Thursday, 31 March 2016

Tobu-Daishi Line: Urban Local Route

EMU Tobu 8000 series (a 2-car train) arrives at Nishi-Arai Station on the Daishi Line 

There are several urban local railway routes in the Tokyo metropolitan area. For instance, JR East Tsurumi Line and Tokyo Metro Ayase Branch Line are typical local urban routes. Keikyu also has local urban railways, such as the Daishi Line, in Kawasaki City.

Do you know another Daishi Line in Tokyo? It is the Tobu-Daishi Line. This route was opened in 1931 to transport visitors to Nishi-Arai Daishi (Souji-ji temple). Connecting Daishimae and Nishi-Arai on the Tobu-Isesaki Line, its route length is only 1.0 km. The track is electrified and single. The whole route is an elevated track. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

A 2-car train, the EMU 8000 series, is operated every 10 minutes without a conductor. The 8000 series was launched in 1963. So far, a total of 712 units have been built by Aluna koki, Nippon sharyo, Kisha seizo, Tokyu sharyo and Fuji Heavy Industries. Specification of the 8000 series is rather old, but a total of 402 units are still operated on the local lines of Tobu Railway.

Daishimae Terminal has a wide platform and a large station building for flocking visitors to Nishi-Arai Daishi (Souji-ji temple). It is usually quiet, as local people only use the station; however, it becomes a busy station in the peak seasons such as New Year and equinoctial weeks, as people worship at the temple.

Tobu-Daishi Line is certainly a urban Local railway.

Platform of Daishimae Terminal on the Tobu-Daishi Line

Monday, 28 March 2016

Full-blown Plum Grove on the Musashino Line

EMU JR East 205 series arrives at Fuchu-Honmachi Station on the Musashino Line

After my visit to Ookunitama Shrine in the downtown area of Fuchu City, I headed to "Native Forest" in the southwestern part of the city. Native Forest is a complex facility consisting of an open-air museum of historical buildings, an in-door museum of the local cultures, a planetarium, restaurants and a large plum grove.

In this season, the full-blown plum grove attracts visitors. The plum blossoms are mainly white, but also some pink and red. They are very fragrant. Visitors can feel the advent of spring in their own way. Several special events, such as street performances and tea ceremonies, are also held during the plum blooming season.

After enjoying Native Forest, I took the JR East Musashino Line from Fuchu-Honmachi Station. My vehicle was the EMU 205 series with orange and black-colored stripes. The 205 series was launched in 1985 by Japanese National Railways. It is 1,500 V DC EMU with a field added excitation control system. This model once formed the largest group of commuter trains in Tokyo; however, most of them have already been retired from the track. They have moved to Jakarta, Indonesia to spend their second life on the KRL Jabodetabek (Jakarta Metropolitan Commuter Electric Railway).

The Musashino Line functions as an inter-suburbs railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Eight-car passenger trains are operated every ten minutes on average, but it is always crowded with passengers. The 205 series still plays a major role in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Full blown plum grove in the Native Forest near Fuchu-Honmachi Station

Friday, 25 March 2016

Red Colored Railcar on the Kashima Rinkai Railway

Diesel railcar Kashima Rinkai 6000 series stands at Ooarai Station
I recently visited Kashima Rinkai Railway for the first time in four years. Kashima Rinkai Railway, called Rintetsu, is a local railway company in Ibaraki Prefecture, some 100 km north of Tokyo. Connecting Mito, a major city in the prefecture and Okunoyahama in the Kashima Coastal Industrial Zone, the total operating length is 72.2 km.

Rintetsu has a commuter transport function in the Mito urban area. The Ooarai-Kashima Line (53 km) has such a role. Diesel railcars are operated every 20 to 60 minutes. Rintetsu also has a freight transport function to and from the Kashima Coastal Industrial Zone. Container freight trains pulled by diesel locomotives are operated on the Kashima-Rinko Line (19.2 km).

The main fleet for Rintetsu's commuter transportation is the 20 m-long diesel railcar, 6000 series. It was launched in 1985 to replace the old models such as the 1000 and the 2000 series. A total of 19 carriages have been built by Nippon Sharyo and Niigata Transys. The red colored body with a white colored stripe is the symbol of this railway company. The 6000 series has four doors and semi-cross seats.
In the meantime, on January 15th, Kashima Rinkai Railway gave a press release announcing that the new model of diesel railcar, the 8000 series, will be launched on March 26th in accordance with the timing of the new timetable. Being replaced by the 8000 series, the old red colored diesel railcar, the 6000 series, will be gradually scrapped.
Patna rhei. Everything is constantly changing.

Diesel railcar Kashima Rinkai 6000 series arrives at Tsunezumi Station

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Historical Shrine on the Keio Line

EMU Keio 8000 series travels on the Keio Line

Fuchu City is located in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis, some 30 km west of the downtown Tokyo area. It has a population of 260,000, which is the third largest among 25 cities in Tokyo Metropolis. There are several symbols in Fuchu City, such as Tokyo Racecourse for horse racing and the open-air folk museum, "Native Forest", but it must be remembered that there is a historical symbol in this city, namely Ookunitama Shrine.

Ookunitama Shrine was said to be established in 111, when God descended to earth, but it is probably just a myth. The first historical evidence of this shrine appeared in 645, when it was designated as a site of religious ceremony for the local government. Since then, the shrine has been maintained as a holy site surrounded by the forest. When I visited there recently, I saw many worship-visitors even though it was a cold morning.

To get to this historical shrine, I took the Keio Line from Shinjuku Station. It took just 20 minutes to Fuchu by limited express train. The Keio Line is one of the main transportation arteries in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The track gauge is unique... 1,372 mm. The stylish commuter train, EMU 8000 series, is my favorite. Specifically, I like the modulated sound of the VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) electric control system of the 8000 series. It is a bit noisy, but has a nostalgic sound of the trains built in the 1990s.

In the meantime, Keio Electric Railway recently gave a press release announcing that the new model, EMU 5000 series, will debut in 2018. It will be a 10-car train with multi-purpose seats, which the conductor can change from a long seat to a cross seat using a remote control. So, the 5000 series will be used as both a standard commuter train and a reserved seat train, depending on the timetable.
Main gate of Ookunitama Shrine near Fuchu Station on the Keio Line

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Sayonara Super-swan, the Inter-island Express

EMU JR Hokkaido 789 series, Super-Hakucho stands at Hakodate Station

It is mid-March already. Time really flies. March is a season of new timetables. Many railway companies change their timetables during this month. JR Hokkaido is no exception. According to their press release, the timetable will be changed on 26th March. The main topic is the inauguration of the Hokkaido Shinkansen between Shin-Aomori on Honshu Island and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto on Hokkaido Island. The route of the Hokkaido Shinkansen is partially shared with the existing Tsugaru Kaikyo Line (Seikan Undersea Tunnel). Corresponding to the inauguration of Hokkaido Shinkansen, the limited express train, Super-Hakucho (Super-swan) on the Tsugaru Kaikyo Line, will be replaced by the Hokkaido Shinkansen train.

Super-Hakucho, EMU JR Hokkaido 789 series, was launched in 2002 as a 20,000 V and 50 Hz alternate current train. The light green colored body is very vivid. It takes a little over two hours from Shin-Aomori on Honshu Island to Hakodate Terminal on Hokkaido Island. The highlight of the train journey by Super-Hakucho is passing through the Seikan Undersea Tunnel, which lies between Honshu and Hokkaido islands. The total length is 53.85 km. It was completed in 1988, and had been the world's longest tunnel until 2010, when the Gotthard-Basis Tunnel penetrated through the Alps in Switzerland. The Super-Hakucho passes through this thick darkness in only 24 minutes with a maximum speed of 140 km per hour.

The last run of Super-Hakucho is planned on 21st March. Sayonara (good-bye) and arigato (thank you) to Super-swan, the inter-island express.

An illustration of Seikan Subsea Tunnel is posted in Super-Hakucho

Official information about Hokkaido Shinkansen:
Official movie of Hokkaido Shinkansen (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Five Years Since Then

Diesel hybrid train, JR East HB-E210 series arrives at Sendai Station

Five years have passed since the 3.11 giant earthquake hit the Tohoku District of Japan. Nearly 20,000 people were killed, mainly by a giant tsunami, which followed the powerful quake that day. To make matters worse, the nuclear power plant disaster, which was caused by the tsunami, is still forcing many people from their home towns in Fukushima Prefecture. Fortunately, there were no victims of train passengers because of the quake. The railways were saved by earthquake resistant construction and the advanced earthquake warning system; however, some routes, such as the JR East Joban Line, are still partially suspended due to the damage caused by the tsunami.

As the saying goes, "out of disaster springs fortune." I believe that people in Tohoku District have been recovering from the devastating casualties, as they have good patience and a strong social bond. A good example is Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture. Matsushima is one of the three scenic spots of Japan. When I visited there last summer, I saw many holiday makers embarking on excursion ships from Matsushima Port the same as before the 3.11.

To get to this beautiful spot, the JR East Senseki-Tohoku Line is convenient. The new diesel hybrid vehicle, HB-E210 series, was launched last year. 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 car, as it is a commuter train.

Scenic view of Matsushima near Matsushima Station on the Tohoku Line

Sunday, 13 March 2016

EMU 330 Series: New Model for Nippori-Toneri Liner

EMU Toei 330 series arrives at Adachi-Odai Station
Following the Green Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway, I visited the other municipal railway, Nippopri-Toneri Liner, for the first time in four years.

Nippori-Toneri Liner is operated by the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. It was opened in 2008 to solve the "isolated island (blank area of railways)" problem in the northern part of the Tokyo Metropolis. Connecting Nippori in the downtown area and Minumadai-shinsuikouen, its operating length is 9.7 km. The route is known as the fifth AGT (Automated Guide way Transit) line in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

What is new with this new line? I found a new model EMU 330 series on the track. The 330 series was launched in 2015 to reinforce the transportation capacity of the line. Currently, one set, 31F, is operated, but one more set, namely 32F, is planned to launch this year.

What is the difference between the old model (the 300 series) and the new model (the 330 series)? The major difference is the material of the bodies. The 300 series is stainless-steel; meanwhile, the 330 series is made of aluminum alloy. It means that the 330 series has reduced vehicle body weight, and saves on operating costs.

With regard to the outer design, it is a difficult to comment for me. Personally speaking, I prefer the old 300 series to be honest, as it has more futuristic look. Good design and low cost... it is difficult to butter on both sides of the bread.

Interior of the EMU Toei 330 series

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Illuminated Station and Cathedral in London

EMU Class 377 stands at London Blackfriars Station on the Thameslink Line

After coming back from Bromley, a southeastern suburb of London, I continued to enjoy an evening walk in Central London. It was already nine o'clock in the evening. Although it started to rain and it was cold, I didn't mind at all.

The platform of London Blackfriars Station was fantastic. It was illuminated with blue colored lights, which were reflected in a train's windowpanes. The standing train was the EMU Class 377 on the Thameslink line. According to several websites, Class 377 was launched in 2001 to replace old models such as Classes 421 and 423. They are part of the Electrostars, which were built by Bombardier Transportation. This group also includes Classes 357, 375, 376, 378, and 387. It has the 750 V DC electric system with the third rail, but some groups also have the 25,000 V and 50 Hz AC overhead electric system.

On the way from London Blackfriars Station to my hotel, I stopped by St Paul's Cathedral near the station. It was beautifully illuminated with white colored lights. I took a photograph of it, but I had to wait for more than 30 minutes to get the best shot, as I wanted to shoot the illuminated white colored cathedral with a red colored London bus and a black colored London taxi. It was chilly!

An evening walk in London... it was a fantastic experience, but it was also hard in the cold and rainy conditions.

Night view of St Paul's Cathedral near London Blackfriars Station on the Thameslink Line

Monday, 7 March 2016

Sayonara KiHa 2004 on the Minato Line

Diesel railcar KiHa 2004 is preserved in Nakaminato rail yard on the Minato Line

Do you know the JNR-type diesel railcar? JNR stands for Japanese National Railways, which was Japan's largest railway network. It was split into seven railway companies and privatized in 1987 due to financial difficulties. During the JNR era, plenty of diesel railcars, like that in the top photo, were introduced to railways all over Japan. They were not only for JNR but also for local private companies. You can see the characteristics of the JNR type railcars in the front design, body coloring and so on. After the privatization, the JNR-type railcars were gradually scrapped by ex-JNR companies. Local private railways were also no exception. Currently, they are called an "endangered species".

On December 25th last year, another one of the JNR-type old diesel railcars was retired from the track. It was KiHa 2004 on the Minato Line of Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway. KiHa 2004 was built by Niigata Tekko in 1966. The first owner was Rumoi Railway, which was a coal mine railway in Hokkaido. It was then ceded to Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway in 1969, as the coal mine was closed. KiHa 2004 is characterized by its train horns, which are installed beside the front lights. They are rounded and concordant with the shape of the front light. The beige colored body with a brownish red colored stripe is unique. It is a pity to throw it away.

The JNR-type railcar, KiHa 2004, has been replaced by the new model, KiHa 11 series, ceded from JR Central. Sayonara (good-bye) KiHa 2004.

Side view of KiHa 2004

Friday, 4 March 2016

Advent of Spring in Hodogaya Post Station

EMU E233 series passes through a railway crossing near Hodogaya Station

The Tokaido Main Line is one of the transportation arteries in Japan. Connecting Tokyo and Kobe, its route length is 589.5 km. Today, long distance passengers use the Tokaido Shinkansen (new trunk line), but the Tokaido Main Line still keeps a position of an artery of commuter and freight transportation.

What was Tokaido like before the inauguration of the railway? It was a road for travelers. They were feudal loads, samurais (soldiers), merchants, postmen and so on. Their transportation means were horses, palanquins or walking. It took time for traveling, so the government set up post stations every 9 km on average to provide travelers with meals and accommodations.

Hodogaya was the fourth post station after leaving Edo (present Tokyo). It was located at the foot of a small hill on the coast of Tokyo Bay. There were 67 travel inns in the early 19th century. Along with inns, many Buddhist temples were opened for travelers. Jugenji temple was one such temple, opened in the early 17th century. Many travelers visited there to pray for their travel safety.

Today, Jugenji is a beautiful temple with halls and a garden. When I visited there, plum had just blossomed. They were tiny white colored flowers, and indicated the advent of spring. The commuter trains of the Tokaido Main Line frequently pass through the back of Jugenji temple. Whenever a train approaches, an alarm of the railway crossing was triggered. The contemporary traveling is fast and convenient, but a bit busy and noisy.

Jugenji Buddhist temple near Hodogaya Station on the Tokaido Main Line

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

EMU 634 Series: Tobu Sky Tree Train

EMU Tobu 634 series, Sky Tree Train, passes through Himemiya Station

Tobu is one of the major railway companies in Tokyo. They have the largest private railway network in the Tokyo metropolitan area. This company is also known for diversifying their business. The current largest news was the grand opening of Tokyo Sky Tree, the 634 meter-high world's tallest broadcasting tower in front of their Tokyo Sky Tree (ex-Narihira-bashi) Station in 2012.

In October of the same year, Tobu launched a sightseeing train, called Sky Tree Train, the EMU 634 series, to promote tourism to their Tokyo Sky Tree from regions along the Tobu lines. Needless to say, the 634 series was named after the height of the Tokyo Sky Tree (634 meters).

The 634 series was modified from the existing 6050 series by J-TREC Yokohama Factory. It is operated as a 4-car train consisting of two sets of 2-car trains (1M1T). The former unit numbers were MoHa 6177, KuHa 6277, MoHa 6178 and KuHa 6278; meanwhile, new numbers are MoHa 634-11, KuHa 634-12, MoHa 634-21 and KuHa 634-22. They are all high decker-cars to secure wide views, and have special seats such as "salon seats" and "pair seats".

The salon seat is like a living room set; meanwhile, the pair seat is a love seat facing the windows. The train windows of the 634 series are also special, as they are expanded to the ceiling. It means that passengers can enjoy the full view of the gangly Tokyo Sky Tree through the windows.

EMU Tobu 634 series, Sky Tree Train, travels on the Nikko Line
Official information about Tobu Sky Tree Train (in Japanese):