Friday, 29 April 2022

EMU 1500 Series for the 1500th Post

1725F of the EMU Keikyu 1500 series travels on the Kurihama line (March, 2014)

Thank you for visiting Tokyo Railway Labyrinth. This is the 1,500th post in my blog. I hope rail-fans all over the world continue to enjoy my blog. In commemoration of the 1,500th post, I'm going to show you a train with the number 1500 in the name.

The EMU Keikyu 1500 series is a direct current commuter train being operated on the Keikyu lines. It's the oldest active model of the Keikyu trains. 166 cars in total were built by Tokyu Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries from 1985 to 1993. Regarding the technical specifications, there were three variations when they were built... 1) steel bodies with a field chopper electric control system, 2) aluminum-alloy bodies with a field chopper electric control system and 3) aluminum-alloy bodies with a VVVF (variable-frequency drive) electric control system. Currently, 146 cars of these are still operated on the lines. The field chopper electric control system has been changed to the VVVF (variable-frequency drive) system for most cars.

The 1500 series is mainly operated on the local lines. I sometimes use it on the Daishi line to visit Kawasaki Daishi, a large Buddhist temple located near Kawasaki-Daishi station. This old temple was opened in 1182 by Hirama Kanenori. We can see devout Buddhists, local people and tourists there. Kuzumochi, a cake made of arrowroot starch sold in front of the temple's gate, is definitely my favorite.

I hope the 1500 series will be operated as long as possible for my visit to Kawasaki Daishi.

Main gate of Kawasaki Daishi temple on the Keikyu-Daishi line

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

DDT Section on the Chiba Urban Monorail Line

DDT (double-double track) section on the Chiba Urban Monorail line

After enjoying the full-blown sakura (cherry) trees on the Keisei-Chihara line in Chiba City, I stopped by Chiba Urban Monorail in the same city. My visit to this unique monorail line was for the first time in four years.

Let me quickly review Chiba Urban Monorail. It's the world's longest suspension type monorail line. Currently, it has a total length of 15.2 kilometers. The route consists of two lines named Line 1 and Line 2. Different from the straddle-beam type monorail such as Tokyo Monorail, a train of the suspension type monorail is suspended from a track. Chiba Urban Monorail and Shonan Monorail are good examples of this type of monorail.

I'm going to show you two spectacular spots on the Chiba Urban Monorail line. The top photo shows a precious double-double track (DDT) near Chiba station. Line 1 and Line 2 run parallel there. A total of four tracks are seen overhead. It's probably the world's only DDT monorail section. You can see a westbound 2-car train, the EMU 0 series, traveling on Line 1. On the other hand, the photo below is the branch point of Line 1 and Line 2 near Sakaecho station. You can see four tracks complexly tangled with each other over streets. Again, you can see a westbound train traveling on the curved track of Line 1.

It was hard work to take pictures of Chiba Urban Monorail, since the tracks were located high in the sky. My neck still hurts.

Branching point of Line 1 (left) and Line 2 (right), Chiba Urban Monorail

Saturday, 23 April 2022

The 125th Anniversary of the Joban Line

The 125th anniversary memorial plate of the JR East Joban line

On December 25th, 2021, JR East celebrated the 125th anniversary of their Joban line. In commemoration of the anniversary, several events were held by the company.

Let me quickly review the Joban line. It's a trunk railway line operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East). Connecting Nippori in Tokyo Metropolis and Iwanuma near Sendai City, its route length is 368 kilometers. The route penetrates the Pacific Ocean side of the Kanto and Tohoku districts. The track is double-double in the urban areas, but mostly double or single. The whole route is electrified with a 1,500V DC or 20,000V AC (50 Hz) system.

When I was a kid, I sometimes took the Joban line with my grandma to visit Taishakuten-temple. I always enjoyed views of "obake-entotsu (ghost chimneys)" from the train window. Obake-entotsu were four tall chimneys of the ex-Senju thermal power station. They were positioned in the form of a diamond, so, they usually looked like four chimneys, but sometimes only three or two chimneys depending on the viewing angle. "Ghost chimneys" was a pretty good phrase.

I recently found that the 125th anniversary memorial plate is displayed on a train, set "125" of the EMU E231 series. It was designed by one of JR East staff belonging to Ayase railyard of the Joban line. Its blueish green color was taken from the E231 series; meanwhile the dark blue color was inspired by the E531 series operated on the Joban line. Thank you so much for the beautiful design.

Set "125" of the JR East E231 series stands at Kashiwa station on the Joban line

Thursday, 21 April 2022

2022 Sakura Season in Chiba City

3536F of the EMU Keisei 3500 series travels on the Keisei-Chihara line 

After enjoying the full-blown sakura (cherry) trees on the Toei-Arakawa line, I headed to Chiba City for my next cherry viewing.

To start, let me quickly review Chiba City. Chiba is located 40 kilometers east of Tokyo, and a main city of Chiba Prefecture. It's famous for heavy industries, a large port and agriculture. The population is nearly one million. There are several cherry viewing spots in the city, but I chose Aobanomori Park this time, since it's easily accessible from the city center. The special feature of this park is its cherry variations. Not only standard cherries, namely Someiyoshino, but also the precious species such as Yaezakura (double cherry) and Oshimazakura (Oshima cherry) are seen. I fully enjoyed strolling on the full-blown cherry promenade in the bright spring sunshine.

To visit Aobanomori Park, the nearest railway station is Chibadera on the Keisei-Chihara line. The Chihara line is a commuter route connecting the city center (Chiba-chuo) and bedroom community (Chiharadai) of Chiba City. There are 6 stations over a total operating length of 10.9 kilometers. The track is single and electrified. All trains are directly operated onto the Keisei Chiba line toward Tokyo Metropolis. The Chihara line was opened in 1995 by a third sector (a joint venture company of local government and private capitals) named Chiba Express Railway. It was taken over by Keisei Electric Railway in as few as three years, since the number of passengers was small. Railway business is not easy even in major cities.

Full-blown cherry trees in Aobanomori Park near Chibadera station

Monday, 18 April 2022

2022 Sakura Season in Tokyo

Electric car 8504 of the Toei 8500 series travels backed by full-blown sakura trees. 

On March 20th, 2022, the Meteorological Agency of Japan declared that this year's sakura (cherry) blossoms had started blooming in Tokyo. Spring has sprung! As I posted year after year, Japanese people harbor romantic emotions towards sakura blossoms. Sakura viewing is a part of Japanese culture. This year, I visited a tram route, the Arakawa line, to enjoy sakura blossoms and streetcars.

Before getting down to the main topic, please try to remember that I criticized the metropolitan government's branding for the Arakawa line before. I said "Tokyo Sakura Tram is a disagreeable nickname given by the metropolitan government, because sakura is NOT a representative blossom on the line. Rather, the Arakawa line's representative blossom should be roses. Local volunteers have been planting roses by the side of the track, and maintaining them for many years. We should prize local people's feelings over everything else."

I may have said too much... so, I actually visited Tokyo Sakura Tram (the Arakawa line) in the full-blown sakura season to make sure of that with my own eyes. Then, I found full-blown sakura trees on the section between Gakushuin-shita and Omokage-bashi tram stops. Their branches were full of whitish, faintly pale pink petals... so beautiful. Lots of people were enjoying this gorgeous spot in their own way. I enjoyed taking pictures of the electric cars 8500 and 8800 series travelling backed by the full-blown sakura trees.

The nickname, Tokyo Sakura Tram, was correct at least on this section of the Arakawa line.

Electric car 8805 of the Toei 8800 series travels backed by full-blown sakura trees.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

The 30th Anniversary of Nozomi Super-express

A handmade memorial board of the 30th anniversary, Nozomi super-express

On March 14th, 2022, JR Central celebrated the 30th anniversary of Nozomi super-express operations. The company held several memorial events on the Tokaido Shinkansen.

Let me quickly review Nozomi super-express train. Nozomi (wish or hope) is the fastest train on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansens. The operation of Nozomi started in 1992 to compete with airline companies. For that purpose, JR central developed a new model, EMU 300 series. The maximum speed was raised up from 220 to 270 kilometers per hour. The trains used for Nozomi super-express were then changed to the EMU 500, 700, N700 and N700A series one after another. Furthermore, a brand-new model, N700S series, joined the Nozomi fleet in 2020. The current maximum speed is 285 kilometers per hour on the Tokaido Shinkansen; meanwhile, it's 300 kilometers per hour on the Sanyo Shinkansen.

I recently found a handmade memorial board at the entrance of Tokyo station. It was probably drawn by a JR Central station staff on a white board. You can see the current Nozomi super-express train namely N700S series in the center and the first generation Nozomi namely 300 series in the upper left corner. A JR Central staff in the uniform is also drawn in the lower left corner. Good job.

Taking this opportunity, I'm also uploading an old picture shot in 2012. You can see the EMU 300 and 700 series standing at Tokyo station. Both two models have already been retired from the Tokaido Shinkansen. Where has the time gone?

EMU 300 (left) and 700 (right) series stand at Tokyo station (January, 2012)

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Iidabashi Station: Reason for the Long Platform

EMU JR East E231-500 series arrives at the new platform of Iidabashi station

On July 12th, 2020, JR East moved the platform of Iidabashi station 200 meters westward. A new platform was constructed in the form of an extension of the existing platform. As a result, the total length of the Iidabashi station platform is to be over 400 meters. What's the reason for this long platform?

Before getting down to the main topic, let me quickly review JR East's Iidabashi station. It's one of the city center stations on the Chuo local line, and also a transfer station to the three subway lines. Nearly 90,000 passengers use this station every day.

Now, let's head to the main topic. There were two reasons for this long platform. Firstly, it's for preventing fall accidents of passengers from the platform edge, when they get on and off trains. The old platform was located on the tightly curved track with a curve radius of 300 meters. The maximum gap between a train and the platform was 33 centimeters. The maximum height difference was 20 centimeters. It was scary even for adults. On the other hand, the new platform is located on the gentler curve with a curve radius of 900 meters. The accidents have been eliminated. Secondly, the eastern old platform was preserved as a passenger lane to the existing east gate of the station. As a result, the total length of the platform was to be over 400 meters as above.

Iidabashi is a unique station with the long platform in the metropolitan city center area.

EMU JR East E231-500 series passes through the old platform of Iidabashi station

Monday, 11 April 2022

Final Chapter of the ex-Tokyu 8000 Series in Indonesia

8003F of the EMU ex-Tokyu 8000 series in Jakarta, Indonesia (Photo: Faris Fadhli)

I've received the latest picture from an Indonesian railfan. It's the last active set of the EMU ex-Tokyu 8000 series being operated in Jakarta. My thanks go to Faris Fadhli, who kindly sent me the beautiful picture.

To start, let me quickly review the EMU Tokyu 8000 series. It was a direct current commuter train model operated on the Tokyu lines in Japan from 1969 to 2008. 187 cars in total were built by Tokyu Sharyo. After retirement from Tokyu, 45 cars were transferred to Izukyu Railway; meanwhile, 24 cars were exported to Indonesia as secondhand trains.

When I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia from 2007 to 2011, I often used trains. My favorite one was the ex-Tokyu 8000 series, as it's filled with my school days memories in Japan. When I was a high school student, I used the 8000 series on the Tokyu-Toyoko line to go to school. Whenever I came across the 8000 series in Jakarta, I was always encouraged by this train, because it still worked well in operation, and was in good condition same as in my school days.

As years went by, the 8000 series' second life is coming to an end... but wait a moment! The last set, namely 8003F, still remains on the track and carries lots of commuters every day. It's composed of 12 cars, and has beautiful red and yellow-colored bodies. I would like to thank the local railway engineers in Indonesia, and hope it'll be operated as long as possible.

ex-Tokyu 8003F stands at Bekasi station, Indonesia (February, 2008)

Friday, 8 April 2022

The 103 Kingdom: Update

Set BH9 of the EMU JR West 103 series stands at Himeji station on the Bantan line

Do you know the EMU 103 series? It's an old commuter train developed by the ex-Japanese National Railways. 3,447 cars in total were built from 1963 to 1984, but most of them have already been scrapped. We can't see the 103 series in Tokyo any more, but in the Kansai area (JR West's operating area), we can still see them on several local lines. Kansai was supposed to be "the 103 Kingdom" for me.

On March 12th, some news shook me badly. The 103 series was abruptly retired from the Nara line. To make matters worse, there was no prior announcement from JR West. Why? I don't know how much of it is true, but railfans rumor that it was to avoid unexpected accidents on the track. If the company made a prior announcement, a large number of railfans would flock to the Nara line to say goodbye to the 103 series. It'd be risky for safe train operation.

There's no use complaining about it. I recently visited the JR West Bantan line to see the still active 103 series instead. Fortunately, I could come across set BH9 of the 103 series at Himeji station. It's a beautifully maintained 2-car train (KuMoHa 102-3509 and 103-3509). Specifically, KuMoHa 103-3509 is my favorite rare car, as it has dual pantographs on the roof. I don't know how long the 103 series' current life will continue, but hope it'll be operated as long as possible.

The 103 Kingdom is still alive and well.

Side view of KuMoHa 103-3509, the EMU JR West 103 series 

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Stand-up Noodle Diner of Himeji Station

Diesel railcar JR West 122 series stands at Himeji station on the Kishin line. 

Don't you feel like eating something? Yeah, I'm hungry, but we have only 15 minutes until our train leaves. Where shall we go?

I would think a stand-up diner is the best spot. For instance, there's a famous stand-up noodle diner, "Maneki", at Himeji station on the JR West lines. It's popular among passengers because they're able to eat so fast and cheap. Maneki was originally opened in 1949, still in the chaotic times after WWII. It was then reconstructed to its current state in 2019. We can see a unique shed on the platform of the station. The outside is similar to the kiosk of JR East's Fujisawa station. Its exterior is made to look like an old diesel railcar, which had been operated by the ex-Japanese National Railways.

Incidentally, how's the current diesel railcar going on the JR West lines? You can see an example at Himeji station. That's the KiHa 122 series being operated on the Kishin line. The KiHa122 series was launched in 2009 as a JR West's commuter railcar. 7 cars in total were built by Niigata Transys. The KiHa 122 series is a sister model of the KiHa 127 series. What's the difference between the 122 and 127 series? The former has a single cabin; meanwhile the latter has double cabins, so the 122 series is able to be operated as a single-car train in the daytime. It has a stainless-steel body with orange and vermillion-colored stripes. A 331kW diesel engine with a liquid transmission system is equipped.

Stand-up noodle diner, "Maneki", on the platform of Himeji station

Monday, 4 April 2022

Spring View of the Seto Inland Sea

Set U4 of the EMU JR West 225-100 series stands at Himeji station

It's getting warmer and warmer. The spring travel season has just started. I recently visited Sakoshi in Akoh City, Hyogo Prefecture, about 670 kilometers west of Tokyo. Sakoshi is a historical town, where visitors can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere by walking around the old streets. This area was originally created by Hata-no Kawakatsu in the 7th century. He was a senior official of the central government, but was defeated in a political fight, and fled to Sakoshi in 644. His tomb remains on Ikishima Island, just off the coast of Sakoshi town. If you climb Mt. Chausu behind the town, you will be able to see a panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea and an archipelago including Ikishima Island.

To visit Sakoshi, I got on a local train from Himeji on the Sanyo Shinkansen, and got off at Sakoshi station. My vehicle was a direct current suburban train, EMU JR West 225-100 series. The 225-100 series was launched in 2016 as a sister model of the 225 (225-0) and 225-5000 series. 30 sets, 132 cars in total, were built by Kinki Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Its technical specifications are almost the same as those of the 225 and 225-5000 series, but the frontal "face" of the 225-100 series is more rounded. All cars of the 225-100 series have motors, but each car has both driving and non-driving wheels (so-called 0.5M system) to equalize each car's behavior.

I enjoyed both the historical town and the local trains as usual.

Ikishima Island and the Seto Inland Sea

Friday, 1 April 2022

Seibu New Red Arrow: Update

EMU Seibu 10000 series, "New Red Arrow", passes through Hanakoganei station

Three years have passed since Seibu Railway launched a new limited express train, the EMU 001 series "Laview". What's the situation of Seibu limited express trains after that?

Let me quickly review Seibu Railway and Seibu limited express trains. Seibu is one of the major railway companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Its labyrinthine network extends to the northwestern part of Tokyo Metropolis and Saitama Prefecture. Seibu operates gorgeous limited express trains on their two trunk lines namely the Ikebukuro and the Shinjuku lines. The EMU 10000 series, "New Red Arrow (NRA)", had been commissioned as the sole limited express train model for a long time, but in 2019, the company started to introduce a new model, the EMU 001 series, "Laview", to replace outdated NRA.

Let's get down to the main topic. All "NRA" trains had already been replaced by "Laview" on the Ikebukuro line. On the other hand, NRA is still working on the Shinjuku line. 5 sets (35 cars) of NRA are still operated on the line; while 7 sets (49 cars) have already been retired from the track. Unfortunately, a special-colored NRA set, namely set 10105, "NRA Classic", was also retired from the track in May, 2021. 4 out of 49 retired NRA cars were transferred to Toyama Chihou Railway in October, 2020 to spend their "second life".

I don't know how long NRA's current life will continue from now, but hope it will be cherished and operated on the Shinjuku line as long as possible.

EMU Seibu 10000 series, "New Red Arrow", arrives at Seibu-Shinjuku terminal

Official information about NRA on the Seibu-Shinjuku line (in Japanese):
Official information about the EMU Seibu 10000 series, NRA (in Japanese):