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