Saturday, 24 February 2018

New and Old Trains on the Ikegami Line

EMU Tokyu 7000 series travels on the Tamagawa Line

As I posted before, Tokyu Corporation celebrated the 90th anniversary of their Ikegami line last October. In commemoration of the 90th anniversary, I am going to introduce the variation of the Ikegami line trains today. Although the Ikegami line is a short and local route, four kinds of trains are operated on the line. They are the EMU 1000, 1000-1500, 7000 and 7700 series. 

The latest model is the 7000 series. It was commissioned in 2007 to replace old models on the Ikegami and the Tamagawa lines. A total of 9 sets, 27 units, were built by Tokyu Sharyo and J-TREC. The outer design of the 7000 series is smart as a train of the fashionable urban residential areas. The green colored body is totally new since most of the Tokyu trains have red stripes on the stainless steel bodies. The interior of the 7000 series is also attractive. Specifically, the heavily used wood-grain walls offer the passengers peace and comfort.

The oldest model is the 7700 series originally launched in 1962 under the name of the 7000 series. A total of 134 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo. After being operated on the Toyoko and the Denentoshi lines, it was modified in 1987 to become the 7700 series. New electric systems such as variable frequency drive with induction motors and new bogies were equipped on the 7700 series. The interior was renovated and air conditioners were also equipped. A total of 6 sets, 18 units are still operated.

EMU Tokyu 7700 series arrives at Senzokuike Station on the Ikegami Line

Official information about the trains on the Tokyu lines (in Japanese):

Thursday, 22 February 2018

No.1 Foreign Tourists' Attraction in Kyoto City

EMU JR West 221 series stands at Kyoto Station on the Nara Line

The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan has been increasing. According to the Japan National Tourist Organization, the aggregate number of inbound tourists in 2017 totaled 29 million, which was a record-breaking increase by as much as 19 % on a year-to-year basis.

One of the popular areas for foreign sightseers is Kyoto, which is located about 500 km west of Tokyo. Specifically, Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine is the number one foreign tourists' attraction in the city. It is undoubtedly a must-see spot surrounded by a deep forest, but I didn't understand why that place was so popular among foreign tourists, to be honest.

Recently, I found that the "kanji (Chinese letters)" on the "torii gates" in Fushimi-inari-taisha attracts foreigners. According to some websites, foreign tourists admire the black-colored kanji engraved on the vermillion-colored torii gates. It might be cool for them. That's why foreign tourists flock to Fushimi-inari-taisha.

If you plan to visit this popular spot, I recommend you take the JR West Nara Line. It takes only five minutes from Kyoto Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen. The Nara Line was once "the kingdom of the EMU 103 series". Many sets of light green-colored 103 series trains were frequently operated, but it has been gradually replaced by the EMU 221 series. Although the 221 series is comfortable to ride in than that of the 103 series, I am sad that my familiar 103 series is disappearing on the Nara Line.

We cannot go against the current of the time.

Torii gates of Fushimi-inari-taisha Shrine near Inari Station on the JR West Nara Line

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Keisei Skyliner AE Series: 25 Million Passengers

EMU Keisei AE series, Skyliner, displays a gold-colored commemoration sticker

Keisei Skyliner is hunky-dory. On November 1st, 2017, Keisei Electric Railway made a press release announcing that the passengers of the third generation Skyliner exceeded 25 million on that day. At the same time, Keisei held a commemoration ceremony at Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station. The 25 millionth passenger was a Swiss gentleman. The president of Keisei Electric Railway Company, the deputy mayor of Narita City and the Muto sisters of the idol group AKB48 attended the ceremony.

The third generation Skyliner, namely the EMU AE series, was launched in 2010 to replace the old model, the AE100 series. The AE series reached 10 million passengers on December 19th, 2013. It then achieved 20 million passengers on September 13th, 2016. The period between the 20 millionth and the 25 millionth passengers was only one year and two months. It was the fastest pace so far. In contrast to the Keisei Skyliner, JR East's Narita Express (NEX) has made poor showing recently. I think that the major reason for these contrasting performances was their speed. The AE series connects Nippori in downtown Tokyo and Narita Airport Terminal 2 in only 36 minutes, which is much faster than that of the NEX. Furthermore, Keisei is a big competitor for JR East because the fare of the Skyliner is much less than that of the NEX.

Currently, one set of the AE series, namely set AE5, displays a gold-colored commemoration sticker on the front of the train. It proudly says "thanks, 25 million passengers".

EMU Keisei AE series passes through Higashi-Matsudo Station on the Hokuso Line

Official information about Keisei Skyliner:
Official information about the EMU Keisei AE series (in Japanese):

Friday, 16 February 2018

Winter Visit to Kamakura on the Enoden Line

EMU Enoden 1000 series travels between Enoshima and Koshigoe stations

Kamakura is known as a historic city where the bakufu (shogunate government) was located from 1185 to 1333. It is situated on the Pacific Ocean to the south; meanwhile, there are steep mountains to the north, east and west as a natural fortification in the samurai era. Kamakura is also known for its warm climate. Even in winter, it remains warm in the city. Last December, I visited Kamakura with my family to enjoy the final stage of its "autumn leaves" and a tranquil garden in a Buddhist temple.

We visited Hokokuji temple. It was a 20 minute walk from Kamakura Station. Although it was the weekend, the precinct of the temple was quiet. I could compose my mind and view the beautiful "autumn leaves" backed by a gorgeous bamboo forest. Viewing the garden, we also enjoyed a cup of green tea in a hermitage of the temple.

To get to Kamakura, we took the local railway, Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway) from Fujisawa terminal. Enoden was opened in 1902 connecting Fujisawa and Kamakura stations (10 km). The track is 1,067 mm-wide single. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. Trains are operated every 12 minutes during the daytime. One of my favorite sections is a street running 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.

Garden of Hokokuji temple near Kamakura Station

Official information about the EMU Enoden 1000 series (in Japanese):
Official information about Enoshima Electric Railway:

Monday, 12 February 2018

EMU Keihan 5000 Series: Unique and Flexible

EMU Keihan 5000 series stands at Demachiyanagi Station on the Outo Line

The Kinki region, which includes Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and four other prefectures, is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. The population of the region now stands at 21 million. More than 13 million passengers use the railways every day.

Along with the Tokyo metropolitan area, the railway network in the Kinki region is extensive and labyrinthine. As a rail fan, I prefer the railways in the Kinki region to those in Tokyo to be honest. It is because the railways in this region have a great variety of trains. The design of the trains is also more unique than that of trains in Tokyo.

Let me introduce an example of unique trains. The EMU Keihan 5000 series is a flexible vehicle. It has 10 doors per car to load and unload passengers smoothly during rush hours. On the other hand, it decreased to 6 doors per car to secure enough passenger seats during the daytime. The gimmick is as follows. During the daytime, 4 doors per car are constantly closed. Additional passenger seats are then descended from the ceiling automatically to the closed doors. What a flexible structure it is! The EMU 5000 series was launched in 1970 to mitigate congestion during rush hours. A total of 42 units were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. It is Keihan's first train with aluminum alloys bodies.

48 years have already passed since the 5000 series debuted. It is said that the 5000 series will be retired from the track by 2020.

Interior of the EMU Keihan 5000 series

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

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Illuminated Icicles on the Seibu-Chichibu Line

EMU Seibu 4000 series passes by the icicles on the Chichibu Line

Icicles have recently become popular winter events in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Along with street illuminations in the urban areas, many people flock to see icicles in the suburban areas in this coldest season of the year. There are two kinds of icicles. One is natural and the other is artificial. I am going to show you the artificial one today.

Ashigakubo Icicle is a famous winter event held in Yokoze Town in Saitama Prefecture, about 80 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. The venue is in a small valley named Hyonosawa. Drawing and sprinkling the river water on a forest, the local people create gorgeous icicles in the valley. The maximum height of the pillars is 30 meters above the riverbed. They are colorfully illuminated on weekend evenings.

To get to this fantastic spot, the Seibu-Chichibu line train is convenient. The nearest station is Ashigakubo. It takes only 70 minutes from Ikebukuro terminal in the subcenter of Tokyo by a limited express train, "New Red Arrow". The venue of the icicles is only a 10-minute walk from the station.

You can also see the icicles from the train windows. Some trains travel slowly by the icicles to entertain passengers. I saw the EMU 4000 series passed through the icicles very slowly when I visited the spot. The 4000 series was launched in 1988 to improve passenger services. This EMU is directly operated into the Chichibu Railway for sightseers, who head to the famous sightseeing spots such as Nagatoro and Mitsumine.

Illuminated icicles are seen near Ashigakubo Station on the Seibu-Chichibu Line

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Preserved Sleeper EMU on Kyushu Island

KuHaNe581-8 of the EMU 581 series is exhibited in the Kyushu Railway History Museum

Following the preserved electric locomotive named Class ED72, I am going to continue to show you a unique exhibition in Kyushu Railway History Museum today.

KuHaNe581-8 of the 581 series was the world's first sleeper electric multiple unit (EMU). The 581 series is AC-DC dual electric system EMU, specifically for 60Hz-AC electric system tracks. It was launched in 1967 by Japanese National Railways. A total of 434 units (including its brother EMU, the 583 series for 50Hz/60Hz - dual AC electric systems), were built by Hitachi, Nippon Sharyo and others. As you may know, there were many sleeper coaches pulled by locomotives in the world; however, sleeper EMU had not existed until then. The 581 series was also commissioned as a standard seat train in the daytime.

Gekko (moonlight) was the representative overnight sleeper train operated by the 581 series between Shin-Osaka on the Tokaido Shinkansen and Hakata on Kyushu Island. It was debuted in 1967 and abolished in 1975, when the parallel Sanyo Shinkansen route was opened. Since then, the 581 series appeared significantly less often. Eventually, the 581 series disappeared from the track in 2015.

I have no experience in using the EMU 581 series overnight sleeper train, but I once used it when it was operated as a daytime seat train from Ogori to Okayama on the Sanyo Main Line. It was a limited express, Shioji (tideway). It was in 1973, when I was a boy. The time really flies.

Close up of the display of KuHaNe 581-8

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Winter Scene on the Manazuru Peninsula

A freight train pulled by the EL Class EF66 passes through Manazuru Station

Manazuru is a beautiful peninsula in Kanagawa Prefecture located about 100 km southwest of Tokyo. The nature of Manazuru Peninsula is similar to that of Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture, but Manazuru is smaller than Izu. So I call Manazuru "Mini-Izu".

The merit of Manazuru Peninsula is its location. It is closer to Tokyo than the Izu Peninsula. It takes 1 hour and 40 minutes from Tokyo by a rapid service train on the Tokaido Main Line. Tokyoites can take a day trip to Manazuru Peninsula, so that I visited Manazuru Peninsula on a weekend with my family. It was a clear day. After arriving at Manazuru Station, we went down to the beach facing Sagami Bay, and started walking. The trail on the coast was beautiful. We could see Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture far away.

On the way back home, I came across a freight train pulled by an electric locomotive (EL) at Manazuru Station. The EL was the Class EF66-100 owned by Japan Freight (JRF). The EF66-100 is a direct current EL, which debuted in 1989. A total of 33 units were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The original EF66 debuted by Japanese National Railways in 1968 to pull high-speed freight trains at a maximum speed of 100 km/hour. The new EF66-100 was launched to reinforce JRF's freight transportation capacity. The outer design of the EF66-100 was slightly changed from the original EF66.

I enjoyed the beautiful nature and the train on Manazuru Peninsula.

View of Sagami Bay from Manazuru Peninsula near Manazuru Station

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Class ED72: Preserved EL on Kyushu Island

Electric locomotive, ED72 1 is exhibited in the Kyushu Railway History Museum

Although a long time has passed since I introduced the Kyushu Railway History Museum for the first time, I will show you the other treasure in the museum today.

"ED72 1" is a precious exhibition in the Kyushu Railway Museum. It is an electric locomotive (EL) built in 1961 as the prototype of the Class ED72. The ED72 was introduced when the section between Mojiko and Kurume on the Kagoshima Main Line was electrified. Its electric system is 20,000 V alternate current (AC) and 60 Hz overhead. A total of 22 units of the ED72 ELs were built by Toshiba, but all units have already been retired from the tracks. Currently, only ED72 1 is preserved in this museum. The ED72 has a red-colored dogleg-shaped body. It is the biggest feature of this EL. The axis arrangement is Bo-2-Bo in UIC notation, which means that the ED72 has a middle truck to decrease its axle load (16,000 kilograms). It has four MT103 DC motors, and the rated output is 2,050 kW.

The ED72 was commissioned as both passenger and freight trains on the AC tracks in the western part of Japan. Specifically, it was famous as the EL towing the overnight sleeper train "Naha", which was operated between Shin-Osaka and Nishi-Kagoshima (present Kagoshima-chuo) to transport passengers from the Osaka area to Kyushu and the Okinawan islands. Naha is the name of the capital city of Okinawa Prefecture. The ED72 traveled for about 14 hours from Shin-Osaka to Nishi-Kagoshima (911 kilometers).

Close up of the front part, ED72 1