Friday, 13 December 2019

Gondola Lift to the Natural Park

Tateshina Ranch Gondola Lift

Shirakaba (white birch) Highland is located in the eastern part of Nagano Prefecture, about 200 km northwest of Tokyo. It is a cool highland more than 1,500 meters above sea level. I visited this superb highland with my family in the early autumn this year.

To get to the most famous sightseeing spot named Gosen-en Natural Park, Tateshina Ranch Gondola Lift, also known as Shuttle Venus, is convenient. Connecting the mountain foot (about 1,530 meters above sea level) and the summit (about 1,830 meters above sea level) stations, its operating length is 1,260 meters. The height difference between the lowest and the highest points of the route is about 300 meters. The mountain foot station is located near beautiful Tateshina Ranch and a mysterious lake named Megami-ko (Lake Venus). It takes about seven minutes from the mountain foot to the summit station.The route was opened in 1985. Six-seater gondolas are operated. The current gondolas were introduced in 2003 as the 2nd generation ones.

After getting off at the summit station, we visited Gosen-en Natural Park. It was a flat highland with a dense forest and a foggy swamp. We enjoyed strolling and found Gypsy rose (Scabiosa japonica) and Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicum) blossoms in a bush. Gypsy rose is a rare species, since it is only seen in grasslands of high mountainous areas in Japan. It had about a 4 centimeters across tiny blossom with a light purple color.

There were many pleasures in Shirakaba Highland.

Japanese thistle (left) and Gypsy rose (right)

Monday, 9 December 2019

Suspension Bridge of Dreams on the Ooigawa Railway

EMU Ooigawa Railway (ex-Tokyu) 7200 series travels on the Ooigawa main line

Ooigawa (or Oigawa) is a large river in Shizuoka Prefecture. It flows from the Japanese Southern Alps southward into the Pacific Ocean. The drainage area is famous for its green tea production. Ooigawa is also well known for its various suspension bridges. The most famous one is Yume-no-tsuribashi (suspension bridge of dreams) crossing Sumata River, which is a branch river of the Ooigawa. It is 90 meters long and 8 meters high... not large. How has the bridge made itself famous? The answer is water colors under the bridge. Look at the photo. You can see emerald green or cobalt blue colored water under the bridge. This beautiful color is created by the transparent river water with very few suspended materials. It is nothing but "the suspension bridge of dreams".

To visit Yume-no-tsuribashi, Ooigawa Railway is convenient. It is composed of the 39.5 kilometer-long Ooigawa main line and the 25.5 kilometer-long light railway, namely the Ikawa line. The EMU 7200 series is the standard train on the main line. It was originally operated on the Tokyu Railway in the Tokyo metropolitan area. A total of 53 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo from 1967 to 1972. In 2002, two units of the 7200 series were moved from Tokyu to Towada-kanko Electric Railway. After 12 years, they were transferred again to Ooigawa Railway since Towada-kanko Electric Railway was abolished.

You can meet with both the beautiful suspension bridge and the nostalgic train on the Ooigawa Railway.

Suspension Bridge of Dreams

Friday, 6 December 2019

Thomas Train on the Ooigawa Railway

"Thomas train" travels on the Ooigawa Railway

"Thomas & Friends" is a popular children's television series in the world. It was first broadcasted in the United Kingdom in 1984. In Japan, the television broadcast started in 1990 under the name of "Locomotive Thomas". Needless to say, it became popular rapidly among Japanese children. Catching onto the popularity of this TV series, Fujikyu Railway, for example, opened a theme park, Thomas Land, in 1998. To visit the park, Fujikyu operates a special train named "Thomas Land Train" from Otsuki Terminal.

Ooigawa (or Oigawa) Railway also can't keep their arms crossed in this favorable condition. They launched "Thomas train" in 2014 using a modified steam locomotive (SL) and old passenger coaches. The modified SL namely C11 227 was originally built by Nippon Sharyo in 1942. After being operated on the Japanese National Railways (JNR), it was transferred to Ooigawa Railway in 1975, and modified to Thomas in 2014. Different from "real Thomas", C11 227 has leading wheels and trailing wheels (2-6-4 in Whyte notation). Real Thomas has one dome only; however, C11 227 has both steam and sand domes. Real Thomas pulls only two passenger coaches namely Annie and Clarabel; however, Thomas train on the Ooigawa Railway has 7 passenger coaches (ex-JNR SuHa 43 series). Let's not speak so stiffly. Don't break children's dream!

Thomas train has won great popularity, and is the Saviour for the local private company. It is difficult to get a seat reservation, so, I took photographs from the public road along the track.

Steam locomotive "Thomas (C11 227)"  stands at Senzu station yard

Official information about Thomas train on the Ooigawa Railway:
http://oigawa-railway.co.jp/en/thomas.html

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Toei Festa 2019: Linear Motor Train

EMU Toei 12-000 series is exhibited at Magome rail yard

Subway trains are annoying for rail photo lovers. One of the problems is its dark environment on the railway track. Many rail fans shoot subway trains only on the surface sections during the daytime instead of on the underground sections, but such surface sections are limited in Tokyo. In the first place, several subway lines do not have surface sections.

The Toei-Ooedo line is no exception. All its routes are underground. To make matters worse, all stations on the Ooedo line currently have automatic platform gates (APG) to prevent passengers from falling off the platform edge. APG is essential for safety, but it is hampering photography. What should I do? The answer is "joining railyard tours"! I could recently shoot the whole feature of the EMU Toei 12-000 series for the Ooedo line under the sunlight when the railyard tour was held at Magome rail yard last month (Toei Festa 2019). The photo captured not only train bodies but also bogies and underfloor devices. Perfect!

Incidentally, linear motor technology is adopted for the train driving system on the Ooedo line. The linear motor is an electric motor that doesn't have a shaft. It moves in a straight line, while a conventional motor has a rotary movement. I could observe the linear motor, which was exhibited in the rail yard factory.

I gained a lot from the railyard tour of Toei Festa 2019. I am truly grateful to Toei to have held this special event.

A linear motor for the EMU 12-000 series is exhibited in Magome rail yard

Official inforation about the Toei Subway:
Official information about the trains on the Toei-Ooedo line (in Japanese):

Friday, 29 November 2019

Kanazawa Seaside Line: Update

Set 43 of the EMU 2000 series travels on the Kanazawa seaside line

I recently visited the Kanazawa seaside line for the first time since 2012. What has changed on this automated guideway transit (AGT) line in the last 7 years?

The biggest change was its rolling stock. All the sets of the old EMU 1000 series were retired from the track in 2014. Instead, the new EMU 2000 series has become the sole model on the line. The 2000 series was first introduced in 2011 on the line. A total of 16 sets (from set 31 to set 46) were built by J-TREC (former Tokyu Sharyo). One set is composed of 5 motor cars. The body of the 2000 series is stainless steel, which is different from the previous 1000 series.

Incidentally, the Kanazawa seaside line is a rubber-tired AGT transportation system in the southern part of Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, about 40 kilometers south of Tokyo. It was opened in 1989 by Yokohama seaside Line Company. Connecting Shin-Sugita on the JR East Negishi line and Kanazawa-hakkei on the Keikyu main line, its operating length is 10.8 kilometers. The electric system is 750 V DC. ATO (Automatic Train Operation) system is adopted, so there is no driver and conductor on the train.

Sitting on the front seat, the passenger can enjoy the view ahead. I specifically like a marine view between Hakkei-jima and Nojima-koen stations. Same as the Yurikamome line on the coast of Tokyo Bay, the Kanazawa seaside line is the urban marine resort route in Yokohama City.

Set 37 of the EMU 2000 series travels on the Kanazawa seaside line

Official information about the Kanazawa seaside line:
Official information about the EMU Yokohama Ne Transit 2000 series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Toei Festa 2019: Gorgeous Train Line-up

"Toei Festa 2019" is held in Magome rail yard on the Toei-Asakusa line

Following the Tokyu Train Festival 2019, I joined the other autumn rail yard tour in Tokyo.

On November 16th, the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei) held a rail yard tour named "Toei Festa 2019" in their Magome rail yard on the Asakusa line. I saw a gorgeous line-up of the trains in the yard. They were the EMU 5300, 5500 series and the electric locomotive Class E5000 on the Asakusa line. The EMU Keisei 3000 series and the Keikyu 2100 series also joined the line-up. In addition, the EMU 12-000 series from the Toei-Ooedo line also joined.

Why could the Keisei and Keikyu line trains come to Toei Magome rail yard? It must be an easy problem for rail-fans. The Keisei and Keikyu lines are directly connected with the Toei-Asakusa line, so they could easily come to Magome rail yard.

Next problem... why could the Ooedo line train come to Magome rail yard on the Asakusa line? It might be difficult, because these two lines don't look like they are connected to each other and the electric system of the two lines is different. The answer is "by way of a special underground connecting line using a special locomotive". The train on the Ooedo line is transported to the Asakusa line by way of the Shiodome connecting line pulled by the electric locomotive Class E5000. It sometimes happens when the legal inspection of the Ooedo line train is conducted at Magome rail yard on the Asakusa line.

Gorgeous line-up of the Toei, Keikyu and Keisei trains

Friday, 22 November 2019

Tokyu Train Festival 2019: Class DMC4000

Diesel locomotive Class Tokyu DMC4000 is exhibited at Nagatsuta rail yard

After observing the inspection car, "TOQi", I found another strange car in the rail yard. It was a brand new, blue colored and convex type diesel locomotive. What was that? The answer was an engineering car, Class DMC4000, belonging to the Engineering Department of Tokyu Railways.

The Class DMC4000 is classified as a locomotive for industrial use. It is used for ballast transportation and pulling the rail-grinder car. In other words, this locomotive doesn't pull freight and passenger trains. The axis arrangement of the Class DMC4000 is Bo+Bo in UIC notation. The dry weight is 45 ton. The operating speed is 42 kilometers per hour pulling 120 ton materials on a horizontal track. It can go as fast as 10 kilometers per hour even on a 30 per mill inclined track.

The Class DMC4000 was built by Hokuriku Juki Kogyo Company in 2018. This company is well known as the manufacturer of the "Satoyama Torocco" sightseeing train on the Kominato Railway in Chiba Prefecture. Many rail-fans were flocking to the shooting area of the Class DMC4000, and taking photographs of this unique locomotive. I was also one of them. It was beautifully shining in the morning sun. It has become my favorite locomotive.

The railway employees of Tokyu Railways were very friendly and kind to visitors. They answered my questions nicely. The festival was indeed a great success. Plenty of people enjoyed the festival safely. I am truly grateful to Tokyu Railways Companies to have held this special event.

Diesel locomotive Class Tokyu DMC4000 (left)

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Tokyu Train Festival 2019: TOQi

Inspection car, the EMU Tokyu 7500 series, "TOQi", is exhibited in Nagatsuta rail yard

Autumn is the season of railways in Japan. It was 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 14th as Railway Day in 1994. Since then, many railway companies have started to hold special events in autumn such as rail yard tours and/or special memorial train operations.

This year, I joined the rail yard tour of Tokyu Railways held in their Nagatsuta rail yard on November 10th. I saw many families with small children, young couples and rail fans like me in the yard, which is normally closed to the public. My desired train was TOQi, whose formal name is the EMU 7500 series. TOQi is the inspection cars for the Tokyu lines. It can inspect all Tokyu lines except the Setagaya line. Targets of the inspection are tracks, overhead wires, signal safety facilities and train radio systems.

TOQi was built in 2012 by Tokyu Sharyo to replace the old inspection train named the EMU 7200 series. TOQi is a 2-car train consisting of two motor cars (2M), DeYa 7500 and DeYa 7550. Each car has an 18 meter-long body. Its technical specifications are similar with those of the commuter train, the EMU 7000 seriesI was very impressive that TOQi has a special roof for overhead wire observation. Not only the mechanical measurement of the trolley wire abrasion, visual inspection is also conducted by Tokyu engineers.

To be continued...

Area for overhead wire observation on the EMU Tokyu 7500 series, "TOQi"

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

Saturday, 16 November 2019

EMU 3100 Series: New Model on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3100 series travels on the Hokuso line

On October 26th, Keisei Electric Railway launched a brand new train named the EMU 3100 series. Introduction of the new model was for the first time in 9 years on the Keisei line. The 3100 series is operated as an "Access Express" train between the New Tokyo International Airport (Narita) and the Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) via the Hokuso, Toei-Asakusa and the Keikyu lines. What is new with the 3100 series?

Firstly, flip-up type luggage storage is equipped on each car. The storage is used for passenger seats, if no luggage is on the car. It is structurally rational and quite useful for tourists. Secondly, the free Wi-Fi system is equipped on the train. It is convenient especially for inbound passengers. Thirdly, you can see orange colored stripes on the bodies. It is totally different from the other existing Keisei trains, and effective in order to prevent mistaken boarding. With regard to the technical specifications, the 3100 series has a brand new SiC-VVVF (silicon carbide-variable frequency drive) inverter electric control system. The new system comes with a fifteen-percent improvement in its electric power consumption performance over the previous IGBT-VVVF inverter electric control system.

Different from Keisei Skyliner and JR East Narita Express, "Access Express" requires no extra charge. It is good news for young passengers. Keisei plans to introduce a total of 2 sets, 16 cars, of the 3100 series by the end of March 2020, and will continue to introduce it as well from 2021 on.

EMU Keisei 3100 series stands at Oshiage station

Official information about the Keisei trains (in Japanese):
Official information about the EMU Keisei 3100 series (in Japanese):

Monday, 11 November 2019

EMU 7500 Series: New Model on the Yurikamome Line

Set 51 of the EMU 7500 series travels on the Yurikamome line

I recently visited the Tokyo Bay area for the first time in a year. What was new with this futuristic region in Tokyo?

I found that Yurikamome Company (the former name was Tokyo Rinkai Shin-kotsu Company) introduced a new train model named the EMU 7500 series on November 11th, 2018. Yurikamome is a rubber-tyred AGT (automated guide way transit) line opened in 1995. Connecting Shimbashi and Toyosu, its current operating length is 14.7 kilometers.

The 7500 series is ordinarily operated without a driver the same as its senior models namely EMU 7000, 7200 and 7300 series. There is no independent cockpit on the train, so the passengers, especially rail-fans like me, can enjoy the beautiful bay view ahead. Technical specifications of the 7500 series are the same as those of the previously-existing 7300 series, but a different point from the 7300 series is the frontal design. You can see blue-colored "driver-less operation lights". They are lighted when the train is operated in driver-less operation mode. Regarding the interior, dual information displays and a free Wi-Fi system are equipped on the 7500 series. The company plans to introduce a total of 8 sets, 48 units, by June 2020.

Incidentally, before inauguration of the Yurikamome line, people were concerned that the railway company would struggle with debts, because the construction cost was quite large. So far, their fears were utterly groundless, because the number of passengers has been much higher than anticipated. I saw many foreign passengers use this line for sightseeing in the Tokyo Bay area.

Set 51 of the EMU 7500 series travels on the Yurikamome line

Official information about the EMU Yurikamome 7500 series (in Japanese):

Friday, 8 November 2019

Chrysanthemum Season on the Arakawa Line

Unit 8905 (rose-red color) of the Toei 8900 series travels on the Arakawa line

It is already November. Time really flies. The minimum temperature in Tokyo is around 10 degrees Celsius. Last weekend, I visited the downtown area with my family looking for deep autumn scenes.

We found that a chrysanthemum show was being held at Kogan-ji temple by the local people. Together with cosmos, chrysanthemum is an autumn flower that represents Japan. They were yellow, purple, pink and white colored large flowers... so beautiful. Kogan-ji temple, also called Togenuki-jizo, is a famous tourist spot on the Arakawa line. Especially, elderly people love this place to pray for the cure of their diseases.

To visit Kogan-ji temple, the nearest tram stop is Koshinzuka on the Toei-Arakawa line. Tokyo once had a 181km-long tram network; but most routes were abolished due to heavy traffic jams. The Arakawa line is a precious survivor, as it was constructed as an exclusive track. Connecting Waseda and Minowabashi, its operating length is 12.2km. The track is 1,372mm dual-gauge. The electric system is 600V DC overhead.

The 8900 series is the latest electric car operated by the Transportation Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Toei). There are 4 types of body colors. They are orange (unit number 8901 and 8902), blue (8903 and 8904), rose-red (8905 and 8906) and yellow (8907 and 8908). The operator once planned to introduce a total of 16 units; however, it was canceled half way through, since it costed much. Instead, the 7700 series (converted from the 7000 series) has been increasing in numbers.

Chrysanthemum show is held at Kogan-ji temple near Koshinzuka stop on the Arakawa line

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

EMU Seibu 001 Series: New Flagship Train

EMU Seibu 001 series, "Laview", travels on the Ikebukuro line

On March 16th this year, Seibu Railway Company launched a new express train, the EMU 001 series, "Laview", on the Ikebukuro line.

What is Laview? It is Seibu's coined word combining Luxury, Arrow and View. "Luxury" means a space that is like a living room. "Arrow" means high speed and "View" means large passenger windows of this new train. Seibu first launched an express train, the EMU 5000 series, "Red Arrow", in 1969 in time with the opening of the Chichibu line. The 5000 series was then replaced by the EMU 10000 series, "New Red Arrow", in 1993. 26 years later, Seibu eventually introduced the long-awaited new flagship train, "Laview".

Laview is an 8 car train consisting of 4 motor cars and 4 trailers (4M4T). The bodies are made of aluminum alloy. It was designed by a female architect, Sejima Kazuyo. The greatest features of the outer design are its rounded faces and large side windows. They are totally different from those of Red Arrow and New Red Arrow. The body color of Laview is metallic silver, which integrates into the scenery along the Seibu lines. The interior is based around the color yellow, and is also very beautiful. Regarding the technical specifications, the state of art VVVF (variable frequency drive) electric control system with full SiC-MOSFET elements was adopted. A total of 7 sets will be built by Hitachi by the end of March next year.

The Seibu express train is going to a new stage.

Side view of the EMU Seibu 001 series, "Laview"

Official information about the EMU Seibu 001 series, "Laview":
Official promotion movie, the EMU Seibu 001 series, "Laview":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYR0svcmob8
Official information about the EMU Seibu 001 series, "Laview" (in Japanese):

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Indonesian Railway Update: Marchen Face Train

Ex-set M14 (4 cars) and M35 (8 cars) of the ex-JR East 205 series, Bogor line in Indonesia
Photo: Faris Fadhli

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

On September 17, PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia (KCI) launched what is called the "marchen face" train on their railway network in the Jakarta metropolitan area. What is the "marchen face" train? It is one of a group of the EMU ex-JR East 205 series that operated on the Keiyo and Musashino lines in Japan. As you may know, many ex-205 series trains have been imported from Japan, but the marchen face trains have new and special "faces" on the front. These unique designs were a nod to Tokyo Disneyland, which is located on the Keiyo line. Marchen is a German word meaning fairytale. One of Tokyo Disneyland's themes is fairytales so Japanese rail fans call these unique face trains on the Keiyo line marchen face, named after Tokyo Disneyland.

The marchen face trains were built from 1990 by Kawsaki Heavy Industries, Hitachi, Tokyu Sharyo and Kinki Sharyo. In Japan, they were 8 car trains consisting of 4 motor cars and 4 trailers (4M4T), but in Jakarta, they are operated as 12 car trains to alleviate severe congestion. The first set in Jakarta was ex-set M35 (8 cars) with a half of ex-set M14 (4 cars). I like the new red and yellow Indonesian coloring design, as it suits these "smiling faces."

I wish the marchen trains well for their new life in Jakarta.

Ex-set M64 of the ex-JR East 205 series stands at Sudirman station, Jakarta Indonesia
Photo: Faris Fadhli

Monday, 28 October 2019

EMU 12000 Series: New Model on the Sotetsu Line

EMU Sotetsu 12000 series arrives at Wadamachi station

Following the EMU 20000 series, Sagami Railway (Sotetsu) launched another new train named the EMU 12000 series in April 2019. The 12000 series is planned to directly operate onto the JR East line from November 30th this year; meanwhile, the 20000 series will be directly operated onto the Tokyu line from 2022.

There are 8 major private railway companies including Sotetsu in the metropolitan area, but Sotetsu is the only company, which doesn't run into downtown Tokyo. Sotetsu's fatal weakness for business is their railway network. Under the environment of future depopulation in the metropolitan area, what is Sotetsu's strategy? They plan to operate direct access trains to downtown Tokyo and enhance convenience for passengers. How? Sotetsu is constructing connecting lines from Nishiya station to the existing JR East line and the Tokyu lines respectively.

The 12000 series and the 20000 series are similar in appearance, but there are big differences in the specifications between the two. For instance, the 12000 series doesn't have a gangway; while the 20000 has a gangway on the front. The 12000 series has stainless-steel bodies; while the 20000 series has aluminum ones. The electric control system of the 12000 series is IGBT-VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive with Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transistor); while the 20000 series has an advanced VVVF inverter system with hybrid SiC modules. These differences are due to the conditions of direct operation lines.

Sotetsu plans to introduce a total of 6 sets, 60 units of the 12000 series by the end of March 2020.

EMU Sotetsu 12000 series leaves Wadamachi station

Official promotion movie, the test run of direct operation
between Sotetsu and JR East lines using the EMU Sotetsu 12000 series:
Official information, the trains on the Sotetsu line (in Japanese):

Friday, 25 October 2019

Road Train in Bihoku Hillside Park

Road Train Type SH-017 is operated in Bihoku Hillside Park, Hiroshima Prefecture

Before going back to Tokyo, we visited a popular public park in Hiroshima Prefecture under a clear autumn sky.

Bihoku Hillside Park is a vast public park in the northern part of the prefecture. It was opened in 1995 by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. It is a national government park same as Showa Kinen Park in Tokyo Metropolis and Hitachinaka Kaihin Park in Ibaraki Prefecture. We were really hoping to see a cosmos field in the park. When we visited there, a large hill was filled with a carpet of cosmos flowers. They were shaking with the wind in the sunshine. It was so beautiful. We saw that many people were visiting to enjoy this autumn event.

For the transportation of visitors inside the vast park, Road Train is operated. It is convenient for kids and elderly persons. Road Train is composed of a tractor and 3 passenger coaches. The tractor, named Type SH-017, is made to resemble the old steam locomotive. Its body length is 4.2 meters and has a 1.8-liter petrol engine. The coach is 4.32 meters-long each. A total of 51 passengers are transported at one time. Towing the 3 passenger coaches, the SH-017 tractor is able to climb up a road up to 25% slope. I like that the piston cylinders on the SH-017 can actually move as if it is a real steam locomotive.

We enjoyed the beautiful cosmos field and the joyful Road Train in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Cosmos field in Bihoku Hillside Park near Nanatsuka station on the Geibi Line

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Natural Stone Bridge in Hiroshima Prefecture

Diesel Rail-car JR West 120 series travels on the Geibi line

After stopping by Hiroshima City, we visited the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture. Our destination was Taishaku-kyo Valley in Shobara City.

Taishaku-kyo is an 18 kilometer-long valley along Taishaku River. Our favorite spot is Onbashi, which is a natural limestone bridge over the river. It is 90 meter-long, 40 meter-high and 19 meter-wide, the largest natural bridge in Japan. It is said that Onbashi used to be a limestone cave under the river, but the cave was uplifted later, and changed to a natural bridge since several hundred thousand years before. It is really a big natural bridge.

To visit this natural work of art, the nearest railway station is Tojo on the JR West Geibi line. The Geibi line is a typical local route constructed within a mountainous area. Connecting Hiroshima and Bicchu-Kohjiro, its total length is 159.1 kilometers. The track is single and non-electrified. The gauge size is 1,067 millimeters.

The main fleet on the Geibi line is a diesel rail-car, JR West KiHa 120 series. The 120 series was launched in 1991 to replace the old models, the KiHa 20, 35, and 45 series. It is a 16.8 meter-long small sized rail-car, and often operated alone. Its maximum operating length is 95 kilometers per hour. A total of 89 units were built by Niigata Tekkosho and JR West Goto Factory. 8 units have steel bodies; meanwhile, remaining 81 units have stainless-steel bodies. There are many color variations. They are called Hiroshima, Hamada and Mine colors respectively.

Onbashi natural stone bridge over Taishaku River near Tojo station on the Geibi line

Saturday, 19 October 2019

2019 Sakura Season in Saitama : Part 2

EMU TWR 70-000 series arrives at Musashi-Urawa station on the JR East Saikyo line

It is already mid-October, but I found that several photos taken in spring have yet to be introduced.

In the sakura (cherry) blossom season this year, I visited many viewing spots as a sakura freak. My favorite spot was Cherry Promenade in Saitama City, as it was so beautiful. It is a 20 kilometer-long road with numerous sakura trees. Specifically, I like a footpath along Minumadai Irrigation Canal. When I visited there, it was fine weather and all the cherry trees were in full bloom.

On the way back home, I enjoyed taking train photos for a while at Musashi-Urawa station on the JR East Musashino line. My target was the EMU 70-000 series, which was directly operated from the Rinkai line of Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit (TWR). The 70-000 series is a commuter train launched in 1996. Its technical specification is the same as that of the JR East 209 series. A total of 86 units were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. 8 sets, 80 units are still operated on the line; meanwhile, the remaining 6 units were transferred to the JR East Hachiko line in 2005 under the name of EMU 209-3100 series.

On May 11th, TWR announced their medium-term management plan, in which a new train model will be launched in the Fiscal Year 2022. At this moment, no other information was provided by TWR, but please hurry up and take their photos before it is too late! I think that the 70-000 series has not long to live.

Cherry Promenade in Saitama City

Official information,Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit (TWR):
Official promotion movie, Tokyo Waterfront Area Rapid Transit (TWR):

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Hiroshima Electric Railway: Update

Set 1015, Green Mover LEX, of the Hiroshima Electric Railway 1000 series

I recently visited Hiroshima City for the first time in six years. What was new with the railways in this regional core city?

I found that the modernization of rolling stock is continued by a local company, Hiroshima Electric Railway (Hiroden). For instance, Hiroden keeps increasing the number of 1000 series trains. The 1000 series was launched in 2013 as an articulated three-car tram with two bogies. The total body length is 18.6 meters. The gauge size is 1,435 millimeters and the electric system is 600 V DC. Bogies of the 1000 series are equipped in cars number 1 and 3. In other words, car number 2 doesn't have a bogie... just being floated and being supported by cars number 1 and 3. The other feature of the 1000 series is its low floor. The height of the cabin floor is only 0.36 meters from the track. Needless to say, this structurally-engineered car is enthusiastically welcomed, especially by elderly people. Its current nickname is Green Mover LEX.

When I visited Hiroshima six years ago, only two sets of the 1000 series were seen on the limited routes. This time, a total of 16 sets are operated on all the routes. Compared with six years ago, these seem to belong to another age. I like this modern model, but I am also fond of Hiroden's traditional trams, such as the 750 and 1900 series. I wish all Hiroden's rolling stock well for their lives for a long time.

Set 1015 of the Hiroshima Electric Railway 1000 series leaves Chuden-mae stop

Official information about Hiroshima Electric Railway:
Official information about the rolling stock of Hiroshima Electric Railway (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Nip of Fall on the Tohoku Main Line

A freight train passes through Shin-Shiraoka station on the Tohoku main line

It's already October, but the lingering summer heat is still intense in the daytime. I visited a suburban area to find a nip of fall on a weekend with my family.

Our destination was Shiraoka City in Saitama Prefecture, some 50 kilometers north of Tokyo. Shiraoka looked just an ordinary suburban city, in which it is comfortable to live. We could see both residential areas and farms in the right proportions. I found spider lily flowers here and there on the streets. Spider lily is an autumn plant with red colored blossoms. I like this flower as it is a signal of the coming of autumn after a severely hot summer.

On the way back home, I came across a freight train pulled by an electric locomotive (EL) at Shin-Shiraoka station on the JR East Tohoku main line. The EL was Class EH500 owned by JR Freight (JRF). The EH500 was launched in 1997 to replace old models such as Class ED75 and ED79. A total of 82 units were built by Toshiba. It is an AC (20,000V, 50Hz and 60Hz) - DC (1,500V) triple mode locomotive operated on the 1,067 millimeters gauge tracks. Being coupled in two units, the UIC indication of a wheel arrangement for the EH500 is (Bo-Bo)+(Bo-Bo). It has eight 565kW induction motors with a VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) electric control system. Pulling cargo container wagons, its maximum operating speed is 110 kilometers per hour.

I enjoyed the red colored flowers and the red colored locomotive on the Tohoku main line.

Spider lily flowers near Shin-Shiraoka station on the Tohoku main line

Sunday, 6 October 2019

EXE-alpha: Keep Increasing

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, EXE-alpha, passes through Chitose-Funabashi station

EXE, the EMU 30000 series, is the first multipurpose Romance Car on the Odakyu line. EXE stands for "Excellent Express". It was commissioned in 1996 to replace the old model, the 3100 series. Since one set of the train is composed of ten twenty-meter cars (a total length of 200 meters), it has a greatly increased passenger capacity. One set can be broken up into six and four car sections to enhance operational flexibility as a multipurpose Romance Car. Different from the other traditional Romance Car models, such as the 50000 series and the 70000 series, the 30000 series (EXE) doesn't have an upstairs cockpit.

After 21 years of its operation, the 30000 series, EXE, has been renovated, and reborn as EXE-alpha. On March 1st, 2017, Odakyu launched the first EXE-alpha, set numbers 30251 (6-car train) and 30051 (4-car train) on their tracks. Currently, 6 of 14 sets are EXE-alpha.

Where are those different? Firstly, the body color was changed from bronze to silver. Some rail-fans may favor it, as a silver medal is superior to a bronze medal. Secondly, the interior was upgraded. For instance, luggage space was equipped in some cars. It is good news for inbound foreign passengers. Thirdly, the travelling apparatus was changed. For example, the electric control system was replaced from IGBT-VVVF (insulated gate bipolar transistor-variable frequency drive) to SiC-VVVF (silicon carbide-variable frequency drive) inverter system to reduce the electric power consumption.

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, EXE-alpha, travels on the Odawara line

Official movie about the EMU Odakyu 30000 series, EXE-alpha:
Official information about Odakyu Romance Car:
Official information about the line up of Odakyu Romance Car (in Japanese):

Thursday, 3 October 2019

2019 Summer Memories: Popular Museum and Train

Set W31 of the EMU JR West 683 series, the limited express "Thunderbird"

After enjoying the historical garden, namely Kenrokuen, the last day of our summer trip had come. Contrary to the previous day, we visited a contemporary art museum in Kanazawa City.

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, is located near Kenrokuen Garden. The museum was designed by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2004. My favorite exhibition is "The Swimming Pool" created by Leandro Erlich, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1973. This exhibition looks just like a small swimming pool, but you will find people in the pool, if you approach the water surface. They are not mannequins, but real visitors. There is a trick in the pool, but it is going to be a surprise!

The time for departure had come. We got on "Thunderbird", and headed to Kyoto. Thunderbird is a limited express train operated between Kanazawa (or Wakuraonsen) and Osaka, using the Hokuriku main line, the Kosei line and the Tokaido main line. Our vehicle was set W31 of the EMU JR West 683 series. Set W31 was launched in 2001 to replace an old express train, the 485 series. It belongs to Kyoto Branch Office of the JR West Suita Depot, and operated as the limited express train, Thunderbird, Noto-kagaribi (Noto-bonfire) and the others. It is an AC-DC dual system train with a maximum speed of 130 km per hour. 255 kW induction motors with an IGBT-VVVF inverter control (variable frequency drive) system are equipped on the train.

"The Swimming Pool" created by Leandro Erlich