Thursday, 30 November 2017

Salmon Runs on the Mito Line

JR East E531 series series stands at Tomobe Station

Salmon go back to where they were born to spawn in late autumn. They travel from the sea to their home streams, and lay their eggs in the pebbles. We can easily see salmon runs in the urban area of Chikusei City, which is located about 80 km north of Tokyo.

When I visited the bank of Gongyo River in Chikusei City last month, many local people were there to observe the salmon runs. They kindly showed me the best point for taking pictures of jumping salmon. It was a low weir in the stream, where the salmon jump and pass through. Shooting the jumping salmon was very difficult. I think taking pictures of a moving train is much easier than that of jumping salmon, as trains are operated by planned timetable. I gave up shooting the jumping salmon at the weir, and moved to a slow stream point, where I could shoot them easily.

To visit this unique salmon runs spot, the nearest station is Shimodate on the JR East Mito Line. My vehicle to Shimodate was the EMU E531 series. The E531 series was launched in 2005 as an AC-DC dual electric system train. It is mainly operated as a 15-car rapid service train with a maximum speed of 130 km per hour on the Joban Line, but it is also operated as a 5-car local train on the Mito Line. The gleaming stainless steel body with a dark blue colored stripe is an outward characteristic of the E531 series.

Salmon runs are seen near Shimodate Station in Chikusei City on the JR East Mito Line

Monday, 27 November 2017

Electric Locomotive Class EF65: JRF and JNR Colors

Electric locomotive, Class EF65 (JRF color) stands at Soga station yard

The Class EF65 is one of the representative electric locomotives (ELs) in Japan. It was commissioned in 1965 as a new standard EL to replace the old model, Class EF60. A total of 308 units were built by Kawasaki heavy industries, Nippon Sharyo and so on.

The EF65 is a 1,500 V direct current (DC) EL for the 1,067 mm-wide tracks. It has six sets of 425 kW DC motors. The axis arrangement is Bo-Bo-Bo in UIC notation. There are three kinds of the Class EF65 ELs. They are Type P for passenger trains, Type F for freight trains and Type PF for both passenger and freight trains. The Type P has a special attachment to pull passenger coaches. The Type F has an attachment for double heading operation.

Today, most Class EF65 ELs have JRF (JR Freight) colored bodies. It is two-toned of light blue and deep blue; but there are some exceptions. For instance, in April, 2016, JRF launched a revival JNR colored EL, unit number 2139 of the Class EF65 (EF65-2139), as a rail-fans service. It was also two-toned, but painted ultramarine color with a cream colored stripe. JNR stands for Japanese National Railways, which was abolished and split into seven JR group companies in 1987.

The JNR colored EF65-2139 is very popular among rail-fans, since it has value as a rarity. The area in front of EF65-2139 was filled with a mass of people, when it was exhibited at Sumidagawa station yard for the 2016 Sumidagawa Station Freight Festival.

Electric locomotive, Class EF65 (JNR color) is exhibited at Sumidagawa Freight Station yard

Friday, 24 November 2017

Philosopher's Walk on the Keihan Line

EMU Keihan 2400 series stands at Sanjo Station on the Outou Line

Kyoto is known as a historical city. It was Japan's capital from 794 to 1868. There are numerous old temples and shrines, which are popular among tourists. Is that all that I understand about Kyoto? No, it isn't. This city is also known as a capital of academics. Thus, academic research is another important function of Kyoto City, and there are many famous universities such as Kyoto University and Doshisha University.

One such symbol as the capital of academics is Philosopher's Walk in the Higashiyama area. It is a walking trail on the bank of Sosui-bunsen Canal between Wakaoji Shrine and Jisyo-ji Temple. This road is so called because a famous philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, is said to have walked on this trail in meditation. Philosopher's Walk draws in many visitors specifically during the spring and autumn tourist seasons.

To visit Philisopher's Walk, the nearest station is Demachiyanagi on the Keihan Outou Line. Keihan is one of the major private railway companies in the Kansai area. The route extends to the eastern part of the Kansai area including Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka Prefectures. The track is electrified (1,500 V DC, overhead) and the gauge size is 1,435 mm.

One of the major fleets is the EMU 2400 series, which is a standard commuter train, launched in 1969. A total of 6 sets, 42 units, were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The 2400 series is known as the first commuter train with air-conditioners in the Kansai area.

The entrance of  Philosopher's Walk near Demachiyanagi Station on the Keihan-Outou Line

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Revival Colored Train on the Keikyu Line

Set 823 of the Keikyu 800 series, "revival colored train", arrives at Byobugaura Station

As I introduced before, the EMU 800 series is the oldest active model on the Keikyu Line. It was commissioned in 1978 to speed up local (all-stations) trains. A total of 27 sets (3-car and 6-car trains), 132 units, were built by Tokyu Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The specification of the 800 series is rather old. The field chopper electric control system of one generation earlier is still used; however, this classic direct-current motor sound is nostalgic and attractive for me.

You can see one large light on the frontal face of the 800 series. It is similar to a Japanese specter, Hitotsume-kozo (One-eyed Goblin). It also looks like a Japanese doll, Daruma, whose outlines of the face is also painted red. Anyway, the face of the 800 series is quite unique. On November 12th, 2016, Keikyu launched a revival colored train, set 823 of the 800 series on their track. The side body of set 823 is two-tones of red and cream colors, which was returned to its original appearance in 1978. This revival colored train is photogenic, and very popular among rail-fans.

For your information, the gauge size of the Keikyu Line is 1,435 mm, which is wider than that of most railways in the Tokyo metropolitan area. To make use of this advantage, the maximum speed of the Keikyu trains is 120 km/hour, which is same as their rival, the EMU E233-3000 series on the JR East Tokaido Main Line.

Set 823 of the Keikyu 800 series, "revival colored train", arrives at Keikyu-Kamata Station

Official information about the EMU 800 series revival colored train (in Japanese):

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Autumn Scenery in Yamanashi Prefecture

EMU JR Central 373 series, limited express "Fujikawa", travels on the MInobu Line

It is late autumn in Japan. We can see beautiful autumn leaves here and there in the Tokyo metropolitan area. One day, I visited Yamanashi Prefecture with my family. Our destination was Kai-Ueno on the JR Central Minobu Line, which is located about 150 km west of Tokyo via Kofu on the JR East Chuo Main Line.

After getting off at Kai-Ueno Station, we started strolling in the countryside. We saw many ears of reed rustling in the wind. They were very beautiful backed by the autumn-colored mountains. The rice field has already changed to a gold color, and it was time of the harvest, so rice reaping machines were making a roaring sound. When we walked along the Minobu Line track in the rice field, a train passed by us. It was a 3-car train, the limited express Fujikawa, the EMU JR Central 373 series. It was shining beautifully in the autumn sunlight. The contrast between the silver-colored stainless-steel bodies and the blue sky was also fantastic. 

The Minobu Line penetrates the mountainous area along Fuji River in the central part of Japan. Connecting Kofu in Yamanashi Prefecture and Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, the total operating length is 88.4 km. The whole route is electrified. The section between Fuji and Fujinomiya is a double track, and the other interval is a single track. The track gauge is 1067 mm, and the electric system is 1,500V DC overhead. The EMU 373 and 313 series are main fleets on the Minobu Line.

Autumn scenery near Kai-Ueno Station on the Minobu Line

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The New 5000 Series: Keio's High-end Commuter Train

EMU Keio 5000 series passes through Hachiman-yama Station

Commuter trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area are terribly crowded during rush hour. The railway companies have been enforcing a transport capacity by increasing the number of trains and providing longer trains. They have also been constructing double-double tracks as drastic measures.

Do they have to continue these efforts forever? No, they don't. The railway companies have to change their strategies in the near future. Why? Because Japan is facing a declining of birth rate and an aging population. In other words, the railway companies have to prepare for the decreasing number of passengers in the future. Each company should survive as a chosen railway line for passengers to use. What is their next strategy? Quality will be more important than quantity. Let's look at an example.

On September 29th, Keio Electric Railway launched a new commuter train, the EMU 5000 series, on their track. This model has multi-purpose seats, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control system. Currently, the 5000 series is only used as a standard commuter train with the long seat mode; however, it will be also operated as a reserved seat train with a cross seat mode from next March. This state-of-art system is similar to that of the Seibu 40000 series, S-Train. Needless to say, the width and the quality of the seats are much higher than those of previous models.

The new Keio 5000 series is the next generation high-end commuter train.

Passenger seats of the EMU Keio 5000 series (long seat mode)

Official information about the EMU Keio 5000 series (in Japanese):

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Japanese Machu Picchu on the Bantan Line: Part 2

DMU JR West KiHa 189 series, limited express Hamakaze, travels on the Bantan Line

Following my previous post, I am going to show you Japanese Machu Picchu a little bit more.

Japanese Machu Picchu, namely Takeda Castle Ruins, is located at the top of Mt. Kojo. The stone walls of the castle were constructed with various forms of stones on the steep mountain slopes. There are many gaps between the stones, if you look closely. Why? According to a volunteer guide on the site, these gaps are intentionally made in preparation for an earthquake. In other words, these gaps function as a base isolation structure. As you may know, the stone walls would be easily destroyed by shaking with seismic vibrations, if they were too brittle. I admired the wisdom of the ancestors.

To visit Japanese Machu Picchu from the Osaka area, a limited express train, Hamakaze (beach wind) is convenient. Hamakaze is a 3-car diesel train operated with the DMU JR West KiHa 189 series. The silver colored stainless-steel bodies with red and white stripes are dashingly handsome. The KiHa 189 series was launched in 2010 to replace the old limited express model, KiHa 181 series. A total of 7 sets, 21 cars, have been built by Niigata Transys. Each car has two units of Komatsu's 450 ps diesel engines. The hydraulic system is adopted for transmitting engine power to the driving wheels of the vehicle. The maximum speed is 130 km per hour. 

Hamakaze links Osaka with Takeda, a gateway station to the Japanese Machu Picchu on the Bantan Line, in two hours.

Takeda Castle Ruins near Takeda Station on the Bantan Line

Official information about the DMU JR West KiHa 189 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 9 November 2017

EMU Tokyo Monorail 2000 Series: New and Old Colors

EMU Tokyo Monorail 2000 series (new color)

The trains in Tokyo are constantly changing. Whenever I get news such as debuting new models, retiring old models and renovating deteriorated models, I cannot take my eyes away from the kaleidoscopic changes. Tokyo Monorail is no exception. What is the news with this company? They are renovating their old model named the EMU 2000 series.

The 2000 series was launched in 1997, when the extension route between Haneda Airport (present Haneda Airport Terminal 1) and Haneda Airport Terminal 2 stations was opened. A total of four sets, 24 units, have been built by Hitachi. One set is composed of four motor cars and two trailers. The 2000 series is the company's first model with VVVF inverter electric control (variable frequency drive) system. The seats consist of both cross and long ones. The maximum operating speed is 80 km/hour.

Eighteen years later, the company started the renovation of the 2000 series. For instance, the color design of the bodies was changed from white with blue and red colored stripes to white with light green and light blue colors on the doors and the roofs. Currently, we can see both new and old colored trains on the track.

In the meantime, Tokyo Monorail Company belongs to JR East group. They have a 17.8 km-long route named the Haneda Airport Line between Hamamatsucho and Haneda Airport Terminal 2. The "Haneda Express" train connects Hamamatsucho and Haneda Airport International Terminal without stopping in only thirteen minutes.

EMU Tokyo Monorail 2000 series (old color)

Official guide of Tokyo Monorail:
Official Gallery of Tokyo Monorail (in Japanese):

Monday, 6 November 2017

Indonesian Railway Update: The EMU 6000 Series

Set 24 of the EMU 6000 series in Jakarta, Indonesia (September, 2017, Photo: Faris Fadhli)

I have received a photo from an active Indonesian rail fan. The EMU ex-Tokyo Metro 6000 series has continued to play an active part in Jakarta, Indonesia, ever since it moved from Japan, and came into service in 2011.

The 6000 series is a 1,067 mm gauge and 1,500 V direct current EMU, which was originally launched in Japan in 1968. A total of 36 sets, 353 units, were built until 1990 by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, Kisha Seizo, Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. The first and the second set were originally operated on the Tozai Line for testing. The third set and later have been operated on the Chiyoda Line. Among the 36 sets of the 6000 series, 25 sets have already been moved to Jakarta after their retirement from the Chiyoda Line, because the Indonesian railway operator has been pursuing modernization of the railways in their capital city.

When I lived in Jakarta, I saw that the first transfer of the 6000 series from the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line had just arrived at Bukit Duri Depot. Unfortunately, I couldn't get on its commercial train, as I had to come back to Japan immediately after arrival of the 6000 series. My thanks go to Mr. Faris Fadhli, who kindly sent me the recent photo. I am glad to see that the EMU 6000 series is playing an active part in Jakarta.

Currently, only three sets are still staying in Japan.

Set 29 of the EMU Tokyo Metro 6000 series travels on the Odakyu Line (August, 2016)

Friday, 3 November 2017

Special Night Visit to Torin-in Temple in Kyoto City

EMU JR West 221 series stands at Kyoto Station on the San-in Main Line 

Torin-in is a small Buddhist temple in Kyoto City, about 520 km west of Tokyo. It is usually closed, but open to the public when special visits are held on moonlit nights in October. When I visited Torin-in with my family, it was a calm night. There was no wind. The moon was shining in the sky. Plenty of lanterns were throwing a light over the temple garden. We enjoyed the tea ceremony while looking at the moon and the garden.

To visit this beautiful temple, we took the JR West San-in Main Line. The San-in Main Line is one of the transportation arteries in the western part of Japan. Connecting Kyoto and Hatabu, the total route length is 673.8 km. The track is mainly single, partly double. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. It is partly electrified. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. We got off at Hanazono Station. It took about 10 minutes from Kyoto by local train. The section between Kyoto and Hanazono is electrified double track. It is a busy commuter route for office workers and students who commute to the city center of Kyoto.

Our vehicle was the EMU JR West 221 series. The 221 series was launched in 1989 as the first model of JR West after the break-up and privatization of Japan National Railways in 1987. A total of 474 units have been built. Passengers can use this luxury commuter train with cozy seats without any extra charge.

Garden of Tourin-in Temple near Hanazono Station on the San-in Main Line