Wednesday, 28 November 2018

2018 Summer Memories, Part 3: Godzzilla Rock

EMU JR East 701 series (Akita color) stands at Akita station

Godzilla is a famous Japanese cinema character created in 1954 by Toho Company. It is a reptile monster, which changed due to radiation. I have watched the series of Godzilla movies since I was a kid. My favorite scene is when Godzilla charges its power before releasing an atomic blast. We can see the blue colored buildup starting at the end of its tail and moving through its back plates. It is very cool!

To our joy, we can see Godzilla Rock in Oga Peninsula of Akita Prefecture. It is a natural rock standing on the southern coast of the peninsula. At sunset, visitors can see a black colored monster backed by the red colored setting sun. It is the exact image of Godzilla in the movie, especially because the rugged volcanic rock surface looks just like Godzilla's skin. It is very cool!

Before visiting Godzilla Rock, I came across a local train, the EMU 701 series, at Akita station. I often see this model in the Akita area, but that was the first time to see a 3-car train made up of the 701 series. EMU JR East 701 series is a standard commuter train in the Tohoku area. It was launched in 1993 to replace the old commuter EMUs and the passenger coaches. Different from EMUs in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the 701 series is an AC (alternate current) train. The body color of the 701 series varies by area and it has pink and purple colored stripes in the Akita area.

Godzilla Rock

Official information about the JR East 701 series (In Japanese):

Sunday, 25 November 2018

2018 Tama-mono Festival: Part 2

Tama Monorail's track maintenance vehicle, unit K-2 (left), and the lifting vehicle (right)

Following my last post, I am going to continue to show you the 2018 Tama-mono Festival held at the Tama Monorail Depot near Takamatsu station.

My best memory from the festival was an operation demonstration of the track maintenance vehicles. As you know, monorail operators need special track maintenance vehicles because the tracks are located at higher elevations than those of standard railways. I saw a special lifting vehicle (unit number unknown) being pulled by self-propelled vehicle named K-2 in the depot. Unit K-2 was built in 2015 by Hokuriku Heavy Industries and the other companies. It has four batteries and a VVVF (variable frequency drive) electric control system. Those batteries can obtain regenerative power in regeneration brake control.

The lifting vehicle has special trestles moved by motors. Using these trestles, engineers can inspect at higher elevations or even below the monorail track. During the demonstration, the railway engineers on board the vehicles were smiling and waving to the visitors, which also made for a good performance.

Inside the train inspection building, I saw an operation demonstration of a pantograph equipped on the train. Using pantographs, monorail trains obtain electric power from the feeders on the sides of the track. Different from the standard trains, pantographs on monorail trains are very small and inconspicuous. I found the pantograph operation performance very interesting and easy to understand.

I am truly grateful to Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail Company (Tama monorail) for holding this special event.

A pantograph of the EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series

Thursday, 22 November 2018

2018 Tama-mono Festival

EMU Tama Monorail 1000 series is exhibited in the Tama Monorail Depot

After visiting TX Sogo Rail Yard, I visited another rail yard tour two weeks later. It was the Tama-mono Festival held by Tokyo Tama Intercity Monorail Company (hereafter Tama Monorail). On November 17th, Tama Monorail held a rail yard tour at their depot. It is located about 800 meters west of the main track between Takamatsu and Tachihi stations. There are two siding tracks from the main track to the depot, one from Takamatsu station and the other from Tachihi station.

I mostly enjoyed the inspection shed, where two sets of the EMU 1000 series were stored. I had time to observe the bogies and underfloor equipment there. It was very interesting. Kids were allowed to enter the train cockpit. They also enjoyed simulated driving experiences using a master controller and a brake system.

Incidentally, the Tama Monorail Line was opened in 1998. The route penetrates the Tama region, a western suburb of Tokyo, from south to north. Connecting Tama Center and Kamikitadai stations, its operating length is 16.0 kilometers. Tama Monorail adopts a straddle-beam system like the Haneda Line of Tokyo Monorail. The track is double, and the electric system is 1,500 V DC. Four-car trains, named the EMU 1000 series, are operated every 6 to 10 minutes. Like other monorail lines, passengers can enjoy superb views from the train windows, including modern buildings in the Tachikawa urban area and the green hilly countryside near Tama Zoo Station.

To be continued...

A siding track (left) and main tracks (right) of the Tama Monorail line

Monday, 19 November 2018

Photogenic Spot on the Kominato Railway

DMU Kominato KiHa200 series travels near Kazusa-Okubo station

Boso is a large peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. It is situated between the Pacific Ocean and Tokyo Bay. The coastal area of Boso Peninsula is famous for being a resort area to enjoy marine activities.

By contrast, the inland area of Boso Peninsula is totally different. We can see beautiful hills and valleys covered by thick forests and rice paddies. To visit this countryside, a local private railway named Kominato Railway is convenient. Kominato connects Goi on the west coast and Kazusa-Nakano in the center of the peninsula. There are 18 stations over a total operating length of 39.1km. The route is single track and non-electrified.

A nostalgic two-car DMU train, KiHa 200 series is the main fleet on the track. A total of 14 units were built from 1961 to 1977 by Nippon Sharyo. Currently, they are rather old, but still maintained in good condition. For taking photographs of these classic DMUs, I recommend you get off at Kazusa-Ookubo station. Once you step onto the platform of the station, you will find a nostalgic landscape with forests and rice paddies. Specifically, the large curved track, which is located west of the station, is very beautiful. It is famous among rail fans as a photogenic spot. 

When I visited there in September, the rice paddies in front of the track were still retaining a fresh green. I could fully enjoy looking at the landscape and shooting photos. Kominato Railway attracts reminiscent rail fans like me.

DMU KiHa200 series travels on the Kominato Railway

Friday, 16 November 2018

Chofu Fireworks on the Keio Line

EMU Keio 5000 series, "Keio Liner", stands at Fuchu station on the Keio main line

Large firework displays are very popular summer events in Japan. My family also really likes fireworks. For instance, we enjoyed Oga - Sea of Japan Fireworks in August in Akita Prefecture. It was one of our best memories of the 2018 summer season.

The situation has changed a little in recent years. Some of the large firework displays are held in autumn. Why? One of the reasons is the climate change in summer. Recently, we have many evening showers with thunderbolts and strong winds in the middle of summer. It is a risk for firework displays. High temperature is another cause of worry for visitors. If summer is not the best season for firework displays, then it'd be better to hold in autumn.

Chofu Fireworks is no exception. It was held in October this year. It was a clear evening. It was not hot and not cold. About 10,000 fireworks were set off on the Tama River. They were very gorgeous and well programmed. They added a sort of poetic charm to the comfortable autumn season.

To see the Chofu Fireworks, the nearest station is Chofu on the Keio line. The city of Chofu with a population close to 230,000 is a typical commuter city in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The new underground station was opened in 2012. It is indeed a modern station, but annoying for rail photo lovers, as the platform doors hamper photos. Instead of Chofu, I am going to show you Fuchu station in an evening.

Chofu Fireworks

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The State Guest House on the Chuo Line

EMU JR East E233 series arrives at Yotsuya station on the Chuo line

Geihin-kan (the state guest house) is a facility in which the government accommodates visiting state guests, such as heads of state or ministers. Japan has two Geihin-kans, one in Tokyo and one in Kyoto, which belong to the national facilities under the Cabinet Office. Although an admission fee is charged, anyone can now visit the Geihin-kan in Tokyo when state guests aren't using the facility. Not only the building but also the front garden is very beautiful.

The Geihin-kan building in Tokyo was originally constructed in 1909 as the Crown Prince's palace. It was an era of Datsua-nyuo (leaving Asia and entering Europe). After the feudal times, the new Meiji government promoted the policy of Datsua-nyuo, while the government also promoted the adaptation of Western culture, custom, and architecture. Geihin-kan was a typical example of Datsua-nyuo, but the Crown Prince didn't use this building as it was too luxurious. Geihin-kan was then utilized as a government building such as the National Diet Library, but it was eventually changed to the state guest house in 1974. The first state guest to Geihin-kan was the thirty-eighth President of the United States, Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr.

To get to Geihin-kan, the nearest station is Yotsuya on the JR East Chuo line. Yotsuya is a valley in a hilly area, so the trains arrive at the station after passing through a tunnel. We can see a beautiful hilly landscape around the station, even though it is situated in the center of the city. It is a good area for strolling.

The Geihin-kan building and the front garden near Yotsuya station

Saturday, 10 November 2018

2018 Tsukuba Express Festival: Part 2

Set 70 of the EMU TX-2000 series

Subsequent to my last post, I am going to continue to show you the 2018 Tsukuba Express Festival held in the TX Sogo Rail Yard.

Visitors could enjoy various events in the yard. For instance, rail fans were allowed to enter the train cockpit. Families got special souvenirs, such as train-printed mugs, after joining the stamp rally. They also enjoyed famous comedians putting on comic plays on a special stage in the train inspection building.

What children delighted in was a tug-of-war game with a train. TX prepared a long and heavy train (TX-2000 + TX-1000 series). It consisted of 12 cars and its total weight was 392,700 kilograms according to my calculation. A group of the children pulled the tug and had to move the train. It was hard work for them, but they eventually won. That became a very good memory for them.

Incidentally, the front design of the train used for the tug-of-war looked special. It had vermilion and white colored special stripes. What was that? It was the specially designed train for the 2nd and the 3rd batch of the TX-2000 series. Finding such subtle design differences between train models is a pleasure for trainspotters.

The railway employees of TX, as well as those of Kantetsu, were very friendly and kind to visitors. The festival was indeed a great success. Plenty of people enjoyed the festival safely. I am truly grateful to TX and Kantetsu to have held this special event.

Children enjoy a tug-of-war game with the EMU TX-2000 and TX-1000 series

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

2018 Tsukuba Express Festival

EMU TX-1000 series are exhibited in TX Sogo Rail Yard

After visiting Kantetsu's Mitsukaido Rail Yard, I headed to another rail yard nearby. It was Sogo Rail Yard of Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company (Tsukuba Express or TX). In cooperation with Kantetsu, TX also held a rail yard tour on the very same day. Much to my joy, Kantetsu kindly gave the rail fans free bus services between Kantetsu Mitsukaido Rail Yard and TX Sogo Rail Yard, so that I could smoothly move from the former to the latter. The admissions of the two rail yards were of course free.

TX exhibited their EMUs, the TX-1000 and the TX-2000 series in the center of the rail yard. Both the TX-1000 and the TX-2000 series are composed of 6 cars. The outer designs of the TX-1000 and the TX-2000 series look almost same. What is the difference between the two models?

The answer is their electric systems. The TX-1000 series is a DC (direct current) train; meanwhile, the TX-2000 series is an AC-DC (alternate current and direct current) dual system train. The southern part of the TX line between Akihabara and Moriya stations has adopted the DC system; meanwhile, the AC system is applied to the northern part of the route between Moriya and Tsukuba stations. It means that the TX 1000 series can be operated only on the section between Akihabara and Moriya stations; meanwhile, the TX-2000 series is able to be operated on the whole route of the TX line.

To be continued...

Set 03 of the EMU TX-1000 series stands at Sogo Rail Yard

Official information about TX:

Sunday, 4 November 2018

2018 Kantetsu Rail Yard Tour in Mitsukaido

Kantetsu KiHa 5010 series (left), KiHa 310 series (center) and KiHa 2100 series (right)

Autumn is the season of railways in Japan. It originated from the inauguration of Japan's first railway that was completed on October 14th in 1872. In commemoration of this special day, the Japanese government designated October 14 as Railway Day in 1994. Since then, many railway companies have started to hold special public events in October and November such as rail yard tours and/or special memorial train operations.

Kanto Railway (Kantetsu), which is a local railway in Ibaraki Prefecture, is no exception. They held a rail yard tour in Mitsukaido Rail Yard on November 3rd this year. It was a bright and clear day. I saw many families with small children, young couples and rail fans in the yard. Kentetsu exhibited their diesel rail cars, the KiHa 5010 series, the KiHa 310 series and the KiHa 2100 series in the center of the rail yard.

The KiHa 5010 series is a new model on the Kantetsu Joso line. It was launched in 2017 to replace the old diesel rail car, KiHa 100 series. A total of two units (KiHa 5011 and 5012) were built by Niigata Transys. The color design of the KiHa 5010 series is different from the other diesel rail cars. It is white with yellow and blue stripes. The technical specifications are similar with those of the KiHa 5000 series, but the KiHa 5010 series has a new engine named SA6D125-HE2 manufactured by Komatsu Ltd. Its capacity is 355 PS.

To be continued...

Diesel rail car number 5011 of the Kantetsu 5010 series is exhibited in Mitsukaido Rail Yard

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

Thursday, 1 November 2018

A Shift of Business: Fujikyu Railway

EMU Fujikyu 6000 series arrives at Tsuru-shi station

Subsequent to my last post, I am going to continue to show you the recent topic of Fujikyu Railway.

When I took Fujikyu last month, I found many foreign tourists on the local train, the EMU 6000 series. They were speaking English, French, Chinese, Thai and so on. In accordance with this situation, Fujikyu clearly shifted their business from Japanese tourists to both Japanese and foreign tourists. For instance, the on-board announcement was conducted both in Japanese and English. Needless to say, the on-board display was also multilingual. It is common in Tokyo, but still new on local railways. And what was more surprising, all of the advertisement posters hanging in the trains were written in foreign languages; one train was in English and the other train was in Chinese. Except for the railway vehicle itself, I couldn't realize that I was taking Japanese railway.

Fujikyu was also providing foreign tourists with direct trains from New Tokyo International Airport (Narita) to Mt. Fuji to improve passenger services. It is Narita Express (NEX) jointly operating with JR East. It takes 2 hour 22 minutes from Narita to Fuji-san, which is a gateway station to Mt. Fuji. At the moment, it operates only one round trip on every weekend, but the train looked full. NEX train (EMU JR East E259 series) with two tone of red and white is fresh and very vivid backed by the green forests at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

Fujikyu appears to be shifting their business.

EMU JR East E259 series, Narita Express (NEX), passes by Tahara-no-taki waterfall