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