Saturday, 27 February 2016

Twilight Journey to Bromley

EMU Class 466+465, "Networker", stands at Bromley South Station on the Southeast Line

This is continued from my blog on February 15th. After finishing my meeting in Central London, I headed to Bromley, a southeastern suburb of London City, to meet with a British rail fan. To get to Bromley, the Southeastern Line was convenient from Victoria Terminal.

My vehicle was a commuter train, the EMU Class 465+466, called "Networker". The Class 465 was launched in 1991 to replace an old model, Class 415. It is a 4-car train, while the Class 466 is a 2-car train, which debuted in 1993. Both Classes 465 and 466 are for a 1,435 mm gauge track with a 750 V DC (a third rail) electric system. The maximum speed is 120 km/hour. So far, a total of 147 sets (588 carriages) of the Class 465 and 43 sets (86 carriages) of the Class 466, have been built by BREL, ABB and GEC Alsthom.

My train, "Networker", was bound for Orpington being composed of Classes 465 (4 cars) and 466 (2 cars). It was crowded because of the evening rush hour. I saw many businessmen and businesswomen boarding. They were looking at their cellular phones, listening to music, reading books or just relaxing. Different from the commuter trains in Tokyo, there were not many people who were napping. "Networker" travelled slowly in the downtown area, but it increased speed after leaving Herne Hill. My twilight journey went by at lighting speed.

Side view of the Class 465

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Inauguration of the Tozai Line in Sendai City

EMU Sendai Municipal Subway 2000 series passes over Hirose River on the Tozai Line

On December 14th, 2015, the second subway line was opened in Sendai City.

Sendai is the largest city in the Tohoku District, about 350 km north of Tokyo. The first subway route, namely Namboku Line, was partially opened between Yaotome and Tomisawa in 1987. The whole route was fully opened between Izumi-chuo and Tomisawa (14.8 km) in 1992.

Transportation Bureau of Sendai City then commenced construction of the second route, namely Tozai Line, in 2007. Connecting Yagiyama Zoological Park and Arai, the route length is 13.9 km. The gauge size is 1,435 mm and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Linear motor technology is adopted for the train driving system. Same as the Green Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway and the Ooedo Line of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, you can see a reaction plate between the two rails.

The train, being operated on the Tozai Line, is the EMU 2000 series. It is a 4-car train with two motor cars. So far, a total of 15 sets, 60 units, have been built by Kinki Sharyo. Automatic train operation system is adopted, so a train crew just pushes a button when the train leaves a station. The train runs without a conductor on board, as the Tozai Line has fewer passengers than that of the busy commuter lines in Tokyo. The design of the train is quite unique. Its face is in imitation of the warrior's helmet of Date family, which was a feudal load in the Sendai area. Cool!

In the meantime, I have linked to "Tokyo in N Scale", which is a blog following the progress of an N Scale module based on a small part of a large city, namely Tokyo.
Memorial sticker for inauguration of the Tozai Line, Sendai Municipal Subway

Official information about the Tozai Line of Sendai Municipal Subway (in Japanese):
Official information about Sendai Municipal Subway (in English):

Sunday, 21 February 2016

2016 Shinjuku "Minamillumi"

EMU JR East E257 series, limited express "Azusa", stands at Shinjuku Station

Winter illumination season is coming to an end. Winter is known as the season of "street illuminations" in Japan. Urban streets are nicely decorated with millions of LED lights. I don't know exactly what the origin of this event was, but it can be traced to the Christmas lights to attract customers to shopping malls.

I visited the Southern Terrace of Shinjuku Station, where an illumination event was being held. I saw many couples and families, who were sewing in the woods of lights, called "Minamillumi". Minamillumi is a compound word of minami (south) in Japanese and illumination in English. There is a flood of English words in our everyday language in this country.

In the meantime, we can see frequently arriving and departing trains at JR East Shinjuku Station. Limited express, Azusa, is one of the representative trains departing from this busy terminal. Connecting Shinjuku and Matsumoto, it travels in the steep backbone mountains of Japan.

Along with the E351 series (Super-Azusa), the E257 series (Azusa) is famous among travelers to Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures. It was launched in 2001 to replace the old EMU, 183 and 189 series. A total of 21 sets, 154 units, have been built by Hitachi, Kinki Sharyo, and Tokyu Sharyo. Different from the E351, the E257 series doesn't have a tilting system to pass through tight curves in mountain ranges at high speed, but the center of gravity on the body of the 257 is low to mitigate centrifugal forces.

Night view of the Southern Terrace (Minamillumi) in front of Shinjuku Station

Thursday, 18 February 2016

New Model on the Ooyama Cable Line

Unit number 2 of Ooyama Sightseeing Electric Railway arrives at Ooyamadera Station

The Ooyama Cable Line is a funicular route in Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, about 60 km southwest of Tokyo. The route was originally opened in 1931, but suspended in 1944 due to WWII. The operation was resumed in 1965 by newly established Ooyama Sightseeing Electric Railway Company, using the second generation vehicles called Tanzawa and Ooyama.

On October 1st last year, the third generation model, namely unit number 1 and 2, was launched. It was designed by Okabe Noriaki, who also designed the electric car 3000 series, "Allegra", for the Hakone Tozan Railway in 2014. The green colored bodies with gold and silver colored stripes are vivid and glorious. In timing with introducing the new model, the overhead wire on the track was removed, because it had been interrupting passengers' views. Instead of the wire, a lithium-ion battery is installed on each vehicle for supplying the electricity of indoor lights and in-car announcement apparatus. For your information, the vehicles still have pantographs for charging while standing at stations through rigid body overhead lines, which are installed only at the stations.

Connecting Ooyama Cable and Afuri Shrine stations, the route length of the Ooyama Cable Line is 0.8 km. There is one intermediate station, Ooyamadera, at the mid-point of the line. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is 278 m. The maximum inclination of the route is 25.5 degrees. The track gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Unit number 2 (mountain side)

Official information about Ooyama Cable Line (in Japanese):

Monday, 15 February 2016

EMU Class 387: New Model on the Thameslink Line

EMU Class 387 stands at London Blackfriars Station on the Thameslink Line

Recently, I visited London for the first time in five years. Although I was very busy there, I tried to make an opportunity to ride the trains in this capital city. What was new with the railways in London?

I found a new model of commuter train, the EMU Class 387 on the Thameslink Line. According to several websites, the Class 387 was launched in 2014 to replace old models such as the Class 319. They are part of the "Electrostar" group, which also includes Classes 357, 375, 376, 377, 378 and 379. So far, a total of 84 sets, 336 carriages have been built by Bombardier Transportation. It has double electric systems, which are the 750 V DC with the third rail and the 25,000 V AC overhead.

Different from Japanese commuter trains, the maximum speed of the Class 387 is very high... 110 MPH (175 km/hour). It is probably because the gauge size (1,435 mm) is wider than those of Japanese commuter lines (1,067 mm). It is to be a bit regretted that the train speed is very low in the central part of London due to congestion of trains. Obviously, double-double tracks are insufficient in London. That is a useless treasure.

The interior of the Class 387 was my favorite. Specifically, the cross seats with folding tables were convenient for passengers. I could just relax and enjoyed the short journey to the suburban area of London City in the twilight.

Side view of the EMU Class 387

Friday, 12 February 2016

The New Shuttle: Shinkansen's Neighbour

EMU the New Shuttle 2000 series arrives at Komba Station
As I reported before, the New Shuttle (Saitama Shin-toshi Kotsu) is a rubber-tired automated guideway transit (AGT) system in Saitama Prefecture. The route was opened in 1983 beside the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen tracks.

Why was the New Shuttle constructed beside the Shinkansen track? It was because of "the conditions for exchange" proposed by the local people. In the 1970s, environmental pollution due to noise and vibration along the Shinkansen tracks became serious problems. In addition, some local people were anxious about the division of local areas and communities due to the Shinakansen tracks. Saitama Prefecture was no exception. The local people opposed the construction of the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen.

After long negotiations, the local people to the south of Oomiya won the speed limit of the Shinkansen trains and construction of a new commuter railway, namely the Saikyo Line, along the Shinkansen track. On the other hand, the people to the north of Oomiya won the construction of a new AGT line beside the Shinkansen track.

After inauguration of the New Shuttle, the newly established company had been managerially harsh, but today, they are stable in business. Specifically, passengers have drastically increased since the opening of the Railway Museum in front of the Railway Museum (ex-Oonari) Station.

One of the pleasures for rail-fans is to see both the Shinkansen and the New Shuttle trains running adjoining each other on the tracks. It is indeed a good contrast and a photogenic scene if the timing is right.

EMU the New Shuttle 2000 series runs parallel to the JR East Shinkansen E7 series

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Winter Walking in Kamakura

EMU JR East E231 series arrives at Kita-Kamakura Station on the Yokosuka Line
I visited Kamakura for the first time in a year to enjoy a stroll with my family. As you may know, Kamakura is a historic city where the Shogunate government was located from 1185 to 1333. That means Kamakura was the substantial capital of Japan during those 148 years, although successive Emperors lived in Kyoto during that period.

Kamakura is located about 50 km southwest of Tokyo. It takes about one hour from downtown Tokyo by JR East's commuter train. If you come from Shinjuku, please take the Shonan-Shijuku Line train. About half of the Shonan-Shinjuku Line trains are directly operated into the Yokosuka Line to Kamakura Station. Your vehicles will be the EMU E231 or the E233-3000 series. I recommend you use a double-decked Green Car (the first class) equipped with comfortable reclining seat. You can feel like you are gorgeous traveling by only paying an extra cost of $6.50.

We got off at Kita-Kamakura, which is one stop before Kamakura Station. Kita-Kamakura is a small and quiet station in comparison with the large and lively Kamakura Station. There are several old temples in this area. We visited Kenchoji, which is one of the Zen temples in Kamakura City. It was opened by a Chinese Buddhist monk, Lanxi Daolong, in 1213.

Specifically, I was impressed with the large Zen garden behind the Hojo building incorporating with the scenery of mountains behind the temple. I couldn't believe that this quiet garden was located just next to the lively city of Kamakura.

Zen Garden in Kenchoji Temple near Kita-Kamakura Station

Saturday, 6 February 2016

EMU Odakyu 50000 Series: Vault Super Express

EMU Odakyu 50000 series, VSE, passes through Tsurumaki-onsen Station
The EMU Odakyu 50000 series, called VSE (Vault Super Express), is the flagship model of Odakyu Romance Car fleet. Ten years have already passed since it debuted, but VSE still keeps high level of popularity among tourists to Hakone, a mountain resort in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Why is Romance Car VSE popular among the tourists?

Firstly, the cockpit is up stairs. That means the passengers can enjoy a front view through the wide windows. In fact, the front observation deck seats are always fully booked. It is difficult to secure them. Secondly, the exterior design is futuristic. Specifically, the canopy architecture with a long front nose is cool. The white colored body with a vermillion colored stripe has high-class quality and cleanliness. Thirdly, the interior is also devised for sightseers. For instance, the seats are slightly inclined to the window direction to enjoy outer views.

VSE is a 10-car train with articulated bogies, so, the total length of one set is not long... 146.8 meters. A total of two sets, 20 units, have been built by Nippon Sharyo. Japan Rail-fan Club (JRC) elected VSE as the 2006 Blue Ribbon Prize. This prize is awarded to the best train, which was launched in the previous year. The reasons for the award to VSE were not only the design, but also incorporation of advanced technologies such as the truck steering control system and the body tilting device for tight curves.

The VSE era is going to go on.

EMU Odakyu 50000 series, VSE, passes through Chitose-Funabashi Station

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

2015 Fixed Point Sakura Observation in Ochanomizu

EMU Tokyo Metro 02 series travels backed by a full-blown sakura tree (2015)

The cold wave remains in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I can hardly wait for spring. To invite the warm flower season, I am going to show you last year's sakura (cherry blossom) pictures from my photo storage.

One of my pleasures in spring is "fixed point sakura observation" from platform number 4 of Ochanomizu Station on the Chuo Line. I have been paying attention to a sakura tree near the station. It is a single tree planted beside the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, on which the train crosses the Kanda River near Ochanomizu Station traveling above ground.

At the end of March, this young tree bears an abundance of glorious light-pink-colored blossoms. I shot it in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The tree has been growing and the number of blossoms has also been increasing. The autumn leaves are also lovely in this spot. Blooming, autumn leaves, then, blooming again... Ochanomizu is my favorite spot to see the different seasons and the rebirth of springtime.

The happy trains, which can observe this full-blown sakura tree, are the EMU Tokyo Metro 02 series on the Marunouchi Line and the EMU JR East 233 series on the Chuo Rapid Line. The former was launched in 1988, while the latter debuted in 2008, twenty years apart.

I am going to continue to report on the fixed point sakura observation and the trains passing by the sakura tree for as long as I can.

EMU JR East E233 series and a full-blown sakura tree in front of Ochanomizu Station (2015)