Friday, April 28, 2017

The Latest Model on the Shin-Keisei Line

EMU N800 series travels on the Shin-Keisei Line

Shin-Keisei (New-Keisei) is an affiliate firm of Keisei Electric Railway Company in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. Currently, there are not enough opportunities for me to take this line, as I live in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis, so not all of the models of Shin-Keisei trains have been introduced in this blog yet. Nevertheless, I am going to show you one of these trains today.

The EMU N800 series is the latest model on the Shin-Keisei Line. It was launched in 2005 to replace the old model, the 800 series. So far, 3 sets, 18 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo. Don't you think it is similar to something? Yes, the N800 series is a sister model of the Keisei 3000 series. The train bodies and the technical specifications of the N800 series are the same as those of the 3000 series. What is the major difference between the N800 and the 3000 series? It is the color design. The maroon and white colored stripes of the M800 series are definitely my favorite. The colors are elegant and stylish, and the maroon color reminds me of the Hankyu trains in the Osaka area.

Currently, Shin-Keisei is in the process of changing their train coloring. The new design is a two-tone white and pink. They are certainly beautiful, but mere beauty does not wear well. I hope that the original coloring will be kept as long as possible. 

Set N818 of the EMU Shin-Keisei N800 series

Official information about the EMU Shin-Keisei N800 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2017 Sakura Season on the Tokaido Main Line

EMU E231 series arrives at Manazuru Station on the Tokaido Main Line

Sakura (cherry) blossoms die away so quickly. The 2017 Sakura blooming season has ended in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Following the urban cherry viewing spot on the Chuo Local Line, I am going to show you another spot in the countryside to keep in my mind.

Arai-joshi is a small local park in Manazuru Town, Kanagawa Prefecture, about 100 km southwest of Tokyo. We can see the early blooming weeping-cherry there, because the influx of the Kuroshio Warm Current has influenced the temperate climate of Manazuru Town. In early April, local people hold the Cherry Festival in the park. They leisurely enjoy eating, chatting, dancing, and singing with their families, friends, and neighbors. They also warmly welcome visitors from outside of the town.

To get to this cherry blossom viewing spot, I took the JR East Tokaido Main Line and got off at Manazuru Station. It takes about one and a half hours by rapid train from Tokyo Station. My return train was the E231 series, which had two double-decker Green Cars (the first class cars). Getting on the Green Cars, I could relax and return home. The extra cost of the Green Cars was 780 yen.

Why did I use the Green Cars? It was because I was rather drunk. I was enthusiastically welcomed by local people, who recommended glasses of sake (Japanese rice wine) to me. The train had just arrived at Tokyo Station when I woke up.

Full blown weeping-cherry tree, Arai-joshi Park near Manazuru Station

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Slope Car on a Golf Course

Slope car, 16V3 of the Type KSC-10MS, in Manna Country Club, Chiba Prefecture

I sometimes play golf with my friends or colleagues. It is a basically non-train spotting time, but as it happens, I found a railway-related facility last weekend.

Please look at the photos. It is a slope car operated on a golf course of Manna Country Club in Chiba Prefecture, about 50 km east of Tokyo. This course is located in a hilly area, so, the slope car is convenient to transport golfers and golf sticks between the club house and the starter house of the course. Crossing a surface public road and an underground expressway (the Metropolitan Inter-City Expressway), its route length is about 100 m. The track and the stations were constructed by Kaho Monorail Company in 2005.

The vehicle is a 2-car train consisting of a passenger car and a freight car. It is named 16V3 of the Type KSC-100MS, also built by Kaho Monorail Company in 2005. The passenger car can hold up to 10 golfers. It has soft seats and an air-conditioner. The golfers can enjoy a superb view of the Kujukuri Plain and the blue colored Pacific Ocean from the train windows. The freight car can transport two carts and many sets of golf sticks. It is a powerful transporter, isn't it?

The scenic golf course and the unique slope car... I could relax on a beautiful weekend. How was my score? Oh, please refrain from asking this question, as it has no connection with the subject of this railway blog.

Slope car, 16V3, stands at Club House Station in Manna Country Club

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wakashio: The Peninsula Express on the Sotobo Line

EMU JR East E257-500 series, limited express "Wakashio" travels on the Keiyo Line

Boso is a large peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. It is situated between the Pacific Ocean and Tokyo Bay. Along with Izu, Boso Peninsula is a famous resort area for enjoying marine activities.

To get to this peninsula resort, there are three access routes. Firstly, you can take a highway bus operated via Trans-Tokyo Bay Highway. Passing through a submarine tunnel (9.6km) and a bridge (4.4km), it takes one hour to get from Tokyo to Kisarazu, a western gateway city to the peninsula. Secondly, you can take a JR East Uchibo Line train. The limited express Sazanami (ripples) is the representative train to the western side of the peninsula. It also takes one hour from Tokyo to Kisarazu going around the coast of the bay. Thirdly, you can take a JR East Sotobo Line train to the eastern side of the peninsula. The limited express, Wakashio (transitional tide between spring and neap tides), is the representative train. It is operated between Tokyo on the Keiyo Line and Awa-Kamogawa on the Sotobo Line.

Currently, the main carrier of Wakashio limited express trains is the EMU E257-500 series. It was launched in 2004, replacing the old trains the EMU 183 and 189 series. The blue, white and yellow, three-toned body is very vivid. The blue stands for the ocean, the white stands for the beach and the yellow stands for the canola flowers in Chiba Prefecture. It is operated as a 5-car or a 10-car train depending on each time zone.

Limited express train, "Wakashio", arrives at Awa-Kamogawa Station on the Sotobo Line 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Kachikachi-yama Ropeway: Access to the Heavens

Gondola number 2, Tanuki (Racoon), Kachikachi-yama Ropeway

Kachikachi-yama is a reputable sightseeing spot in Fuji-Kawaguchiko Town, Yamanashi Prefecture, about 110 km west of Tokyo. The altitude of the summit is 1,075 meters above sea level. This mountain is famous among travelers for being a superb viewing spot, so I recently visited it with my family. 

To get to the summit, Kachikachi-yama Ropeway is convenient. It is an aerial tramway opened in 1959 and operated by Fuji Kyuko Company. Connecting Kawaguchi-kohan and Tenjosan-Fujimidai stations, its route length is 460 m. The height difference between the two stations is 219 m. Its maximum inclination is 34.07 degrees. It takes 3 minutes to go one way. The operation interval is 5 to 10 minutes.

The current gondolas, namely number 1, Usagi (rabbit), and number 2, Tanuki (Raccoon), are 3rd generation gondolas, built by Osaka Sharyo Kogyo in 2015. The mascots of Usagi and Tanuki on the roof of the gondolas are lovely. Each gondola can hold up to 36 passengers. To operate the gondolas, a 75 kW (100HP) traction motor is installed at Tenjosan-Fujimidai station yard.

The view from Kachikachi-yama was fantastic. It was a gorgeous spot to enjoy both views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. The following picture is a view of Lake Kawaguchi and its surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a good picture of Mt. Fuji, because it was back lit. Please enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji on the official website of Kachikachi-yama Ropeway.

Kachikachi-yama Ropeway... it is an access route to the heavens.

A view of Lake Kawaguchi from Kachikachi-yama

Official information about Kachikachi-yama Ropeway:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ex-Seibu Train on the Sunzu Line

Set 1302 of the EMU Izu-Hakone Railway 1000 series travels on the Sunzu Line

I have received a question from one of my blog readers, asking what kind of color design the Izu-Hakone Railway trains have. In answer to the question...

Firstly, Izu-Hakone Railway has standard colored trains. They have white-color bodies with dark blue-color stripes. Please look at the photo. It is an ex-Seibu Railway train, set 1302 of the EMU 1300 series with standard colored bodies. I like this color design, as it glows backed by the snow-capped Mt. Fuji.

Secondly, this company has a two-toned yellow and beige-color train, set 1301 of the EMU 1300 series, on the Sunzu Line. It is the original color on its Seibu Railway days, and named the Yellow Paradise Train. This color design is also beautiful and popular among rail-fans.

Thirdly, Izu-Hakone Railway has a revival-colored train, set 5501 of the EMU 5000 series, on the Daiyuzan Line. It has two-toned of the dark rose and beige-color bodies, and is called Akaden (red electric car). This color design was used as Izu-Hakone's standard until 1996. I also like this design, as it is very nostalgic for me.

What else? Oh, I almost forgot. There is a yellow-colored construction vehicle, KoDe 165 on the Daiyuzan Line. It is an ex-passenger car, and was modified to a construction vehicle in 1997. Its blue-colored oblique stripe is a good accent on the yellow-colored body.

I hope the above information will be helpful for the blog readers.

Set 1302 of the EMU Izu-Hakone Railway 1000 series and snow capped Mt. Fuji

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Sakura Season on the Chuo Local Line

EMU JR East E231 series travels on the Chuo Local Line

On April 2nd, the Meteorological Agency of Japan (JMA) declared that the cherry (Sakura) trees in Tokyo were in full bloom, at which time 12 days had passed since the JMA reported that Sakura trees had started to bloom.

Japanese people harbor romantic emotions towards Sakura blossoms, and I am one of those people. Seeing the beautiful blossoms dropping only a week after they flower reminds us of the brevity of life. That's why this season is very precious for us. Sakura viewing is a part of Japanese culture. Famous Sakura viewing spots are crowded with admirers.

This year, I visited some spots on the JR East Chuo Local Line. You can get to these spots on the stainless-steel trains with yellow colored stripes. They are the E231, E231-500 and the 209-500 series direct current commuter trains. Even in the center of the city, we can see many beautiful full blown Sakura trees on the line. For instance, Chidorigafuchi near Iidabashi Station is definitely my favorite spot.

Please look at the following photo. You can see full blown Sakura branches backed by an apartment and the blue sky. It is beautiful, but don't you feel that there is something mysterious about this picture? The contours of the apartment are wavy! Is it a parallel world? Might I have strayed into a different dimension or universe? The background scenery is unreal, isn't it?

Please don't worry. You can easily understand how to take this picture if you turn the photo upside down. Please enjoy.

Full blown cherry trees backed by mysterious "parallel world (?)" near Iidabashi Station 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The 6 Series for the 6th Anniversary

EMU JR East E6 series leaves Akita Station on the Akita Shinkansen

Tokyo Railway Labyrinth has its sixth anniversary today. I thank all my blog readers for visiting this website and sending comments to me over the last six years. Sorry, it has taken me so long to respond to you, as I have been very busy. Currently, I update my blog once every three days. I want to update more frequently, but this is all I can do at this moment. In commemoration of the 6th anniversary, I am going to show you a train with number "6" in the name.

The EMU JR East E6 series is a high speed "mini-shinkansen" train for the Tohoku and the Akita Shinkansen. It was launched in 2013 to replace the old Shinkansen train, the E3 series. The E6 series is coupled with the E5 series, and operated from Tokyo to Morioka Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen. The E6 series is, then, detached after arriving at Morioka Station, and travels by itself to Akita Station, because the route between Morioka and Akita is constructed as a so-called Mini-shinkansen. It means that the standard sized shinkansen trains, such as the E2, E4 and the E5 series, are unable to enter the mini-shinkansen sections. 

The E6 series is comfortable to ride in. It is much better than that of the E3 series, although its maximum speed was raised up from 275 to 320 km/h. It is probably because the many advanced technologies, such as the anti-rolling device, are introduced to their bogies.

Side view of the E6 series

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Railway Museum Update, Part 2: NaDe6141

Electric car NaDe6141 is exhibited in the Railway Museum

In addition to the new exhibition, namely the electric locomotive EF55 1, I obtained the other good news at the Railway Museum. That was news with regard to an electric car, NaDe6141 of the Class NaDe6110, which has been exhibited in the museum since 2007.

On March 10th, the Cultural Affairs Council of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology nominated NaDe6141 for inclusion on the list of Japan's important cultural properties. NaDe6141 is known as Japan's first electric car with bogies. It was built by Shimbashi Factory of the Japanese Government Railways in 1909. It was once moved to Meguro-Kamata Electric Railway (present Tokyu Corporation), but returned to the Japanese National Railways in 1972 to be preserved as the Railway Monument of Japan.

NaDe6141 has a 16 m-long body with long seats and six doors per car as a commuter transporter. Its capacity is 92 passengers. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The greatest feature of this old electric car is its two long trolley poles. To be honest, NaDe6141 was not attracting much attention from me, as it was plain and inconspicuous, but now I understood how valuable this old car is.

For your information, Japan's first subway electric car, namely unit number 1001, was also nominated as one of Japan's important cultural properties. As you may know, unit 1001 is exhibited in the Subway Museum next to Kasai Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line.

Congratulations NaDe6141 and 1001!

Front view of NaDe6141

Official information about the Class NaDe6110 electric car:

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sky Garden on the Den-en-toshi Line

EMU Tokyu 5000 series travels on the Den-en-toshi Line

It looks just like an ordinary public garden in front of a high-rise apartment at a glance, but visitors may feel that something is strange. The park is in the shape of a spiral. What is it?

It is Meguro Sky Garden constructed just above a junction of expressways. This unique garden was opened in 2013, when the Ohashi Junction of the Metropolitan Expressway was constructed at the intersection of Route 3 and the Central Circular Route. It was a difficult task to construct the junction, because Route 3 was an elevated road on a hill, while Central Circular Route was a deep underground road beneath low-lying ground. As a result, long spiral (going around and around) connection lanes had to be constructed between two expressways at this junction. That's why Meguro Sky Garden is also spiral-shaped.

You can't enter Meguro Sky Garden directly from the expressways. I recommend you visit there by train. The nearest station is Ikejiri-Ohashi on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line. Ikejiri-Ohashi is an underground station above the Central Circular Route of the Metropolitan Expressway, which is also underground. What a complicated structure it is! One of the fleet on the line is the EMU 5000 series launched in 2002. It is a brother of the EMU 5050 series operated on the Toyoko Line and the 5080 series on the Meguro Line. Furthermore, the EMU Y500 series of the Yokohama Minato Mirai Railway has also the same specification with the 5050 series. They are a big family, aren't they?

Meguro Sky Garden near Ikejiri-Ohashi Station on the Den-en-toshi Line

Official information about Meguro Sky Garden:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Railway Museum Update: EF55 1

Electric locomotive Class EF 55 1 is exhibited at the Railway Museum

I visited the Railway Museum in Saitama City after a long time. What was the news with this rail-fans' holy place?

I found a new exhibition in the "History Zone". It was a streamlined electric locomotive (EL) Class EF55. Three units of the Class EF55 were built in 1936 by Hitachi, Nippon Sharyo-Toyo Denki and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, but only one unit, named "EF55 1", is still preserved. The other two units had already been scrapped.The EF55 was a star on the tracks before WWII. It pulled Japan's representative limited express trains, such as Tsubame (swallow) and Fuji.

It was my second time to see this elegant EL. The first time was in October 2013 at the timing of a special event for rail-fans, named "Takasaki Railway Communication Day". At that time, EF55 1 was being preserved at Takasaki Rail Yard in working condition. After that, it was retired from the track, and moved to the Railway Museum on April 1st, 2015..

EF 55 1 has been very popular among visitors. It is probably because this EL is a rare beauty. Its brown-colored streamlined body still shines beautifully. I saw a queue of people, who were waiting to see the cockpit of EF55 1. Surprisingly, they registered in advance. They told me that it was very hard indeed to reserve. I gave up seeing the cockpit, and look forward to my next visit.

EF55 1... it is a new treasure in the Railway Museum.

Second end of EF 55 1

Official exhibition guide of  the Class EF55 1 electric locomotive:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2017 Sonyan Super-day Festa on the Sagami Railway

The third (right) and the fourth (left) generation Sonyan poster trains

On March 12th, Sagami Railway (Sotetsu) held a special event for kids and rail-fans at their Sagami-Otsuka Rail Yard named "Sonyan Super-day Festa." What is Sonyan?

Sonyan is Sotetsu's mascot character, which is used to promote their services to passengers. He is a cat, who was born on March 10th on the Sotetsu Line, and a Sotetsu employee assigned to public relations. "Sonyan Super-day Festa" was held to celebrate his birthday. Sonyan came to the event site to communicate the visitors. I saw that many local kids joined in the games and quizzes with Sonyan.

One of the main events for rail-fans was a photo session of old and new Sonyan poster trains. The old one, which was the third generation Sonyan poster train, namely the 11003F of the EMU 11000 series, was retired on that day and will be returned to the standard colors, while the new one, which is the fourth generation Sonyan poster train, namely the 11004F of the 11000 series, debuted on the same day. In addition to the Sonyan characters, we can see the history of Sotetsu on the body of the new Sonyan poster train, because the new Sonyan poster train celebrates Sotetsu's 100th anniversary as well.

For your information, the EMU 11000 series is the newest model on the Sotetsu Line. It was launched in 2008 and a total of 5 sets, 50 units, have been built by Tokyu Sharyo and JR East Niitsu Factory so far.

Sonyan is indeed a flack for the company.

Sotetsu's mascot character, Sonyan, comes to Sonyan Super-day Festa

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Old Plum Grove on the Sobu Main Line

EMU JR East 209 series arrives at Naruto Station on the Sobu Main Line

There are many fully blooming plum groves in the Tokyo metropolitan area now, so, I couldn't make up my mind which one to choose for visiting next to the Kairakuen plum garden in Ibaraki prefecture. Eventually, my family chose a plum grove in Sakata castle ruins as our next destination.

Sakata castle ruins are located in Chiba Prefecture, about 90 km east of Tokyo. As its name suggests, this site was a castle in medieval times. It is said that the Chiba family, a regional powerful clan, constructed the castle in the middle of 14th century. Currently, the site of the castle is changed to farmland. Specifically, local people have been cultivating plum trees for a long time for fruit to eat. When we visited there, white plums were in full bloom. The visitors were enjoying the last days of the 2017 plum blossoms season as freely as they liked.

To get to this old plum grove, we took the JR East Sobu Main Line, and got off at Yokoshiba Station. The Sobu Main Line is a trunk route connecting Tokyo and Choshi stations (120.5 km). The EMU 209-2000 and 2100 series are main fleets in the eastern section between Chiba and Choshi stations. These models debuted in 2009 to replace the old commuter trains such as the 113 and the 211 series. There are 4-car and 6-car trains. The square stainless-steel body with yellow and blue colored stripes is characteristic as the JR East's local train in Chiba Prefecture.

Plum grove near Yokoshiba Station on the Sobu Main Line

Monday, March 20, 2017

Two Kinds of Sceneries on the Enoden Line

EMU Enoden 10 series travels on the shared track near Koshigoe Station

Enoden, Enoshima Electric Railway, is a local line in Kanagawa Prefecture. It was opened in 1902 as a route to the famous sightseeing spots such as beautiful Enoshima Island and historical Kamakura City. Connecting Fujisawa and Kamakura, its route length is 10 km. The track is 1,067 mm-size single. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. Trains are operated frequently, every 12 minutes during daytime, but it is always crowded with sightseers, local people, and students. The number of foreign passengers has increased drastically in the past several years.

Enoden is quite a unique railway, since passengers can enjoy two kinds of contrasting sceneries on its short route. One is crowded, and the other one is magnificent. They are exactly contrary to each other.

The former scenery is found on the section between Enoshima and Koshigoe stations. The track is shared with a busy public road there. Passengers can see the train weaving its way through the crowded automobiles. It is a quite thrilling scene. People's lives along the track are also seen closely.

The latter is found on the section between Koshigoe and Kamakura-koko-mae (Kamakura high school) stations. The train runs fast in the breeze on the exclusive track along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Passengers can enjoy the magnificent scenery of the beautiful ocean. Enoshima Island is also beautiful and a good accent there.

Enoden, it is a cost-effective railway for passengers, who would like to enjoy a variety of sceneries from the train windows.

EMU Enoden 1000 series travels on the coast near Kamakura-koko-mae Station.

Friday, March 17, 2017

EMU 3000A Series: The Oldest Model on Active Service

Set 24 of the EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000A series travels on the Blue Line

There are not enough opportunities for me to take Yokohama Municipal Subway. I only take it once a year on average, so, there is still one model on the subway lines, which I have not shown you in this blog yet. Let me introduce a remaining model today.

The EMU 3000A series is the oldest model on active service on the Blue Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway. It was launched in 1992 in preparation for the extension of the Blue Line. A total of 8 sets, 48 units had been built by Tokyu Sharyo. Different from its seniors (the 1000 series and the 2000 series), the 3000A series has VVVF inverter (variable-frequency drive) electric control systems with GTO thyristor elements. The odd-shaped front design has been inherited from the 2000 series, but its black colored face is more contemporary and stylish than those of the 2000 series. The length of the body is 18 meters. It has 6 doors per car. The electric system is 600 V DC with the third rail systems. The gauge size is 1,435 mm. The ATO (Automatic Train Operation) system with automatic platform gates is adopted on the Blue Line.

On January 30th, the Transportation Bureau of Yokohama City issued a press release announcing that a new model, EMU 3000V series, will be launched in April this year. It means that the retirement of the 3000A series will also start soon. Rail-fans have to ride and take pictures of the 3000A series before it is too late.

Set 27 of the EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000A series

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bird Watching on the Keiyo Line

EMU JR East E233-5000 series travels on the Keiyo Line

Along with Tokyo Disney Resort, Kasai Rinkai Park (Kasai Seaside Park) is a reputable sightseeing spot in the Tokyo Bay area. For instance, Japan's largest Ferris wheel, which has a diameter of 111 meters, is a famous amusement in the park, but that is not the only one. There is a large natural bird sanctuary in the the eastern half of the park. It is a great place for bird watching. To our joy, a free birding event is held monthly for beginners to observe various wild birds.

I joined this birding event for the first time with my family last month. The number of participants was over 60. We could observe a great numbers of wild birds, such as Kingfishers and Buzzards, in only one hour. I tried to take their photographs, but it was very difficult, as I couldn't predict the birds' actions. It was completely different from those of trains, which are operated on the track in accordance with timetables. I could barely achieve my objective, taking a photo of a Daurian redstart, which was resting on a rock.

To get to this bird sanctuary, a local train on the JR East Keiyo Line was a convenient access. It took only 13 minutes from the underground platform of Tokyo Station to Kasai-rinkai-koen (Kasai Rinkai Park) Station. Our vehicle was a red colored 10-car train, the EMU JR East E233-5000 series. Its bright and vivid colored body stripe is definitely my favorite.

Daurian redstart is observed at Kasai Rinkai Park near Kasai-rinkai-koen Station

Saturday, March 11, 2017

JNR-type "Shibui" AC-DC Train in the Hokuriku Area

EMU Ainokaze-Toyama Railway 413 series stands at Takaoka Station

Do you know the Japanese word "shibui"? It is a characteristic Japanese adjective, but it is not easy to translate into English. There are two meanings. One is simple; it means a sharp food taste. The other one is a bit complicated; it means quiet and/or classic while being cool. Let's see an actual example of the latter meaning on the railways.

The EMU 413 series is an AC-DC dual mode train on the Hokuriku Main Line. It was launched in 1986 by the Japanese National Railways (JNR). Using secondhand equipment from the old express trains, the 413 series were built by JNR Mattou Factory (present JR West Kanazawa Rail Yard). Currently, 6 sets of the 413 series belong to JR West and 5 sets belong to Ainokaze-Toyama Railway.

Please look at the photos. You can see the character of the so-called "JNR-type" EMUs in the front design. It has two large rounded lights, panoramic windows and a gangway connection. The hem of the body is squeezed. The 413 series has quiet dark blue-colored bodies. Its design is classic, but cool. The 413 series is exactly "shibui", isn't it?

The similar JNR-type models are also seen in the Tokyo metropolitan area, such as the EMU 115 series DC trains, but the body color of the 115 series is less "shibui" than that of the 413 series. The EMU 413 series is definitely my favorite "shubui" AC-DC train on the Hokuriku Main Line.

EMU Ainokaze-Toyama Railway 413 series leaves Takaoka Station

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Saitama New Shuttle Update: New Model on the Ina Line

Set 22 of the EMU New Shuttle 2020 series arrives at Komba Station on the Ina Line

I visited the Ina Line of the New Shuttle (Saitama Shin-toshi Kotsu) after a long time. The Ina Line is a rubber-tired automated guideway transit (AGT) in Saitama Prefecture. The route was opened in 1983 beside the Tohoku and the Joetsu Shinkansen tracks. Connecting Omiya and Uchijuku, its operating length is 12.7 km. Unlike the other AGT lines in the Tokyo metropolitan arrea, such as the Yurikamome Line, the Nippori-Toneri Liner and the Kanazawa Seaside Line, a driver operates each train on the Ina Line. It is not a driver-less operation. The track is double and the electric system is 600 V AC.

What was the news of this unique transportation system?

Firstly, the old trains, EMU 1010 series had been retired. It is not operated any longer. The retired 1010 series had lovely yellow and green colored bodies. It was definitely my favorite, but I can't help it. We can't go against the current of the time. The present rolling stocks are the EMU 1050 series, the EMU 2000 series and one more... the EMU 2020 series. 

The latest model, EMU 2020 series was launched in November, 2015. So far, a total of 3 sets, 18 units have been built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The bodies are aluminum and each set has a different stripe color. They are green (set 21), orange (set 22) and pink (set 23). The greatest feature of the 2020 series is its front mask. It has a hexagonal design. Rail-fan's opinions often split over this design.

Side view of the EMU 2020 series

Official information about the EMU 2020 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preserved SL in the Plum City

Steam locomotive (SL) D51 515 is preserved in Semba Park near Mito Station

Mito is the main city of Ibaraki Prefecture, about 120 km northeast of Tokyo. Once a year, this local city receives a great deal of sightseers. It is from mid-February to mid-March. What is going to happen to Mito City?

In this period, Mito is filled with full-blown plums. Specifically, Kairakuen is famous for its historical plum garden. I visited this beautiful plum garden with my family last weekend. We could easily get there, because JR East opened Kairakuen Special Station on the Joban Line in the period of the plum blooming season.

After admiring full-blown plums, we stopped by Semba Park in front of Kairakuen. My purpose of visiting there is to see a preserved steam locomotive (SL), number 515 of the Class D51 (D51 515). This old SL was built by Omiya Factory of the Japanese Government Railways in 1941. D51 515, then, belonged to the Mito Engine Yard from 1948 to 1958 to transport coals on the Joban Line. Eventually, it was retired from the track in 1970, and moved to Semba Park for preservation in 1971.

In spite of being in an outdoor exhibition, D51 151 is preserved in very good condition. Probably, Mito city government takes care of this precious SL frequently. A small sub-front light adjacent to the main front light is lovely and my favorite. The beautifully painted red colored main rod is also my cup of tea.

The beautiful plum garden and the preserved SL... Mito is a must-visit city.

Rekkoubai (Rekkou's plum) in Kairakuen near Kairakuen Special Station

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sayonara 209 on the Nambu Line

EMU JR East 209-2200 series travels on the Nambu Line (May, 2013)

Following the EMU 205 series, the 209 series will also disappear from the Nambu Line soon. On January 26th, JR East Yokohama Office issued a press release announcing that the 209 series will be retired from the Nambu Line by March 14th.

Currently, only one set of the 209 series remains on the Nambu Line. It is set NaHa 53 belonging to Nakahara Rail Yard. Set NaHa 53 was built by Tokyu-sharyo in 1994 under the name of set Ura 24. It was a 10-car train for the Keihin-Tohoku Line. 15 years later, it was transferred to the Nambu Line, since all the Keihin-Tohoku Line trains were replaced by the new model, E233-1000 series. Before moving to the Nambu Line, set Ura 24 was renamed NaHa 53, and reduced to 6 cars. 8 years have passed since set NaHa 53 started operation on the Nambu Line. I don't have a picture of set NaHa 53, so, I am going to show you the other set, NaHa 32, instead. Set NaHa 32 was retired from the Nambu Line one step ahead in March, 2015.

Who is a successor of the 209 series? It will be set Ao 670 of the E233 series from the Ome Line. It means that all commuter trains on the Nambu Line will be unified by the E233 series. Time moves very quickly. Nobody can go against the current of the time.

Sayonara (good-bye) and arigatou (thank you) the EMU 209 series on the Nambu Line.

The latest model, EMU E233-8000 series, arrives at Shitte Station on the Nambu Line

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sayonara 01 on the Ginza Line

Set 30 (Kumamon poster train) of the EMU Tokyo Metro 01 series arrives at Shibuya Station

It is already late February. Although it is still cold, the sunlight is getting stronger. Spring will soon be here in Tokyo. In Japan, spring is the season for parting. Students graduate from their schools or universities, and go their own ways. Many businessmen and businesswomen leave their offices, and retire or move to other offices. Trains are the same.

On January 27th, Tokyo Metro, a subway operator in the metropolitan area, announced that their EMU 01 series on the Ginza Line will be retired on March 10th. The 01 series was launched in 1983 to replace the old non-air-conditioned cars. A total of 38 sets, 228 units of the 01 series have been built by Kasasaki Heavy Industries, Nippon Sharyo, Tokyu Sharyo and Kinki Sharyo over fourteen years, but only one set, namely set 01-130, remains on the track. Its successor is the EMU 1000 series.

Currently, set 01-130 is operated as a Kumamon poster train. Kumamon is a mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island. As you may know, there was an earthquake disaster in Kumamoto Prefecture in 2016. The Kumamon poster train is operated as a part of earthquake reconstruction support. The same poster trains are also being operated on the Kumamoto Electric Railway, using the 01 series moved from the Ginza Line.

There are only two weeks to the last run of the 01 series. Unfortunately, I don't have time to see it. Sayonara (good-bye) and arigatou (thank you) 01 series on the Ginza Line.

Side view of set 30 (Kumamon poster train)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Tea Plantation on the Hachiko Line

EMU JR East 205-3000 series travels through tea plantation on the Hachiko Line

The western part of Saitama Prefecture is famous for its tea plantation. The product is well known as the brand name of "Sayama-cha (Sayama-tea)" among Japanese people. Sayama-cha is a kind of green tea, that is known for its strong taste, which is probably because the leaf of Sayama-cha is thicker than that of other brands of Japanese green teas, such as Uji-cha and Shizuoka-cha.

We can see open tea plantations along the JR East Hachiko Line, specifically near Kaneko Station in Iruma City, about 55 km northwest of Tokyo. I like to see a train traveling through the green colored tea plantations backed by a clear blue sky. It is very beautiful and photogenic. The Hachiko Line was fully opened in 1934 by Japanese Government Railway. Connecting Hachioji, a western suburb of Tokyo, and Kuragano in Gumma Prefecture, the route length is 92 km. The track is mostly single. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The southern section between Hachioji and Komagawa is electrified as a commuter line, while the northern section between Komagawa and Kuragano is an un-electrified local line.

One of the fleets on the Hachiko Line is the EMU 205-3000 series. It was operated on the Yamanote Line in the downtown Tokyo area and was transferred to the Hachiko Line in 2005 to replace the deteriorated EMU, 103 series. Currently, a total of 5 sets, 20 units, are operated on the Hachiko Line. The stainless-steel bodies are recognized by their orange and green colored stripes.

JR East 205-3000 series arrives at Kita-Hachioji Station on the Hachiko Line

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

KM-151: Preserved Diesel Rail-car in Kamioka Town

Diesel rail-car Kamioka KM-151 (Okuhida number 2) of the KM-150 series

When I visited "Rail Mountain Bike, Gattan-Go (a new attraction using the dead track)" last summer, I stopped by the storage of ex-Kamioka Railway with my family. We could easily get permission to enter the storage, as we asked a local volunteer guide in advance.

Kamioka Railway Company was established in 1984 taking over the Kamioka Line of ex-Japanese National Railways. The function of the railway was freight and passenger transportation for Kamioka Mine and its employees. Connecting Inotani and Okuhida-onsenguchi, the route length was 19.9 km. The track was single and un-electrified. The gauge size was 1,067 mm. There were 8 stations on the route. 60 % of the route was covered by tunnels, as it was constructed in the steep mountain area.

The Kamioka Line was closed in 2006 due to closing of the mine, but we can still see the rolling stock of ex-Kamioka Railway at the storage adjacent to ex-Kamioka-kozan-mae Station. One of the must-see vehicles is a diesel rail-car, KM-151 of the KM-150 series. KM-151, also known as Okuhida number 2, was built in 1984 by Niigata Tekkosho. It is an 18 m-long rail-car with a 250 ps engine. The large snow plow on the front shows that KM-101 was operated in the snow-covered area. This rail-car could be reserved for group tours, so, it had a karaoke set and irori (fireplace)-like corners for passengers to enjoy chatting.

I hope that KM-151, Okuhida number 2, will be opened to the public someday.

Interior of KM-151

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Lucky Red Train on the Seibu Line

9003F of the Seibu 9000 series, Lucky Red Train, travels on the Ikebukuro Line

Trains painted with the other operators' colors are in vogue in Japan. They are Keikyu 2103F of the 2100 series and Tobu 208F of the 200 series, which are painted with the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) colors in accordance with friendship and cooperation agreements between Keikyu/Tobu and TRA. One more example is Seibu 9003F of the EMU 9000 series, called the Lucky Red Train, painted with Keikyu colors. I am going to show you this unique train today.

The circumstances of the Lucky Red Train are as follows. In the early 2010's, one "toshi-densetsu (urban legend)" was spread by Tokyoites, rumoring that a person who rides a yellow colored train, will obtain happiness. I don't know exactly why such a toshi-densetsu was spread, but it was probably because yellow colored trains are rare in Tokyo. These rare examples were Toei 8810, Tokyu 306F and Keikyu 1057F.

Among these three yellow colored trains, Keikyu 1957F was similar with the color design of the old Seibu trains. Many rail-fans pointed that out for Seibu. That was Seibu's turn. On July 19th, 2014, Seibu Railways conversely launched a train, which was painted with the standard Keikyu colors, and named it the Lucky Red Train. That was the exchange of color designs and a mark of friendship between Seibu and Keikyu. Needless to say, the Lucky Red Train became popular among rail-fans.

The railway companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area are launching various colors of trains in order to please passengers and rail-fans.

9003F of the Seibu 9000 series, Lucky Red Train (Keikyu color)