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-sabguchi 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