Sunday, 30 October 2016

EMU 8000 Series: Owl on the Shin-Keisei Line

EMU Shin-Keisei 8000 series arrives at Kita-Narashino Station

It is a cliché of this blog, but the railway business in Japan is by no means easy. Many companies are involved in tough competition. Rivals are not only the industry peers, but also private cars, bus services and airlines.

With that kind of background, many railway companies have recently introduced common design commuter trains to reduce the initial cost. For instance, the EMU Sotetsu 10000 series has the same design and the technical specifications as those of the JR East E231 series. Differences between the two models are only the faces, body colors and interiors. As a result, we often see the same kinds of trains here and there. It is not favorable for rail-fans, as the variations decrease. Rail-fans are bizarre lovers.

One of the unique commuter trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area is the EMU Shin-Keisei 8000 series. This model was launched in 1978 as Japan's first adjustable voltage and adjustable frequency (VVVF) train, but the uniqueness is not only its technical specifications but also its face. It looks like an owl. It is definitely my favorite.

The 8000 series is a 6-car train, built by Nippon Sharyo. So far, a total of 9 sets, 54 units have been introduced and 6 sets of these are still operated on the track. Each unit is 18 meter-long with 6 doors. The gauge size is 1,435 mm and its electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

The EMU 8000 series... it is a unique owl train on the Shin-Keisei Line

EMU Shin-Keisei 8000 series stands at Takifudo Station

Thursday, 27 October 2016

View of Japanese Tyrol on the Iida Line

EMU JR Central 373 series, limited express "Inaji", travels on the Iida Line

Japan is a mountainous country. 73% of the territory is covered by mountains or hills. Generally speaking, mountains are not suitable for residential areas.

Wait a minute! There is an exception. Please look at the following photo. It is "Shimoguri-no-sato (Shimoguri Village)" in Nagano Prefecture, about 290 km west of Tokyo. You can see houses and cultivated land on the ridge of a steep mountain with up to 38 degrees of the maximum inclined angle. According to the local people, their ancestors migrated into this village about 1,000 years ago. They have been carrying out an agricultural business and forestry over many generations.

The situation has recently drastically changed. One geographer "found" Shimoguri Village, and named it the "Japanese Tyrol", because the scenery and the lives of the people are similar to those of Tyrol State in Austria. Since then, many holidaymakers have been flocking to this small village. I was one of those people.

To access the Japanese Tyrol, I took the Iida Line from Toyohashi Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen. It takes about 2 hours 40 minutes from Toyohashi to Iida, which is the access station to Shimoguri Village. My vehicle was a limited express train, Inaji. It is operated by JR Central using the EMU 373 series. The 373 series is a 3-car direct current train launched in 1995. A total of 14 sets, 42 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi. This model is also commissioned on the Minobu Line as a limited express train, Fujikawa.

Shimoguri-no-sato, access from Iida Station on the JR Central Iida Line

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Johoku Line: Local Route in the Nagoya Urban Area

Diesel rail-car TKJ KiHa 11-300 series arrives at Owari-Hoshinomiya Station

Local railways in urban areas stir up rail-fans' interest. They are quite unique. One of the typical examples is the Johoku Line in the Nagoya Urban area, some 370 km west of Tokyo.

As you know, Nagoya is the largest station in the central part of Japan. The tracks were always crowded with various kinds of trains all day long. To solve the congestion, Japanese National Railways (JNR) planned to construct a freight line bypassing Nagoya Station in the 1960s. Later, the situation had drastically changed. Due to the evolution of truck transport, construction of the freight line had been suspended.

JNR and the government eventually changed the plan, and constructed the Johoku Line as a commuter route connecting the Tokaido Main Line and the Chuo Line. The entire route was completed in 1993. Its total operating length is 11.2 km. The track is elevated and double, but un-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. A 1-car diesel rail-car, the KiHa11-300 series, is operated only once an hour on average by Tokai Transport Service Company (TKJ), which is a subsidiary of JR Central.

I found a big problem on the Johoku Line. All the connecting lines, such as the Meitetsu and the Nagoya Municipal Subway, are located far from the stations on the Johoku Line. Transfers are inconvenient. It was probably because the Johoku Line was originally planned as a freight route.

The Johoku Line... it is a useless treasure. Please do something about it!

Diesel rail-car TKJ KiHa 11-300 series stands at Biwajima Station on the Johoku Line

Friday, 21 October 2016

Toei 7700 Series: Renovated Model on the Arakawa Line

Unit number 7704 of the Toei 7700 series stands at Zoshigaya Stop

In parallel with the introduction of a new model. the 8900 series, the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei) is conducting the renovation of an old model, the 7000 series on the Arakawa Line. The first renovated streetcar was launched on May 30th under the new name of the 7700 series. The 7000 series is the Toei's longest-serving active model launched in 1954. A total of 93 units have been built by Alna Koki. 10 of the 93 units are still operated on the track, but because they are decrepit, Toei plans to renovate 8 units of the 7000 series to the 7700 series.

What are the differences between the 7000 and the 7700 series? Firstly, the outer design has been changed to so-called modern-retro. For instance, unit number 7703 (ex-7015) and 7704 (ex-7031) are painted dark blue. It is chic and stylish. The doors have been widened for easily going in and out of passengers. Secondly, the traveling system has been totally changed. For instance, VVVF (variable voltage and variable frequency) inverter has been adopted as an electric control system to save electric power consumption. The bogies have also been changed to the advanced model, Type-FS91C, manufactured by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation to enhance the riding comfort. Thirdly, the interior has been renovated. For instance, the displays have been changed from the single LED to the double LCDs to enhance the visibility.

According to Toei, the renovation cost of each unit is about $1.25 million.

Unit number 7703 of the Toei 7700 series leaves Higashi-Ikebukuro 4-chome Stop

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Great Waterfall on the Yoro Line

Set D12 of the EMU Yoro Railway 610 series arrives at Mino-Matsuyama Station

Yoro-no-taki is a famous waterfall in Gifu Prefecture, about 420 km southwest of Tokyo. It is 32 meters high and 4 meters wide, and chosen as one of Japan's Top 100 Waterfalls by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in 1990. Although it is not a large waterfall, Yoro-no-taki is reputable as it has a long history in the region. For instance, the female Emperor Gensho (680 - 748) visited there and praised it. She then changed the era name to Yoro in 717.

To visit Yoro-no-taki, please take the Yoro Line of Yoro Railway, and get off at Yoro Station. Yoro Railway is a local private company, which belongs to the Kintetsu Group. It was spun off from Kintetsu in 2007. Connecting Kuwana and Ibi, its route length is 57.5 km. The track is single and electrified. Its electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Different from the other Kintetsu lines, its gauge size is 1,067 mm.

One of the main fleets on the Yoro Line is the EMU 610 series. It is a 2 or 3-car train with one motor car. A total of 11 units were moved from Kintetsu in 1993 and 1994. Although its technical specifications, such as the classic rheostatic electric control systems, is rather old, 9 of the 11 units are still operated on the line. The solid maroon colored 20 m-long bodies provide a heavy feeling, and are definitely my favorite.

The waterfall and the railway, there are two great spots in the Yoro area.

Yoro Waterfall near Yoro Station on the Yoro Railway

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Classic Ex-Tokyu Train in Atsumi Peninsula

Set 1805F of the EMU Toyohashi Railway 1800 series travels on the Atsumi Line

Atsumi Peninsula is famous for its mild climate. It is located about 300 km west of Tokyo, and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and Mikawa Bay. The influx of the Kuroshio Warm Current has influenced the temperate climate of Atsumi Peninsula. Using this climate, the production of flowers is one of the main industries in the area.

To visit Atsumi Peninsula, the Atsumi Line of Toyohashi Railway is convenient. Connecting Toyohashi on the JR Central Tokaido Shinkansen and Mikawa-Tahara, its route length is 18 km. The track is single and electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. Its electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

The EMU 1800 series is a sole model on the Atsumi Line. It was launched in 2000 to replace the old model, the ex-Meitetsu 7300 series. The 1800 series was originally the Tokyu 7200 series, which was built by Tokyu Sharyo from the 1960s to 1970s. So far, a total of 32 units have been moved to Toyohashi Railway. Currently, 10 sets of 3-car trains have gone into commercial services.

The odd-shaped face (so-called diamond cut) of the 1800 series is definitely my favorite. Their body colors are also attractive, as each set has its own color. A total of 10 different colors such as purple, blue, red, yellow and green are used.

Now that their brother train, namely the EMU Tokyu 7600 series, was retired from the Ikegami Line, the EMU Toyohashi Railway 1800 series is a precious odd-shaped classic train in Atsumi Peninsula.

Set 1804F leaves Yagumadai Station on the Atsumi Line

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

C59 1: Preserved SL on Kyushu Island

Steam locomotive, C59 1, is preserved in Kyushu Railway History Museum

Along with the retro station and the sightseeing train, Kyushu Railway History Museum is another attraction for rail-fans in the Mojiko area. This museum was opened adjacent to JR Kyushu Mojiko Station in 2003. We can see historical rolling stock and the old red brick building, namely ex-Kyushu Railway main office, there.

One of the must-see exhibitions in the museum is the steam locomotive (SL) C59 1, the top number unit of the Class C59. The Class C59 was launched in 1941 by ex-Japanese Government Railways (JGR) to replace the old model such as the Class C53. A total of 173 units had been built by Kisha Seizo, Kawasaki Sharyo and Hitachi over 7 years. The Class C59 had 1,750 mm-diameter large driving wheels (4-6-2 in Whyte notation), and was operated as a limited express train on the trunk lines of JGR. Currently, only 3 units are preserved in Japan.

The top number unit, C59 1, was built by Kisha Seizo in 1941. After belonging to Nagoya and Himeji Depot on Honshu Island, it was moved to Mojiko Depot on Kyushu Island in 1956. C59 1 eventually retired from the track in 1965.

In the meantime, I saw a special round signboard on the front of C59 1. It was for Hayabusa (falcon) limited express in the 1950s. Hayabusa, pulled by the Class C59, was a premier train in Japan. Its name still exists as a Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen train of JR East and JR Hokkaido.

A special signboard for a limited express train, Hayabusa, is displayed on the front of C59 1

Official information of Kyushu Railway History Museum (in Japanese):

Sunday, 9 October 2016

A Nip of Fall on the Hachiko Line

EMU JR East 209-3100 series arrives at Kaneko Station on the Hachiko Line

The weather is inclement this autumn in Tokyo. Typhoons come to the Japanese Archipelago one after another. Is it the global warming impact?

It was fine weather in the last weekend after a long spell of rain, so, I visited a suburban area of Tokyo to enjoy a stroll. My destination was Kasumi River in Iruma City, Saitama Prefecture. What I had found there was a nip of fall on the bank of the river. They were colorful blossoms of cosmoses, pink, white and yellow colored, being shaken with the wind in the sunshine.

To get to this beautiful suburban area, I used the JR East Hachiko Line, and got off at Kaneko Station. The Hachiko Line is one of the circular routes surrounding the downtown Tokyo area. Connecting Hachioji and Kuragano, its route length is 92.2 km. The section in the north of Komagawa is un-electrified; therefore, the operation of EMU (electrical multiple unit) is limited only in the southern section between Hachioji and Komagawa.

The EMU 209-3100 series is one of the train fleets on the Hachiko Line. It is a rare model, as their head cars were moved from Tokyo Waterfront Railway (TWR) in 2005. Their former name was the EMU TWR 70-000 series, which was originally built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries in 1996. The technical specification is same as that of the JR East 209 series.

I enjoyed a nip of fall and the rare train on the Hachiko Line.

Colorful blossoms of cosmoses are seen along Kasumi River near Kaneko Station 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Red-colored Commuter Train on Kyushu Island

EMU JR Kyushu 813 series arrives at Togo Station on the Kagoshima Main Line

It was very hot this mid-summer in Japan. The maximum daytime temperature was often over 35 degrees Celsius in many places. Kyushu Island was no exception. During my vacation on this southern island, I suffered from intense heat every day. To make matters worse, I felt dizzy when a red-colored train approached me at Togo Station. What was that?

It was the EMU JR Kyushu 813 series on the Kagoshima Main Line. The 813 series was launched in 1994 as JR Kyushu's standard commuter train to replace the old models such as the 412, 423 and the 715 series. A total of 85 sets have been built by Kinki Sharyo and JR Kyushu Kokura Factory. This model is a 3-car train consisting of one motor car and two trailers. Two or three sets are used for making up one train. The 813 series is for the 1,067mm-gauge track with 20,000 V AC (60 Hz) overhead electric systems. It is equipped with VVVF (variable voltage and variable frequency) inverter electric control systems with induction motors. The maximum operating speed is 120 km per hour to compete with expressway bus services and the limited express train on the Nishi Nippon Railway.

The 813 series is like a flame, isn't it? Specifically, the red-colored face psychologically may add heat to passengers, as people associate the red color with heat or passion. Red is the corporate color of JR Kyushu, but it creates a strong impression to passengers in summer.

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

Monday, 3 October 2016

Pyramidal Mountain on the Ohmi Railway

EMU Ohmi Railway 800 series travels on the Yokaichi Line

Tarobo is a characteristic triangular mountain in Shiga Prefecture, located about 480 km west of Tokyo. The altitude of the summit is 357.1 meters above sea level. Its edifice consists of rhyolite lava, which erupted about 100 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.

What is Mt. Tarobo like? To what will you compare it? I think that Mt. Tarobo resembles the Pyramids in Egypt. Although this mountain was naturally formed, its beautiful triangular shape is similar to that of the Great Pyramid at Giza. There is a shrine, "Tarobo-gu", in the middle of the mountain. You should climb up 740 of the stone steps from the entrance gate to the main hall.

To visit this unique mountain, the nearest station is Tarobo-gu-mae on the Ohmi Railway. This local company belongs to the Seibu Group. Its rolling stock was mainly provided from Seibu Railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area. One of the major fleet is the EMU 800 series (ex-Seibu 401 series), which was moved to the Ohmi Railway in 1993. After modifying their front masks, the 800 series was launched in 1998. 

The 800 series is a 2-car train consisting of two motor cars. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. It has rheostatic electric control systems with DC motors. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. So far, a total of 13 sets, 26 units have debuted on the Ohmi Railway. The yellow-colored bodies with the silver-colored passenger doors preserve the appearance of the Seibu Railway trains.

Mt. Tarobo (357.1 meters) near Tarobo-gu-mae Station

Official photo album of the Ohmi Railway: