Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Clematis Hill on the Tokaido Main Line

EMU JR Central 211 series travels on the Tokaido Main Line

It was a beautiful autumn weekend. I visited a garden, named Clematis Hill, near Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, some 120 km west of Tokyo. It was off-season, as the Clematis blooming season was over, but I could enjoy the profound silence backed by the songs of the birds in the garden.

One of the features of this garden is its open-air sculptures. They were works of an Italian artist, Giuliano Vangi. "Donna rigate a acqua (Woman who wears water)" was my favorite work. As its name suggests, the clothes of the woman are at one with water in its surrounding pond. The lotus flowers and the reflection of the blue sky on the water were also very beautiful.

To visit this unique garden, please take the Tokaido Main Line (JR Central's operating section) and get off at Mishima Station. You can see the EMU 211 series there. As you may know, this model has already disappeared from JR East's operating section (Tokyo - Atami) on the Tokaido Main Line, as it was replaced by the new model, EMU E233-3000 series in 2012.

The EMU 211 series was developed by Japanese National Railways in 1985. It has an outdated field excitation electric control system, but we must not forget that the 211 series has realized a large amount of operating cost reduction using its regenerative braking system. Please ride it and enjoy the whirring sound of the DC motor.

Art and railways... It was a gorgeous weekend for me.

 
Clematis Hill near Mishima Station on the Tokaido Main Line

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Sanyo Main Line: Backbone of Japanese Railways

DMU Chizu Express Railway HOT7000 series travels on the JR West Sanyo Main Line
 
Along with the Tokaido Main Line, the Sanyo Main Line is a backbone of the Japanese Railways. Connecting Kobe and Moji, its line length is 534 km. Most of the route is operated by JR West. The track is electrified double-double or double and its gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500V DC overhead.

The Sanyo Main Line was partially opened by Sanyo Railway in 1888. The whole route was fully opened in 1942, when the Kanmon Submarine Tunnel was completed between Honshu and Kyushu Island. Although the number of long distance passengers has decreased due to the opening of Sanyo Shinkansen in 1975, the Sanyo Main Line still keeps its position of the main arterial railway in the western part of Japan.

If you go to the eastern part of the Sanyo Main Line such as the section between Kobe and Nishi-Akashi stations, various trains are continuously seen on the track. They are express, rapid, local and freight trains, EMUs, DMUs and ELs. For instance, the HOT 7000 series, Super-Hakuto, is an express DMU directly operated from Chizu Express Railway. The blue colored streamlined body is very vivid. The EMU 223-2000 series is a typical rapid commuter train in this section. It is faster than the rivals such as the express trains of Hankyu, Hanshin and Sanyo Railway. You can also see the local train, EMU 207 series, on the other double track.

The Sanyo Main Line is a moving railway museum for rail-fans.

 
EMU JR West 207 (left) and 223-2000 series (right)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Large Straw Sandals on the Yokohama Municipal Subway

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000S series stands at Totsuka Station
 
Tokaido is the main trunk railway route in Japan. Connecting Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, and Kobe, the old port city in Hyogo Prefecture, its total length of the route is 590 km.

What was it like to travel on the Tokaido before inauguration of the railway? People were obliged to travel on horseback, in a palanquin or on foot. "Waraji (straw sandals)" were essential for travelers as footwear. They traveled on the Tokaido Road and stayed in the inns at the post stations. Local people made the large straw sandals and displayed them on the street in Totsuka post station. It was a symbol of safe travel. Travelers stopped by there to pray for their safety on the long journey.

Today, travelers don't stop by ex-Totsuka Post Station on the old Tokaido Road anymore, as they use railways, automobiles or airplanes. The large "waraji" has become not necessary for travelers; however, local people continue to make it regularly to pray for traffic safety in the Totsuka area.

To get to this historical spot, please take the Tokaido Main Line or the Blue Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway and get off at Yokosuka Station. The EMU 3000S series is the newest model on the Blue Line. It was launched in 2005 as the fourth batch of the 3000 series group. A total of 8 sets, 48 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo. The blue colored stripe on the front takes passengers' eyes.
 
The large straw sandals are seen on the old Tokaido Road near Totsuka Station

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Alien Trains on the Tozai Line

EMU JR East 231-800 seres stands at Urayasu Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line

I am going to show you the commuter trains in Tokyo for the first time in a very long while.

The Tokyo Metro Tozai Line is one of the busiest subway routes in Tokyo. Connecting Nakano and Nishi-Funabashi (30.8km), it penetrates downtown Tokyo from west to east. The trains are directly operated onto the JR East Chuo Local Line to Mitaka and the Toyo Rapid Railway to Toyo-Katsutadai, therefore, its maximum operation length reaches 56.4 km. Thanks to the direct train operation between multiple railways, many kinds of trains are seen on the Tozai Line. I am going to show you two examples today.

The top photo is the EMU 231-800 series directly operated from the JR East Chuo Local Line. The 231-800 series was launched in 2003 to replace the old models such as the 103-1000, the 103-1200 and the 301 series. A total of 7 sets, 70 units, have been built by Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The light and dark blue colored stripes are a good feature of this train. For your information, light blue is "the line color" of the Tozai Line.

The following photo is the EMU 2000 series directly operated from the Toyo Rapid Line. The 2000 series was launched in 2004. A total of 11 sets, 55 units, have been built by Hitachi. This model has been jointly developed with Tokyo Metro. So, the specification of this train is the same as that of 13th batch of the EMU Tokyo Metro 05 series.

 
EMU Toyo Rapid 2000 seres stands at Urayasu Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Looking down into Hell at Nokogiriyama

Gondola number 1, Kamome (seagull), Nokoriyama Ropeway (aerial tramway)
 
Nokogiriyama (Mt. Saw) is a small mountain in Boso Peninsula, Chiba Prefecture, about 110 km southeast of Tokyo. As its name suggests, Nokogiriyama has saw-like jaggy rocks on its ridge line. They are tuffaceous rocks deposited around two million years ago that are famous as building material, called Boshu-seki (Boso Domain stone). The quarrying was started in the Edo Period (1603-1868) and continued until 1982, when the environmental protection regulation was enhanced.

Today, the ex-quarry is open to the public as a unique sightseeing spot. Specifically, an over-hanging rock, called "Jigoku-nozoki (looking down into hell)", is popular among tourists. If you stand on Jigoku-nozoki and look down into the deep valley, you will see the hell, which is really thrilling.

To get to this unique spot, Nokogiriyama Ropeway is convenient. Nokogiriyama Ropeway is an aerial tramway opened that in 1962. Connecting Nokogiriyama-sanroku (mountain foot of Nokogiriyama) and Nokogiriyama-sancho (summit of Nokogiriyama) stations, its route length is 680 m. The height difference between the two stations is 223 m. It takes about 4 minutes to go one way. The operation interval is about 15 minutes.

The present gondolas are third generation ones built in 2012 by CWA, Switzerland. They are yellow colored gondola number 1, Kamome (seagull), and red colored gondola number 2, Chidori (plover). Each gondola can hold up to 28 passengers. The yellow and red colored bodies are very vivid against the green forest.

Visit the saw mountain and look down into hell!

 
"Jigoku-nozoki (looking down into hell)" near Nokogiriyama-sancho Station
 
Official information about Nokogiriyama Ropeway:
Official area map of Mt. Nokogiri:

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Gypsy Rose on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East 211 series stands at Kami-Suwa Station on the Chuo Line

It is early autumn in Japan. Although it is still hot in Tokyo, the weather has become gradually cooler. I visited the countryside to look for an advent of autumn. My destination was Kurumayama Highland in Nagano Prefecture, some 150 km west of Tokyo.

Kurumayama is nearly 2,000m high above the sea, and famous for its beautiful scenery. Millions of holidaymakers visit this highland resort throughout the year. Apart from its beautiful scenery, there are many pleasures in Kurumayama Highland. The blossom of Gypsy rose (Scabiosa japonica) is definitely my favorite. It is about a 4 cm across tiny blossom with a pale purple color. It is very rare, since Gypsy rose is only seen in grasslands of mountainous areas in Japan.

To visit Kurumayama Highland, please take the JR East Chuo Line and get off at Kami-Suwa Station. As you know, the old 115 series local trains in the Nagano area have been recently replaced by the 211 series. It is a bit sad for me not being able to meet with the old 115 series.

The EMU 211 series have been moved from the Takasaki, Utsunomiya and Tokaido Main lines. It has a stainless-steel body with light blue and emerald colored stripes. I still feel that something is out of place when I see the 211 series on the Chuo Line; however, I will soon become accustomed to this new scenery.


All things are constantly changing.

A blossom of Matsumushisou (Gypsy rose)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Local Heroine in Shizuoka City

Set 1011F of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series, "Chibi Maruko-chan" poster train
 
Shizuoka Railway (Shizutetsu) is a small local company in Shizuoka City, some 180 km west of Tokyo. In addition to the Shogun train, Shizutetsu has many poster trains. I am going to show you one of such special poster trains today.

"Chibi Maruko-chan (a little Maruko)" is a famous TV animation series. It was created by a comic artist, Ms. Sakura Momoko in 1989. Sakura Momoko was born in Shimizu Ward of Shizuoka City in 1965. The series depicts the everyday life of Sakura Momoko, when she was a little girl in the year of 1974. Chibi Maruko-chan was Sakura Momoko's nickname at that time. I like Chibi Maruko-chan, as she is a bit tomboyish, but full of curiosity.

Starting from July 27th this year, Shizutetsu operates a special poster train with a Chibi Maruko-chan design. It is set number 1011F of the EMU 1000 series. A 2-car train is beautifully decorated with Chibi Maruko-chan characters on the pink colored background. The girls and boys wave to the Chibi Maruko-chan train, when they see it from the track and platform. Shizutetsu publishes the Chibi Maruko-chan train timetable on their website for the passengers.

For your information, the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series is a stainless-steel commuter train launched in 1973. A total of 12 sets, 24 units have been built so far by Tokyu Sharyo. Shizutetsu has recently given a press release announcing that a new model A3000 series will debut in 2016, replacing the 1000 series.

 
Local heroine, "Chibi Maruko-chan"

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Fujikawa: Trans-Mountain Express in Chubu District

EMU JR Central 373 series, limited express "Fujikawa", travels on the Tokaido Main Line
 
Chubu is the central district of Japan. It consists of nine prefectures including Shizuoka and Yamanashi, and is known as a mountainous area in the Japanese backbone.

The limited express "Fujikawa" is a representative train in Chubu District. Connecting Shizuoka in Shizuoka Prefecture and Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture, its total operating length is 122.4 km. The whole route is an electrified single or double track. The track gauge is 1067 mm, and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The most distinctive feature of this route is the trans-mountain railway penetrating the Japanese backbone range along Fujikawa River. It is a bridge-tunnel railway, which connects cities located on the Pacific Ocean and the Kofu Basin.


Using the EMU 373 series, Fujikawa Express is operated every two hours on average. The 373 series was launched in 1995 to replace an old express train, the EMU 165 series. A total of 14 sets, 42 units have been manufactured so far by Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi. Normally, Fujikawa Express is operated as a 3-car train of the 373 series. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes from Shizuoka to Kofu Station.

I like the 373 series as it is stylish; however, I suggest that it should have a tilting system to pass through tight curves at a high speed. As you know, the route of the Fujikawa Express has many curves in the mountainous area. I hope that the new model replacing the present 373 series has a tilting system in the future.
 
EMU JR Central 373 series, limited express "Fujikawa",arrives at Shizuoka Station
 
Official information about EMU JR Central 373 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Preserved Electric Car and Lotus Field

Electric car, Kuriden M153 of the M15 series, is preserved in ex-Wakayanagi Station yard.
 
Railway business in Japan is by no means easy. Specifically, local railway companies in the countryside are in a tough situation because of depopulation and motorization. Many local routes have been abolished in the past three decades.

Kurihara Denen Railway in Miyagi Prefecture, some 420 km north of Tokyo, was no exception. It was partially opened as a light railway in 1921. The company then changed to an electric railway in 1955 for the transportation of ores from Hosokura Mine. Connecting Ishikoshi on the Tohoku Main Line and Hosokura-kozan (Hosokura Mine), its operating length was 25.7 km. The mine was closed in 1986, but the company had been operating trains for 19 years under deteriorating management conditions. Eventually, the route was abolished in 2007.

You can still see some preserved diesel and electric cars in ex-Wakayanagi Station. Specifically, an electric car M153 of the M15 series is my favorite. M153 was built in 1955 by Naniwa Koki. Its two large frontal windows and the rounded frontal lights are nostalgic and definitely my favorite. It is still preserved in good condition by local rail fans.

In the meantime, I also recommend you visit a lotus field of Izu-numa (Lake Izu) near ex-Wakayanagi Station. You can see a carpet of lotus flowers on the lake in August. It is probably Japan's largest lotus field. A special boat tour is being held on the lake during the flower season.

Enjoy the lotus field and the preserved electric car in Miyagi Prefecture!

 
Lotus field of Izu-numa (Lake Izu) near ex-Wakayanagi Station in Miyagi Prefecture
 
Official information aboout preserved railway, Kuriden (in Japanese):
http://www.kuriharacity.jp/events/index.cfm/detail.1.24852.html
Official information about ex-Kuriden's preserved rolling stocks (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Indonesian Railway Update: Ex-Nambu Line Train

Test run of the ex-Nambu Line train, EMU 205 series (12-car), Jakarta, Indonesia
(Photo: Faris Fadhli)

Following the ex-Yokohama Line trains, ex-Nambu Line trains arrived at Jakarta one after another. As you may know, the local railway operator, KRL Jabodetabek (Jakarta Metropolitan Area Commuter Electric Railway), is pursuing the modernization of the trains in the rapidly growing capital city of Indonesia. They have been importing air-conditioned secondhand EMUs from Japan since the 2000s.

On July 1st, the first batch of secondhand ex-Nambu Line trains, namely ex-JR East 205 series, arrived at Tanjung Priok, an outer port for Jakarta. After making up and adjusting the trains at Depok Depot, the test run was conducted on July 7th using set NaHa2 and set Naha44. Surprisingly, the test run train was composed of 12 cars, although the Nambu Line train was operated as a 6-car train in Japan. The improvement of city traffic conditions in Jakarta is in urgent need. The operation of long (12-car) trains is essential for commuters in Jakarta.

KRL Jabodetabek operates commuter trains in the Jakarta metropolitan area using an extensive railway network owned by Indonesian National Railways. The track is electrified single or double. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. A major group of the trains are secondhand air-conditioned EMUs moved from JR East, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo Metro, Tokyu and Toyo Rapid Railway.

I received the above news from an active Indonesian rail fan, Faris Fadhli, as always. Thanks, Faris-san.

 
Test run of the ex-Nambu Line train, EMU 205 series (12-car), Jakarta, Indonesia
(Photo: Faris Fadhli)

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Count Down to the Last Run: The 381 Stork

EMU JR West 381 series, limited express "Kounotori (stork)" stands at Osaka Station.

On August 21st, JR West made a press release announcing that the EMU 381 series will be retired from Kansai District (Osaka Prefecture and its surrounding area) on October 30th.

The 381 series is known as Japan's first tilting train launched in 1973 by Japanese National Railways (JNR). The tilting train was specially-developed for passing through tight curves in mountain ranges at a high speed. On the tight curves, the tilting train tilts its body to mitigate the centrifugal force. Thanks to this device, the 381 series has greatly reduced its travel time on many routes. Even after the abolition of JNR in 1983, it has been commissioned as limited express trains, such as Kounotori (stork) in Kansai District for a long time. Among a great variety of the 381 series, I like the classic ones with so-called JNR color the best.

By the way, some passengers felt disappointed about the ride quality of the 381 series, since they turned green when the train passed through the curves. After an investigation by railway engineers, it became clear that the delay of tilting timing caused this bad ride quality. So, the different tilting devices had been adopted for the subsequent models, such as the E351 and the N700 series.

The new model, the EMU 289 series, is scheduled to replace the 381 series on October 31st. The 381 series will be only operated in Chugoku District, as a limited express train, "Yakumo".

Patna rhei (Everything is constantly changing).

 
KuHa 381-1 (1st batch of the 381 series) is exhibited in SCMaglev and Railway Park.
 
Official information about the EMU 381 series, limited express "Kounotori" (in Japanese):

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Scenic Falls on the Kintetsu Line

EMU Kintetsu 30000 series, "Vista-Ex", passes through Akameguchi Station

I can't believe that it is September already. Time really flies. Before introducing the topics of this month, I would like to keep on the subject of this mid-summer a bit more.

During the mid-summer, I visited several suburban areas escaping from the urban "heat island". It is said that the temperature in the city is often higher than that in the suburbs due to the heat island phenomenon. The heat island is created by the solar heat absorption of the outer surface of buildings and roads in the city.


My first evacuating place was Akame-Shijuhachitaki Falls in Mie Prefecture, some 490 km west of Tokyo. Akame-Shijuhachitaki is a series of scenic falls on the Takikawa River. Taking a splash from the falls, it was very cool and brisk.

To get to these cool scenic falls, the nearest station is Akameguchi on the Kintetsu Line. I took a limited express train, "Vista-Ex", from Nagoya Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen, and transferred to a local train at Nabari Station. It took about one hour and a half from Nagoya to Akameguchi Station.

Vista-ex is a bi-level limited express train on the Kintetsu Line. Kintetsu has a long tradition of operating bi-level trains. The first generation Vista Car was launched in 1958. Currently, renovated trains of the third generation Vista Car, namely the EMU 30000 series, "Vista-Ex", is the main fleet of the Kintetsu's bi-level limited express.

I enjoyed the scenic falls and trains on the Kintetsu Line.

 
Senjutaki Fall of Akame-Shijuhachitaki near Akameguchi Station on the Kintetsu Osaka Line
 
Official information about the Kintetsu Vista Car:
Official information about the EMU Kintetsu 30000 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Expert Climber in Kobe City

Set 1122F of the EMU Shintetsu 1100 series arrives at Maruyama Station
 
Kobe is the main city of Hyogo Prefecture, some 600 km west of Tokyo. The population in this city stands at 1.54 million, which is the sixth largest in Japan. Although Kobe is a port city facing Osaka Bay, it is also backed by the steep Rokko Mountains. So, the housing land development of the city has been heading up the mountains since the 1920s.

Construction of the commuter railways has also been heading into the Rokko Mountains. For instance, Kobe Electric Railway (Shintetsu) has a 70 km-long extensive network in this mountainous area. Its route has many steep sections up to an incline of 50 per mil. Of course, the trains should have special equipment to climb up the steep tracks.

The EMU 1100 series is the oldest model of Shintetsu. It was launched in 1969. A total of 39 units are still operated on the track. The major group of the 1100 series is 3-car trains, which are composed of 2 motorcars and 1 trailer. The motorcar has four powerful 105 kW DC motors. You can also see the large resistor under the train floor.

I like the EMU 1100 series best in Shintetsu rolling stock. Its specifications are quite old, but the design is still cool. Specifically, two large frontal lights on the top of the face are my favorite. I could shoot this imposing train at Maruyama Station, when I recently visited Hyogo Prefecture. Cool!

The EMU Shintetsu 1100 series... it is the expert climber in Kobe City.

 
Set 1120F of the EMU Shintetsu 1100 series stands at Shinkaichi Station