Thursday, 29 December 2016

Shinano: Western Access to Nagano Prefecture

EMU JR Central 383 series, limited express "Shinano", travels on the Chuo Main Line

Nagano is an inland prefecture surrounded by steep mountains. It is a large province having precious tourism resources, but the access route to the prefecture had been a problem, because the mountains blocked potential tourists to the prefecture.

The major breakthrough was realized in 1998, when the Nagano Shinkansen (present Hokuriku Shinkansen) was opened as an eastern access route. It takes only 90 minutes from Tokyo by super-express train, "Kagayaki (brilliance)". On the other hand, a limited express train, "Shinano (an old name of Nagano Prefecture)" is the fastest access means from the west. It takes three hours from Nagoya, the largest city in the central part of Japan. Shinano is currently operated between Nagoya and Nagano stations as regular trains. It was once operated between Osaka and Nagano as Japan's longest daytime express train, but was shortened from March last year, because the number of passengers had decreased.

In the meantime, one of the must-see sightseeing spots in Nagano Prefecture is ex-Kaichi Elementary School. It was constructed by a Japanese carpenter, Tateishi Kiyoshige, in 1876, as the first Western style building in Matsumoto City. Surprisingly, he designed this building himself just imitating the pictures of Western style buildings, since he didn't know about Western architecture in detail. As a result, it has become a quite unique building. Kaichi Elementary school was designated as an important cultural property by the Japanese Government in 1961. The building is currently utilized as a museum.

Ex-Kaichi Elementary School near Matsumoto Station

Monday, 26 December 2016

EF59 1: Old Sherpa on the Sanyo Main Line

Top number unit of the EL class EF 59 (December, 2011)

Following the C-Train 2300 series, I am going to show you the other excavated photos from my hard disk.

The electric locomotive (EL), class EF59, was a specialist on the Sanyo Main Line of ex-Japanese National Railways (JNR). It was launched in 1964 to replace the old steam locomotives, class D52. It was a pusher for the trains climbing up the slope track between Seno and Happonmatsu, about 920 km west of Tokyo. A total of 24 units were built in JNR Takatori Factory reusing the parts of the retired ELs, such as the class EF53 and the class EF56.

EF59 1 is the top number unit of the class EF59. It was a direct current EL, remodeled from EF53 8 in 1963. It had been challenging a 22.5 per mil of the steep track for 22 years. Many kinds of trains, such as limited express, local and freight trains, had been supported by his six DC motors. Its total rated output is 1,350 kW. The axis arrangement is 2Co+Co2 (UIC notation). The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The mechanism for transmitting power is a simple nose suspension drive.

Currently, EF 59 1 is preserved and exhibited in Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park in Gumma Prefecture, some 130 km north of Tokyo. It looks just functional, but is very cool, if you look closely. The simplicity may parallel the elegance of design.

EF59 1... it is a fine-looking old sherpa on the Sanyo Main Line.

Usui Pass Railwy Heritage Park (December, 2011)

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Kuko Line: Convenient Access to Fukuoka Airport

EMU Fukuoka City Subway stands at Fukuoka-kuko Station on the Kuko Line

When you visit a strange place, initial impressions are probably important for whether or not you will like it there. For instance, please imagine that you arrive at an airport of a strange city. The access from the airport to the downtown area will be important in making your initial impression of the city.

If you visit Fukuoka City by air, you will have a good initial impression about this city. It takes only five minutes from the airport to Hakata, which is the central station of Fukuoka City, by subway. Fukuoka is the largest city on Kyushu Island, with a population of 1.5 million. It is located about 1,200 km west of Tokyo.

The access route from the airport to the downtown area is the Kuko (Airport) Line of Fukuoka City Subway. The Kuko Line was opened in 1981 by Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau. The current route length is 13.1 km. The trains are directly operated onto the JR Kyushu Chikuhi Line through Meinohama Station. The track is electrified and double. Its electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. For your information, Fukuoka City operates two other subway routes in the downtown area. 

One of the fleet on the Kuko Line is the EMU 2000 series. It was launched in 1993, when the Kuko Line was fully opened. The 2000 series is a 6-car train with four motor cars and its electric control system is AVAF (Adjustable Voltage Adjustable Frequency) inverter.

Fukuoka Airport

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Preserved Subway Train in Nippa Rail Yard

Set number 1 (1011F) of the EMU 1000 series is preserved in Nippa Rail Yard

When I went to the 2016 Hamarin Festival held by Yokohama Municipal Subway in October, I reunited with an old train exhibited in Nippa Rail Yard. What was that?

It was a preserved train, set number 1 (1011F) of the EMU 1000 series. This train set was launched as a 3-car train in 1972, when the Blue Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway was partially opened between Isesaki-Choujamachi and Kamioooka (5.2 km). Three more cars were added after the extension of the Blue Line, since the number of passengers had drastically increased. 1011F was retired from the track in 2006 after 34 years of operation. It is currently preserved in Nippa Rail Yard as it originally was.

The greatest feature of 1011F is its odd-shaped front mask. It was a typical design in the early 1970's. The Tokyu 7200 series (later the 7600 series) and the Shizutetsu 1000 series are of the same generation, and also have similar designs. The stainless-steel bodies with corrugated structures also showed the vestiges of the early 1970's. They are nostalgic and definitely my favorite.

The technical specification of 1011F is rather old. The electric control system was just a simple rheostat. Four-120 kW DC motors were equipped on the train. I still remember that a warm breeze came up from the resistors when it arrived at the station platform. For your information, we can't see pantographs on the roofs, as the Blue Line is electrified with a 750 V DC third-rail system

Side view of 1011F, Yokohama Municipal Subway

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Beer-den: Mid-summer Oasis in the Local City

Unit number 7022 of the Toyama Chihou Railway De7000 series, Beer-den

Beer-den is a leisure train in Japan. It has a beer pub, and is operated on mid-summer evenings. Many railway companies operate Beer-den specifically on their tram routes in local cities. Beer-den is Japan's common mid-summer feature.

Toyama Chihou Railway (Toyama Regional Railway) is a good example. They operate Beer-den as a chartered car on the City Tram Line. Beer-den leaves Toyama Terminal at 18.34. It goes to Daigaku-mae Stop, Minami-Toyama Stop and returns to Toyama Terminal at 20.06. A toilet break is secured at Minami-Toyama Stop. Passengers can enjoy drinking beer together with tasty appetizers as much as they want during their one hour and a half trip. A beautiful urban night view of Toyama City is also offered to the passengers as an attraction. The chartered cost for one group (up to 24 persons) is 47,000 yen.

A classic electric car, unit number 7022 of the De7000 series is used for Beer-den. The De7000 series was launched in 1957 modeled after the Toden 8000 series. A total of 11 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo over 9 years. Among the 11 units, unit number 7022 only has a classic two-tone colored body with beige and deep blue. The interior is also classical. it has flame-retardant wooden desks, seats and floors.

Riding on the classic streetcar, let's enjoy drinking beer. It will be a mid-summer oasis in the local city, but don't forget that you get drunk more easily on the streetcar as it pitches and rolls.

Unit number 7022, Beer-den, stands at Toyama Terminal on the City Tram Line

Official information of Toyama Chihou Railway:
http://www.chitetsu.co.jp/english/
Official information about the leisure trains of Toyama Chihou Railway:
Official information about the rolling  stock of Toyama Chihou Railway (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Local Railway with a Sakura Timetable

Unit 315 of the diesel rail-car HaiMo 295-310 series travels on the Tarumi Line

Tarumi Railway is a local company based in Gifu Prefecture, about 400 km west of Tokyo. This company was established in 1984 taking over the Tarumi Line of Japanese National Railways (JNR).

The JNR Tarumi Line was partially opened in 1956. After been taken over by Tarumi Railway Company, the route was fully opened between Oogaki and Tarumi in 1989. The total route length is 34.5 km. The track is un-electrified and single. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Tarumi Railway has seven units of diesel rail-cars. Unit 315 of the HaiMo 295-310 series is one of my favorite rail-cars. It was built in 1999 by Fuji Heavy Industries. This rail-car has a 16 m-long body and a 295 PS engine manufactured by Nissan Diesel. The green colored face is quite unique and conspicuous among the Tarumi Railway rolling stock.

Unit 516 of the HaiMo 295-510 series is also lovely. It was built in 2005 by Niigata Transys. It has an 18 m-long body with Tarumi Railway's standard color design. This rail-car also has a Nissan 295 PS diesel engine. Different from Unit 315, Unit 516 has bolsterless type trucks.

In the meantime, there are many famous sakura (cherry) blossoms viewing spots on the Tarumi Line. In early April, many holidaymakers flock to this local railway, so, additional trains are operated during this period. The company calls it the Sakura season railway timetable. It is the busiest week for this local railway.

Unit 516 of the diesel rail-car HaiMo 295-510 series travels on the Tarumi Line

Sunday, 11 December 2016

EMU Tobu 100 Series: Spacia Gold Color

Set 106F (Nikko Moude Spacia) of the EMU Tobu 100 series stands at JR Ikebukuro Sta.

Gold is a special color throughout the world. A gold medal is given to the number one athlete in the Olympic Games. A Gold Card is a special credit card, which only a special customer is allowed to have. In the first place, gold is a special and precious metal in the world.

Gold colored trains are also special in Japan. For instance, Tobu Railway operates a gold colored train, "Nikko Moude (Pilgrimage to Nikko) Spacia". The EMU 100 series, Spacia, is the Tobu's flagship model for limited express trains. It was launched in 1990 to replace the old model, the EMU 1720 series, "Deluxe Romance Car". A total of 9 sets, 54 units have been built by Alna Koki and Tokyu Sharyo. Because of its unique design and high technical specifications, Spacia was elected as the 1991 Blue Ribbon Prize train by the Japan Railfan Club. As you may know, the Blue Ribbon Prize is awarded to the best train that was launched in the previous year.

Currently, two sets of the EMU 100 series, namely set 103F and 106F, have gold colored bodies, but set 106F can only be operated onto JR East line through Kurihashi Station, as it has the JR type radio and safety systems.

For your information, Tobu Railway last year made a press release announcing that the new limited express model, the EMU 500 series, will debut in spring of 2017. I am looking forward to that.

Set 106F (Nikko Moude Spacia) of the EMU Tobu 100 series stands at JR Shinjuku Sta.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Panorama-super: Meitetsu's Gorgeous Express Train

EMU Meitetsu 1000 series, "Panorama-super" (original color)

There are 16 major private railway companies in Japan. They are Tobu, Seibu, Keisei, Keio, Keikyu, Tokyu, Tokyo Metro, Odakyu and Sotetsu in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kintetsu, Nankai, Keihan, Hanshin and Hankyu in the Kansai area, Nishitetsu in the Fukuoka area and one more... Meitetsu in the Nagoya area.

This is the first time to introduce a Meitetsu train to you. That's a bit of a surprise for me, as I have already uploaded more than 900 posts here. Let's look at the pictures. They are the EMU 1000 series, "Panorama-super", the third generation express train on the Meitetsu Line. Panorama-super was launched in 1988 to replace the old express model, the EMU 7000 series, called Panorama-car. So far, a total of 21 sets, 84 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo. The gauge size of the Meitetsu Line is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

The greatest feature of Panorama-super is its high-decked structure on the front car. It is similar with that of the EMU Izukyu 2100 series, "Resort 21"; however, unlike Resort 21, Panorama-super doesn't have sloping tiers of seats. It only has a high-decked flat floor..

In the meantime, the renewal of Panorama-super started in 2015, as it had become deteriorated. The renovated Panorama-super can be easily distinguished from the original one by the color design. The renewal car has a wider part of red color than that of the original car. 

Panorama-super... it is a gorgeous express train on the Meitetsu Line.

EMU Meitetsu 1000 series, "Panorama-super" (after renewal)

Official information about the EMU Meitetsu 1000 series, "Panorama-super" (in Japanese):
Official information about the EMU Meitetsu 7000 series, "Panorama-car" (in Japanese):

Monday, 5 December 2016

C-Train 2300 Series: Siemens's Next Generation Model

Calgary Transit 2300 series leaves Brentwood Station on the Route 201 (November, 2011)

December is the month of house cleaning in Japan. It means that we refresh ourselves towards New Year's Day. I have just started the cleaning from my hard disk (not my house!) to arrange my huge amount of photographs, and found that some old photographs are worth showing in this blog. Let's get started from a tram in Canada.

C-Train is known as one of the most successful light rail transit (LRT) systems in North America. It has been operated by Calgary Transit since 1981. Currently, the total operating length reaches 59.9 km. The track is double. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,435 mm.

Along with the 2000 and 2200 series, the 2300 series is the C-Train's representative model. It is Siemens SD-160NG, which debuted in 2010 to provide for the future extension of C-Train routes. So far, a total of 38 units have been built in Sacrament LRV Factory. The 2300 series is a 24.8 m-long 2-car train with an articulated truck in the center. Each set is equipped with two power trucks. It is powered by four induction motors, which provide a maximum of 580 kW. The 2300 series looks like just a streetcar, but can be amazingly operated at the maximum speed of 80 km/hour. The electric control system is VVVF (variable voltage and variable frequency) inverter.

A small front right on the forehead of the 2300 series is my favorite. It is a good accent of this model.

Calgary Transit 2300 series travels on the downtown section (November, 2011)

Friday, 2 December 2016

Kitatopia: Train Viewing Spot in front of Ouji Station

Railway view from the northern side of the observation deck, Kitatopia

Kitatopia is a seventeen-story building standing in front of JR East Ouji Station. It was constructed on the site of old Ouji Freight Station in 1990 as composite cultural facilities. Kitatopia has three concert halls, meeting rooms, a fitness gym and restaurants, but that is not the only thing it has.

Kitatopia also has a free observation deck on the top floor. Once you visit there, you can access the beautiful scenery of northern Tokyo including the forests of Asukayama Park and Ouji-inari Shrine. More importantly, this spot offers you a great view of JR East's railway tracks just below your eyes.

Let's look at the tracks in detail from the northern side of the deck.

There are elevated double-tracks to the right. They are the Shinkansen tracks. You can see super-express trains such as the blue colored EMU E7 series there. The third and the forth tracks to the right are for the Keihin-Tohoku Line trains. 10-car trains with light blue stripes, namely the EMU E233-1000 series, continuously pass there. The fifth and the sixth tracks to the right are for the Shonan-Shinjuku Line trains and freight trains. For instance, you can see the container cars pulled by an electric locomotive traveling on these tracks. Finally, there are double-tracks of the Ueno-Tokyo Line to the left. The long commuter trains, such as the EMU E231 and the E233-3000 series, are the leading trains on these tracks.

Kitatopia... it is a utopia for rail-fans.

Railway view from the southern side of the observation deck, Kitatopia

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Hakata "Express Museum" on Kyushu Island

EMU 783 series, limited express "Midori" (left) and EMU 787 series, "Kirameki" (right)

Hakata is the largest railway station in Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyushu Island. Many kinds of trains continuously arrive at and leave this giant terminal. As a rail-fan, my greatest pleasure at this station is to see the variety of limited express trains. Let's take a look at some of those trains.

The EMU 783 series, Midori (green), is operated between Hakata and Sasebo, the second largest city in Nagasaki Prefecture. It was launched in 1988 under the name of Hyper-saloon. The 783 series is alternate current (AC) electric cars with a thyristor continuous phase control system. This system converts AC to a variable voltage of direct current (DC) using thyristor semiconductor devices.

The EMU 787 series, Kirameki (shining), is operated between Hakata and Mojiko, the gateway station to Kyushu Island from the main island of Japan. Please look at my previous post describing this model.

The EMU 883 series, Sonic, is operated between Hakata and Ooita (or Saeki). It was launched in 1995 to compete with the express way bus services. It is not as fast as a sonic wave, but the 883 series has a tilting system to pass through tight curves at a high speed.

The EMU 885 series, Kamome (seagull), is operated between Hakata and Nagasaki (or Saga), which are the main cities in Nagasaki and Saga prefectures. The white colored streamlined body is elegant and popular among tourists. It is a representative inter-city limited express train of JR Kyushu Company.

Hakata Station is just like an "express museum".

EMU 883 series, limited express "Sonic" (left) and EMU 885 series, "Kamome" (right)

Official information about JR Kyushu's limited express train, Sonic:
Official information about JR Kyushu's limited express train, Kamome:
Official information about JR Kyushu's limited express train, Midori, Kirameki and the others:

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Extended Operation of Chibi Maruko-chan

Set 1011F, Chibi Maruko-chan poster train, of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series

On November 25th, Shizuoka Railway (Shizutetsu) announced that the Chibi Maruko-chan poster train on the Shizuoka-Shimizu Line is extended to operate until March, 2017 due to high popularity. It is good news for the local people and the Shizutetsu rail-fans.

What is Chibi Maruko-chan? As I introduced before, Chibi Maruko-chan (a little Maruko) is a popular TV animation series created by Ms. Sakura Momoko. The series depicts the everyday life of Sakura Momoko living on the Shizuoka Railway, when she was a little girl in the year of 1974. Chibi Maruko-chan was her nick name at that time.

Set 1011F of the EMU Shizutetsu 1000 series is used for the Chibi Maruko-chan poster train. It is a 2-car stainless-steel train built by Tokyu Sharyo in 1984, as the 11th set of the 1000 series. Being decorated with Chibi Maruko-chan's characters, set 1011 has been operated as the poster train since July, 2015. Its pink colored bodies are very unique and my favorite.

The poster train is very popular especially among the local children. When I visited Shizuoka City this summer, I saw that the poster train was hired by local families with children, and operated as a special group tour train. It was proof of its popularity with the local people.

The last run of the Chibi Maruko-chan poster train will be on March 31st, 2017. Set 1011F will, then, soon revert to an ordinary commuter train. Please ride it now or never!

Chibi Maruko-chan poster train arrives at Naganuma Station

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Keisei Skyliner AE Series: 20 Million Passengers

EMU Keisei AE series, Skyliner, displaying "Thanks 20 million passengers" (October, 2016)

On September 13th, Keisei Electric Railway made a press release announcing that the passengers of the third generation Skyliner exceeded 20 million on that day. At the same time, Keisei held a commemoration ceremony at Narita Airport Terminal 1 Station. The 20 millionth passenger was a German lady, who lives in Shibuya Ward in Tokyo Metropolis.

What is the third generation Skyliner? It is the airport access train, EMU Keisei AE series. The AE series was launched in 2010 to replace the old model, the AE100 series. It is an 8-car train with crow-shaped black faces. A total of 8 sets, 64 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo and Tokyu Sharyo. Its maximum speed is 160 km per hour. The AE series won the 2011 Blue Ribbon Prize by Japan Railfan Club as the best train that debuted in 2010.

Following the debut of the AE series, Keisei changed their airport access train route from the Keisei Main Line to the Narita Sky Access Line in 2010. As a result, the AE series connects Nippori in downtown Tokyo and Narita Airport Terminal 2 in only 36 minutes, which is much faster than their rival, JR East's Narita Express. Currently, one set of the AE series, namely set AE5, has a gold colored commemoration display on the front of the train. It says "thanks 20 million passengers".

For your information, the old (second generation) Skyliner, namely the AE100 series, was retired from the track on February 28th.

EMU Keisei AE series, Skyliner, displaying "Blue Ribbon 2011" (November, 2011)

Official information about Keisei Skyliner:

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Lovely Narrow Gauge Train on the Hokusei Line

EMU Sangi Railway 270 series arrives at Sohara Station on the Hokusei Line

There are four kinds of railway gauge sizes in Japan. They are the 1,435 mm, the 1,372 mm, the 1,067 mm and the 762 mm-wide gauges.

The 1,435 mm-wide gauge is adopted by the Shinkansens and several major railways such as Keikyu and Kesei. Several subway routes, such as the Toei-Asakusa Line and the Tokyo Metro-Ginza Line, are also 1,435 mm-wide tracks. Needless to say, they are suitable for high speed train operations. The 1,372 mm-wide gauge is quite unique. It was originated from horse tramways. You can see it on the Keio Line of the Keio Electric railway, the Toei-Shinjuku Line, the Toei-Arakawa Line, the Tokyu-Setagaya Line and Hakodate City Tram. The 1,067 mm-wide gauge is the most common one in Japan. It was originally introduced by the U.K. when the first railway route was constructed between Shimbashi and Yokohama in 1872. Most of the JR group and private railway lines are this size of gauge.

One more... the 762 mm gauge. It is also quite unique. We can see it only on the Kurobe Gorge Railway, Yokkaichi Asunarou Railway and the Hokusei Line of Sangi Railway. Due to the narrow size, the trains on the 762 mm-wide tracks are also small. For instance, the train of the Hokusei Line looks like a mechanical ride at an amusement park. This lovely train, the EMU 270 series, is definitely my favorite. Because of its size, the maximum speed of the train is only 45 km per hour on the Hokusei Line.

EMU Sangi Railway 270 series stands at Ageki Terminal on the Hokusei Line

Thursday, 17 November 2016

View of Autumn Mt. Fuji from the Tokaido Shinkansen

EMU JR Central N700A series arrives at Atami Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen

Whenever I take the Tokaido Shinkansen, my greatest pleasure is to view Mt. Fuji in a train. If it is clear, we can see the beautiful conical edifice from a train window. I have already uploaded the snow-capped winter Fuji, so, I am going to show you the autumn Fuji without snow today. Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It is 3,776 m above sea level, and known as an active stratovolcano that last erupted from 1707 to 1708. Mt. Fuji is also a symbolic mountain, which has been appearing in numerous tales in this country.

Please look at the following picture. It was shot from the shinkansen train traveling near Shin-Fuji Station. The train speed at that time was 285 km per hour. It is not easy to shoot this volcano, since there are many objects, which obstruct photographing, on this side of Mt. Fuji. From my experiences, a total of the best shooting time is less than one minute.

In the meantime, the major fleet on the Tokaido Shinkansen is the EMU N700 series. Recently, the renovation of the N700 series has been completed. It is currently operated under the new name of the N700A series. The main difference between the N700 and the N700A series is their brake performance. The N700A series is equipped with the new disc brake to stop trains steadily without derailment as soon as an earthquake hits the track. The Tokaido Shinkansen is now in the final stage of its evolution. The next leading role will be SCMAGLEV.

View of Mt. Fuji (3,776m) from the Shinkansen window

Monday, 14 November 2016

Odakyu Romance Car: Going to a New Stage

EMU Odakyu 50000 series, Romance Car. VSE, travels on the Odawara Line

On October, 20th, Odakyu made a press release, announcing that a new "romance car" model, the EMU 70000 series will debut in March, 2018.

The romance car is Odakyu's representative express train. Historically, Odakyu first launched a resort train to Hakone Mountain in 1935 under the name of "hot spring express"; however, it was forced to stop the operation due to WWII in the 1940's. After the war, Odakyu resumed the operation of the resort train in 1950 under the new name of "romance car".

An epoch-making event occurred in 1955, when they launched the new romance car, EMU 3000 series (SE) with articulated bogies. This train established 145 km per hour, which was the world's speed record of narrow gauge tracks at that time. Odakyu, then, launched new romance car models one after another. They are the 3100 (NSE), the 7000 (LSE), the 10000 (HiSE), the 20000 (RSE), the 30000 (EXE), the 50000 (VSE) and the 60000 (MSE) series. Currently, LSE, EXE, VSE and MSE are operated on the track.

According to Odakyu, the new model, EMU 70000 series, has an upper-deck cockpit, so passengers can enjoy the view ahead. It is the same as NSE, LSE, HiSE and VSE. The 70000 series is a 7-car train. It is the same as RSE, which had standard bogies. Different from the previous models, the 70000 series has baggage spaces for inbound tourists.

The Odakyu romance car is going to a new stage.

EMU Odakyu 7000 series, Romance Car. LSE, travels on the Odawara Line

Official information about the EMU Odakyu 70000 series (in Japanese):

Friday, 11 November 2016

Aikan: Another Unique Railway in the Nagoya Urban Area

EMU Aikan 2000 series arrives at Homi Station on the Aichi Loop Line

Along with the Johoku Line of Tokai Transport Service Company, the Aichi Loop Line of Aichi Loop Line Company (Aikan) is another unique railway in the Nagoya Urban area.

Aikan Line was opened between Kozoji on the Chuo Main Line and Okazaki on the Tokaido Main Line in 1988. The total route length is 45.3 km. The western half section between Kozoji and Shin-Toyota (25.8 km) is the new construction line, while the eastern half section between Shin-Toyota and Okazaki (19.5km) is the JR Central's ex-Okata Line. The route is a mixture of single and double tracks. It is electrified with the 1,500 V DC overhead systems. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

Aikan has two faces... one as a local railway in the countryside, and one as an urban commuter line. We can see beautiful paddies and green hills in the western section. On the other hand, there are crowded residential areas in the eastern section. More importantly, Toyota Motor Corporation has their headquarters near Mikawa-Toyota Station on the eastern section of the Aikan Line. Aikan is 4.89% owned by Toyota Motor Corporation.

The EMU 2000 series is the sole model on the Aikan Line. It was launched in 2002 to replace the old model, the 100 series. It is a 2-car train with one motor car. So far, a total of 20 sets, 40 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo. To save the manufacturing cost, its technical specifications are almost the same as JR Central's 313 series.

EMU Aikan 2000 series leaves Homi Station on the Aichi Loop Line

Official photo gallery of Aichi Loop Line Company (in Japanese):

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Electric Car 900 Series for the 900th Post

Electric car, unit number 912 of the Hiroden 900 series

Thank you for visiting the Tokyo Railway Labyrinth. This is the 900th post in my blog. I hope that people all over the world will continue to enjoy Japanese railways and its related facilities, events and sightseeing spots in this blog. In commemoration of the "900th" post, I am going to show the "900" series electric car today.

Please look at the top photo. It is an electric car Hiroden (Hiroshima Electric Railway) 900 series. This model was launched in 1957 under the name of Osaka City Tram 2601 series. A total of 114 units have been built by Osaka Sharyo, but only 9 of the 114 units were escaped from scrap and moved to Hiroshima in 1969, since Osaka City Tram was abolished due to severe traffic congestion.

The 900 series has two 45 kW DC motors. Its technical specification is rather old such as the nose suspension drive and the direct electric control system, but even now, the 900 series continues to work actively. The two-toned body color of beige and maroon is definitely my favorite. The two large air conditioners on the roof look a bit heavy.

I got off the 900 series streetcar at the Gembaku Dome-mae Stop. My purpose was embarking a river boat. Hiroshima is known as a city of waterways. The downtown is a delta area surrounded by several rivers, so, the tourists can enjoy these waterways by river cruise. I enjoyed a special atmosphere in the breeze on the river boat.

Boat tour in Hiroshima City

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Sayonara, Hamarin Poster Train on the Blue Line

EMU Yokohama MS 3321F, Hamarin, is exhibited in Nippa Rail Yard on the Blue Line

Railway festivals season has come again in Japan. As you may know, it originated from the opening of Japan's first railway that was completed on October 14th in 1872. In commemoration of this special day, the Japanese Government designated October 14th as Railway Day in 1994. Since then, many railway operators have started to hold special public events in the autumn, such as rail yard tours and special memorial train operations.

This year, I visited Nippa Rail Yard on the Blue Line of Yokohama Municipal Subway. It was opened to the public on October 30th as an event, named the 2016 Hamarin Festival. My purpose of the visit was to take pictures and to say good-bye to the Hamarin poster train, set 3321F of the EMU 3000N series. What is Hamarin? It is a mascot character of the Transportation Bureau of Yokohama City. Being ornamented with Hamarin and the other decoration stickers, this poster train has been used for municipal activities, such as children's painting exhibitions in the trains. The Hamarin poster train will soon revert to an ordinary commuter train. According to the Transportation Bureau, the last run of the Hamarin poster train will be on November 6th. Sayonara (good-bye) and Arigato (thank you), Hamarin poster train.

In the meantime, the Transportation Bureau announced at the event site that a new model, the EMU 3000V series, will debut onto the Blue Line in 2017. It will replace the old model such as the EMU 3000A series in the near future.

EMU Yokohama Municipal Subway 3000A (left) and 3000N (Hamarin=right) series

Official information about the rolling stock of Yokohama Municipal Subway (in Japanese):

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Hana-densha: Flower Electric Car in the Local City

Electric car Mo3203 of the 3200 series, hana-densha, travels on the Azumada Main Line

Hana-densha (Flower Electric Car) is a special event train in Japan. As its name suggests, trains are ornamented with a numerous number of fresh or artificial flowers. Generally speaking, hana-densha is operated on tram routes, because it should be operated with low speed.

Typical hana-densha is seen on the Azumada Main Line of Toyohashi Railway (Toyotetsu). Toyohashi is a local city in Aichi Prefecture, some 290 km west of Tokyo. From October 10th to 16th, Toyotetsu operated a hana-densha in commemoration of the 110th anniversary of the municipal system of Toyohashi City. It was lucky for me that I shot beautiful photos of a hana-densha, decorated with 5,000 colorful artificial flowers.

Toyotetsu is a local private railway company, which operates the Atsumi Line and the Azumada Main Line. The latter of these is a tram route in the downtown area of Toyohashi City. Its route length is 5.4 km. The track is mainly double with some single sections. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead. The gauge size is 1,067 mm.

The streetcar, decorated as the hana-densha, was built by Nippon Sharyo in 1955, under the name of Unit Mo582 of the Meitetsu Mo580 series. After being operated on the Meitetsu lines, it was moved to Toyotetsu in 1980. Unit Mo582 then debuted on the Toyotetsu Azumada Main Line under the new name of Mo3203 of the electric car Mo3200 series in 1981.

Toyotetsu' s hana-densha... it was a beautiful event star in the local city.

Electric car Mo3203 of the 3200 series, hana-densha, leaves Shinkawa Stop

Sunday, 30 October 2016

EMU 8000 Series: Owl on the Shin-Keisei Line

EMU Shin-Keisei 8000 series arrives at Kita-Narashino Station

It is a cliché of this blog, but the railway business in Japan is by no means easy. Many companies are involved in tough competition. Rivals are not only the industry peers, but also private cars, bus services and airlines.

With that kind of background, many railway companies have recently introduced common design commuter trains to reduce the initial cost. For instance, the EMU Sotetsu 10000 series has the same design and the technical specifications as those of the JR East E231 series. Differences between the two models are only the faces, body colors and interiors. As a result, we often see the same kinds of trains here and there. It is not favorable for rail-fans, as the variations decrease. Rail-fans are bizarre lovers.

One of the unique commuter trains in the Tokyo metropolitan area is the EMU Shin-Keisei 8000 series. This model was launched in 1978 as Japan's first adjustable voltage and adjustable frequency (VVVF) train, but the uniqueness is not only its technical specifications but also its face. It looks like an owl. It is definitely my favorite.

The 8000 series is a 6-car train, built by Nippon Sharyo. So far, a total of 9 sets, 54 units have been introduced and 6 sets of these are still operated on the track. Each unit is 18 meter-long with 6 doors. The gauge size is 1,435 mm and its electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

The EMU 8000 series... it is a unique owl train on the Shin-Keisei Line

EMU Shin-Keisei 8000 series stands at Takifudo Station

Thursday, 27 October 2016

View of Japanese Tyrol on the Iida Line

EMU JR Central 373 series, limited express "Inaji", travels on the Iida Line

Japan is a mountainous country. 73% of the territory is covered by mountains or hills. Generally speaking, mountains are not suitable for residential areas.

Wait a minute! There is an exception. Please look at the following photo. It is "Shimoguri-no-sato (Shimoguri Village)" in Nagano Prefecture, about 290 km west of Tokyo. You can see houses and cultivated land on the ridge of a steep mountain with up to 38 degrees of the maximum inclined angle. According to the local people, their ancestors migrated into this village about 1,000 years ago. They have been carrying out an agricultural business and forestry over many generations.

The situation has recently drastically changed. One geographer "found" Shimoguri Village, and named it the "Japanese Tyrol", because the scenery and the lives of the people are similar to those of Tyrol State in Austria. Since then, many holidaymakers have been flocking to this small village. I was one of those people.

To access the Japanese Tyrol, I took the Iida Line from Toyohashi Station on the Tokaido Shinkansen. It takes about 2 hours 40 minutes from Toyohashi to Iida, which is the access station to Shimoguri Village. My vehicle was a limited express train, Inaji. It is operated by JR Central using the EMU 373 series. The 373 series is a 3-car direct current train launched in 1995. A total of 14 sets, 42 units have been built by Nippon Sharyo and Hitachi. This model is also commissioned on the Minobu Line as a limited express train, Fujikawa.

Shimoguri-no-sato, access from Iida Station on the JR Central Iida Line