Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Preserved Station Building and SL in Muroran City

SL D51 560 is exhibited in front of ex-Muroran station

After enjoying the new volcano, "Showa-shinzan", we visited ex-Muroran railway station in Muroran City.

Ex-Muroran station can be seen in the northern part of the downtown area. It was completed in 1912 as the first wooden station building in Hokkaido Island. Although the station was moved about 1 kilometer south in 1960, the old station building was preserved, and registered as tangible cultural properties by the Japanese government in 1999. It's currently utilized as a tourist information office, an exhibition space and a resting place.

The old station building is of course a must-see spot for rail-fans, but one more important railway monument is seen in front of the building. It's a preserved steam locomotive (SL), D51 560. Class D51 was Japan's largest force of SL fleet. 1,115 units in total were built from 1935 to 1950. It's a 2-8-2 (Whyte notation) type SL that has a tender attached. Currently, only one unit is operated in Japan. D51 560 was built in 1940 at Naebo Works of Japanese Government Railways. Starting from Hakodate Depot, it was moved from one depot to the next on Hokkaido Island. Its mission had been to pull freight trains, specifically coal trains, as there used to be many coal mines on Hokkaido Island. D51 560 was retired from the tracks in 1974. It has been preserved in front of ex-Muroran station since 2019.

The precious ex-station building and the preserved SL... Muroran is a must-visit city for rail-fans.

Ex-Muroran station building

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Access to the Recently Erupted Volcano

Usuzan Ropeway and Showa-shinzan

After visiting Mt. Hakodate, we headed north. Our next destination was a recently erupted volcano near Muroran City.

Showa-shinzan (new mountain of Showa-era) is a rhyolite volcanic lava dome with about 400 meters in height. It was abruptly created in an upland cropping area in 1944. Although it was in the middle of WWII, a local postmaster, Mimatsu Masao, surveyed the growing volcano in great detail. His research was very precious, and has been highly regarded among specialists.

For viewing the whole image of Showa-shinzan, Usuzan Ropeway is convenient. It's four cables - cross type aerial tramway. Connecting Showa-shinzan Sanroku (foot of Showa-shinzan) and Usuzan-sancho (summit of Mt. Usu) stations, its route length is 1,370 meters. Usuzan Sancho station is located 560 meters above sea level. The height difference between the two stations is 356 meters. Its maximum inclination is 24.17 degrees. The route was opened in 1965. The present gondolas, namely number 1 and 2, were built by CWA in Switzerland in 2020. Each gondola can accommodate up to 96 passengers including a conductor. The gondola is operated every 15 minutes with an operating speed of 5 meters per second. It takes about 6 minutes to go one way.

After arriving at the Usuzan-sancho station, we enjoyed a beautiful view of Showa-shinzan and adjacent Lake Toya. The brickish red-colored mountain face was very beautiful and impressive. It must be one of the best sceneries in the southern part of Hokkaido Island.

To be continued...

Close-up of Showa-shinzan

Official information about Usuzan Ropeway:

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Superb View Spot in Hakodate City

Sancho station and a gondola (center left) of Mt. Hakodate Ropeway

After returning from Mt. Esan, we planned to visit Mt. Hakodate near the downtown Hakodate area. A night view from Mt. Hakodate has been famous since the old days, and is one of the three best night views in the world together with Hongkong and Napoli. In other words, most tourists visit this spot in the evening, but it was still 3pm. What shall we do? We headed for Mt. Hakodate straightway as time was precious.

To get to the summit of Mt. Hakodate, an aerial tramway is convenient, but we found that the operation starts at 5pm in the evening. We had to drive ourselves to reach the summit, which is located 334 meters above sea level. It took ten minutes or so from the foot of the mountain. The daytime view from the summit was indeed beautiful. It might be more fantastic than that of the night view. We were glad we could come here in the daytime.

Incidentally, the aerial tramway, named Mt. Hakodate Ropeway, was opened in 1958. It's a three cables - cross type aerial tramway. Connecting Sanroku (Foot of the mountain) and Sancho (Summit) stations, its route length is 835.06 meters. The height difference between the two stations is 278.5 meters. Its maximum inclination is 28.97 degrees. Current gondolas are the fifth generation ones built by Osaka Sharyo in 2014. Each gondola can accommodate up to 125 passengers. The gondola is operated every 15 minutes. It takes about three minutes to go one way.

To be continued,,,

Daytime view from Mt. Hakodate

Official information about Hakodate Ropeway:

Friday, 16 July 2021

Volcanic Scenery around Hakodate City

EMU JR Hokkaido 733-1000 series stands at Hakodate terminal

After arriving at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station by the super-express train, Hayabusa (Falcon), we changed to JR Hokkaido's Hakodate main line. Our vehicle was the EMU 733-1000 series, "Hakodate Liner".

The 733-1000 series was launched in 2015 as an access train between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto on the Hokkaido Shinkansen and Hakodate on the Hakodate main line. Four sets in total were built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. One set of the 733-1000 series is composed of three cars. They are one motorcar and two trailers (1M2T, Tc1+M+Tc2). The electric system is 20,000 V - 50 Hz AC overhead. The track gauge is 1,067 millimeters. One set has four 230 kW induction motors. The electric control system is the IGBT-VVVF inverter (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor - traction inverter). Different from the other 733 series, the 733-1000 series has light green and lilac-colored stripes on their stainless-steel bodies. Light green is the JR Hokkaido's corporate color; meanwhile, lilac is the same color as the EMU JR Hokkaido's H5 series on the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen. The interior of the 733-1000 series is woodie, and gives us an image of high-quality.

After reaching Hakodate terminal, we rented a car, and visited Mt. Esan, which is located about 50 kilometers east of the city center. Esan is an active volcano on the southeastern coast of Oshima Peninsula. We could enjoy a beautiful volcanic scenery with the blue ocean and the blue sky. We couldn't find out the boundary between the sea and the sky. That was like a dream world.

To be continued...

Volcanic scenery of Mt. Esan

Official information about the 5th anniversary of Hokkaido Shinkansen (in Japanese):

Monday, 12 July 2021

Early Summer Trip to Hokkaido Island

Interior of GranClass car, EMU JR East E5 series

I recently retired from day-to-day management of my company. My busy and stressful days were finally over. I'm going to continue to work for the time being, but I will have more free time in the future, so, I will be able to answer your questions about Japanese railways. Thank you for your continued support to my blog.

Although it was the COVID-19 calamity, I made a short trip to Hokkaido Island to spoil myself. On the first day, I took the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen (a high speed new trunk line) from Tokyo terminal. My vehicle was the EMU JR East E5 series. That was my first time to use GranClass (the first class) car on the Shinkansen. It's in Car 10 toward Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station. GranClass is a bit expensive, but OK. That was my special retirement trip. I was able to relax during travelling from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station. Because of the COVID-19 calamity, passengers were only me and my family in the GlanClass car, while the train passed through the long Seikan Undersea Tunnel.

What's the Seikan Undersea Tunnel? It lies between Honshu and Hokkaido islands with Its total length of 53.85 kilometers. It was completed in 1988, and had been the world's longest tunnel until 2010, when the Gotthard-Basis Tunnel penetrated through the Alps in Switzerland. Thanks to the subsea tunnel, it took only four hours from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate Hokuto station by Super-express Hayabusa (Falcon) at a maximum speed of 320 kilometers per hour.

To be continued...

Entrance of GranClass car, EMU JR East E5 series

Official information about GranClass:

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Hydrangea Corridor on the Yokosuka Line

Set Y-138 of the EMU JR East E217 series travels on the Yokosuka line

On June 14th, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that this year's rainy season had begun in Tokyo. From mid-June to mid-July, the Tokyo metropolitan area has a hot and humid rainy season called Tsuyu.

Although it's a gloomy period before midsummer, I enjoy seeing beautiful hydrangea flowers in this season. There are many famous places with hydrangeas in the Tokyo metropolitan area. I recently found a small, but beautiful spot in Yokosuka City in Kanagawa Prefecture. It was located in the premises of Yokosuka Art Museum. Along the border between the museum garden and the mountains behind, I could see full-blown hydrangeas like a corridor. They were blue, purple and rose-colored, and fitted well in the green garden.

To visit this rainy season spot, you should go there by bus from Yokosuka station on the JR East Yokosuka line. Taking this opportunity, I'm going to update the train on the Yokosuka line. After introducing the new model, the EMU E235-1000 series, last year, retirement of the old model namely the E217 series has begun. 13 sets, 94 units, have already been retired and scrapped. Existing E217 series will be replaced by the new model within several years. The E217 series was debuted in 1994 to replace an old EMU 113 series. It's a typical commuter train with eight doors per unit. Long seats are equipped; but cross seats are also allocated for long distance passengers in several cars. Most trains are directly operated onto the Sobu Rapid line via Tokyo station.

Full-blown hydrangeas in the back garden of Yokosuka Art Museum

Sunday, 4 July 2021

New Model on the Yurakucho and Fukutoshin Lines

Set 23 of the EMU Tokyo Metro 17000 series travels on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line

I'm posting a topic on the Subway Yurakucho and Fukutoshin lines for the first time in two years. What has become of these busy commuter lines?

On February 21st this year, Tokyo Metro, an operator of the subway lines, launched a new model, the EMU 17000 series, on their Yurakucho and Fukutoshin lines. The introduction of the new model on the two lines was for the first time in two years. The 17000 series has aluminum alloy bodies with brown and gold-colored stripes. Brown is the symbol color of the Fukutoshin line; meanwhile, the gold-color is that of the Yurakucho line. The front face is rounded, and similar to the Keio 5000 series. Regarding the technical specifications, the 17000 series has an advanced full-SiC MOSFET VVVF inverter (variable-frequency drive) electric control system. Currently, seven sets are operated on the two lines. According to Tokyo Metro, 21 sets in total will be built by Hitachi Kasado Factory and Kinki Sharyo by 2022 to replace the old 7000 series.

For your information, the Yurakucho line was opened in 1988. Connecting Wakoshi and Shinkiba, its total length is 28.3 kilometers. On the other hand, the Fukutoshin line was opened in 2008. It connects Wakoshi and Shibuya with a total length of 20.32 kilometers. The section between Wakoshi and Ikebukuro is shared by the two lines. The track is mostly double, partially double-double. The trains on the two lines are directly operated onto the Seibu, Tobu, Tokyu and Yokohama Minatomirai railways.

Destination display on the side body of the EMU 17000 series

Official information about the EMU Tokyo Metro 17000 series (in Japanese):