Thursday, 29 December 2016

Shinano: Western Access to Nagano Prefecture

EMU JR Central 383 series, limited express "Shinano", travels on the Chuo Main Line

Nagano is an inland prefecture surrounded by steep mountains. It is a large province having precious tourism resources, but the access route to the prefecture had been a problem, because the mountains blocked potential tourists to the prefecture.

The major breakthrough was realized in 1998, when the Nagano Shinkansen (present Hokuriku Shinkansen) was opened as an eastern access route. It takes only 90 minutes from Tokyo by super-express train, "Kagayaki (brilliance)". On the other hand, a limited express train, "Shinano (an old name of Nagano Prefecture)" is the fastest access means from the west. It takes three hours from Nagoya, the largest city in the central part of Japan. Shinano is currently operated between Nagoya and Nagano stations as regular trains. It was once operated between Osaka and Nagano as Japan's longest daytime express train, but was shortened from March last year, because the number of passengers had decreased.

In the meantime, one of the must-see sightseeing spots in Nagano Prefecture is ex-Kaichi Elementary School. It was constructed by a Japanese carpenter, Tateishi Kiyoshige, in 1876, as the first Western style building in Matsumoto City. Surprisingly, he designed this building himself just imitating the pictures of Western style buildings, since he didn't know about Western architecture in detail. As a result, it has become a quite unique building. Kaichi Elementary school was designated as an important cultural property by the Japanese Government in 1961. The building is currently utilized as a museum.

Ex-Kaichi Elementary School near Matsumoto Station

Monday, 26 December 2016

EF59 1: Old Sherpa on the Sanyo Main Line

Top number unit of the EL class EF 59 (December, 2011)

Following the C-Train 2300 series, I am going to show you the other excavated photos from my hard disk.

The electric locomotive (EL), class EF59, was a specialist on the Sanyo Main Line of ex-Japanese National Railways (JNR). It was launched in 1964 to replace the old steam locomotives, class D52. It was a pusher for the trains climbing up the slope track between Seno and Happonmatsu, about 920 km west of Tokyo. A total of 24 units were built in JNR Takatori Factory reusing the parts of the retired ELs, such as the class EF53 and the class EF56.

EF59 1 is the top number unit of the class EF59. It was a direct current EL, remodeled from EF53 8 in 1963. It had been challenging a 22.5 per mil of the steep track for 22 years. Many kinds of trains, such as limited express, local and freight trains, had been supported by his six DC motors. Its total rated output is 1,350 kW. The axis arrangement is 2Co+Co2 (UIC notation). The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The mechanism for transmitting power is a simple nose suspension drive.

Currently, EF 59 1 is preserved and exhibited in Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park in Gumma Prefecture, some 130 km north of Tokyo. It looks just functional, but is very cool, if you look closely. The simplicity may parallel the elegance of design.

EF59 1... it is a fine-looking old sherpa on the Sanyo Main Line.

Usui Pass Railwy Heritage Park (December, 2011)

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Kuko Line: Convenient Access to Fukuoka Airport

EMU Fukuoka City Subway stands at Fukuoka-kuko Station on the Kuko Line

When you visit a strange place, initial impressions are probably important for whether or not you will like it there. For instance, please imagine that you arrive at an airport of a strange city. The access from the airport to the downtown area will be important in making your initial impression of the city.

If you visit Fukuoka City by air, you will have a good initial impression about this city. It takes only five minutes from the airport to Hakata, which is the central station of Fukuoka City, by subway. Fukuoka is the largest city on Kyushu Island, with a population of 1.5 million. It is located about 1,200 km west of Tokyo.

The access route from the airport to the downtown area is the Kuko (Airport) Line of Fukuoka City Subway. The Kuko Line was opened in 1981 by Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau. The current route length is 13.1 km. The trains are directly operated onto the JR Kyushu Chikuhi Line through Meinohama Station. The track is electrified and double. Its electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. For your information, Fukuoka City operates two other subway routes in the downtown area. 

One of the fleet on the Kuko Line is the EMU 2000 series. It was launched in 1993, when the Kuko Line was fully opened. The 2000 series is a 6-car train with four motor cars and its electric control system is AVAF (Adjustable Voltage Adjustable Frequency) inverter.

Fukuoka Airport

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Preserved Subway Train in Nippa Rail Yard

Set number 1 (1011F) of the EMU 1000 series is preserved in Nippa Rail Yard

When I went to the 2016 Hamarin Festival held by Yokohama Municipal Subway in October, I reunited with an old train exhibited in Nippa Rail Yard. What was that?

It was a preserved train, set number 1 (1011F) of the EMU 1000 series. This train set was launched as a 3-car train in 1972, when the Blue Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway was partially opened between Isesaki-Choujamachi and Kamioooka (5.2 km). Three more cars were added after the extension of the Blue Line, since the number of passengers had drastically increased. 1011F was retired from the track in 2006 after 34 years of operation. It is currently preserved in Nippa Rail Yard as it originally was.

The greatest feature of 1011F is its odd-shaped front mask. It was a typical design in the early 1970's. The Tokyu 7200 series (later the 7600 series) and the Shizutetsu 1000 series are of the same generation, and also have similar designs. The stainless-steel bodies with corrugated structures also showed the vestiges of the early 1970's. They are nostalgic and definitely my favorite.

The technical specification of 1011F is rather old. The electric control system was just a simple rheostat. Four-120 kW DC motors were equipped on the train. I still remember that a warm breeze came up from the resistors when it arrived at the station platform. For your information, we can't see pantographs on the roofs, as the Blue Line is electrified with a 750 V DC third-rail system

Side view of 1011F, Yokohama Municipal Subway

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Beer-den: Mid-summer Oasis in the Local City

Unit number 7022 of the Toyama Chihou Railway De7000 series, Beer-den

Beer-den is a leisure train in Japan. It has a beer pub, and is operated on mid-summer evenings. Many railway companies operate Beer-den specifically on their tram routes in local cities. Beer-den is Japan's common mid-summer feature.

Toyama Chihou Railway (Toyama Regional Railway) is a good example. They operate Beer-den as a chartered car on the City Tram Line. Beer-den leaves Toyama Terminal at 18.34. It goes to Daigaku-mae Stop, Minami-Toyama Stop and returns to Toyama Terminal at 20.06. A toilet break is secured at Minami-Toyama Stop. Passengers can enjoy drinking beer together with tasty appetizers as much as they want during their one hour and a half trip. A beautiful urban night view of Toyama City is also offered to the passengers as an attraction. The chartered cost for one group (up to 24 persons) is 47,000 yen.

A classic electric car, unit number 7022 of the De7000 series is used for Beer-den. The De7000 series was launched in 1957 modeled after the Toden 8000 series. A total of 11 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo over 9 years. Among the 11 units, unit number 7022 only has a classic two-tone colored body with beige and deep blue. The interior is also classical. it has flame-retardant wooden desks, seats and floors.

Riding on the classic streetcar, let's enjoy drinking beer. It will be a mid-summer oasis in the local city, but don't forget that you get drunk more easily on the streetcar as it pitches and rolls.

Unit number 7022, Beer-den, stands at Toyama Terminal on the City Tram Line

Official information of Toyama Chihou Railway:
Official information about the leisure trains of Toyama Chihou Railway:
Official information about the rolling  stock of Toyama Chihou Railway (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Local Railway with a Sakura Timetable

Unit 315 of the diesel rail-car HaiMo 295-310 series travels on the Tarumi Line

Tarumi Railway is a local company based in Gifu Prefecture, about 400 km west of Tokyo. This company was established in 1984 taking over the Tarumi Line of Japanese National Railways (JNR).

The JNR Tarumi Line was partially opened in 1956. After been taken over by Tarumi Railway Company, the route was fully opened between Oogaki and Tarumi in 1989. The total route length is 34.5 km. The track is un-electrified and single. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Tarumi Railway has seven units of diesel rail-cars. Unit 315 of the HaiMo 295-310 series is one of my favorite rail-cars. It was built in 1999 by Fuji Heavy Industries. This rail-car has a 16 m-long body and a 295 PS engine manufactured by Nissan Diesel. The green colored face is quite unique and conspicuous among the Tarumi Railway rolling stock.

Unit 516 of the HaiMo 295-510 series is also lovely. It was built in 2005 by Niigata Transys. It has an 18 m-long body with Tarumi Railway's standard color design. This rail-car also has a Nissan 295 PS diesel engine. Different from Unit 315, Unit 516 has bolsterless type trucks.

In the meantime, there are many famous sakura (cherry) blossoms viewing spots on the Tarumi Line. In early April, many holidaymakers flock to this local railway, so, additional trains are operated during this period. The company calls it the Sakura season railway timetable. It is the busiest week for this local railway.

Unit 516 of the diesel rail-car HaiMo 295-510 series travels on the Tarumi Line

Sunday, 11 December 2016

EMU Tobu 100 Series: Spacia Gold Color

Set 106F (Nikko Moude Spacia) of the EMU Tobu 100 series stands at JR Ikebukuro Sta.

Gold is a special color throughout the world. A gold medal is given to the number one athlete in the Olympic Games. A Gold Card is a special credit card, which only a special customer is allowed to have. In the first place, gold is a special and precious metal in the world.

Gold colored trains are also special in Japan. For instance, Tobu Railway operates a gold colored train, "Nikko Moude (Pilgrimage to Nikko) Spacia". The EMU 100 series, Spacia, is the Tobu's flagship model for limited express trains. It was launched in 1990 to replace the old model, the EMU 1720 series, "Deluxe Romance Car". A total of 9 sets, 54 units have been built by Alna Koki and Tokyu Sharyo. Because of its unique design and high technical specifications, Spacia was elected as the 1991 Blue Ribbon Prize train by the Japan Railfan Club. As you may know, the Blue Ribbon Prize is awarded to the best train that was launched in the previous year.

Currently, two sets of the EMU 100 series, namely set 103F and 106F, have gold colored bodies, but set 106F can only be operated onto JR East line through Kurihashi Station, as it has the JR type radio and safety systems.

For your information, Tobu Railway last year made a press release announcing that the new limited express model, the EMU 500 series, will debut in spring of 2017. I am looking forward to that.

Set 106F (Nikko Moude Spacia) of the EMU Tobu 100 series stands at JR Shinjuku Sta.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Panorama-super: Meitetsu's Gorgeous Express Train

EMU Meitetsu 1000 series, "Panorama-super" (original color)

There are 16 major private railway companies in Japan. They are Tobu, Seibu, Keisei, Keio, Keikyu, Tokyu, Tokyo Metro, Odakyu and Sotetsu in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kintetsu, Nankai, Keihan, Hanshin and Hankyu in the Kansai area, Nishitetsu in the Fukuoka area and one more... Meitetsu in the Nagoya area.

This is the first time to introduce a Meitetsu train to you. That's a bit of a surprise for me, as I have already uploaded more than 900 posts here. Let's look at the pictures. They are the EMU 1000 series, "Panorama-super", the third generation express train on the Meitetsu Line. Panorama-super was launched in 1988 to replace the old express model, the EMU 7000 series, called Panorama-car. So far, a total of 21 sets, 84 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo. The gauge size of the Meitetsu Line is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

The greatest feature of Panorama-super is its high-decked structure on the front car. It is similar with that of the EMU Izukyu 2100 series, "Resort 21"; however, unlike Resort 21, Panorama-super doesn't have sloping tiers of seats. It only has a high-decked flat floor..

In the meantime, the renewal of Panorama-super started in 2015, as it had become deteriorated. The renovated Panorama-super can be easily distinguished from the original one by the color design. The renewal car has a wider part of red color than that of the original car. 

Panorama-super... it is a gorgeous express train on the Meitetsu Line.

EMU Meitetsu 1000 series, "Panorama-super" (after renewal)

Official information about the EMU Meitetsu 1000 series, "Panorama-super" (in Japanese):
Official information about the EMU Meitetsu 7000 series, "Panorama-car" (in Japanese):

Monday, 5 December 2016

C-Train 2300 Series: Siemens's Next Generation Model

Calgary Transit 2300 series leaves Brentwood Station on the Route 201 (November, 2011)

December is the month of house cleaning in Japan. It means that we refresh ourselves towards New Year's Day. I have just started the cleaning from my hard disk (not my house!) to arrange my huge amount of photographs, and found that some old photographs are worth showing in this blog. Let's get started from a tram in Canada.

C-Train is known as one of the most successful light rail transit (LRT) systems in North America. It has been operated by Calgary Transit since 1981. Currently, the total operating length reaches 59.9 km. The track is double. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,435 mm.

Along with the 2000 and 2200 series, the 2300 series is the C-Train's representative model. It is Siemens SD-160NG, which debuted in 2010 to provide for the future extension of C-Train routes. So far, a total of 38 units have been built in Sacrament LRV Factory. The 2300 series is a 24.8 m-long 2-car train with an articulated truck in the center. Each set is equipped with two power trucks. It is powered by four induction motors, which provide a maximum of 580 kW. The 2300 series looks like just a streetcar, but can be amazingly operated at the maximum speed of 80 km/hour. The electric control system is VVVF (variable voltage and variable frequency) inverter.

A small front right on the forehead of the 2300 series is my favorite. It is a good accent of this model.

Calgary Transit 2300 series travels on the downtown section (November, 2011)

Friday, 2 December 2016

Kitatopia: Train Viewing Spot in front of Ouji Station

Railway view from the northern side of the observation deck, Kitatopia

Kitatopia is a seventeen-story building standing in front of JR East Ouji Station. It was constructed on the site of old Ouji Freight Station in 1990 as composite cultural facilities. Kitatopia has three concert halls, meeting rooms, a fitness gym and restaurants, but that is not the only thing it has.

Kitatopia also has a free observation deck on the top floor. Once you visit there, you can access the beautiful scenery of northern Tokyo including the forests of Asukayama Park and Ouji-inari Shrine. More importantly, this spot offers you a great view of JR East's railway tracks just below your eyes.

Let's look at the tracks in detail from the northern side of the deck.

There are elevated double-tracks to the right. They are the Shinkansen tracks. You can see super-express trains such as the blue colored EMU E7 series there. The third and the forth tracks to the right are for the Keihin-Tohoku Line trains. 10-car trains with light blue stripes, namely the EMU E233-1000 series, continuously pass there. The fifth and the sixth tracks to the right are for the Shonan-Shinjuku Line trains and freight trains. For instance, you can see the container cars pulled by an electric locomotive traveling on these tracks. Finally, there are double-tracks of the Ueno-Tokyo Line to the left. The long commuter trains, such as the EMU E231 and the E233-3000 series, are the leading trains on these tracks.

Kitatopia... it is a utopia for rail-fans.

Railway view from the southern side of the observation deck, Kitatopia