Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Hakata "Express Museum" on Kyushu Island

EMU 783 series, limited express "Midori" (left) and EMU 787 series, "Kirameki" (right)

Hakata is the largest railway station in Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyushu Island. Many kinds of trains continuously arrive at and leave this giant terminal. As a rail-fan, my greatest pleasure at this station is to see the variety of limited express trains. Let's take a look at some of those trains.

The EMU 783 series, Midori (green), is operated between Hakata and Sasebo, the second largest city in Nagasaki Prefecture. It was launched in 1988 under the name of Hyper-saloon. The 783 series is alternate current (AC) electric cars with a thyristor continuous phase control system. This system converts AC to a variable voltage of direct current (DC) using thyristor semiconductor devices.

The EMU 787 series, Kirameki (shining), is operated between Hakata and Mojiko, the gateway station to Kyushu Island from the main island of Japan. Please look at my previous post describing this model.

The EMU 883 series, Sonic, is operated between Hakata and Ooita (or Saeki). It was launched in 1995 to compete with the express way bus services. It is not as fast as a sonic wave, but the 883 series has a tilting system to pass through tight curves at a high speed.

The EMU 885 series, Kamome (seagull), is operated between Hakata and Nagasaki (or Saga), which are the main cities in Nagasaki and Saga prefectures. The white colored streamlined body is elegant and popular among tourists. It is a representative inter-city limited express train of JR Kyushu Company.

Hakata Station is just like an "express museum".

EMU 883 series, limited express "Sonic" (left) and EMU 885 series, "Kamome" (right)

Official information about JR Kyushu's limited express train, Sonic:
Official information about JR Kyushu's limited express train, Kamome:
Official information about JR Kyushu's limited express train, Midori, Kirameki and the others:

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Extended Operation of Chibi Maruko-chan

Set 1011F, Chibi Maruko-chan poster train, of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series

On November 25th, Shizuoka Railway (Shizutetsu) announced that the Chibi Maruko-chan poster train on the Shizuoka-Shimizu Line is extended to operate until March, 2017 due to high popularity. It is good news for the local people and the Shizutetsu rail-fans.

What is Chibi Maruko-chan? As I introduced before, Chibi Maruko-chan (a little Maruko) is a popular TV animation series created by Ms. Sakura Momoko. The series depicts the everyday life of Sakura Momoko living on the Shizuoka Railway, when she was a little girl in the year of 1974. Chibi Maruko-chan was her nick name at that time.

Set 1011F of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series is used for the Chibi Maruko-chan poster train. It is a 2-car stainless-steel train built by Tokyu Sharyo in 1984, as the 11th set of the 1000 series. Being decorated with Chibi Maruko-chan's characters, set 1011 has been operated as the poster train since July, 2015. Its pink colored bodies are very unique and my favorite.

The poster train is very popular especially among the local children. When I visited Shizuoka City this summer, I saw that the poster train was hired by local families with children, and operated as a special group tour train. It was proof of its popularity with the local people.

The last run of the Chibi Maruko-chan poster train will be on March 31st, 2017. Set 1011F will, then, soon revert to an ordinary commuter train. Please ride it now or never!

Chibi Maruko-chan poster train arrives at Naganuma Station

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Keisei Skyliner AE Series: 20 Million Passengers

EMU Keisei AE series, Skyliner, displaying "Thanks 20 million passengers" (October, 2016)

On September 13th, Keisei Electric Railway made a press release announcing that the passengers of the third generation Skyliner exceeded 20 million on that day. At the same time, Keisei held a commemoration ceremony at Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station. The 20 millionth passenger was a German lady, who lives in Shibuya Ward in Tokyo Metropolis.

What is the third generation Skyliner? It is the airport access train, EMU Keisei AE series. The AE series was launched in 2010 to replace the old model, the AE100 series. It is an 8-car train with crow-shaped black faces. A total of 8 sets, 64 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. Its maximum speed is 160 km per hour. The AE series won the 2011 Blue Ribbon Prize by Japan Railfan Club as the best train that debuted in 2010.

Following the debut of the AE series, Keisei changed their airport access train route from the Keisei Main Line to the Narita Sky Access Line in 2010. As a result, the AE series connects Nippori in downtown Tokyo and Narita Airport Terminal 2 in only 36 minutes, which is much faster than their rival, JR East's Narita Express. Currently, one set of the AE series, namely set AE5, has a gold colored commemoration display on the front of the train. It says "thanks 20 million passengers".

For your information, the old (second generation) Skyliner, namely the AE100 series, was retired from the track on February 28th.

EMU Keisei AE series, Skyliner, displaying "Blue Ribbon 2011" (November, 2011)

Official information about Keisei Skyliner:

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Lovely Narrow Gauge Train on the Hokusei Line

EMU Sangi Railway 270 series arrives at Sohara Station on the Hokusei Line

There are four kinds of railway gauge sizes in Japan. They are the 1,435 mm, the 1,372 mm, the 1,067 mm and the 762 mm-wide gauges.

The 1,435 mm-wide gauge is adopted by the Shinkansens and several major railways such as Keikyu and Kesei. Several subway routes, such as the Toei-Asakusa Line and the Tokyo Metro-Ginza Line, are also 1,435 mm-wide tracks. Needless to say, they are suitable for high speed train operations. The 1,372 mm-wide gauge is quite unique. It was originated from horse tramways. You can see it on the Keio Line of the Keio Electric railway, the Toei-Shinjuku Line, the Toei-Arakawa Line, the Tokyu-Setagaya Line and Hakodate City Tram. The 1,067 mm-wide gauge is the most common one in Japan. It was originally introduced by the U.K. when the first railway route was constructed between Shimbashi and Yokohama in 1872. Most of the JR group and private railway lines are this size of gauge.

One more... the 762 mm gauge. It is also quite unique. We can see it only on the Kurobe Gorge Railway, Yokkaichi Asunarou Railway and the Hokusei Line of Sangi Railway. Due to the narrow size, the trains on the 762 mm-wide tracks are also small. For instance, the train of the Hokusei Line looks like a mechanical ride at an amusement park. This lovely train, the EMU 270 series, is definitely my favorite. Because of its size, the maximum speed of the train is only 45 km per hour on the Hokusei Line.

EMU Sangi Railway 270 series stands at Ageki Terminal on the Hokusei Line

Thursday, 17 November 2016

View of Autumn Mt. Fuji from the Tokaido Shinkansen

EMU JR Central N700A series arrives at Atami Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen

Whenever I take the Tokaido Shinkansen, my greatest pleasure is to view Mt. Fuji in a train. If it is clear, we can see the beautiful conical edifice from a train window. I have already uploaded the snow-capped winter Fuji, so, I am going to show you the autumn Fuji without snow today. Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It is 3,776 m above sea level, and known as an active stratovolcano that last erupted from 1707 to 1708. Mt. Fuji is also a symbolic mountain, which has been appearing in numerous tales in this country.

Please look at the following picture. It was shot from the shinkansen train traveling near Shin-Fuji Station. The train speed at that time was 285 km per hour. It is not easy to shoot this volcano, since there are many objects, which obstruct photographing, on this side of Mt. Fuji. From my experiences, a total of the best shooting time is less than one minute.

In the meantime, the major fleet on the Tokaido Shinkansen is the EMU N700 series. Recently, the renovation of the N700 series has been completed. It is currently operated under the new name of the N700A series. The main difference between the N700 and the N700A series is their brake performance. The N700A series is equipped with the new disc brake to stop trains steadily without derailment as soon as an earthquake hits the track. The Tokaido Shinkansen is now in the final stage of its evolution. The next leading role will be SCMAGLEV.

View of Mt. Fuji (3,776m) from the Shinkansen window

Monday, 14 November 2016

Odakyu Romance Car: Going to a New Stage

EMU Odakyu 50000 series, Romance Car. VSE, travels on the Odawara Line

On October, 20th, Odakyu made a press release, announcing that a new "romance car" model, the EMU 70000 series will debut in March, 2018.

The romance car is Odakyu's representative express train. Historically, Odakyu first launched a resort train to Hakone Mountain in 1935 under the name of "hot spring express"; however, it was forced to stop the operation due to WWII in the 1940's. After the war, Odakyu resumed the operation of the resort train in 1950 under the new name of "romance car".

An epoch-making event occurred in 1955, when they launched the new romance car, EMU 3000 series (SE) with articulated bogies. This train established 145 km per hour, which was the world's speed record of narrow gauge tracks at that time. Odakyu, then, launched new romance car models one after another. They are the 3100 (NSE), the 7000 (LSE), the 10000 (HiSE), the 20000 (RSE), the 30000 (EXE), the 50000 (VSE) and the 60000 (MSE) series. Currently, LSE, EXE, VSE and MSE are operated on the track.

According to Odakyu, the new model, EMU 70000 series, has an upper-deck cockpit, so passengers can enjoy the view ahead. It is the same as NSE, LSE, HiSE and VSE. The 70000 series is a 7-car train. It is the same as RSE, which had standard bogies. Different from the previous models, the 70000 series has baggage spaces for inbound tourists.

The Odakyu romance car is going to a new stage.

EMU Odakyu 7000 series, Romance Car. LSE, travels on the Odawara Line

Official information about the EMU Odakyu 70000 series (in Japanese):

Friday, 11 November 2016

Aikan: Another Unique Railway in the Nagoya Urban Area

EMU Aikan 2000 series arrives at Homi Station on the Aichi Loop Line

Along with the Johoku Line of Tokai Transport Service Company, the Aichi Loop Line of Aichi Loop Line Company (Aikan) is another unique railway in the Nagoya Urban area.

Aikan Line was opened between Kozoji on the Chuo Main Line and Okazaki on the Tokaido Main Line in 1988. The total route length is 45.3 km. The western half section between Kozoji and Shin-Toyota (25.8 km) is the new construction line, while the eastern half section between Shin-Toyota and Okazaki (19.5km) is the JR Central's ex-Okata Line. The route is a mixture of single and double tracks. It is electrified with the 1,500 V DC overhead systems. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Aikan has two faces... one as a local railway in the countryside, and one as an urban commuter line. We can see beautiful paddies and green hills in the western section. On the other hand, there are crowded residential areas in the eastern section. More importantly, Toyota Motor Corporation has their headquarters near Mikawa-Toyota Station on the eastern section of the Aikan Line. Aikan is 4.89% owned by Toyota Motor Corporation.

The EMU 2000 series is the sole model on the Aikan Line. It was launched in 2002 to replace the old model, the 100 series. It is a 2-car train with one motor car. So far, a total of 20 sets, 40 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo. To save the manufacturing cost, its technical specifications are almost the same as JR Central's 313 series.

EMU Aikan 2000 series leaves Homi Station on the Aichi Loop Line

Official photo gallery of Aichi Loop Line Company (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Electric Car 900 Series for the 900th Post

Electric car, unit number 912 of the Hiroden 900 series

Thank you for visiting the Tokyo Railway Labyrinth. This is the 900th post in my blog. I hope that people all over the world will continue to enjoy Japanese railways and its related facilities, events and sightseeing spots in this blog. In commemoration of the "900th" post, I am going to show the "900" series electric car today.

Please look at the top photo. It is an electric car Hiroden (Hiroshima Electric Railway) 900 series. This model was launched in 1957 under the name of Osaka City Tram 2601 series. A total of 114 units have been built by Osaka Sharyo, but only 9 of the 114 units were escaped from scrap and moved to Hiroshima in 1969, since Osaka City Tram was abolished due to severe traffic congestion.

The 900 series has two 45 kW DC motors. Its technical specification is rather old such as the nose suspension drive and the direct electric control system, but even now, the 900 series continues to work actively. The two-toned body color of beige and maroon is definitely my favorite. The two large air conditioners on the roof look a bit heavy.

I got off the 900 series streetcar at the Gembaku Dome-mae Stop. My purpose was embarking a river boat. Hiroshima is known as a city of waterways. The downtown is a delta area surrounded by several rivers, so, the tourists can enjoy these waterways by river cruise. I enjoyed a special atmosphere in the breeze on the river boat.

Boat tour in Hiroshima City

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Sayonara, Hamarin Poster Train on the Blue Line

EMU Yokohama MS 3321F, Hamarin, is exhibited in Nippa Rail Yard on the Blue Line

Railway festivals season has come again in Japan. As you may know, it originated from the opening of Japan's first railway that was completed on October 14th in 1872. In commemoration of this special day, the Japanese Government designated October 14th as Railway Day in 1994. Since then, many railway operators have started to hold special public events in the autumn, such as rail yard tours and special memorial train operations.

This year, I visited Nippa Rail Yard on the Blue Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway. It was opened to the public on October 30th as an event, named the 2016 Hamarin Festival. My purpose of the visit was to take pictures and to say good-bye to the Hamarin poster train, set 3321F of the EMU 3000N series. What is Hamarin? It is a mascot character of the Transportation Bureau of Yokohama City. Being ornamented with Hamarin and the other decoration stickers, this poster train has been used for municipal activities, such as children's painting exhibitions in the trains. The Hamarin poster train will soon revert to an ordinary commuter train. According to the Transportation Bureau, the last run of the Hamarin poster train will be on November 6th. Sayonara (good-bye) and Arigato (thank you), Hamarin poster train.

In the meantime, the Transportation Bureau announced at the event site that a new model, the EMU 3000V series, will debut onto the Blue Line in 2017. It will replace the old model such as the EMU 3000A series in the near future.

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000A (left) and 3000N (Hamarin=right) series

Official information about the rolling stock of Yokohama Municipal Subway (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Hana-densha: Flower Electric Car in the Local City

Electric car Mo3203 of the 3200 series, hana-densha, travels on the Azumada Main Line

Hana-densha (Flower Electric Car) is a special event train in Japan. As its name suggests, trains are ornamented with a numerous number of fresh or artificial flowers. Generally speaking, hana-densha is operated on tram routes, because it should be operated with low speed.

Typical hana-densha is seen on the Azumada Main Line of Toyohashi Railway (Toyotetsu). Toyohashi is a local city in Aichi Prefecture, some 290 km west of Tokyo. From October 10th to 16th, Toyotetsu operated a hana-densha in commemoration of the 110th anniversary of the municipal system of Toyohashi City. It was lucky for me that I shot beautiful photos of a hana-densha, decorated with 5,000 colorful artificial flowers.

Toyotetsu is a local private railway company, which operates the Atsumi Line and the Azumada Main Line. The latter of these is a tram route in the downtown area of Toyohashi City. Its route length is 5.4 km. The track is mainly double with some single sections. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

The streetcar, decorated as the hana-densha, was built by Nippon Sharyo in 1955, under the name of Unit Mo582 of the Meitetsu Mo580 series. After being operated on the Meitetsu lines, it was moved to Toyotetsu in 1980. Unit Mo582 then debuted on the Toyotetsu Azumada Main Line under the new name of Mo3203 of the electric car Mo3200 series in 1981.

Toyotetsu' s hana-densha... it was a beautiful event star in the local city.

Electric car Mo3203 of the 3200 series, hana-densha, leaves Shinkawa Stop