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