Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Latest EMU and the Latest Museum on Kyushu Is.

EMU Nishitetsu 3000 series arrives at Nishitetsu-Futsukaichi Station on the Oomuta Line

Nishi-Nippon Railway (Nishitetsu) is one of the major private railway companies based in Fukuoka City on Kyushu Island. The route consists of the Oomuta Line (1,435 mm-gauge) and the Miyatsu Line (1,067mm-gauge), connecting the northern to the southern part of Fukuoka Prefecture. The total length is 106.1 km.

The EMU 3000 series is Nishitetsu's latest EMU model for express trains on the Oomuta Line. It was launched in 2005 to replace their old models such as the 600 and the 700 series. So far, a total of 60 units have been built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The 3000 series has stainless-steel bodies. Its electric control system is VVVF (variable voltage and variable frequency) with induction motors. The rounded front mask is my favorite.

Getting on Nishitetsu's latest EMU model, I visited the latest national museum, namely Kyushu National Museum, in Dazaifu City, about 18 km south of Fukuoka City. Kyushu National Museum was opened in 2005, which was the same as the debuting year of the EMU 3000 series. There are four national museums in Japan, but the remaining three museums were opened more than 100 years ago, so, Kyushu National Museum is still just a baby. The history and art exhibitions of the museum were of course interesting, but the museum building was also fantastic, as the beautiful green forest in front of the museum was reflected on the glazed outer wall of the museum building.

I enjoyed the latest EMU and the latest museum on Kyushu Island.

Kyushu National Museum near Dazaifu Station

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Resort 21 Festa at Izukogen Rail Yard

Resort 21 trains: Kurofune Train (left), Alpha Resort 21 (center) and Resort Dolphin (right)

A big railway event was held at the end of the summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. On August 21st, Izu Kyuko Railway (Izukyu) held Resort 21 Festa at their Izukogen Rail Yard adjoining Izukogen Station.

What is Resort 21? It is a group of sightseeing trains. Its formal name is the EMU 2100 series. Resort 21 was launched in 1985 to promote tourism to Izu Peninsula, which is located about 120 km west of Tokyo. To enjoy gorgeous mountain and ocean views, Resort 21 has sloping tiers of seats in the front of the train. The passengers can enjoy a front view through the cockpit. So far, a total of 5 sets, 40 units, have been built by Tokyu Sharyo over 9 years. Currently, 3 sets, namely R-3 (Resort Dolphin), R-4 (Kurofune Train) and R-5 (Alpha Resort 21), are still operated on the track. We could see these three sets of Resort 21 arranged side by side at Izukogen Rail Yard at Resort 21 Festa.

Alpha Resort 21 is planned to be modified by 2017; meanwhile, Resort Dolphin will have its body colors changed also by 2017. The details of the modifications have not yet been announced by Izukyu, but Resort 21 Festa was the final opportunity to see the present features of these three trains simultaneously. Needless to say, the rail-fans fully enjoyed this precious opportunity, as did I of course.

I am truly grateful to Izukyu for holding this special event.

The front signboards for Resort 21 trains are exhibited at Izukogen Station

Official information about Resort 21 trains (in Japanese):

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Rush Hours in Kurobe Gorge

A sightseeing train, pulled by the ELs Class EDR, arrives at Keyakidaira Station

Kurobe Kyokoku Railway (Kurobe Gorge Railway) is only operated from April to November. It is suspended from December to March due to heavy snowfall. In other words, summer is when the railway company makes a profit. In fact, a lot of tourists flock to the gorge in the summer vacation season. You can see rush hours at Keyakidaira Station the same as the urban stations in Tokyo, as all the tourists go back home or to their hotels before sunset. The tiny and lovely passenger coaches are fully booked in the late afternoon.

The railway employees are very busy. For instance, they have to shunt the electric locomotives one after another at the terminal stations. They work very hard, but everyone looks happy. They have pride in their job. Rail-fans are also happy just watching their brisk work.

In the meantime, Kurobe Kyokoku Railway has 29 units of locomotives. The allocations of electric locomotives (ELs) and diesel locomotives (DLs) are 27 units and 2 units, respectively. All passenger trains are pulled by ELs. They are mainly Classes EDR, EDM, EHM and EDV.

Class EDR is the standard EL, which was launched in 1994. The total length is only 6.9 m. It has four 42 kW traction motors with rheostatic electric control system. The axis arrangement is Bo-Bo in UIC notation. A total of 12 units have been built by Hitachi. The two round front lights stand out, as the body size of the locomotive is very small.

The EL Class EDM at Unazuki station yard

Official information about the rolling stock of Kurobe Kyokoku Railway (in Japanese):

Monday, 22 August 2016

Sightseeing Train in Kurobe Gorge

A sightseeing train passes through Shin-Yamabiko Railway Bridge 

It is mid-summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Most people go out to the suburbs to cool off at the weekend, and I am one of them. This year's destination was Toyama Prefecture, about 350 km northwest of Tokyo.

One of the reputable sightseeing spots is Kurobe Gorge in the eastern part of the prefecture. It has been an important area for electric power development since the 1920s. What the electric power company did first was to construct a railway (present Kurobe Kyokoku Railway) in the gorge for material transportation. Thanks to the railway, dams and electric power stations were completed one after another. 

Currently, the importance of the electric power development has decreased in Kurobe Gorge, because use of the other electric sources, such as nuclear and thermal power generations, have increased. The accelerating trend for environmental protection has also negatively affected the electric power development in the gorge. The railway has also changed its role from material transportation to that of sightseeing.

Kurobe Kyokoku Railway is a single track with a 600 V DC overhead electric system. Connecting Unazuki and Keyakidaira, its route length is 20.1 km. The gauge size is only 762 mm, which is quite unique in Japan. You can see small and lovely electric locomotives and passenger coaches without walls on the track. Looking at the deep and beautiful gorge scenery, holidaymakers enjoy one hour and twenty minutes travel from Unazuki to Keyakidaira Terminal.

To be continued.

A passenger coach, Class 1000, stands at Unazuki Station on the Korobe Kyokoku Railway

Official information of Kurobe Kyokoku Railway (Kurobe Goarge Railway):

Friday, 19 August 2016

Seibu KPP Train on the Shinjuku Line

Set 9101F of the EMU 9000 series, the KPP Train, passes through Seibu-Yagisawa Station

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (KPP) is a Japanese singer and a fashion model. She is very popular among the young generation, as KPP creates unique Japanese subcultures such as kawaii (lovely) and decora (a street fashion with neon colors). She was born in Nishi-Tokyo City, near Tanashi Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line in 1993.

Seibu Railway can't keep their arms crossed in this favorable condition. This company has a precious opportunity to attract passengers by promoting KPP's popularity. On June 4th, Seibu launched a special poster train, named the KPP Train, on their lines. A 10-car train, set 9101F of the EMU 9000 series, is used for the KPP Train. Set 9101F was built by Seibu Tokorozawa Factory in 1993. It is the same age as the KPP. The original body color was yellow. Being wrapped in a pink-colored appearance, the KPP Train traveled on the Ikebukuro Line at first, but from July 30th, the company began to operate it on the Shinjuku Line as well. The large KPP features on the train bodies attracted the passengers and people on the Seibu lines.

In the meantime, I found KPP's authentic autograph in the KPP train. It was seen on the interior wall above the door of the driver's cabin. I remembered that KPP was invited to the departing ceremony of the KPP Train on June 4th, and got on this car, named unit number 9101. It was a very popular spot in the train. Two kinds of passengers, namely rail-fans and KPP-fans, gathered there and took photographs of the autograph by turns. So did I, of course.

A KPP poster and her authentic autograph is seen in car number 9101

Official information about Seibu KPP Train (in Japanese): 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Old EL and Old Cultural Properties in Fukuoka Prefecture

Electric locomotive Class ED76 passes through Togo Station on the Kagoshima Main Line

Along with Nara, Fukuoka Prefecture has many cultural properties. Last month, I visited a famous spot, Munakata-taisha Shrine in Fukuoka Prefecture to see triangular-rimmed copper mirrors made in the 3rd century.

Munakata-taisha is a complex of three shrines. I visited the largest shrine, where the triangular-rimmed copper mirrors were exhibited in the attached Treasure Museum. These mirrors were found on the offshore isolated island, named Okinoshima, in 1954. They were probably used for religious ceremonies. There were very fine emblems and patterns on the back side of the mirrors... beautiful!

To get to this historical shrine, JR Kyushu trains are convenient. The nearest station is Togo on the Kagoshima Main Line. When I got off at the station, I saw a freight train pulled by a dark red-colored electric locomotive (EL), the Class ED76. 

The ED76 was launched in 1965 by Japanese National Railways. It is a 20,000 V alternate current EL with an axis arrangement of Bo-2-Bo (UIC notation). The main objective to introduce this new model was to reinforce transportation capacities on Kyushu Island. A total of 139 units have been built by Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Electronics over 12 years. Most units have already retired from the tracks, but more than 10 units are still operated on Kyushu Island. I was very happy, as I came across this precious alternative current EL.

I enjoyed seeing the old electric locomotive and the old cultural properties on Kyushu Island.

Munakata-taisha Shrine

Saturday, 13 August 2016

DMU KiYa 97 Series: JR Central's Rail Carrying Train

DMU JR Central KiYa 97 series stands at Kusanagi station yard on the Tokaido Main Line

After taking photographs of the EMU A3000 series at Kusanagi Station on the Shizuoka Railway, I transferred to the JR Central Tokaido Main Line to go home. When I went down to the platform of the Tokaido Main Line track, the first thing that came to my attention was a strange train standing on a siding of the station yard. What was that?

It was a rail carrying train, DMU KiYa 97 series. The 97 series was launched in 2007 to transport rails for the JR Central lines. A total of five sets have been built by Nippon Sharyo. There are two types of the 97 series. One is for 25 meter-long standard rails and the other is for 200 meter-long welded rails. The former trains (set R1 to R4) are 2-car trains and the latter (set R101) is a 13-car train.

What I saw at the station yard was set R1 for 25 meter-long standard rails. It looked like a freight wagon, but had a section of driver's cabin cut out from a commuter train. Why does JR Central use this kind of DMU instead of a freight train pulled by a locomotive for rail transportation? It was because JR Central doesn't have enough electric and diesel locomotives. The company thought it better to build rail carrying DMUs, which can be operated on both electrified and un-electrified tracks.

The DMU KiYa 97 series... she was a unique specialist for maintaining railway tracks on the JR Central lines.

Side view of the KiYa 97 series

Official information about the DMU JR Central KiYa 97 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Sightseeing Train in the Retro City

Sightseeing train, DL DB101 - passenger coaches ToRa701-ToRa702 - DL DB102 

After enjoying the retro station, Mojiko, I continued to walk around the downtown Moji area. It is a retro city lined with classic buildings such as the ex-Moji Custom Office and ex-Osaka Shosen (OSK Lines) office.

One of the popular attractions in the city is the sightseeing train. This local railway is owned by Kita-Kyushu City and operated by Heisei Chikuho Railway Company. The formal route name is Mojiko Retro Sightseeing Line. Connecting Kyushu Tetsudo Kinenkan (Kyushu Railway History Museum) near JR Kyushu Mojiko Station to Moji-kaikyo Mekari station, there are four stations over the route length of 2.1 km. The track is single and un-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. An ex-freight line was revived and opened as the sightseeing line in 2009. The train is operated every 40 minutes during the daytime on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.

The rolling stock of the line is the only set of the train consisting of two diesel locomotives (DLs) and two classic coaches. They are the DLs, Class DB10, and the coaches, Class ToRa700. The Class DB10 was originally operated on the Minami-Aso Railway from 1991 to 2006 and then moved to the Mojiko Retro Sightseeing Line in 2009. The present unit numbers are DB101 and DB102. Class ToRa700 was originally operated on the Shimabara Railway. The present unit numbers are Tora701 and Tora702. ToRa701 can accommodate 42 passengers, while the capacity of ToRa702 is 36 passengers. 

Now, Mojiko Retro Sightseeing Train has become the symbol of the Retro City.

The sightseeing train, Shiokaze, travels on the Mojiko Retro Sightseeing Line

Sunday, 7 August 2016

EMU A3000 Series: Shizuoka Rainbow Train

EMU Shizutetsu A3000 series arrives at Naganuma Station on the Shizuoka-Shimizu Line

The railway business in Japan is by no means easy. Specifically, railway companies in local cities and the countryside are in a tough situation because of motorization and/or depopulation. Many local routes have been abolished in the past three decades. What's more, the introduction of new trains is like a dream within a dream for them.

Wait a moment! Look at Shizuoka Railway (Shizutetsu)! This small private railway company recently introduced a new model for the first time in 43 years. On March 24th, a brand new model, A3000 series, debuted on the Shizuoka-Shimizu Line.

Shizuoka is the main city of Shizuoka Prefecture, about 180 km west of Tokyo. Shizutetsu has been operating the 11km-long Shizuoka-Shimizu Line in the urban area since 1908. Connecting Shin-Shizuoka and Shin-Shimizu, the whole route is electrified double track. The gauge size is 1,067 mm, and the electric system is 600 V DC overhead.

The new model, A3000 series, is a stainless-steel 2-car train with VVVF (variable voltage and variable frequency) electric control system. It has a double system in case of the occurrence of failures. The nickname is Shizuoka Rainbow Train. As its name suggests, each train set has a different body color. It is similar to that of the EMU 1000 series on the Keio-Inokashira Line.

The first set, namely A3001F, has a light-blue colored body. The company plans to introduce a total of 12 sets with seven body colors by 2024. The beautiful A3000 series train has changed the atmosphere of Shizuoka City.

EMU A3000 series passes through Tomoegawa Railway Bridge near Shin-Shimizu Station

Official information about the EMU Shizutetsu A3000 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Retro Station in the Gateway City of Kyushu Island

EMU JR Kyushu 813 series stands at Mojiko Station on the Kagoshima Main Line

Mojiko (Moji Port) is a starting station of the Kagoshima Main Line in Kita-Kyushu City, about 1,100km west of Tokyo. It was opened in 1890 by ex-Kyushu Railway Company, and functioned as a gateway station of Kyushu Island from 1901 to 1964, while the Kanmon Train Ferry was operated. Currently, most of the passengers travelling between Honshu (the mainland of Japan) and Kyushu Island take the Sanyo Shinkansen or the Sanyo Main Line via Kanmon Submarine Tunnels, but this old station is still crowded with visitors. Why?

It is because Mojiko Station itself has become a popular sightseeing spot as a retro station. The current station building is the second generation one opened in 1914. It is similar to Hakodate Station in Hokkaido, because both of them have bay platforms (dead-end platforms) in front of the ex-train ferry ports. Although the trains seen in the station yard were contemporary commuter trains, the atmosphere of the station was sufficiently nostalgic.

After going out of the modern automatic ticket gate, I found an old wash basin, which has been equipped since 1914. It was called "Kaerimizu (homecoming water)" by travelers. Travelers of former days washed their faces and hands there, and had some breathing time during the long journey home. I thought of travelers, when the train ferry was operated. The journey of the former days was not easy at that time.

Mojiko, it is a nostalgic retro station in the Gateway City of Kyushu Island.

Kaerimizu in Mojiko station yard

Monday, 1 August 2016

Sayonara, EMU 500 Series on the Enoshima Line

EMU Shonan Monorail 500 series travels on the Enoshima Line (July, 2012)

Old trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area retire one after another. On June 26th, Shonan Monorail Company made the last run of their 500 series train on the Enoshima Line.

The Shonan Monorail-Enoshima Line was partially opened in 1970 between Ofuna and Nishi-Kamakura. The entire route was then opened in 1974 between Ofuna and Shonan-Enoshima. Ofuna is the interchange station with the JR East Tokaido, Yokosuka and Negishi lines; while Shonan-Enoshima is close to Odakyu Katase-Enoshima Terminal. The track is single and the electric system is 1,500 V DC. The suspended system adopted is the same as those of the Toei Ueno Zoo Line and the Chiba Urban Monorail Line. There are 8 stations over a total operating length of 6.6km.

The EMU 500 series was launched in 1983 as the Shonan Monorail's first model equipped air-conditioners. A total of 6 sets, 18 units, were built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries over four years. Its silver bodies with red stripes were my favorite. Specifically, I like that the 500 series careened at the full speed of 75 km per hour when the train went downhill. The sensory speed was much faster. It was very thrilling, like a roller coaster ride in an amusement park. After the retirement of the 500 series, the new model, the EMU 5000 series, took over its role on the line. I am hoping for much success for the 5000 series.

Sayonara (good-bye) and Arigato (thank you) to the EMU Shonan Monorail 500 series.

EMU Shonan Monorail 500 series arrives at Fujimi-cho Station (July, 2012)

Official information about the EMU Shonan Monorail 500 series (in Japanese):
Official videos and photos of Shonan Monorail: