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 85 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

Thursday, 26 September 2019

2019 Summer Memories: Historical Train and Garden

EMU JR West 413 series stands at Hakui station on the Nanao line

After visiting Hakui City, we went back to Kanazawa City by train. Our vehicle was the red colored EMU JR West 413 series, an AC-DC dual mode train. It was launched in 1986 by the Japanese National Railways. The 413 series is similar with that of the 415 series, but the numbers of passenger doors are different from each other. The 413 series has 4 doors per unit; meanwhile, the 415 series has 6 doors per unit. The 413 series is the old and historical train in the Hokuriku area; however, a total of 11 sets are still operated. 6 sets belong to JR West; meanwhile, 5 sets belong to Ainokaze-Toyama Railway. The JR West trains are red colored; meanwhile the Ainokaza-Toyama trains are blue colored.

After coming back to Kanazawa, we then visited Kenrokuen Garden. Along with Kairakuen in Mito City and Korakuen in Okayama City, Kenrokuen is counted as one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. It was originally built as the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle in 1676. The garden was then developed to perfection over generations by the lords of the Kaga Domain. There are ponds, streams, hills, groves, flower gardens, several pavilions and tea houses. Among the various highlights in the park, I like "Karasakimatsu (Karasaki Pinetree" best. It was planted by Maeda Nariyasu, the 12th lord of the Kaga Domain, in 1830s. We can see the well-formed pine tree, which has long branches extending over the water surface of a pond.

Karasakimatsu (Karasaki Pinetree) in Kenrokuen Garden near Kanazawa station

Monday, 23 September 2019

EMU Seibu 101 Series, Izu-Hakone Railway Color

261F of the EMU Seibu 101 series arrive at Musashi-Sakai station on the Tamagawa  line

Following the "Umikaze color" train, I am going to show you the other special color train on the Seibu Tamagawa line today.

On January 14th, 2018, Seibu launched an "Izu-Hakone Railway color" train, 261F of the EMU 101 series. Its body color is same as that of Izu-Hakone Railway's 1302F of the EMU 1300 series. As you may know, Izu-Hakone Railway is a Seibu Group company in Shizuoka Prefecture in the central part of Japan. Izu-Hakone Railway recently had its 100th anniversary. The Seibu Tamagawa line also had its 100th anniversary, so that it is a time to celebrate two Seibu Group companies' anniversaries.

261F of the EMU Seibu 101 series is a 4-car train built by Seibu Tokorozawa Factory in 1980. Its body length is 20 meters and it has 6 passenger doors per unit. 261F consists of two motorcars and two trailers (2M2T). Its technical specification is rather old with a rheostatic electric control system, but 261F is the powerful train as it has 150 kW DC motors. 261F was once renovated in 2005. The resisters and compressors were changed to the new ones. Standard type pantographs were replaced by single-armed ones. Motor generators were changed to SIVs (auxiliary power units). This old train can still keep up with young ones.

261F has white-color bodies with dark blue-color stripes. I like this body color design, as it glows backed by the blue sky both on the Seibu Tamagawa line and Izu-Hakone Railway.

"Izu-Hakone Railway color" train, 261F of the EMU Seibu 101 series

Official information about the EMU Seibu 101 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Aerial Tramway to Glacial Topography

Komagatake Ropeway

Kiso Mountains, also known as the Japanese Central Alps, is famous for its glacial topography called Senjojiki Kar (Senjojiki Cirque). It was formed during the last glacial period about 19,000 to 17,000 years ago. A kar is a bowl-shaped topography, which is often seen below the summit of high mountains. Senjojiki Kar is one of the largest kars in Japan. It is a very beautiful and unforgettable scenery.

To visit this heavenly paradise, the nearest railway station is Komagane on the JR Central Iida line. After getting off the train, you should take the bus service to Shirabidaira, and transfer for an aerial tramway, "Komagatake Ropeway". It takes about 5 hours from Tokyo to Senjojiki Kar.

Komagatake Ropeway was opened in 1967. Connecting Shirabidaira and Senjojiki stations, the route length is 2,334 meters. Senjojiki is known as the highest aerial tramway station in Japan. It is located 2,612 meters above sea level. The height difference between the highest and lowest points of the route is 950 meters, which is also the largest in Japan. The maximum inclination of the route is 34.9 degrees.

Currently, the fourth generation gondolas, which were built by Osaka Sharyo, are operated on the route. Each gondola can accommodate up to 61 passengers and they are operated every 30 minutes. Extra operations are also scheduled during the peak sightseeing seasons. The maximum operating speed is 7 meters per second. The travel time between the two stations is 7.5 minutes. It took only a moment.

Senjojiki Kar near Senjojiki station on the Komagatake Ropeway

Officlal informatiom about Komagatake Ropeway:

Friday, 13 September 2019

EMU Tokyo Metro 05N Series: Unique Face Train

Set 27 (the 8th batch) of the EMU Tokyo Metro 05N series arrives at Nakano station

I have already uploaded more than 1,200 posts in this blog. You may think that all the train models in Tokyo have already been introduced here. Wait a moment please. There still remains an important model. The introduction of trains in the metropolitan area is indeed endless.

The EMU Tokyo Metro 05N series makes its first appearance here today. It is a 10-car commuter train operated on the subway Tozai line. The 05N series debuted in 1999. A total of 19 sets, 190 units were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, Tokyu Sharyo and Hitachi. It has IGBT-VVVF (variable-frequency drive) electric control system. The 05N series is a younger brother of the 05 series. It means that the technical specifications of the 05N and the 05 series are similar, but the outer designs are different from each other. For instance, the elder 05 series has a gentle and quiet face; meanwhile, the younger 05N series looks "short-tempered". It is probably because the lights of the 05N series are diagonally arrayed. The color designs of the side stripes are also different from each other. That kind of discovery is a great gratification for a trainspotter like me.

Incidentally, the Tokyo Metro Tozai line is one of the busiest subway routes in Tokyo. Connecting Nakano and Nishi-Funabashi (30.8 kilometers), it penetrates downtown Tokyo from west to east. The trains are directly operated onto the JR East Chuo Local line to Mitaka and the Toyo Rapid Railway to Toyo-Katsutadai.

Set 37 (the 12th batch) of the EMU Tokyo Metro 05N series arrives at Nakano station

Official information about the EMU Tokyo Metro 05N series (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

2019 Summer Memories: Twilight Walking in Kanazawa

Set G10 (2nd butch) of the EMU JR West 521 series stands at Kanazawa station

It was very hot this mid-summer in the Hokuriku area. The maximum daytime temperature was often over 35 degrees Celsius. Kanazawa City was no exception. During my family vacation, we suffered from intense heat every day, so that we enjoyed strolling in the twilight time after sunset instead in the daytime. What's up?

We found a beautiful stained glass on the front gate of Oyama Shinto Shrine in the central part of the city. It was beautifully illuminated backed by the evening glow. This unique gate named "Shimmon (God gate)" was constructed in 1875 mixing traditional Japanese and Western-style architectures. We were lucky, as it was the perfect timing to see this beautiful gate.

Before strolling in the city, I stopped by Kanazawa station to take photos of local trains. I often came across the EMU JR West 521 series, which was the representative commuter train in the area. The photo shows set G20 of the 521 series on the Hokuriku main line. Set G20 was launched in 2009 as the second batch (G group) of the 521 series to modernize the commuter transportation in the Hokuriku area. A total of 30 sets, 60 units of G group trains, were built by Kinki Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Three sets of these 30 sets were, then, transferred to IR Ishikawa Railway in 2015. The 521 series is an alternate current (AC) - direct current (DC) dual electric system, since AC and DC tracks are mixed in the area.

A gate with stained glass windows in Oyama Shrine near Kanazawa station

Friday, 6 September 2019

Bungee Jumping Valley on the Gakunan Line

Electric car MoHa 7003 of the Gakunan 7000 series leaves Gakunan-Enoo station

I recently visited Gakunan Railway for the first time in four years. Gakunan is a small local private company in Shizuoka Prefecture about 110 kilometers west of Tokyo. What was new with this railway? In November, 2018, a new train was launched on the line. It was the EMU 9000 series (MoHa 9001 and 9101) transferred from Fujikyu Railway. Unfortunately, I couldn't have a chance to ride on the new train, so that I am going to introduce again the old EMU 7000 series to you.

The 7000 series is the ex-Keio 3000 series train. It was transferred to Gakunan in 1996. A total of three units (MoHa 7001, 7002 and 7003) were transferred, but one unit (MoHa 7002) has already been retired from the track. The 7000 series train has vermilion colored faces and stripes. This color is called "international orange" by the company. I don't know why "international", but probably because the company expects a further increase of foreign passengers who visit the southern foot of Mt. Fuji.

After taking the photos of the Gakunan train at Gakunan-Enoo station, I visited Sudogawa Valley with my family. This deep and steep valley is famous as a bungee jumping site. Visitors can safely enjoy jumping from the highest point of a bridge under the guidance of experts. When we visited the site, the echoes of jumpers' shouts rang throughout the valley.

Did I try bungee jumping? Oh, no! I am chicken. My family members only became birds.

Bungee jumping site in Sudogawa Valley

Official route map of Gakunan Railway:

Monday, 2 September 2019

2019 Summer Memories: Hanayome-noren

DMU JR West KiHa 48 series, Hanayome-noren train, stands at Kanazawa station

When we visited Hakui City, I found a gorgeous red colored train at Kanazawa station. What was that? It was JR West's sightseeing train called Hanayome-noren. The word "Hanayome-noren" means a bride sprit curtain in the Hokuriku area. It is a gorgeous traditional trousseau, which a bride brings with her when she marries.

As its name suggests, the outer design of the Hanayome-noren train was taken from local traditional crafts such as Wajima lacquer, Kanazawa gold foil and Kaga Yuzen hand dyeing. The interior is also decorated with traditional designs. Passengers can enjoy entertainment by local performances as well.

The train for Hanayome-noren is the DMU JR West KiHa 48 series (KiHa 48-1004 and KiHa 48-4). It was originally built as a commuter train in 1982, and, then, modified to a sightseeing train like JR East's Minori (harvest) in 2015. The technical specifications are just standard. For example, it has 220 PS diesel engines. The mechanism for transmitting power is hydraulic. The maximum operating speed is 95 kilometers per hour. It currently belongs to Toyama branch office of JR West Kanazawa depot.

JR West and IR Ishikawa Railway jointly provide two round-trip services a day every weekend with this sightseeing train. The operating route is between Kanazawa and Wakura-onsen stations (71 kilometers). It takes approximately 80 minutes one-way. We tried to reserve the seats at Kanazawa station, but it was unfortunately full due to the peak summer vacation season. I am hopeful of the next traveling chance to the Hokuriku area.

Close up of Hanayome-noren train

Official information about Hanayome-noren train:
Official information about Hanayome-noren train including promotion movies (in Japanese):

Sunday, 25 August 2019

2019 Summer Memories: Old Train and Unique Museum

EMU JR West 415-800 series travels on the Nanao line

After arriving at Kanazawa station, we changed trains and headed north. Our destination was Hakui City located at the root of Noto Peninsula.

Although Hakui is just a small local city, there is a large space museum named "Cosmo Isle Hakui" near the railway station. The exhibitions are gorgeous and unique. For instance, we can see the genuine Vostok, a former Soviet spacecraft. We found numerous burns on the surface of the spacecraft, which were created as the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere. The American exploration vehicle Luna/Mars Rover was also exhibited. It was a prototype, but also genuine. Hakui is a formidable city, isn't it?

To get to Hakui, IR Ishikawa Railway (IR) and the JR West Nanao line are convenient. Approximately half of all IR trains are operated directly onto the Nanao line. It takes about one hour by local train. We got on a red-colored, old train named the EMU JR West 415-800 series, which was launched in 1971 by Japanese National Railways. The 415 series has an alternate current (AC) - direct current (DC) dual electric system, since AC and DC tracks are mixed in the area. The AC system is 20,000 V with 50 and 60 hertz, and the DC system is 1,500 V. The red colored bodies are designed to look like Wajima-nuri, which is a traditional local lacquer. For your information, the 415 series trains are also seen in other areas of Japan such as Kyushu Island.

To be continued...

Genuine Vostok spacecraft (right) is exhibited in Cosmo Isle Hakui near Hakui station

Sunday, 18 August 2019

2019 Summer Memories: Kanazawa Station

Set W10 of the EMU JR West W7 series stands at Kanazawa station

It was hot again this summer in Japan. I was very busy at work, but could manage to take a 2-day holiday in the middle of August. I visited Ishikawa Prefecture in the Hokuriku area with my family. The main city in Ishikawa Prefecture is Kanazawa, which is located about 450 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.

The gateway station to Kanazawa City is also Kanazawa. JR West Hokuriku Shinkansen, the Hokuriku main line, IR Ishikawa Railway and Hokuriku Railway trains stop at the station. It took just two and a half hours by Kagayaki (brilliance) super-express on Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo. The trains are the EMU W7 and E7 series. They have same technical specifications, but the W7 series belongs to JR West; meanwhile, the E7 series belongs to JR East. The E7 series was launched in 2014 as a Nagano Shinkansen train; meanwhile, the W7 series newly debuted at the timing of inauguration of Hokuriku Shinkansen in 2015. The maximum speed is only 260 kilometers per hour, but they can climb up the Usui Pass (a steep incline of 30 per mil) at a speed of 210 kilometers per hour. A total of 33 sets, 396 units were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and the others.

After getting off the super-express train, we firstly saw Tsuzumi-mon (Hand drum gate), which is a symbol of Kanazawa station. It is said that the gate represents local people's hospitality and art-loving personality.

To be continued...

Tsuzumi-mon (hand drum gate) in front of Kanazawa station

Official information about Hokuriku Shinkansen:
Official information about the EMU JR West W7 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, 15 August 2019

EMU 521 Series: AC-DC Train in the Hokuriku Area

EMU IR Ishikawa 521 series stands at Takaoka station

It's fun to travel for everybody, but it will be more fun if you are a rail fan. For instance, tourists can enjoy beautiful coastal scenery and delicious seafood in the Hokuriku area, but you will also enjoy local railways and trains there, if you are a rail fan. That's unique to rail fans all over the world.

The EMU 521 series is a local train model in the Hokuriku area, which is located in the central part of the Sea of Japan side. It was originally launched by JR West in 2006, and, then, belongs to IR Ishikawa and Ainokaze Toyama railways as well. A total of 144 units were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Kinki Sharyo.

The 521 series has an alternate current (AC) - direct current (DC) dual electric system, since AC and DC tracks are mixed in the area. It is quite unique and makes the train system complicated. The AC system is 20,000 V with 60 Hz; meanwhile, the DC system is 1,500V. One set is composed of two cars. They are one motor car and one trailer (1M1T). Its maximum speed is 120 kilometers per hour.

The outer design of the 521 series is similar with that of the other JR West trains in the Osaka area such as the EMU 223 series and the KiHa 127 series. Their faces have four square lights, two large windows and a gangway. I never get weary of looking at this design.

EMU Ainokaze Toyama 521 series leaves Takaoka station

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Good-bye to the Tokyu 8500 Series on the Oimachi Line

8641F of the EMU Tokyu 8500 series travels on the Oimachi line (January, 2018)

A long-lived train, the EMU Tokyu 8500 series, was eventually retired from the Tokyu Oimachi line on April 5th this year. I have now realized that one era is coming to a close.

The 8500 series was launched in 1975, when the Tokyu Den-en-toshi line trains started to be directly operated onto the subway Hanzomon line. It was, then, introduced onto the Oimachi line as well in 1986. A total of 400 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo.

The technical specification of the 8500 series was almost the same as that of the older 8000 series, but the outer design of the 8500 and the 8000 series was slightly different. For instance, the newer 8500 series had three displays on the front; meanwhile, the older 8000 series had one display only.

The electric motor of the 8500 series was traditional direct current compound (130 kW) and the electric control system was old field chopper. The stainless-steel bodies with corrugated structures were old-fashioned, but very stout and trouble-proof. The growling running sound of the 8500 series was very nostalgic and definitely my favorite. It was exactly the sound of trains in the 1970's. 

After retirement from the Oimachi line, the 8500 series became an endangered species of trains. Few units of them are only operated on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi line, Chichibu Railway, Nagano Electric Railway and the commuter lines in Jakarta, Indonesia. Please hurry up and take their photos before it is too late!

8638F of the EMU Tokyu 8500 series arrives at Hatanodai station (January, 2018) 

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Subtle Change of the Stripe Color: EMU 205-500 Series

Set R6 (new stripe color) of the EMU JR East 205-500 series on the Sagami line

I have recently visited the JR East Sagami line for the first time in three years. The Sagami line penetrates the western part of Kanagawa Prefecture from north to south. Connecting Hashimoto and Chigasaki stations, its total length is 33.3 kilometers. The entire route is electrified and single. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. 4-car trains named the EMU 205-500 series are operated every 20 minutes on average.

What was new with this local line? I found that there were subtle differences in the body stripe colors among the EMU 205-500 series. Some sets had a blue-green stripe; meanwhile, the other sets had a simple blue stripe. Which is the newer? The answer is the latter one (simple blue stripe). I am very happy to perceive this kind of fine difference among the trains as a trainspotter. Trainspotters are easy-going people, aren't they?

Incidentally, the EMU 205-500 series was launched in 1991, when the route was electrified. A total of 13 sets, 52 units were built by Tokyu Sharyo and JR East Ofuna Factory. Its technical specification is rather old at this distance of time, but the 205-500 series is still operated as the only model on the Sagami line. It will be replaced by a new model or the E231 series moved from the Tokaido line in the near future, but it has not been officially announced yet. I am biding my time and waiting for the official announcement by JR East.

Set R7 (old stripe color) of the EMU JR East 205-500 series on the Sagami line

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Final Chapter of the Yamanote E231-500 Series

EMU JR East E231-500 series arrives at Shibuya station on the Yamanote line

The JR East Yamanote line is well known as Japan's busiest railway. Eleven-car trains are frequently operated from early morning to midnight. The route length of the Yamanote line is 34 kilometers. It is looped through several downtown areas in the Tokyo Metropolis. The track is double so that each train runs in the same direction throughout the day; clockwise or counterclockwise. The train covers the entire route in about 60 minutes. There are 29 stations and most of them are interchanges to the subway, private railways and/or other JR lines.

The train operator, JR East, has been introducing state of the art commuter trains onto this Japan's representative urban line. The EMU E231-500 series was no exception. It 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 the one and only fleet on the Yamanote line; however, the kingdom of the E231-500 series did not last long. A new model, the E235 series, debuted in 2015, and has been increasing in numbers. As a result, the older E231-500 series has been forced to move to the Sobu local line.

According to JR East, all the E231-500 series will be replaced by the E235 series by the end of March, 2020. It is the final chapter of the E231-500 series story on the Yamanote line.

EMU JR East E235 series (left) and E231-500 series (left) stand at Tokyo station

Monday, 22 July 2019

Revisit to Mt. Takao

Funicular Momiji travels on the Takao Tozan Dentetsu line

I visited Mt. Takao after a long time. What's new with this holiday mountain? I found that the number of foreign visitors has drastically increased. For instance, I saw many foreigners at a beer restaurant near the top of the mountain, where customers can see the beautiful scenery while drinking superb beers and foods.

To visit this holiday mountain, you cannot go by car. Visitors have three choices to get to the summit... walking, taking a lift or a funicular. As a rail fan, I recommend you take a funicular named Takao Tozan Dentetsu (Takao Mountain Climbing Electric Railway). Connecting Kiyotaki and Takaozan stations, its route length is 1,020 meters. The track was originally completed by Takao Kosaku Tetsudo (Takao Cable-railway) in 1927. The height difference between the two stations is 271 meters. The gauge size is 1,067 millimeters. The operation interval is 15 minutes. It takes about 6 minutes from Kiyotaki to Takaozan station. The funicular passes through two tunnels on the route.

There are two rail cars namely Aoba (green leaves) and Momiji (maple) on the track. Momiji has a yellow and red colored body, which stands for the beautiful autumn leaves on the mountain. Momiji can accommodate 135 passengers. The inclination of the track is not so large at Kiyotaki station, but it gets steeper and steeper toward the top of the mountain, specifically after passing through the mid-course. Eventually, the angle reaches the maximum (31 degrees 18 minutes), which is the steepest track in Japan, just before Takaozan station.

Funicular Momiji passes through the mid-course of the Takao Tozan Dentetsu line

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Rose Garden in Kanagawa Prefecture

8260F of the EMU Odakyu 8000 series travels on the Odakyu line

There are several reputable rose gardens in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. They are Yono Park, Kyu-Furukawa Garden, Keisei Rose Garden, Yatsu Rose Garden and Yokohama English Garden. Are there still more? Yes, Flower and Green Center is another must-see spot. I visited a rose garden of Flower and Green Center in May, and enjoyed the colorful blossoms as well as the sweet fragrances... a total of 1,300 kinds of roses.

To visit this beautiful garden, the nearest station is Hadano on the Odakyu line. What is new with Odakyu? On April 26th, the company announced that a new train, named the EMU 5000 series, will be launched by March, 2020. The introduction of the new commuter train model will be first time in 12 years. What are the distinctive features of the 5000 series? Firstly, the interior of the 5000 series is wider than those of the recent models such as the 3000 and the 4000 series. Secondly, the front of the body is streamlined, which is now in fashion.

What will happen after the introduction of the brand new 5000 series train? The oldest 8000 series will be gradually retired from the track. The EMU 8000 series, which was launched in 1982, is a fully painted steel body train. Its major assignment is as an express train to transport commuters from the western suburbs to the city center of Tokyo.

Take photos of the 8000 series before it is too late!

Rose garden of the Flower and Green Center near Hadano station on the Odakyu line

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

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Iris Garden on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line

EMU Tokyo Metro 05 series (left) and 16000 series (right) on the Chiyoda line

The rainy season continues in Tokyo. From early June to mid-July, Tokyo has a hot and humid rainy season, called Tsuyu. It is a gloomy period for Tokyoites before midsummer, but it is a pleasure to see some kinds of beautiful flowers, which only bloom in this season. Along with hydrangeas, irises are typically seen during the rainy season in Tokyo. The large colorful blossoms are gorgeous and elegant. It is said that the practice of viewing iris flowers began to spread throughout Japan in the 13th century by flower-loving Samurais.

Last month, I visited a local iris garden in Adachi Ward, called Shobu-numa Garden (Iris Swamp Garden). The garden is located just in front of Kita-Ayase station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line. If you go down from the station platform by the elevator, you can see beautiful iris flowers immediately after opening the elevator doors. What a convenient location it is! To our joy, admission to Shobu-numa Garden is free, as it is operated by Adachi Ward Office...thank you.

Incidentally, the platform length of Kita-Ayase station was recently extended from 80 to 200 meters. It is now enough to accommodate 10-car trains. As a result, not only the short EMU 05 series trains, but also the long EMU 16000 series trains can stop at Kita-Ayase station. It is good news for local people, as the number of stopping trains has increased. The completion of the long station platform will contribute to the growth of the Kita-Ayase area.

Shobu-numa (Iris Swamp) Garden is located just in front of Kita-Ayase station

Official information about the EMU Tokyo Metro 16000 series (in Japanese):