Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Old Diesel Rail-cars in the Niigata Area

Diesel rail-cars Class KiHa 40 and 47 arrive at new elevated Niigata station (June, 2018)

Niigata is located about 340 kilometers north of Tokyo, and is the main city of Niigata Prefecture. The current population is about 810,000. Niigata has grown as the largest city on the Sea of Japan side of the archipelago since the 16th century. It was a lagoonal area before the development.

The name of the central railway station in Niigata City is exactly Niigata. It was opened in 1904 and recently renovated as a modern terminal. The platforms of the conventional lines were remodeled on the newly completed elevated tracks. They are situated on the same level as the shinkansen tracks. The commuter trains arriving at and leaving Niigata station have also replaced by a new model, namely the EMU E129 series.

Everything looks new in Niigata station, but some old things still exist. For instance, the diesel rail-cars, which sometimes appear at the station, are rather old. It is the KiHa 40 series debuted in 1977. The KiHa 40 is the standard diesel rail-cars for local lines. It consists of three groups, namely the Class KiHa 40, 47 and 48. What is the major difference between these three groups? Firstly, the Class KiHa 40 has double cabins; meanwhile, the Class KiHa 47 and 48 have single cabins. Secondly, the Class KiHa 47 has double (center-opened) doors; meanwhile, the Class KiHa 40 and 48 have single (side-opened) doors.

The KiHa 40 series is becoming an industrial heritage. How much longer will it be in the Niigata area?

Diesel rail-cars Class KiHa 40 and 47 stand at old surface Niigata station (June, 2014)

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Winter Fuji from the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 60000 series (cab with a gangway in the front) crosses the Sagami River

It is mid-summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. On July 23rd, the highest temperature in Kumagaya City was 41.1 degrees Celsius, which is an all-time record high in Japan. The only thing I can do is escape the city and go to the highlands, but the trains to resort areas are crowded with passengers because it is the summer holiday season. People also get stuck in traffic on the express roads. What can I do instead?

Let's start by looking at photos of the cold scenes from last winter to cool off, specifically the snow-capped Mt. Fuji. One of the best points to see winter Fuji is near Kaisei station on the Odakyu-Odawara line. We can see winter Mt. Fuji (3,776 meters above sea level) peeking over the Ashigara Mountains, which is as much as 1,000 meters high. The contrast between the blue sky, the white-colored Mt. Fuji, and the green-colored Ashigara Mountains is vivid.

The railway bridge spanning the Sagami River is also a good place to see a partial view of the snow-capped Mt. Fuji through a small opening in the Tanzawa Mountains. I was able to shoot the blue colored EMU, Odakyu Romance Car 60000 series, backed by downtown Atsugi City, the Tanzawa Mountains, and the white colored Mt. Fuji. The first carriage of the 60000 series had a cab with a gangway in the front. That was my favorite subject.

I am not getting cooler at all, even though I looked back on the cold winter scenes. Well really!

Winter Fuji from the Odakyu train

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Ex-Keio Trains in Choshi City

EMU Choden 3000 series (ex-Keio 5000 series) stands at Nakanocho rail yard

I recently visited Choshi Electric Railway (hereafter Choden) for the first time in five years. What was new with this local private railway?

I firstly stopped by Nakanocho rail yard. I was fortunate enough to see the EMU 3000 series (DeHa3001 + KuHa3501) on the storage track. The 3000 series was originally operated on the Keio line under the name of the EMU 5000 series (DeHa5103 + KuHa5854). They were built by Nippon Sharyo in 1963. After retirement from the Keio line, they moved to Iyo Railway in 1988, and were renamed the EMU 700 series (MoHa713 + KuHa763). These cars then moved to Choden in 2016. The car numbers were changed again as above. It was repainted to light and blue colors with a white stripe in the past five years - very beautiful and my cup of tea.

Secondly, I got off at Inubo station by another train. It was the EMU 2000 series (KuHa2501 + DeHa2001). The 2000 series was also originally operated on the Keio line under the name of 2010 series. After retirement from the Keio line, they moved to Iyo Railway in 1984. These cars then moved to Choden in 2009. The "face" of the KuHa2501 was remodeled from a middle car in the days of Iyo Railway. KuHa2501 was repainted from green color to two tones of light and dark blues in the past five years. The new color is definitely my favorite.

I fully enjoyed the ex-Keio trains in Choshi City.

EMU Choden 2000 series (ex-Keio 2010 series) leaves Inubo station

Official information about the trains of Choshi Electric Railway (in Japanese):

Saturday, 21 July 2018

EMU 320 series: New Model for the Nippori-Toneri Liner

EMU Toei 320 series arrives at Adachi-dai station

The Nippori-Toneri Liner is a rubber-tired automated guideway transit (AGT) in the northern part of the metropolis of Tokyo. Connecting Nippori in the downtown area and Minumadai-shinsuikouen, its operating length is 9.7 km. The number of passengers has been rapidly increasing on the route. It was 49,000 passengers per day when the route was opened in 2008; however, it reached 80,000 passengers per day in 2017. Because of this unexpected growth, the trains are heavily congested during the rush hours. 

The train operator, namely the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (hereafter Toei), can't sit on their hands. Toei has been launching new rolling stock one after another to enhance the transportation capacity. For instance, a large capacity model, EMU 330 series, was introduced on the route in 2015. Toei then launched the latest model, namely EMU 320 series, in 2017.

What is the difference between the 330 series and the 320 series? The major difference between the two models is their bodies. The 330 series has white colored aluminum alloy bodies; while the 320 series has green colored bodies made of stainless steel. The 330 series was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries; while the 320 series was assembled by Niigata Transys.

Toei recently made a press release announcing that the two more sets of new trains will be launched by March 2020 for further enhancement of transportation capacity, but there was no information about the detail so far. Let's wait until the next announcement.

EMU Toei 320 series leaves Nippori station

Official information about the Nippori-Toneri Liner:
Official information about the EMU Toei 320 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Android Lady on the Yurikamome Line

EMU Yurikamome 7300 series arrives at Telecom Center station

She works for the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (hereafter Miraikan). When I visited Miraikan last weekend, she was chatting with a male curator sitting on a sofa. Who is she? 

She is an android lady for research purposes. It was created by a Japanese researcher, Dr. Ishiguro. His research is to know what human beings are. For instance, the android lady behaves like a human; however, there might be something different. According to Dr. Ishiguro, that "something" is probably the essence of human beings. In fact, the android lady is slightly awkward in her movements. That is a hint to know what human beings are.

Incidentally, to get to Miraikan, the nearest station is Telecom Center on the Yurikamome line. Yurikamome is an automated guideway transit (AGT) system in the Tokyo Bay area. It was partially opened in 1995. The current total operating length is 14.7km. 

The recent topic of the Yurikamome line is the enhanced deployment of the EMU 7300 series. The EMU 7300 series is a driverless train with rubber tires instead of steel bogies, which is the same as the existing 7000 and 7200 series. All trains are operated automatically without drivers so that the passengers can enjoy the view ahead sitting on the "rail fan's seat" at the end of the train. Currently, a total of 18 sets, 108 units are commissioned on the line.

The android lady and the latest AGT train - I glanced at the future world on the Yurikamome line.

An android lady works for "Miraikan" near Telecom Center station on the Yurikamome line

Official information about the EMU Yurikamome 7200 series:
Official information about the EMU Yurikamome 7300 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Slope Car on the Yatsugatake Highland

Slope car "Koi-nobori (carp streamer)" arrives at Michi-no-eki Minami-Kiyosato station

It is mid-summer in Tokyo. The maximum daytime temperature is often over 30 degrees Celsius. Yesterday's high was 34.5 degrees Celsius in the downtown area. The only thing I could do was escape to a cool highland with my family. Our destination was Minami-Yatsugatake Hana-no-mori Park (Southern Yatsugatake Flower and Forest Park) in Yamanashi Prefecture.

To enter the park, we used a slope car, because the park was situated on a hill. What is a slope car? It looks like a monorail or a funicular, but it is different from both of them. A slope car is a climbing vehicle that uses an electric motor with a rack-and-pinion driving system.

This unique system was built by Kaho Monorail Company in 2000. Connecting Magoi (Michi-no-eki Minami-Kioyosato) and Higoi (Minami-Yatsugatake Hana-no-mori Park) stations, its route length is 180 meters. The height difference between the two stations is 100 meters. The maximum inclination of the route is 40 degrees. It takes about 3.5 minutes one way. The operation is driver-less. To be exact, this transportation system is classified as an elevator under the Building Standards Act, not a monorail under the Railway Business Act. You can see a similar transportation system in Asukayama Park, Mt. Sarakura, Manna Country Club and at a resort hotel on Hakone Mountain.

A blue-colored vehicle, which can accommodate 20 passengers, is named Koi-nobori (carp streamer). It has a barrier-free structure so that the passengers on wheelchairs can easily get in and out of the vehicle while seated.

The slope car and the track

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Airport-to-Airport Train on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3050 series, Airport Kaitoku, arrives at Higashi-Matsudo station

There are two international airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area. One is Tokyo International Airport (hereafter Haneda), and the other one is New Tokyo International Airport (hereafter Narita). The direct distance between Haneda and Narita is 63 kilometers, which is quite far. What kind of public transportation can we use to move between the two airports?

The fastest one used to be a helicopter flight. It took about only 30 minutes - very fast. The problem was its fare (16,850 yen), which was very expensive. Unfortunately, the route was abolished in 1991, since there weren't enough passengers requiring the service. 

The most frequent one is the bus service, which operates every twenty minutes - very frequent. It takes about 65 to 85 minutes via expressways, and the fare is 3,100 yen. The problem is a delay risk caused by traffic jams.

The least expensive option is the train. The fare is 1,800 yen, which is quite reasonable. Three operators, namely Keisei, Toei and Keikyu, jointly operate the "Airport Kaitoku (airport rapid express)" trains. The operation interval is 40 minutes, and it takes 100 minutes to get from one airport to the other. There is no traffic jam, so the operation is punctual.

One of the trains commissioned for Airport Kaitoku is the EMU Keisei 3050 series. This model was launched in 2010 for airport-to-airport transportation. It has the same technical specifications as those of the EMU 3000 series commuter train. The problem is its facilities. There is no toilet on the train, even though the journey between Haneda and Narita is quite long.

EMU Keisei 3050 series, Airport Kaitoku, travels on the Hokuso line

Monday, 9 July 2018

Countdown to the Last Run: Romance Car LSE

EMU Odakyu 7000 series, Romance Car LSE, travels on the Odawara line (July, 2014)

Odakyu Electric Railway recently made a press release announcing that Romance Car, the EMU 7000 series, LSE (Luxury Super Express), will be retired from regular operation on July 10th.

LSE is the oldest Romance Car at work. It was launched in 1980 to replace the old models. A total of 4 sets, 44 units, were built by Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Currently, only one set is being operated on the Odawara Line. LSE is articulated cars for a 1,500 V DC electric system and 1,067 mm-wide track gauge. The electric control system is rheostatic. The power regenerative brake is not equipped, since LSE is a limited express train that makes the fewest stops.

LSE inherited its unique design from the senior model, the EMU 3100 series, NSE (New Super Express). For instance, the cockpit is upstairs, so that the passengers can enjoy the view ahead. The classical moquette seats are also similar. On the other hand, LSE has some new designs such as automatic folding doors. LSE is indeed an evolutionary form of NSE.

LSE is a star train on the Odawara line; however, it went through a very difficult time as well. In January, 2010, LSE faced difficulty surviving. A malfunction occurred on its articulated bogies. Many rail fans were anxious about the future of LSE, but it came back onto the track in April 2010, after careful inspection.

Sayonara (good-bye) LSE. Arigatou (thank you) for your great work over a long time.

Romance Car LSE passes through Chitose-Funabashi station (December, 2016)

Friday, 6 July 2018

Koiwa Iris Garden on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3500 series travels on the Keisei main line

The Japan Meteorological Agency made an announcement that this year's rainy season ended on June 29th in the Tokyo metropolitan area, which was the fastest on record. Was it an effect of global warming? I don't know, but anyhow, 2018 mid-summer has begun. Before introducing the topics of the mid-summer, I am going to continue with the subject of the 2018 rainy season a bit more.

In early June, I visited a photogenic spot for taking pictures of full blown irises with my family. Our destination was Koiwa Iris Garden on the banks of the Edo River in Tokyo Metropolis. Along with the reputable Horikiri Iris Garden, Koiwa Iris Garden is also popular among Tokyoites. From early June to mid-July, purple, blue and white colored iris flowers are seen here and there in the large garden. Irises are typical blossoms of the rainy season. They attract many gardeners and flower lovers.

Incidentally, the nearest station to Koiwa Iris Garden is Edogawa on the Keisei main line. Our vehicle was the EMU 3500 series. The 3500 series was launched in 1972 to increase the commuter transportation capacity on the Keisei lines. A total of 24 sets, 96 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Its shining stainless-steel bodies with the classical corrugations are my favorite. Its large frontal windows are also cool even though 46 years have already passed since the 3500 series debuted.

Both iris blossoms and the trains were shining on the Keisei main line.

Full blown irises and the EMU Keisei 3500 series

Official information about the trains on the Keisei Line (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Oita: Major City in the Prefecture

EMU JR Kyushu 883 series (right) arrives at Oita station

Following my previous post, I am going to continue to show you the trains in Oita Prefecture.

After enjoying visiting the hot springs in Beppu, we headed to Oita, which is a major city in the prefecture. Currently, Oita City has a population of 478,000, which is the fifth largest on Kyushu Island. In contrast with Beppu, Oita is well-known as an industrial city. Along with the petrochemical and the steel industries, the electric industry is recently growing. The solar power business is also active in the city.

Oita City functions as a hub of the JR Kyushu's railway network. Three lines radiate from the city. They are the Nippo main line, the Houhi main line and the Kyudai main line. The former is electrified with 20,000 V AC and 60 kHz system. On the other hand, the latter two are non-electrified. Because of this variety, we can see many kinds of trains in the city.

The blue colored EMU 883 and the white colored EMU 885 series are the star trains in the city. The 883 series was launched in 1995 to compete with the expressway bus services. It has a tilting system to pass through tight curves at a high speed. The EMU 885 has elegant streamlined bodies and is popular among tourists. Both the 883 and 885 series are JR Kyushu's representative inter-city express trains.

We can also see many other trains. I am going to introduce them when I have another chance.

EMU JR Kyushu 885 series leaves Oita station

Official information about the JR Kyushu trains:

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The 1100 Series for the 1100th Post

EMU Kobe Electric Railway 1100 series leaves Maruyama station

Thank you for visiting Tokyo Railway Labyrinth. This is the 1100th post since April 2011. In the last seven years, I have made many friends through this blog. They are mostly rail-fans and travel enthusiasts. I hope that they will continue to enjoy my blog. In commemoration of the "1100th" post, I am going to show you a train with the number "1100" in its name.

The EMU 1100 series is the oldest active model on the Kobe Electric Railway. It is a powerful climber to transport commuters between downtown Kobe City and its residential areas in the Rokko Mountains. The 1100 series was launched in 1969. A total of 39 units were built by Kawasaki Sharyo. 24 units of those are still operated on the track. The major group is 3-car trains, which are composed of 2 motorcars and 1 trailer. The motorcar has four powerful 105 kW DC motors for climbing up the steep mountains. The specifications of the 1100 series are quite old, but its design is still cool. Specifically, the large resistors under the floor are rough but reliable.

Incidentally, Kobe is the main city of Hyogo Prefecture, about 600 km west of Tokyo. Kobe Electric Railway has a 70 km-long extensive network in the downtown Kobe City and the Rokko Mountains. Its route has many steep sections up to an incline of 50 per mil. The trains including the EMU 1100 series have special equipment to climb up the steep tracks.

1101F of the EMU Kobe Electric Railway 1100 series