Tuesday, 30 August 2022

EMU JNR 951 Series: Preserved Prototype Train

Unit 951-1 of the EMU JNR 951 series is exhibited in the Shinkansen Museum

Japanese railways are going to mark the 150th anniversary on October 14th this year. Japan's first railway line was opened between Shimbashi and Yokohama in 1872. The biggest changes then came in 1964. The bullet train, namely Tokaido Shinkansen, was opened between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka with a maximum speed of 210 kilometers per hour. Furthermore, the Sanyo Shinkansen was inaugurated between Shin-Osaka and Okayama in 1972.

The EMU JNR 951 series is a prototype model for the Sanyo Shinkansen. It was developed by the Japanese National Railways (JNR) in 1969. The goal of the 951 is to increase the maximum operating speed on the Sanyo Shinkansen from 210 to 250 kilometers per hour. For that purpose, the 951 has a longer "nose" than that of the 0 series on the Tokaido Shinkansen. Regarding the technical specifications, JNR increased DC motors' output from 185 to 250 kw. Shafts of the bogies use hollow axles for weight saving.

The 951 attained a maximum speed of 286 kilometers per hour on a test run in 1972. After operating for 11 years, the 951 was retired from the track in 1980. Currently, one unit, named 951-1, is preserved at Shinkansen Museum in Kokubunji City, Tokyo Metropolis. This small museum is located next to the Railway Technical Research Institute, and operated by the City of Kokubunji. More importantly, 951-1 is treasured by local volunteers including children. They wash 951-1 twice a year. Thanks to the local people, I thoroughly enjoyed this precious vehicle.

Front view of unit 951-1, prototype Shinkansen train

Official information, "spring cleaning" of unit 951-1, Kokubunji City (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Yumegaoka: Urban Secluded Station

Platform of Yumegaoka station on the Sotetsu-Izumino line

I look forward to visiting distinctive railway stations more than before. After a visit to the "station right above the river", I moved to an "urban unexplored station" on the Sagami Railway (Sotetsu).

Visiting unexplored railway stations is a popular journey among rail-fans. The definition of unexplored stations is not clear, but they get off at remote countryside stations, and enjoy the nature around there in general. It must be exciting experiences away from their everyday lives. Unexplored stations are also found in urban areas. They're secluded stations rather than unexplored stations. Yumegaoka is a good example. It's located in Yokohama City on the Sotetsu-Izumino line. This station was opened in 1999, but there are no shops and houses around there even now. Currently, the station is used by 1,000 passengers per day. The city of Yokohama has been planning a development project around the station with land owners. It's estimated to complete in 2024. I like Yumegaoka as the station design is innovative. The platform is covered by blue-colored curved steel frames. To protect passengers from the strong wind, the steel frames are covered by transparent acrylic boards.

Taking this opportunity, I also show you a picture of the EMU Sotetsu 11000 series arriving at Yumegaoka station. The 11000 series was launched in 2008 to replace the decrepit 5000 and 7000 series. 5 sets, 50 cars in total, were built by Tokyu Sharyo and others. To reduce the manufacturing costs, it has a common design and technical specifications with JR East's EMU E233 series.

EMU Sotetsu 11000 series arrives at Yumegaoka station on the Izumino line

Sunday, 21 August 2022

Riverside Walking on the Keio Line

8713F of the EMU Keio 8000 series passes through Tama River

It's still hot in Tokyo. The maximum daytime temperature is over 30 degrees Celsius every day. Last weekend, I visited Tama River to enjoy walking. I got off at Seiseki-sakuragaoka station on the Keio line. The sun was strong, but the breeze across the river was very soothing.

Just before passing under the railway bridge, a special green-colored train was approaching. It's set 8713 (8713F) of the EMU 8000 series. 8713F is Keio's special poster train to promote tourism to Mt. Takao. The green-colored bodies are a revival of Keio's old train. According to the company's official announcement, the body color of 8713F has been taken from the EMU 2010 series, which was retired from the track in 1983. The 2010 series had a steel body with a green color. Even now, we can see it in Keio Rail-Land near Tama Zoological Park station, since one unit of the 2010 series is preserved there as an exhibition.

On my way back home, I came across another distinctive train at Bubaigawara station. It was set 5736 (5736F) of the EMU 5000 series. 5736F was launched in 2019 as the 2nd batch of the EMU Keio 5000 series. This model has multi-purpose seats, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control system. The cross seat mode is applied when it's operated as the "Keio Liner" train on the Keio line.

By enjoying the beautiful riverside and Keio's distinctive trains, I spent a great weekend.

5736F of the EMU Keio 5000 series arrives at Bubaigawara station on the Keio line 

Friday, 19 August 2022

Midsummer Journey to the Holy Mountain

Gondola Number 2, Ho-on, Minobusan Ropeway

It's very hot this mid-summer in Tokyo. The maximum daytime temperature is often over 35 degrees Celsius. I evacuated from the urban heat island, and visited the cool mountain in Yamanashi Prefecture for a while with my family. Our destination was Mt. Minobu, which is located about 180 kilometers west of Tokyo. It's a holy mountain where a famous Buddhist, Nichiren (1222 - 1282), founded Kuonji temple in 1274. Its main peak is 1,153 meters above sea level.

Minobusan Ropeway is a convenient access to this holy mountain. The route was opened by Minobu Tozan Railway in 1963. It's a three cables - cross type aerial tramway. Connecting Kuonji and Okunoin stations, its route length is 1,665 meters. The height difference between the two stations is 763 meters. Its maximum inclination is 33 degrees. The tow line is operated by a 200kW electric motor. The gondola is operated every 20 minutes. It takes about 7 minutes to go one way. The present gondolas, namely Chion (Number 1) and Ho-on (Number 2), were introduced last year. Each gondola can accommodate up to 41 passengers.

The 763-meter elevation difference caused me an unforeseen effect. My ears were popping due to decreasing pressure all the while on boarding. After arriving at Okunoin station, we visited Okunoin temple near the summit. We couldn't enjoy the scenery as the mountain was shrouded in a heavy mist, but it was nice and cool. We felt a holy and mysterious atmosphere in the precincts of the temple.

Okunoin temple

Official website, Minobusan Ropeway:

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

30th Anniversary of the Keio 8000 Series

Set 8701 of the Keio 8000 series arrives at Meidaimae station

On May 11th this year, Keio Electric Railway celebrated the 30th anniversary of the EMU 8000 series operation. I recently found a special anniversary plate displayed on the front of set 8701 train. Congratulations on the 30th anniversary!

To start, let me quickly review the Keio line. It's one of the main transportation arteries in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Connecting Shinjuku and several western suburban cities, the total operating length is 72 kilometers. It carries an average of 1.25 million passengers per day. One of the characteristics of this line is its unique track gauge size... 1,372 millimeters. It's because the Keio line was initially constructed as a tramline same as the Toei-Arakawa and Tokyu-Setagaya lines.

Let's head to the main topic. The 8000 series was launched in 1992 as Keio's first train to adopt the variable frequency drive (VFD) electric control system. 245 cars in total were built by Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. As you know, the RPM and torque of induction motors are adjusted through frequency and voltage in the VFD system. Coupled with a regenerative braking system and vehicle weight reduction, electricity consumption of the 8000 series was reduced by 45 percent compared to the prior trains. As I posted before, my grandfather, who passed away in 1999, was an engineer of Keio Electric Railway. He introduced many trains during his assignment. I think he's also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 8000 series on the other side. Time passes by so quickly.

30th anniversary plate of the EMU 8000 series operation

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Higashi-Ojima: Station Right Above the River

Higashi-Ojima station is located right above Kyu-Nakagawa river

Tokyo is a super-high density city. The city area (23 special wards) has a population density of 15,471 people per square kilometer as of June, 2022. Tokyo has been spreading into the suburbs, air and underground. Subways are a typical spreading example in this mega-city. A total of 329 kilometers on 13 lines are operating. Most of them are underground, but there are several exceptions. Look at the top picture as an example. It's Higashi-Ojima station on the subway Toei-Shinjuku line, and located above ground. Why?

It's because the track has to cross three rivers one after another in this area. They're Kyu-Nakagawa, Arakawa and Nakagawa rivers. Construction cost of the underground track was estimated very high due to poor ground. Instead, an elevated track was cheaper. The only problem was, there weren't enough premises for a station. The best solution was to construct the station right above the river.

On December 21st, 1978, Higashi-Ojima station was completed right above Kyu-Nakagawa river. Two station entrances were opened on both sides of the river. They're very convenient for local people, who live in a giant public apartment complex in front of the station. I like this station as passengers can enjoy the river scenery from the platform. In addition, there're several public parks around the station. It's in a veritable urban oasis surrounded by greenery that expresses the beauty of the seasons.

Higashi-Ojima was designated as one of "the 100 Distinctive Stations in Kanto District" by the Ministry of Transport in 2000.

EMU Toei 10-300 series arrives at Higashi-Ojima station on the Toei-Shinjuku line

Official Guide, Higashi-Ojima station:

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Preserved Electric Car in Keikyu Museum

Electric car De236 of the De230 series is exhibited in Keikyu Museum

It's mid-summer in Tokyo. The maximum daytime temperature is often over 35 degrees Celsius. I would like to evacuate from the urban "heat island", but not so easy, as I have a lot of things to do in Tokyo. What else can I do? One of the solutions is visiting railway museums in the metropolitan area making use of small pockets of time, as they're indoor and fully air-conditioned. I recently visited one such spot... Keikyu Museum operated by Keikyu Electric Railway.

The most precious exhibit was an old electric car, DeHa236 of the DeHa230 series. It was built by Kawasaki Sharyo Company in 1929. It's a 16-meter long electric car with four 93.3 kW DC motors. The electric control system was rheostatic, and the nose-suspension drive system was used. After operating for 49 years, it was retired from the track in 1978.

I had just noticed out of curiosity that the position of the pantograph on the roof was off to the center compared to recent trains, so, I asked a museum staff member to show me the roof of DeHa236. She then kindly showed me one upstairs. It was the main lobby of the Keikyu Electric Railway's main office. Thanks to the staff member, I could observe the roof of DeHa236, and found that there was nothing on the roof except the pantograph! There weren't ventilators on the roof. That's why the pantograph wasn't needed to put to the front edge of the roof. The answer was simple.

The roof of De236 is very simple

Sunday, 7 August 2022

New Train on the JR East-Nikko Line

EMU JR East E131-600 series travels on the Nikko line

On March 12th this year, JR East launched a new model, named EMU E131-600 series, on the Nikko line. Introduction of the new train was for the first time in nine years on the line.

Let me quickly review the Nikko line. Nikko is a popular resort area, some 130 kilometers north of Tokyo. Shrines and temples in the region are registered as World Heritages. There're two railway routes from downtown Tokyo to Nikko. One is the Tobu Railway, while another is the JR East. If you take the JR East Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo station, you should transfer to the Nikko line at Utsunomiya station. Connecting Utsunomiya and Nikko, the route length of the Nikko line is 40.5 kilometers. The track is single and electrified (1,500V DC). The gauge size is 1,067 millimeters.

Let's head to the main topic. The new train, E131-600 series, is the "younger brother" of the existing E131-0 and the E131-500 series. Different from the two "older brothers", the E131-600 series has brown and yellow-colored stripes. This color design was inspired by the float dedicated to the deity in a local festival. In addition, this new train has a defrosting pantograph, as the Nikko line is located in the cold region.

The E131-600 series is the 3-car train. 15 sets in total were built by J-TREC Niitsu factory. As a result, the existing trains, 205-600 series, had to be retired from the track. Goodbye, the 205-600 series. You did a fine job for a long time.

EMU JR East E131-600 series leaves Shimotsuke-Osawa station

Official information about the EMU JR East E131-600 series (in Japanese):
Official information about the JR East trains (in Japanese):

Thursday, 4 August 2022

The Oldest School for the Common People

EMU JR West 223-2000 series stands at Himeji station on the Sanyo main line

I would like to describe the memory of my travel for a chance. When I took a trip to Himeji City in March this year, I went a little way further to Bizen City in Okayama Prefecture. My destination was a special historic spot, the former Shizutani school.

Shizutani school was the oldest public school for common people in Japan. It was established by the lord of Okayama province, Ikeda Mitsumasa in 1670. He thought that it was a suitable place for leadership training, as here was wonderful peaceful nature. Shizutani school was open to not only children of the "samurai" class but also common people. Children from other domains were also accepted. Tuition and dormitory fees were free. I enjoyed the atmosphere of this historic spot constructed 350 years ago.

I can't be written off here as this is a railway blog. To visit Shizutani school, the nearest railway station was Yoshinaga on the JR West Sanyo main line. Because there was no direct train, I firstly took a train for an intermediate station, Aboshi, from Himeji station. My vehicle was the EMU JR West 223-2000 series. You can see two "ears" on the front of the train. What for? They are guard screens to prevent passengers from falling off the platform edge. They are specifically useful when two trains are coupled. JR West has been installing these guard screens following the fall accident in 2010. They don't look good, but it can't be helped, considering the safety of passengers.

Special historic spot, former Shizutani school

Monday, 1 August 2022

JR East Narita Express (N'EX): Update

EMU JR East E259 series, "Narita Express (N'EX)", heads to Tokyo

The Japan Meteorological Agency made an announcement that this year's rainy season ended on June 27th in Tokyo, which was the fastest on record. Was it an effect of global warming? I don't know, but anyhow, 2022 mid-summer has been going on since one month ago. People want to enjoy the summer vacation, but it isn't easy because a new COVID-19 variant "omicron" is spreading across the country.

Airline companies are facing difficulties. Accordingly, railway companies, which have airport access routes, are also in a tough situation. JR East is no exception. 35% of the airport access "Narita Express (N'EX)" trains are temporarily suspended due to decreasing passengers. As you know, the EMU JR East E259 series has been operated as N'EX train since 2009. It's so painful seeing that many sets of the E259 series are "sleeping" here and there in JR East's railyards all day long.

For your information, there're two international airports in the Tokyo metropolitan area, namely Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) and New Tokyo International Airport (Narita). If you arrive at the Narita airport, you can choose from two railway routes to get to the downtown Tokyo area. One of them is the JR East line and another one is the Keisei line. JR East operates N'EX; meanwhile Keisei has its flagship model, Skyliner. It's hard to choose between the two, but in my opinion, N'EX is more convenient to access many sub-centers of Tokyo directly; meanwhile, Skyliner is cheaper and faster to the downtown area.

EMU JR East E259 series, "Narita Express (N'EX)", heads to Narita Airport

Official website, JR East Narita Express (N'EX):