already approaching and waiting just behind the standing preceding train. The distance between the two trains is only tens of meters. Too close!

What has made it possible for this tight railway schedule? It is because of the new ATC (automatic train control) signal system. Keio Electric Railway introduced the latest signal system in 2011. Each train has begun to calculate its appropriate speed to maintain a distance from its preceding train by an on board computer, receiving a signal from surface equipment. Of course, train brakes work automatically, if there is a risk of colliding with the preceding train.

As a result of the new system introduction, all railway traffic lights had been removed from the track. The "traffic lights" had been moved from the track to speed meters in the cabins. That's why all trains can stop at any point on the track, even just behind a preceding train.

Tight railway schedule on the Keio Line... it is a new Tokyo institution.

EMU Keio 7000 series (left) approaches the preceding 9000 (right) series near Meidaimae Station

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Electric Locomotive JRF Class EF210: Momotaro

Pulling a containerized freight train, the EL JRF Class EF210 travels on the Tokaido Main Line
JR Freight (JRF) is one of the JR group railway companies. It was established in 1987, when the Japanese National Railways were split into seven companies. Different from the other JR group companies, JRF specializes only in freight transportation and operates their trains on a nationwide scale, using the other JR group companies' tracks.

One of JRF's major locomotive fleets is the electric locomotive (EL) Class EF210 for 1,067mm gauge trunk lines. It was launched in 1996 to replace an old EL, Class EF65. A total of 95 units have been built so far by Mitsubishi Electric and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The Class EF210 is a 1,500V direct current EL with an axis arrangement Bo-Bo-Bo (UIC notation). It has six induction motors with a VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) control system. Its total rating power is 3,540kW (30 min). Pulling a total of 1,300 ton cargo container wagons, the EE210 can travel with a maximum speed of 110 km per hour.

The nickname of the Class EF210 is Momotaro (Peach Boy), who was a famous samurai in Japanese folklore. Momotaro was born in Okayama Prefecture and known as a hero, who whopped a demon in Onigashima (Demon's Island). When the Class EF210 debuted, it was deployed at Okayama Engine Depot at first. That's why this local hero's name, Momotaro, has been adopted as a nickname of the new EL.

A contemporary Momotaro doesn't whop demons, but transports 1,300-ton containers at high speed.

The EL JRF Class EF210-100 with single arm pantographs passes through Oofuna Station

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Nippori: Deep Core in Downtown Tokyo

"Shimogoindenbashi Train Museum" in front of Nippori Station on the JR East and Keisei lines

Tokyo, its former name was Edo, has been developed as a castle city since 16th century. The city of Edo was roughly categorized into an uptown area west of Edo Castle where samurai lived, and a downtown area facing several rivers and moats where commoners lived. Nippori is located north of Edo Castle and known as one of the typical downtown areas.

Once you get off at Nippori Station on the JR East or Keisei line, you will find an old fashioned shopping district there. Festivals and customs from the Edo Period (1603-1868) still exist. Generally speaking, local people are friendly and kind, probably because it's a close-knit community.

Along with traditional shopping streets, you, rail fans can also enjoy your own way in Nippori. There is a reputable spot, "Shimogoindenbashi Train Museum", in front of the station. Shimogoindenbashi is not a real train museum, but a bridge spanning railway tracks. A total of 12 tracks are seen from the bridge. In addition, you can see the elevated double track of the Keisei Main Line on the right-hand side.

Surprisingly, a total of 2,500 trains run under the bridge per day! So, you can enjoy trains continuously there. In fact, the bridge is always crowded with people. They are rail fans, children with their parents and tourists including foreigners. You can see a descriptive plate about the trains running under the bridge to identify them.

Nippori... it is a deep core in downtown Tokyo for both tourists and rail fans.

"Yuyake-dandan (sunset steps)" is the entrance of Yanaka Shopping Street near Nippori Station

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Variation of the Toei 10-300 Series

Set 510 of the EMU Toei 10-300 series (3rd batch) travels on the Keio Line

Cars of railway vehicles often differ. Even in the same model, detailed specifications such as coloring design of bodies or the type of equipment are subtly different in each car. Finding such small differences is one of the great pleasures for rail fans like me.

The EMU Toei 10-300 series is a visible example. This model was launched in 2005 replacing the old 10-000 series. Currently, there are three types of the 10-300 series. Let's look at the differences of these three types of trains focusing on the front car designs.

Group A is the 1st and 2nd batches of the 10-300 series. It has two centralized frontal lights on the top part of its "face". A thick light green colored and a thin dark blue colored stripes are seen on the body.

Group B is the 3rd and 4th batches of the 10-300 series. It has two separate frontal lights on the lower part of its "face". Thick green and dark blue colored stripes are seen on the face, but a blue colored stripe is thin on the side body.

Group C is the 10-300"R" series. It is almost the same as that of Group A, but the light green colored stripe on the side stripe is thinner than that of Group A. The dark blue colored stripe on the side body is shorter than that of Group A.

Is it complicated? Non-rail fans probably cannot understand this strong preference.

Set 460 of the EMU Toei 10-300 series (2nd batch) passes through Hachimanyama Station

More information about the EMUs on the Toei lines (in Japanese):

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Inokashira Hydrangea Route: Nishi-Eifuku

Set 1714F of the EMU Keio 1000 series travels on the Inokashira Line near Nishi-Eifuku Station
It is the rainy season again in Tokyo. On June 8th, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that this year's rainy season had begun in the Tokyo metropolitan area. We have been having hot and humid days. At times like that, the only thing that saves my gloomy feelings is viewing hydrangeas which come into flower this season. One of the beautiful spots is on the Inokashira Line of the Keio Electric Railway.

My destination was Nishi-Eifuku Station. It is a typical residential area in a western suburb of Tokyo. In this season, full blown hydrangeas are seen here and there along the railway track. I was born there, so, it should be my "territory"; however...

When I visited there last weekend, I saw many photo lovers shooting the hydrangea flowers and the trains. Just three years ago, it was an undiscovered hydrangea viewing spot, but it has become famous. After a five minute stroll, I could secure my photogenic spot near the station somehow or other.

My first shot was right behind of the set 1714F of the EMU Keio 1000 series with full blown hydrangeas. I shot it from a railway crossing just after opening the gate bar. Using a telephoto lens, I could manage to capture both retreating train and flowers in one frame of the photo. My second target was a side view of the passing train looking over the hydrangeas along the track. I could manage to capture the set 1704F with blue colored hydrangea flowers. Not bad.
Set 1704F of the EMU Keio 1000 series travels on the Inokashira Line near Nishi-Eifuku Station

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Visit the Philippines Year 2015

Poster train, "Visit the Philippines Year 2015", EMU JR East E231-500 series on the Yamanote Line
Poster trains stand out in the urban area. Railway companies create them for celebrating special anniversaries such as "the 100th anniversary of Tokyo Station" and "the 10th anniversary of Tokyo Metro". The other purpose is to promote tourism to the sightseeing spots on their lines. For instance, JR East operated a special poster train, "Shinkansen Year 2012" on the Tohoku Shinkansen using the EMU E2-J series, while Keio operates Tama Zoo Train on the Keio-Zoo Line using the EMU 7000 series.

More importantly, commercial poster trains are precious revenue sources for railway companies. Now imagine that two million passengers take the JR East Yamanote Line per day. The eye-catching commercial poster trains must have an instant effect on those passengers.

This year, the Philippine Department of Tourism launched their poster train on the JR East Yamanote Line to promote tourism to their world class resorts such as Cebu and Bohol islands. The poster train, EMU E231-500 series, is decorated with beautiful pictures and colorful logos. It really makes me feel like traveling to the Philippines relaxing away from stressful work. Currently, a total of 460,000 Japanese people visit the Philippines per year. It must be a paradise.

I think there is a problem as well. Many stations on the Yamanote Line have automatic platform gates to prevent passengers from falling off the platform edge. Those gates block passengers' view of the poster trains. Railway companies need ingenuity for passengers.
"Visit the Philippines Year 2015" logo

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

2015 Tram Day: Sayonara Toei 7026

Unit number 8505 (left) and 7026 (right) are exhibited in Arakawa Depot on the Toei Arakawa Line
It is Tram Day again. I don't know the origin of this anniversary on June 10th, but it was enacted in the meeting of the 2nd National Tram Summit in 1995. The Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei) recently held a memorial event in their Arakawa depot before Tram Day. Seibu Railway's "Seibu Electric Car Fiesta" conflicted with the Tram Day event, but I chose the latter, as Arakawa Depot was nearer than the site of Seibu Electric Car Fiesta.

The main exhibition was streetcar number 7026 of the 7000 series. This old vehicle is scheduled to retire by the end of this month. It was beautifully decorated with a special plate, "Arakawa Line Tram Day" on the front. Toei 7026 was built in 1956 by Alna Koki. He (She) had 92 brothers (sisters), but only 19 units are currently operated. It is a 600V DC streetcar on the 1,372mm gauge track. The control system is a classic rheostatic and the drive system is also nostalgic... nose-suspension.

The other exhibition was the unveiling of Toaran poster train. Using the 8505 of the electric car 8500 series, Toaran poster train will debut soon. What is Toaran? It is a mascot character of the Toei Arakawa Line selected by a contest. The role of Toaran is to promote passengers on the Toei Arakawa Line. The single arm pantograph on the head of Toaran character is lovely.

Sayonara (good-bye) Toei 7026 and welcome Toaran poster train.

Unit number 8505, Toaran poster train

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Inauguration of the Senseki-Tohoku Line

Diesel hybrid vehicle, JR East HB-E210 series arrives at Sendai Station on the Senseki-Tohoku Line
The long wished-for day has come in Tohoku District. The whole route of the JR East Senseki Line was eventually restored on May 30th.

The Senseki Line was paralyzed due to the 3.11 tsunami disaster following the giant earthquake in 2011. Most of the route resumed operation just after the quake; however, the section between Takagimachi and Rikuzen-Ono (10.5km) had been closed for a long time, because the new track had to be constructed on a hill to ward off danger of a future tsunami.

In parallel with the repair-works, JR East had been constructing a new connecting line (0.3km) between the Senseki and the Tohoku Main lines in the Matsushima area. This new track (the Senseki-Tohoku Line) was also opened on May 30th. What is the merit of the Senseki-Tohoku Line? It becomes a short cut route between two major cities in Miyagi Prefecture, namely Sendai and Ishinomaki. Before the 3.11 disaster, the Senseki Line was the main route between the two major cities, but it took more than one hour, because the route was full of turns and twists. The new short-cut route saves more than 10 minutes for flying passengers.

In time for the inauguration of the Senseki-Tohoku Line, JR East has launched new diesel hybrid vehicle, HB-E210 series. It is a 2-car train with diesels, lithium-ion batteries and induction motors. Its specification is similar to that of the KiHa E200 series on the Koumi Line, but the HB-E210 series has 6 doors per one car, as it is a commuter train.
Posters of the Senseki-Tohoku Line are put up in Sendai Station
More information about the Senseki-Tohoku Line (in Japanese):

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Nichinan Marine: Rapid Train to Devil's Washboard

Diesel railcar JR Kyushu KiHa 40-8000 series, rapid train "Nichinan Marine", leaves Kitago Station

Miyazaki Prefecture is located on Kyushu Island, some 1,300 km southwest of Tokyo. It is known as a sub-tropical region with a beautiful shoreline. In 1960s, Miyazaki was a tourist mecca for honeymooners. I still remember that I saw my uncle and aunt off at Tokyo Station, when they went on a honeymoon to Miyazaki Prefecture in the middle of 1960s.

Today, we seldom see honeymooners in Miyazaki; however, plenty of foreigners flock to this area. The famous Oni-no-sentakuiwa (Devil's Washboard) is one of the popular spots for tourists. What is Oni-no-sentakuiwa? It is an alternation of sandstone and shale geologic beds seen on the coast. These beds deposited in the deep sea around 7 million years ago, were recently uplifted and inclined. Due to the difference of resistance to erosion such as wave actions, the sandstone beds remained as convex superior portions, while the shale beds are eroded as concave portions.

To visit this oddly-shaped rock outcropping, please take the JR Kyushu Nichinan Line and get off at Aoshima Station. You can use a special rapid train, "Nichinan Marine", from Miyazaki Station on the weekend.

The diesel rail cars, KiHa 40 series, is commissioned as Nichinan Marine train. The above photo is unit number 8099 of the KiHa 40 series, built by Fuji Heavy Industries in 1980. The yamabuki (bright yellow) colored body, like the EMU 115 series in the Hiroshima area, stands out against lush green sub-tropical sceneries.

Devil's Washboard on the Aoshima Island near Aoshima Station on the Nichinan Line

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Early Summer on the Tojo Line

EMU Tobu 50000 series travels on the Tojo Line near Takasaka Station
It is early summer in Japan. Sunlight is strong and the maximum daytime temperature reaches 30 degrees Celsius. Just before a rainy season, it is a brief window of delightful days.

Last weekend, I visited Saitama Prefecture on account of some business. On my way to the meeting place, I could have a chance to take train pictures on the Tobu-Tojo Line near Takasaka Station. The shooting spot was just before a railroad bridge spanning Tokigawa River. After leaving Takasaka Station, a northbound train goes down the track to this spot. The train, then, goes up again toward the bridge girder. There are a dry river bed and a green forest along the track.

Firstly, the EMU 50000 series appeared. The 50000 series is a 10-car train launched in 2005. It is Tobu's first aluminum body commuter train. A total of 9 sets, 90 units have been manufactured so far by Hitachi. It was difficult to capture a side view of this 200m long train in one image, but I could manage somehow.

Next, the EMU 10030 series came to the spot. The 10030 series is also a 10-car train launched in 1988. A total of 170 units have been manufactured so far by Tokyu Sharyo, Alna Koki and Fuji Heavy industries. The stainless-steel bodies sparkled in the morning sun... very beautiful.

I was completely absorbed in taking photographs for a while. It was time for my appointment. I was almost late.

EMU Tobu 10030 series approaches Tokigawa Railway Bridge on the Tojo Line

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Reunion with Copper Pheasant

Logo of "Yamadori", set number YD1 of the EMU JR East 485 series

Yamadori (copper pheasant or mountain bird) is an endemic species in Japan. It is said that we can see this precious bird in the mountains, but I have only seen it in a zoo. It was a very beautiful bird with a red colored face and was larger than I thought.

The train named Yamadori is also precious. We seldom see it on the track. Yamadori, set number YD01 of the EMU 485 series, is a JR East's leisure train modified from a standard 485 series in 2011. As a leisure train, Yamadori has a play room for kids and a view room in the first car. Although it doesn't have Green Cars (1st class cars), the cross seats are very spacious with a 2+1 configuration. I have ridden it before, but it was in 2012, three years ago.

When I visited Utsunomiya City last month, I came across this precious train for the first time in long time. It was stood in Utsunomiya Station yard in the afternoon sunlight... very beautiful. Unfortunately, I couldn't see its "face" as the other train blocked the view. Instead, I shot its side view and the logo on the train body. As it turned out, Yamadori was commissioned as a special train between the Tokyo Metropolis and Nasu highland resort that day. It was a round trip, so, Yamadori was taking a rest in preparation for its return trip, when I met him (her).

Yamadori... long time no see. How are things?

Side view of set number YD1, the EMU JR East 485 series, "Yamadori" at Utsunomiya Station yard
More information about set number YD1 of the EMU JR East 485 series, "Yamadori" (in Japanese):

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Illuminated Rose Garden on the Keihin-Tohoku Line

EMU E233-1000 series arrives at Akihabara Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line

There are several reputable rose gardens in the Tokyo metropolitan area. They are Yono Park, Keisei Rose Garden, Yatsu Rose Garden... and one more, Kyu-Furukawa Garden. Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a European style garden designed by a British architect, Josiah Conder, in 1917. Currently, it is a national property and was designated as the National Site of Scenic Beauty in 2006.

Kyu-Furukawa Garden is small compared to the other gardens, but there is a large European style house behind the garden, so the rose blossoms stand out against the background mansion. The roses are red, pink, yellow and white colored... and very fragrant. During the full blooming season, the garden is lit up at night.

To get to this gorgeous spot, please take the JR East Keihin-Tohoku Line. The nearest station is Kami-Nakazato. The blue colored 10-car train, the EMU E233-1000 series, is operated frequently. The E233-1000 series was launched in 2007 replacing the 209 series. A total of 83 sets, 830 units, were built over three years.

Same as the previous 209 series, the E233-1000 series has ultra-sonic platform sensors for safety. If the train stops outside of a station platform, the conductor cannot open the doors in order to prevent passengers falling out of the train.
Illuminated rose garden in Kyu-Furukawa Garden near Kaminakazato Station

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Indonesian Railway Update: Test Run of the 12-car Train

Test run of the 12-car train, EMU ex-JR East 205 series, set number HaE 1 and HaE 12
Photo: Faris Fadhli (May 13th, 2015)
Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, has been achieving rapid development. The population now stands at 30 million including its surrounding area. It is the largest city in the Southeast Asian countries.

Although the city has been rapidly expanding, Jakarta is late in getting into city transportation. The local railway operator, KRL Jabodetabek, has not been folding their arms. They have been pursuing the modernization of the trains. Introduction of air conditioned second hand EMUs from Japan is one of the major solutions, but Jakartans are not released from daily stressful commuting. KRL Jabodetabek, then, geared up for operating long trains to reinforce the transportation capacity. A 10-car train was launched as the first step in April last year. KRL Jabodetabek, then, conducted the test run of a 12-car train recently.

Faris Fadhli, an active Indonesian rail fan, reported that a part of set number HaE 1 and HaE 12 of the EMU ex-JR East 205 series were selected to compose a test run train. The test run was successfully conducted on May 13th. Although it is still undecided, Faris expects that the two sets of ex-Nambu Line 205 series (a 6-car train) will be coupled and used for a 12-car train in the future. To cover the "added cars", the extension of platforms is essential for each station. I hope that the passengers get in and out of the train safely.

Faris-san, thank you very much for sending the latest news and the pictures.
The 12-car test run train arrives at Jakarta-kota Station on the Bogor Line
Photo: Faris Fadhli (May 13th, 2015)