Saturday, 15 June 2019

EMU E231-500 Series: Large Force on the Sobu Line

Set A515 of the JR East E231-500 series travels on the Chuo-Sobu local line

Replacing the EMU 209-500 series, one group of trains has been growing to become a large force on the JR East Sobu line (or the Chuo-Sobu local line). It is the EMU E231-500 series, which has moved from the Yamanote line.

The E231-500 series was launched in 2004 in response to JR East's new train controlling system, namely the Digital Automatic Train Control (D-ATC). A total of 52 sets, 572 cars, were built by JR East Niitsu Factory. The E231-500 series once became a major fleet on the Yamanote line; however, the world of the E231-500 series did not continue long. A new model, the E235 series, has recently been increasing in numbers on the Yamanote line. As a result, the old E231-500 series has been forced to move to the other line. The new address is the Sobu line. A total of 37 sets, 370 units, of the E231-500 series have already been transferred. After moving, the color of the body stripes was changed from light green (the Yamanote line color) to yellow (the Sobu line color).

Incidentally, a train on the Yamanote line consists of 11-cars, while that on the Sobu line is composed of 10-cars. Where did the one car go? The gimmick is as follows. One surplus car (Type SaHa E231-4600) was modified and coupled to the new model, the E235 series. The modified car (new name: Type SaHa E235-4600) has rain gutters, which extend out from the outside plate, so you can easily discern it from the new car.

Set A542 of the JR East E231-500 series arrives at Nakano station

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The 100th Anniversary of Izu-Hakone Railway

5503F of the EMU Izu-Hakone 5000 series arrives at Fuji-film-mae station

Izu-Hakone Railway is a local private company in Shizuoka and Kanagawa prefectures. The route consists of two separate lines, namely the Sunzu and the Daiyuzan lines. The Sunzu line was initially opened between Mishima-machi (present Mishima-tamachi) and Nanjo (present Izu-Nagaoka) stations in 1898; meanwhile, the Daiyuzan line was opened between Odawara and Daiyuzan in 1925. So, this is the 121st year of the Sunzu line and the 94th year of the Daiyuzan line.

Apart from the history of the Sunzu and the Daiyuzan line, the company regulates that the establishment date of Izu-Hakone Railway was November 5th, 1917. It was the time when Zuso Railway (present Izu-Hakone Railway) Company acquired the railway and the power industries from Fuji Suiryoku Denki (Fuji Hydroelectricity) Company. So, this is the 102nd year of Izu-Hakone Railway.

The company has been celebrating "the 100th year anniversary" since 2017. The anniversary events still continue. What a happy company it is! For instance, a train (5003F of the EMU 5000 series) on the Daiyuzan line still displays the 100th anniversary plate on the front. It is OK, no problem at all for rail fans.

Incidentally, the EMU 5000 series is the main fleet on the Daiyuzan line. It was launched in 1984 replacing old models. A total of 7 sets, 21 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo. Only the 1st set (5001F) is steel, while the other 6 sets are stainless-steel. The technical specifications are a bit old. It still has a traditional rheostatic control system.

5503F of the EMU Izu-Hakone 5000 series arrives at Sagami-Numata station

Official information about the trains on the Daiyuzan line (in Japanese):
Official information about the trains on the Sunzu line (in Japanese):

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Good-bye to the Sobu 209-500 Series Trains

Set C505 of the EMU JR East 209-500 series stands at Ochanomizu sta. (December, 2015)

Metropolitans are busy every day. They go to their offices or schools every day taking commuter lines, but they don't realize that the train has undergone changes. On April 19th, one group of the trains quietly disappeared from the track in Tokyo. It was the EMU 209-500 series on the JR East Sobu line.

The EMU 209-500 series is JR East's first commuter train with widened bodies. It was launched on the Sobu line (the Sobu-Chuo local line) in 1999. A total of 17 sets, 170 units, were operated on the line, but most of the 295-500 series trains had already retired from the Sobu line, and moved to the other local lines to spend their second lives. Eventually, the final set was retired from the Sobu line on April 19th.

Who is the successor of the 209-500 series? It is the E231-500 series from the Yamanote line. It is a bit of a complicated story. In 2015, JR East launched a new commuter train model, the E235 series, on the Yamanote line. The introduction of the new model caused JR East to make train transfers one after another. Firstly, the E231-500 series on the Yamanote line was transferred to the Sobu line. Secondly, the EMU 209-500 series on the Sobu line was transferred to the Musashino and the other local lines. Finally, the 205 series on the Musashino line will be transferred to Jakarta, Indonesia to spend a second life.

The volkerwanderung continues for the time being.

Close up of set C505 of the EMU JR East 209-500 series (December, 2015)

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Preserved Diesel Railcar in Kyoto Prefecture

A diesel railcar, KiHaYuNi 51 is exhibited in Kaya Steam Locomotive Square

Following the precious steam locomotive, I am going to continue to show you a unique exhibition in Kaya Steam Locomotive Square in Kyoto Prefecture.

KiHaYuNi 51 is an old railcar launched in 1936. It was originally a gasoline-powered vehicle built for Geibi Railway (present JR West Geibi line) in Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures. The manufacturer was Nippon Sharyo. It is 17.05 meters long, 2.72 meters wide, and it weighs 21.5 tons.

The original name was KiHaYuNi 18 of the Class 40900. KiHaYuNi means that it's a railcar, which has an internal combustion engine, and consists of a third-class cabin, a mailroom and a baggage room. It is multi-purpose. After being operated on Geibi Railway, this railcar was moved to Funaki Railway in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1952. In this period, it was modified from a gasoline-powered vehicle to a diesel railcar, and renamed KiHaNi 51. It was, then, moved again to Kaya Railway in 1962, and modified again to a simple passenger car named KiHa 51. Eventually, KiHa 51 was retired from the track in 1985. In 1994, it was restored to the original state for exhibition, and named KiHaYuNi 51. It is a complicated history, isn't it?

Apart from its function as a multi-purpose railcar, KiHaYuNi 51 has another uniqueness in its appearance. You can see a bucket on the front of the railcar. It was used for transportation of perishable food such as fish and vegetables. KiHaYuNi 51 was a unique railcar for local people's everyday life.

Currently, KiHaYuNi 51 is exhibited at the right hand side of the turntable.

Interior of KiHaYuNi 51

Official information about Kaya Steam Locomotive Square:

Sunday, 2 June 2019

The 130th Anniversary of the Chuo Line

The poster train (set T24 of the EMU JR East E233 series) arrives at Kunitachi station

The Chuo line (or the Chuo main line) is one of the Japanese trunk railway routes penetrating steep mountains on Honshu Island (the main land of Japan). Connecting Tokyo and Nagoya, its total length is 396.6 kilometers. The eastern part of the route is a busy commuter line, where 10-car commuter trains are continuously operated.

The origin of the Chuo line was very old. It was initially opened between Shinjuku and Tachikawa stations (27.2 kilometers) by Kobu Railway on April 11th, 1889. So, this year is the 130th anniversary of the Chuo line. JR East Hachioji Branch Office, which is one of the train operators on the line, is conducting various anniversary events. For example, they launched a special poster train, set T27 of the EMU E233 series, on April 6th celebrating the 130th anniversary. Set T27 train has simple orange colored bodies, which are similar with those of a former Chuo line train, namely the EMU 201 series. The 130th anniversary logo, which was designed by the railway employees of Tachikawa station, are also displayed on the bodies of set T27 train.

Along with the poster train, JR East Hachioji Branch Office gives passengers special gifts. For instance, they win products on the Chuo line by lottery. The wines produced near Katsunuma-budokyo station are popular prizes. Rail-fans and kids could enjoy a Chuo line train driving experience using the simulator at Tachikawa station on April 13th.

The Chuo line era is going to continue.

Side view of the 13th anniversary poster train

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Flower Road on the Tohoku Main Line

Set K-18 of the EMU JR East E231 series arrives at Higashi-Washinomiya station

It is still May, but it is just like mid-summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The maximum daytime temperature is often over 30 degrees Celsius. Is it an effect of greenhouse gasses?

I recently visited a flower road along the Kasai irrigation canal in Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture with my family. It is a 10-kilometer-long footpath with numerous beautiful blossoms. Cosmoses are planted in autumn, and poppies are seen in spring. When we visited there, it was fine weather and the poppies were in full bloom... very colorful and unique. 

On the way back home, I enjoyed taking train photos at JR East Higashi-Washinomiya station on the Tohoku main line for a short time. I was able to shoot the EMU E231 series, which belongs to Oyama rail yard. It was a 15-car train consisting of a 10-car main set and a 5-car additional set. The E231 series is an EMU widely operated in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It was launched in 2000 on the Tohoku main line. Different from the E231 series on the Yamanote and Musashino lines, the E231 series on the Tohoku main line has 6 doors per unit. The bodies are stainless-steel, with orange and green-colored stripes. More importantly, it has two double-decker Green Cars (first class cars). The extra cost for sitting in the Green Cars was 570 yen between Shinjuku and Higashi Washinomiya stations.

The Tohoku main line in spring time is a pleasant route.

Flower Road near Higashi-Washinomiya station on the Tohoku main line

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Preserved Steam Locomotive in Kyoto Prefecture

Number 2 SL is exhibited at Kaya Steam Locomotive Square in Kyoto Prefecture

Kaya Railway was a small local private railway in Kyoto Prefecture. It was unfortunately abolished in 1985 due to a decreasing number of passengers, but part of the facility was retained as a museum named Kaya Steam Locomotive Square and is located in Yosano Town of Kyoto Prefecture, about 650 kilometers west of Tokyo.

The most precious exhibition in the museum is the number 2 steam locomotive (SL), which was built by Robert Stephenson & Company in 1873. As you know, Stephenson & Company was the first locomotive builder in the world, established in 1823. The original number of this SL was 12 of the Imperial Government Railway of Japan, but it was changed to number 123 of Class 120 in 1912. It was then renamed number 2 when Kaya Railway purchased this SL from Hikami Railway in Shimane Prefecture. Number 2 SL was operated until 1956 on the track.

Number 2 SL is a 2-4-0 type (Whyte notation) small tank locomotive. It is 8.225 meters long, 2.248 meters wide, and it weighs 23 tons. The driving wheel diameter is 1,346 millimeters, and the gauge size is 1,067 millimeters. It is preserved in good condition under a special roof. 

On June 9th, 2005, number 2 SL was designated as a National Important Cultural Property. Along with Class 150 SL in the Railway Museum, it is one of Japan's oldest SLs imported from the UK. I hope that this precious SL will be maintained in good condition.

Side view of number 2 SL

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Old Castle City in Kyoto Prefecture

Set F2 of the EMU JR West 223-5500 series stands at Fukuchiyama station

Fukuchiyama is an old city located in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture, some 600km west of Tokyo. As of the year 2018, it has a population of 77,000. Fukuchiyama has grown as the castle city since the 16th century. We can see the beautiful castle tower in the center of the city. The present building was reconstructed in 1985, but keeps its medieval style. It is also known as a gorgeous city viewing spot among local people, as it was constructed at the summit of a small hill.

To get to Fukuchiyama castle, the nearest railway station is Fukuchiyama on the JR West and Kyoto Tango Railway lines. When I visited there, I came across the EMU JR West 223-5500 series on the JR West Fukuchiyama line. It is a 2-car train for operating without conductors. A total of 16 sets, 32 cars, were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Kinki Sharyo in 2008. The 223-5500 series is composed of 2 cars... one motor car (KuMoHa 223-5500) and one trailer (KuHa 223-5500). The electric control system is IGBT-VVVF (variable frequency drive). You can see a special pantograph on the roof for deforesting the trolley wire. For distinguishing the 223-5500 series from the other groups of the 223 series, look at the gangway on the front of the train. The 223-5500 series only has an orange colored stripe on it.

It is fun for me to perceive the fine difference among the EMU 223 series trains as a trainspotter.

Fukuchiyama castle near Fukuchiyama station

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Old Express Train in Kyoto Prefecture

DMU KTR001 series travels on the Miyatoyo line, Kyoto Tango Railway

The northern part of Kyoto Prefecture is one of my favorite places. Different from the city of Kyoto, it is idyllically calm and peaceful.

Where is the recommended place to visit? My favorite spot is Hanare-ko (Lake Hanare) in Kyotango City. It is just a tiny lake surrounded by a residential area, but it is a nice place for strolling. Specifically, I like a small peninsula named Hanare-yama (Mt. Hanare) on the southern side of the lake. It is a natural mountain with an ancient mounded tomb at the summit. The full-blown cherries in spring are famous for local people.

To get to this cozy spot, the nearest railway station is Amino on the Kyoto Tango Railway. It takes about two hours from Kyoto by limited express trains, Hashidate, Konotori (stork) or Tango-relay. Usually, the DMU KTR8000 series is operated for Tango-relay, but the DMU KTR001 series was temporally commissioned when I visited there last month. It was lucky for nostalgic train lovers like me. 

The DMU KTR001 series was launched in 1990. A total of 2 sets, 6 units, are built by Fuji Heavy Industries. Currently, one set (set number 2) is still operated on the track as a temporally replacement train. The KTR001 series is a high-decker train having beautiful "champagne gold" bodies. The maximum speed is 120 kilometers per hour. One set has 6 diesel engines. Although the scars are conspicuous on the bodies, the old express train still works on the track in Kyoto Prefecture.

Hanare-ko (Lake Hanare) near Amino station, Kyoto Tango Railway

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Indonesian Railway Update in 2019

Set Ts11 of the MRTJ in Jakarta, Indonesia
(Photo: Faris Fadhli)

I have received news from an Indonesian rail fan. My thanks go to Faris Fadhli, who kindly sent me the recent photos.

The first photo: The first Indonesian subway line was opened in Jakarta on March 24th. It is the North-south line of Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRTJ). Connecting Bundaran H.I. in the downtown area and Lebak Bulus in the southern suburb, the operating length is 15.5 kilometers. The track is double. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The train control system is CBCT provided by Nippon Signal. The rolling stock was imported from Japan. A total of 16 sets, 96 units, were built by Nippon Sharyo. The car numbers are K1 18 07 to K1 18 96 according to the Indonesian Railway Act. The electric control system of the trains is IGBT-VVVF (variable frequency drive). 

The second photo: I am going to show you the current appearance of the 8618F of the EMU ex-Tokyu 8500 series. 8618F was operated on the Tokyu line in Japan from 1976 to 2008. After retirement from Tokyu, 8618F was then moved to Jakarta to spend its second life. It was a 10-car train in Japan, but it currently grew longer... 12 cars in Jakarta. The body stripes were also changed to red and yellow, which are the standard color of the local train operator, Kereta Commuter Indonesia. The second life is more busy than that of the Tokyu era.

8618F of the EMU KCI 8500 series (ex-Tokyu 8500 series) arrives at Depok station
(Photo: Faris Fadhli) 

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Spring Sightseeing Season on the Ito Line

Set Ne012 of the EMU JR East E259 series, Marine Express Odoriko, arrives at Ito station

It is a spring sightseeing season in the Tokyo metropolitan area. We can see the beautiful seasonal blossoms here and there. They are fully blown in open fields, hills, public parks and private gardens.

I recently visited Komuroyama Park in Ito City, Shizuoka Prefecture with my family. Komuroyama is a small volcano and famous for its azalea blossoms. It was in peak blooming season and a flower festival was being held in the park. We saw that a traditional drumming team from a local high school was giving visitors a powerful performance. The park was filled with a rhythmic beat by the boys and girls.

To get to this spring paradise, the JR East Ito line and the connecting bus service was convenient. It took about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Tokyo to Ito by a limited express train. Most of the trains are directly operated onto the local private railway, the Izukyu line.

On my way back home, I came across JR East's limited express train, "Marine Express Odoriko", at Ito station. The EMU E259 series was commissioned for this train. As you may know, the E259 series is normally operated as an airport access train named "Narita Express" between the downtown Tokyo area and the New Tokyo International Airport (Narita Airport), but it is also operated between Tokyo and Izukyu-Shimoda via Ito in peak vacation seasons. You can see a special emblem for Marine Express Odoriko on the front of the train.

The spring sightseeing season continues.

Traditional drumming performance by Hiryu High School Team at Komuroyama Park

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Royal Box: High-Grade Car on the Izukyu Line

A star-studded sky on the ceiling of Royal Box car, EMU Izukyu 2100 series, Kurofune train

On January 25th, Izukyu issued a press statement announcing that Royal Box car of Izukyu Kurofune train will be operated from April 1st to June 30th in line with the Shizuoka Destination Campaign.

What is Kurofune train and Royal Box car? Kurofune train (set R-4 of the EMU Izukyu 2100 series) was created based on the image of Kurofune, which abruptly visited Japan led by US Commodore Perry in 1853 to demand the Tokugawa Shogunate to open the country to the world. Seeing that, the Japanese called them "Kurofune" (black ships). Accepting Perry's request, the Tokugawa Shogunate signed a treaty opening Shimoda Port to U.S. trade in 1854. As you noticed, Shimoda is the terminal of the Izukyu Line. Royal Box car is a special high-grade car (SaRo 2182) coupled to Kurofune train. It was once operated as a Green Car (the first-class car), but recently not coupled to Kurofune train due to its high maintenance cost.

During the period of the Shizuoka Destination Campaign, Royal Box car is specially coupled to Kurofune train. To my joy, Royal Box car requires no extra charge. It is good news for passengers. I recently enjoyed riding Royal Box car between JR East Atami and Izukyu-Shimoda stations. The unique service was its star-studded sky including meteoric showers on the ceiling. It was projected while the train passed through tunnels. It was very beautiful and wonderful memory for my travel.

Royal Box is the best entertainment car on the railways in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Set R-4 of the EMU Izukyu 2100 series, Kurofune train, stands at Izukyu-Shimoda terminal

Friday, 3 May 2019

Access to the Scenic Spot in Kyoto Prefecture: Part 2

Amanohashidate Monorail

I recently visited Amanohashidate (the heavenly bridge) in Kyoto Prefecture for the first time in a year with my family. Amanohashidate is a 3.6-kilometer-long sandbar stretching along Miyazu Bay. The sandbar is lined with numerous beautiful pine trees. To admire the view of Amanohashidate, climbing up the hills on the both sides of the bay is recommended. Last year, we climbed up the hill on the northern side, so that this year, we headed to the hill on the southern side.

To climb up the hill on the southern side, Amonohashidate Monorail is convenient. To be exact, it is not a monorail, but a slope car. It is classified as an elevator under the Building Standards Act, not a monorail under the Railway Business Act. You can see similar transportation systems in Asukayama Park, Mt. Sarakura, Manna Country Club, Hakone Mountain and Minami-Yatsugatake Hana-no-mori Park.

This unique system was built by Kaho Monorail Company in 1999. Connecting Amanohashidate and Amanohashidate View Land stations, its route length is 393 meters. The maximum inclination of the route is 25 degrees. One of the features of this transportation system is its vehicle. It is a double vehicle to secure transportation capacity. Passenger capacity per vehicle is 20; therefore, a total of 40 persons can ride on each trip. The operating interval is 20 minutes. The speed of the vehicle is 55 meters per minute. The operation is driver-less using an electric motor with a rack-and-pinion driving system.

Amanohashidate Monorail and the view from Amanohashidate View Land

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

EMU Hokuso 7800 Series: Rental Train from Keisei

7808F of the EMU Hokuso 7800 series

I completely thought that I had already introduced all of the trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area in this blog but there are still some left. Today, I am going to show you one of those models.

The EMU Hokuso 7800 series is one of the main fleet on Hokuso Railway. It was originally launched in 1991 as Keisei's commuter train named the 3700 series. A total of 132 units were built by Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. In 2003, 3 sets, 24 units, of the 3700 series were moved from Keisei Electric Railway to Hokuso Railway according to the leasing contract. It was, then, renamed as the Hokuso 7800 series. The body stripes were also changed from red and blue to dark blue and light blue. Hokuso also has the same type of trains named the 7300 series, but the 7300 series is Hokuso's own rolling stock. In other words, the Hokuso 7800, 7300 and Keisei 3700 series are sister trains, which have same technical specifications.

Incidentally, Hokuso is a local railway company in Chiba Prefecture. It was established in 1972 for the carriage of the Chiba Newtown residents. The route extends to the western part of Chiba Prefecture including Chiba Newtown. Connecting Keisei-Takasago and Imba-Nihonidai stations, its route length is 32.1 kilometers. The track is double and electrified. The gauge size is 1,435 millimeters. The electric system is 1,500 V overhead. Hokuso trains are directly operated onto the Keisei, Toei-Asakusa and Keikyu lines.

7818F of the EMU Hokuso 7800 series

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Early Spring in Yokohama

Set Y502 poster train of the EMU Yokohama Minatomirai Railway 500 series

Just one week before the sakura (cherry blossoms) season, I visited Yokohama City to look for a herald of spring. My destination was Yamashita Park in the downtown area.

It was a sunny and warm weekend. I saw many families and couples in the park. They were chatting, napping, eating lunch and so on. The park offered them a refreshing place and a relaxing time. I also found a large vessel lying alongside the pier. It was Asuka II, Japan's largest cruise ship. Asuka II was built by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1990 under the name of Crystal Harmony. In 2006, it was transferred to Nippon Yusen Kaisha and her name was changed to Asuka II. Currently, her port of registry is Yokohama. She has a length of 241 meters, a breadth of 29.6 meters, and a maximum speed of 21 knots.

On the way back home, I came across a special poster train on the subway Minatomirai Line of Yokohama Minatomirai Railway. It was set Y502 of the EMU Y500 series celebrating the 15th anniversary of Yokohama Minatomirai Railway. Set Y502 was decorated with strawberry stickers and plates. Why Strawberry? It is just a Japanese pun. Strawberry is called ichi-go in Japanese. Ichi means one and go means five. One five is fifteen. That's it, no more. For your information, the Y500 series is a sister train of the EMU Tokyu 5000 series. A total of 6 sets, 48 units, were built by Tokyu Sharyo.

Japsn's largest cruise ship, Asuka II, anchors in Yokohama port

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Preserved Electric Car in Shimotsuke City

Electric car KuMoE 21001 is preserved at Nissan Park in Shimotsuke City

Shimotsuke is a small city located in the southern part of Tochigi Prefecture. It is a new city established in 2006 after merging three small towns. I recently visited Shimotsuke City for a stroll with my family.

The greatest discovery was an electric car exhibited in Nissan Park near Koganei station on the Tohoku main line. It was KuMoE 21001 of the Class KuMoE 21. KuMoE 21001 was built by Nippon Sharyo in 1927 as a commuter electric car named DeHa 73284. After being operated on the Senseki line in Miyagi Prefecture, it was modified to a relief car, and renamed as KuMoE 21001 in 1963 by Morioka Factory of Japanese National Railways. Eventually, it was retired from the track in 1986, and moved to Nissan Park for exhibition. KuMoE 21001 has a length of 17 meters, a breadth of 2.87 meters, a weight of 44.7 tons and a maximum speed of 95 kilometers per hour. It was dispatched for relief when the railway accidents happened. For that purpose, it had a jib crane to lift tools up and down.

I was attracted by this old electric car. The body was square and sturdy. The large rounded frontal light was my favorite. The wide central doors were classic and striking. Its boggies (type DT10) were nostalgic and the resister was large. That's certainly the electric car in the 1920s.

I hope that this precious electric car will be maintained in good condition.

Side view of KuMoE 21001 of the Class KuMoE 21

Sunday, 21 April 2019

2019 Sakura Season in Saitama

Set MU34 of the EMU JR East E231 series arrives at Higashi-Urawa station

Subsequent to Tokyo Metropolis, I am going to continue to show you this year's sakura (cherry blossoms) in Saitama City.

On March 25th, the Meteorological Agency of Japan declared that sakura (cherry) blossoms had started blooming in Saitama City. It was four days later than Tokyo Metropolis, and three days earlier than last year. I visited Cherry Promenade in the Minuma area of Saitama City with my family. Cherry Promenade is a 20 kilometer-long foot path with numerous cherry trees. When we visited there, it was fine weather and all the cherry trees were in full bloom. It was this year's best day to admire the cherry blossoms in Saitama City. My favorite spot was a "cherry tunnel", where cherry branches were arcuate and looked like a tunnel. It was very unique and beautiful. 

On the way back home, I enjoyed taking train photos at Higashi-Urawa station on the Musashino line. My target was the EMU 231 series, which was transferred from the Sobu line last year in accordance with JR East's relocation plan of their rolling stock. It was an 8-car train consisting of 4 motorcars and 4 trailers (4M4T). The bodies are stainless-steel made with orange, brown and white-colored stripes. The E231 series was once a very rare train on the Musashino line, but it has become a major fleet. A total of 8 sets, 64 cars, are currently operated on the line.

The Musashino line is significantly changing.

"Cherry tunnel" is seen near Higashi-Urawa station on the JR East Musashino line

Sunday, 14 April 2019

2019 Sakura Season in Tokyo

1733F of the EMU Keio 1000 series arrives at Takaido station on the Inokashira line

Subsequent to Yokohama City, I am going to show you sakura (cherry blossoms) in Tokyo Metropolis this year.

On March 21st, the Meteorological Agency of Japan declared that the sakura (cherry) blossoms had started blooming in Tokyo. It was four days later than last year, and two days earlier than most years. As I post year after year, Japanese people harbor romantic emotions towards sakura blossoms. We are also reminded of the emptiness of life, seeing the beautiful blossoms dropping only a week after they fully blossom. This season is precious for us. Sakura viewing is a part of Japanese culture; famous sakura spots are crowded with admirers.

This year, I visited Takaido on the Keio-Inokashira line, the same as last year, since there are beautiful sakura trees on the bank of the Kanda River and along the track of the Keio-Inokashira Line. It is also a place filled with memories for me because I went to a kindergarten in Takaido when I was a kid. We kindergarten pupils often walked along the stream and the track with our teacher to see the fully bloomed sakura trees and the rattling trains.

I was able to take many train photos backed by full blown sakura trees from the platform of Takaido station. They were the EMU 1000 series with somei-yoshino cherries. They were very beautiful. I saw many rail-fans and photo lovers there. The only problem was the angle of the sunlight because it was close to sunset. I am going to show you two passable photos.

1725F of the EMU Keio 1000 series travels on the Inokashira line

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

2019 Sakura Season in Yokohama

Steam locomotive D51 516 is preserved in Hommoku Public Park in Yokohama City

Sakura (cherry blossoms) season has come in the Tokyo metropolitan area again. We can see beautiful faint pink blossoms here and there. People are feeling the herald of spring. With so many cherry blossom viewing spots available, it's hard to select which one is the best. After wavering, I headed to Yokohama City in Kanagawa Prefecture with my family.

Our destination was Sankei-en, which is a traditional Japanese-style garden in the city. It was opened by a silk trader, Sankei Hara, in 1906. Although it was badly damaged during WWII, the garden was perfectly restored after it was donated to the City of Yokohama in 1953. I saw many visitors admiring full-blown cherry blossoms in the garden.

On the way back home, I found an old steam locomotive (SL) preserved in Hommoku Public Park near Sankei-en. It was unit number 516 of the Class D51 (D51 516). Class D51 was Japan's largest force of SL fleet. A total of 1,115 units were built from 1935 to 1950. It is a 2-8-2 (Whyte notation) type SL that has a tender attached. Currently, D51 200 and 498 are still operated on the track as sightseeing trains; while a total of 178 units are preserved in museums, public parks and schools throughout Japan. D51 516 was built by Omiya Factory of the Railway Ministry in 1941. After 29 years commission, it was retired from the tracks and moved to Hommoku Park in 1970. D51 516 is preserved in a very good condition.

Full-blown cherry trees in Sankei-en Park in Yokohama City

Saturday, 6 April 2019

EMU 6020 Series: New Model on the Oimachi Line

EMU Tokyu 6020 series travels on the Oimachi line

Following the EMU 2020 series, I am going to show you another new model on the Tokyu lines.

On March 28th 2018, Tokyu launched a new commuter train named the 6020 series on their Oimachi line. The same as the 2020 series on the Den-en-toshi line, the 6020 series is characterized by its unique "face". It is white and round. The crescent-shaped accent strikes passengers' eyes. The large cowcatcher integrated with the face also stands out conspicuously. The 6020 series has an orange-colored stripe; while the 2020 series has a green-colored stripe.

The vehicle traveling system of the 6020 series is almost the same as that of the 2020 series. For example, it has a full SiC-MOFSET variable frequency drive electric control system. One control device controls four induction motors. Different from the 2020 series, the 6020 series is a 7-car train including 4 motor cars. A total of 2 sets, 14 cars, were built by J-TREC and operated on the line. 

By the way, car number 3 of the 6020 series is called "Q SEAT" car. What is Q Seat? It is a reserved seat car the same as the Keio Liner. It has multi-purpose seats, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control system. The cross seat mode is applied when it is operated as a reserved seat car at night. The number of cross seat mode train operations is 5 on a weekday. The fee for a seat reservation is 400 yen.

Q SEAT car of the EMU Tokyu 6020 series

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

New Timetable on the Keio Line

5731F of the EMU Keio 5000 series, "Keio Liner", travels on the Keio line

On February 26th, Keio Electric Railway Company changed their timetable for the first time in a year. What was new with this commuter railway?

Keio increased the operation number of Keio Liner, which is the reserved seat train on their Keio and Sagamihara Line. Keio Liner debuted last year as Keio's first reserved seat train. The number of operations was 5 for Keio-Hachioji and another 5 for Hashimoto every day. They were all westbound trains operated at night. This time, Keio has started operation of an eastbound Keio Liner as well. The total number of operations increased from 10 to 14 on a weekday. It is convenient for long distance commuters, who live in the western suburb of Tokyo to secure their seats. The fee for a seat reservation is 400 yen.

Keio Liner has a similar concept with those of Keikyu Wing, Tobu TJ Liner, Seibu S-train and JR East's so-called Commuter Liner. The train model for Keio Liner is the EMU 5000 series launched in 2017. A total of five sets, 50 cars, were built by J-TREC. This model has multi-purpose seats, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control system. The cross seat mode is applied when it is operated as Keio Liner train.

In commemoration of the new timetable, Keio displays a special plate on the front of 8712F of the EMU 8000 series. It is informative for passengers on the Keio lines.

In commemoration of the new timetable, Keio displays a special plate on the front of 8712F

Official movie about Keio Liner:

Sunday, 31 March 2019

EMU 2000 Series: New Model on the Marunouchi Line

2103F of the EMU Tokyo Metro 2000 series stands at Yotsuya station

On February 23rd, Tokyo Metro launched a new model on their Marunouchi Line for the first time in 30 years. 

The brand new train named EMU 2000 series has aluminum alloy bodies with rounded shaped frontal design. Its body color is glowing red with a white stripe. Look closely, the stripe has silver colored sign curves inward, which are the same design as the first generation model, electric car 300 series, on the Marunouchi line. The round-shaped side windows are cute and my favorite. With respect to the technical specifications, the 2000 series adopts some new technologies for example single axle steering truck. Thanks to the new truck, the 2000 series can be smoothly and quietly operated even on tight curves.

The 2000 series has free spaces in the cars. There are small tables and baggage hangers in the free spaces. Power receptacles are also equipped so that passengers can charge their mobile phones as necessary. Currently, 3 sets, 18 units of the 2000 series are operated on the Marunouchi line. Tokyo Metro plans to introduce a total of 53 sets, 318 units of the 2000 series by 2022. 

For your information, the Marunouchi Line is Tokyo's second oldest subway route that was primarily opened between Ikebukuro and Ochanomizu (6.4 kilomters) in 1954. Currently, its total route length is 27.4 kilometers including the Honancho branch line. The gauge size is 1,435 mm and the electric system is 600 V DC third rail.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Night Museum in Saitama City: Part 4

Unit number 89 of the electric locomotive Class EF 58 is preserved at the Railway Museum

When I joined the night museum event at the Railway Museum last month, I found an important exhibition in the museum. That was an electric locomotive (EL), unit number 89 of the Class EF58.

The Class EF58 was a direct current EL developed by the Japanese National Railways (JNR) in 1946. A total of 172 units were built by Hitachi, Tokyo Shibaura Denki (present Toshiba) and the others from 1946 to 1958. Failures often occurred during the operation in the early period, but it started working well after a large technical improvement in 1952. The body length of EF58 is 19.9 meters, which is rather big. The gauge size is 1,067 millimeters and the electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The axis arrangement is 2-C-C-2 in JNR notation. The rated power output is 1,900 kW. The Class EF58 was commissioned as both freight and passenger trains.

All units of the Class EF58 have completed their operation by 2011 due to deterioration. Currently, only 5 units are preserved at museums and parks. Unit 58 (EF58 89) is preserved at Railway Museum in Saitama City. It was built by Hitachi in 1956 and belonged to Utsunomiya Depot in Tochigi Prefecture at first, but it was then transferred to Tabata Depot in Tokyo. After the retirement in 1999, EF58 89 was moved to Railway Museum in 2007 before the opening of the museum. 

Class EF58 supported the reconstruction of post-WWII Japanese industries and societies. Arigatou (thank you) EF58. Please have a good rest.

The product plaque of EF58 89 and the name of  manufacturer "Hitachi"

Official guide of the Railway Museum:
Official guide of the electric locomotive Class EF58 (in Japanese):

Monday, 25 March 2019

Electric Car KoDe 165: New Color

Electric car Izu-Hakone KoDe 165 (new color)

I recently visited the Daiyuzan line of Izu-Hakone Railway for the first time in two years. What was new with this local private railway?

I found that the coloring of the construction vehicle named KoDe 165 was changed from yellow to a chocolate color. KoDe 165 was built in 1928 as MoHa 30166 passenger electric car on the Japanese Government Railways. In 1960, it was moved to Sagami Railway and used as a passenger car known as KuHa 2510. In 1976, it was transferred again to Izu-Hakone Railway and used as a passenger car with a name change to MoHa 165. Eventually, it was modified to a construction vehicle known as KoDe 165 in 1997. For your information, "KoDe" stands for a "construction electric car" in Japanese.

One of the missions for KoDe 165 is to pull commuter trains as a freight train. It happens when the commuter train is to be inspected. As you may know, Izu-Hakone Railway doesn't have its own railway factory on the Daiyuzan line. Their sole railway factory named Daiba Factory is located only on the Sunzu line; therefore, the commuter trains on the Daiyuzan line have to be transported to their Sunzu line via JR East Tokaido main line. That's an important mission for KoDe 165.

In March 2018, KoDe 165 got a change in its body color and appeared before rail-fans. Its new color is my favorite, as it is what I saw many commuter trains in my childhood. It is so nostalgic.

KoDe 165 (left) and 5501F of the EMU Izu-Hakone 5000 series (right)