Sunday, January 31, 2016

The New 10000 Series on the Green Line

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 10000 series (2nd batch) arrives at Center-minami Station

I visited the Green Line of the Yokohama Municipal Subway for the first time in four years. What is news with this growing subway line?

I found that the new train, set number 10161F of the EMU 10000 series, had been introduced on the line. It is one of the second batch trains of the 10000 series, launched in 2015. What is the difference between the first and the second batch of the 10000 series? Regarding the outer design, I found a green stripe on the front of the second batch train; meanwhile, the first batch ones don't have such a stripe. I also found that the second batch train has a large interior LCD monitor above each door. It displays operational information, such as train destination and next station.

For your information, the Green Line was opened in 2008 as the second subway route in Yokohama City. Connecting Nakayama on the JR East Yokohama Line and Hiyoshi on the Tokyu Toyoko Line, there are ten stations over the 13.1 km-long route. Linear motor technology is adopted for the train driving system, so, you can see a reaction plate between the two rails. A linear motor is an electric motor that doesn't have a shaft. This technology allowed downsizing of the tunnel section.

Opinions on the "combat robot-like" train face are divided among rail-fans. It is quite unique, but not my cup of tea to be honest.

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 10000 series (2nd batch) travels on the Green Line

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Goju-no-taki Cascade on the Nichinan Line

Diesel rail-car JR Kyushu KiHa 40 series travels on the Nichinan Line

Inohae is a deep valley in Miyazaki Prefecture, about 1,000 km southwest of Tokyo. The valley is located along Hiroto River, and surrounded by a green forest. It is covered with more than 300 varieties of moss, which are one sixth of the world's moss species.

A place of interest in the valley is Goju-no-taki (Five-level Cascade) in the head stream. As its name suggests, this cascade is composed of five levels of small waterfalls. The total height is 25 m. The outcrop is an alternation of sandstone and shale, which was deposited on the bottom of a deep sea around 30 to 40 million years ago.

To see this beautiful cascade, please take the JR Kyushu Nichinan Line and get off at Kitago Station. The route is a non-electrified single track. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. Diesel rail cars are operated every hour on average. The most convenient train is "Nichinan Marine" departing Miyazaaki Station, but using the local train is also very pleasant, as you can secure enough time to see the beautiful Nichinan coast and the green sub-tropical forest from the train window.

The KiHa 40 series is your vehicle. This model was launched in 1977 to replace old models such as the KiHa 10 series. A total of 888 units had been built for six years. Their sisters are seen across the country such as Hokkaido Island, the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Chugoku District. The white body with a blue stripe is called Kyushu-color train.

 
Goju-no-taki fall near Kamigo Station on the Nichinan Line

Monday, January 25, 2016

KiHa11 Series: New Model on the Minato Line

Diesel rail-car Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway KiHa 11-6 leaves Katsuta Station
 
Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway is a small company in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 120 km northeast of Tokyo. Connecting Katsuta on the JR East Joban Line and Ajigaura, the route, named the Minato Line, is only 14.3 km with 10 stations. The whole route is an un-electrified single track.

On December 30th, 2015, the company launched a new diesel rail-car, KiHa 11 series, on the Minato Line. The purpose of introducing the new model was to replace the old "JNR type" models, such as the KiHa 2000 series. A total of three units have been moved from JR Central to Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway. The new unit numbers are KiHa 11-5, 11-6 and 11-7.

When I visited the Minato Line last month, KiHa 11-6 was being operated as a regular train. Before weekends, the company announces the operational information of the trains on their website, so rail-fans can get information about the "trains on duty" in advance.

The body colour of the KiHa 11 series is the same as that of the JR Central... white with an orange coloured stripe. It is clean and beautiful. I like the KiHa 11 series, specifically its hardness of the seats. I feel dissatisfied with current Japanese trains' passenger seats, as they have become harder. Contrary to what I expected, KiHa 11's seats were soft and nice to sit on. No matter how nice the seats are, you should enjoy looking at the beautiful country view from the train windows instead of napping on the train on the Minato Line.

 
Diesel rail-car Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway KiHa 11-6 travels on the Minato Line

Friday, January 22, 2016

Preserved SL and Katakuri Field on the Chuo Main Line

Steam locomotive C12 67 is preserved in front of Chino Station on the Chuo Main Line

After one month and a half of mild winter, a cold wave has come to the Tokyo metropolitan area. The maximum daytime temperature was less than 10 degrees Celsius yesterday. I can hardly wait for spring. Before the exciting season, I am going to show you last year's spring scene on the Chuo Main Line.

Chino is an inland city in Nagano Prefecture, some 200 km west of Tokyo. It is surrounded by high mountains. At the end of April, this small city says goodbye to winter and says hello to spring. I visited this beautiful city with my family last year taking the JR East Chuo Main Line. Our purpose of this visit was to see the Katakuri flowers. Katakuri (Japanese Dogtooth Violet) produces lovely pale purple blossoms in early spring. The natural masses of Katakuri blossoms were found here and there in the forest. They were carefully protected by local people.

On the way to the Katakuri field from Chino Station, I came across a preserved steam locomotive (SL), C12 67, in front of the Chino Station. The SL Class C12 was launched in 1932 for the local lines throughout Japan. It is a 2-6-2 type (Whyte notation) small tank locomotive. A total of 282 units had been built for eight years. Unit number 67, namely C12 67, was built in 1933 by Hitachi. After her retirement from the track, she was moved to Chino City in 1973 to be preserved.

Travel sometimes has unexpected lucky accidents

 
Katakuri blossoms are seen near Chino Station on the Chuo Main Line

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

EMU 8013F: Revival Colour on the Keio Line

EMU Keio 8013F of the 8000 series passes through Hachiman-yama Station
 
As I reported before, Keio Electric Railway has renovated its Takao-sanguchi Terminal to promote tourism to Mt. Takao, which was granted the highest rank of three stars in the Michelin Voyager Pratique issued in 2007. Following the station renovation, Keio launched a special poster train, 8013F of the EMU 8000 series, on September 30th, 2015. It is also a promotion for sightseeing to Mt. Takao.

Why is this poster train painted a green colour? It is because the green colour symbolizes the forest of Mt. Takao. The other reason is the revival of Keio's old train. According to the company's official announcement, the body colour of the 8013F has been taken from the EMU 2000 series. It was launched in 1957, and retired from the Keio Line in 1983. The 2000 series had a steel body with a green colour. Even now, you can still see it in Keio Rail-Land near Tama Zoological Park Station, since one unit of the 2000 series is preserved as an exhibition.

By the way, I found a pentagonal plate on the front of 8013F. What is it? It is a signboard used for an advertisement of the hot spring in the Takao-sanguchi station yard. Keio recently drilled a well in the station yard, and found a hot water bed in the subsurface. The hot spring will provide hikers, who enjoy strolling in the forest of Mt. Takao all day long, with the ultimate relaxation.

 
Unit number 2015 of the EMU Keio 2000 series (Type 2010) is preserved in Keio Rail-Land

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tokyo Night Walk, Part 11: Tama Center Illuminations

EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series arrives at Takahatafudo Station
 
"Tama Newtown" is located in a south-western suburb of downtown Tokyo. The population is nearly 200,000. It was developed by the central and metropolitan governments in the 1960s to solve the explosion of the urban population. Tama Center is the central area of this new town.

"Tama Center Illuminations" is an annual event held in front of Tama Center Station from November to January. This year, 400,000 LED lights are used as the illuminants. Specifically, the blue lights in the illuminated tunnel are beautiful and dreamy. A glowing stature of Hello-Kitty is also beautiful as a symbol of Tama Center. As you may know, she is a mascot of Sanrio Puroland (an indoor theme park), which is located near Tama Center Station.

Three railways pull into Tama Center Station. They are the Keio, Odakyu and Tama Monorail. The Tama Monorail was opened in 1998 as the newest line in the new town area. It adopts a straddle-beam system. Connecting Tama Center and Kamikitadai, its operating length is 16.0 km. The track is double and the electric system is 1,500 V DC. Four-car trains, named the EMU 1000 series, are operated every 6 to 10 minutes.

Passengers can enjoy both urban and country views from the train windows. The only problem with the Tama Monorail is its train speed. The maximum operating speed is only 65 km per hour. To make matters worse, there are many curved sections on the line. The company should learn from Tokyo Monorail and Shonan Monorail, which conduct high speed operations.

 
"Tama Center Illuminations" is held in front of Tama Center Station on the Tama Monorail Line

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

EMU 800 Series for the 800th Post

EMU Keihan 800 series travels on the Keishin Line

Thank you for visiting Tokyo Railway Labyrinth. This is the 800th post in my blog. I hope that people all over the world will continue to enjoy my blog. In commemoration of the "800th" post, I am going to show you a train with the number "800" in the name. Is it a bit of a stretch?

The EMU Keihan 800 series is a small-sized train on the Keishin Line. It was launched in 1997, when the voltage of the Keishin Line was raised from 600 to 1,500 V DC. At the same time, the Keishin Line trains started to operate into the Kyoto municipal subway. A total of 8 sets, 32 units have been built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The Keishin Line track is double and the gauge size is 1,435mm.

It is said that the 800 series is Japan's most expensive train per unit length, because this train has a lot of functions. For instance, it is operated like a streetcar on the combined track near Hamaootsu Station. The 800 series then operated like a mountain railway on the section between Ootani and Kamisakaemachi station, as it has a steep incline of 61 per mil. Eventually, this train is operated as a subway train in the downtown Kyoto area. It is very unique, and attractive for rail fans. Its light blue-coloured body with a yellow stripe is cute and beautiful. The EMU Keihan 800 series is a must-ride train in Kyoto City.


The other "800" series trains are here, here and here.
 
EMU Keihan 800 series leaves Keihan-Yamashina Station on the Keishin Line

Official information about the EMU Keihan 800 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Early Flowering Wintersweet in Gumma Prefecture

Sherpa-kun (a diesel locomotive and two coarches) stands at Touge-no-yu Terminal
 
Isn't it a mild winter this year? The balmy weather prevails across the Tokyo metropolitan area. Because of the record warm, wintersweet has already been fully bloomed here and there. Wintersweet is a flowering plant, which has yellow colored blossoms with a sweet perfume.

Roubai-no-sato (Wintersweet Village), which has 12,000 wintersweet trees, is a good example. It is located in An-naka City, Gumma Prefecture, about 120 km north of Tokyo. Wintersweet has come into bloom in January in the past, but the full-blown wintersweet was seen when I visited there in December last year... one month earlier than usual.

Along with Roubai-no-sato, Usui-touge Tetsudo Bunka-mura (Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park) is the other place of interest in An-naka City. A torokko train (light railway), named Sherpa-kun, is operated between Bunka-mura (Heritage Park) and Touge-no-yu (Mountain Pass Hot Spring) station on the weekends of the high seasons. There are three stations over a total operating length of 2.6 km. Ex-Shinetsu Main Line is used for this sightseeing light railway. The track is single and un-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Sherpa-kun consists of a diesel locomotive (DL) and two coaches. The DL was built by Tsukasa Kikou in 2012. It is an 11 m-long locomotive powered by a 345-horsepower engine. The axis arrangement is Bo-Bo (UIC notation).

Please do not forget to stop at the hot spring in front of Touge-no-yu Terminal. It is heaven, specifically for people who are leading a life of hustle and bustle in the city.

 
Wintersweet blossoms are seen in Roubai-no-sato (Wintersweet Village)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New and Old Models on the Hakone Tozan Line

Electric car Hakone Tozan Railway 3000 series (Allegra) stands at Miyanosihta Station
 
On November 1st, 2014, Hakone Tozan Railway launched a new electric car, the 3000 series. It was a new model for the first time in 18 years.

The 3000 series is an electric car, which is coupled and operated with the 2-car train, the 2000 series. Its nickname is Allegra (Hello) in Rumantsch. Why does a Japanese railway company use Rumantsch to name the train? It is because Hakone Tozan Railway ties up with Ratische Railway in Switzerland. As you may know, Rutmantsch is a local language in the southern part of Switzerland. The greatest characteristic of Allegra is its large windows, which provide the passengers with the beautiful scenery of Hakone Mountain.

On the contrary, what is the oldest model on the Hakone Tozan Railway? The answer is the MoHa 1 series. This model was originally launched in 1919. 86 years have already passed. Although it was remodelled in 1950, the MoHa 1 series still retains its classic design such as a large rounded light on the top of the face. A total of 6 units were remodelled by Kisha Kaisha, and 4 units (103, 104, 106 and 107) are still operated.

Which do I like better, the new model (the 3000 series, Allegra) or the old model (MoHa 1 series)? It is a difficult question for me. I like both. New and old models on the Hakone Tozan Line... they are essential pleasures for sightseers who visit Hakone Mountain.
 
Electric car Hakone Tozan Railway MoHa 1 series arrives at Miyanosihta Station
 
Official information about the electric car 3000 series, "Allegra" (in Japanese):
Official information about the electric car MoHa 1 series (in Japanese)
http://www.hakone-tozan.co.jp/train/

Monday, January 4, 2016

Regeneration of Abandoned Track

Ex-Takashimayama railway tunnel is preserved as a part of Toyoko Flower Greenway
 
Twelve years have passed since the Tokyu-Toyoko Line was taken underground at Yokohama Station and in neighboring areas. In February, 2004, the underground track was completed between Yokohama and Higashi-Hakuraku station (1.4 km). At the same time, Toyoko trains started direct operation into the newly inaugurated Yokohama Minatomirai Railway.

What did the abandoned surface track turn into later? I visited Higashi-Hakuraku to see what happened.

The outcome is the old railway track of the Toyoko Line has been regenerated to a pavement, named Toyoko Flower Ryokudo (Toyoko Flower Greenway). Local people use it as a walking course as well as a community road. One of the places of interest on the greenway is ex-Takashimayama Tunnel. This 172 m-long ex-railway tunnel is preserved as a part of the greenway. For safety reasons, it is closed from 9 pm to 6 am in the evening.

By the way, where is the present track of the Toyoko Line? It is just below Toyoko Flower Greenway. It means that Takashimayama Tunnel is two-storied now. The new railway tunnel is located under the greenway tunnel. The entrance of the new tunnel is located about 1 km north of the old tunnel. You can see the trains entering and coming out of the new tunnel continuously. They are the EMU Tokyu 5000 and 5050 series, Yokohama Minatomirai, Tokyo Metro, Tobu and Seibu cars... a great variety of trains.

Toyoko Flower Greenway and the underground Toyoko Line... they are must see spots for rail fans.
 
EMU Tokyu 5050 series comes out of the new tunnel near Higashi-Hakuraku Station

Official map of Toyoko Flower Greenway (in Japanese): http://www.city.yokohama.lg.jp/kanagawa/kusei/town/toyoko/ryokudomap.pdf

Friday, January 1, 2016

Narita: Gateway City to Japan

EMU JR East E259 series, Narita Express (NEX), passes through Oosaki Station
 
Happy New Year! The year 2016 has begun. At the opening of New Year, I am going to show you the gateway city to Japan.

Recently, the media reported that the number of inbound tourists reached 19 million this year. It was the highest ever, and showed a remarkable increase of 40 % on a year-to-year basis.

There are two international airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area, namely Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) and New Tokyo International Airport (Narita). If you arrive at the Narita airport, you can choose from two routes to get to the downtown Tokyo area. One of them is the JR East Line and another one is the Keisei Line. JR East operates Narita Express (NEX); meanwhile Keisei has its flagship model, Skyliner. It is hard to choose between the two, as both trains are fast and comfortable. In my opinion, NEX is more convenient to access many sub-centers of Tokyo; meanwhile, Skyliner is cheaper and faster.

Wait a moment! Before making a binary choice, why don't you stay in Narita City? You can then enjoy the suburban area. For instance, there is a notable Buddhist temple, Shinsho-ji in Narita City. In this season, many people visit this temple for Hatsumode. Hatsumode is an event to pray for safety and peace for the year by visiting a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple for the first time since the start of a new year.

For your information, you can taste local food such as grilled eel, yokan (sweet bean jelly), senbei (rice cracker) and peanuts in Narita City, after visiting Shisho-ji temple. Don't miss it!
 
Three-story pagoda in Shinsho-ji temple near Narita Station
 
Official information about Narita Express (NEX): http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/index.html