Sunday, July 30, 2017

Iris Garden on the Tobu Noda Line

EMU Tobu 10030 series travels on the Noda Line

From early June to mid-July, the Tokyo metropolitan area has a hot and humid rainy season, called Tsuyu. It is a gloomy period for Tokyoites before midsummer, but it is a pleasure to see some kinds of beautiful flowers which only bloom in this season. Along with hydrangeas, irises are typically seen during the rainy season in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The large colorful blossoms are gorgeous, but elegant as well. It is said that the practice of viewing iris flowers began to spread throughout Japan in the 13th century by flower-loving Samurais.

Last month, I visited the famous iris garden, called Someya Iris Garden, in Saitama City. The nearest station was Nanasato on the Tobu Noda Line, but it was a bit far from the station (about 4 km). The garden was a 60 minute walk from the station. Although it was inconvenient to get to, but I saw many flower lovers there. 

In the meantime, the Noda line is a circular route in the eastern half of the Tokyo metropolitan area, connecting Omiya and Funabashi. The route length is 62.7 km. The track is mostly double and the gauge size is 1,067 mm. Along with the 8000 and the 60000 series, the EMU 10030 series is operated on the Noda Line. It was originally operated on the other Tobu lines and has been moved to the Noda Line since 2013. It has stainless steel bodies with blue and light green colored stripes after moving to the Noda Line.

Someya Iris Garden near Nanasato  Station on the Tobu Noda Line

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Toyama Port Line: Another Tram Route in Toyama City

Toyama Light Rail Company TRL0600 series, "Portram", travels on the Toyama Port Line

Tram routes in Japan have been abolished one after another due to heavy traffic jams. However, there is an exception. Toyama city, which is located about 390 km northwest of Tokyo, recognizes the merits of a tram system. This local city has been creating a tram network as a main urban transportation system from the point of view of environmental protection and a barrier-free concept.

The Toyama-ko Line (Toyama Port Line) is a typical tram route in Toyama City. It had been operated as a standard railway by JR West. It was, then, succeeded by Toyama Light Railway Company, and renovated as a tram route in 2006. Connecting Toyama-eki-kita (Toyama Station North) and Iwasehama, its total operating length is 7.6 km. The track is single and electrified. The electric system is 600 V DC overhead.

The main fleet of the Toyama Port Line is the TRL0600 series. It is a low-floor type articulated vehicle. So far, a total of 7 sets, 14 units have been built by Niigata Transys. One of the features of this model is that each set shows a different body color. It is very colorful backed by the urban scenery.

For your information, the Toyama Port Line will be connected with the other tram route, named City Tram Line at JR West Toyama Station in 2020. Once the construction is completed, the trams are directly operated between the above two lines. It will be more and more convenient for passengers.

Toyama Light Rail Company TRL0600 series, "Portram", stands at Iwasehama Station

Official information about the Toyama Light Rail TRL0600 series, "Portram" (in Japanese):
Official information about the Toyama Port Line (in Japanese):

Monday, July 24, 2017

Road to the Resort Island

Diesel rail-car JR West Class KiHa 47 of the KiHa 40 series stands at Shimonoseki Station

Tsunoshima is a small island offshore in the Sea of Japan in Yamaguchi Prefecture, about 1,100 km west of Tokyo. It is famous its white beach with emerald green water. The delicious sea food also attracts holidaymakers. What made Tsunoshima Island famous is Tsunoshima-ohashi Bridge. Connecting Honshu (the main island of Japan) and Tsunoshima Island, whose length is 1,780 m. It was opened in 2000 as a free prefectural road. Amagase Park, which is located at the Honshu side of the bridge entrance, is a notable photogenic spot. 

To get to this resort island, I took the JR West Sanin Line from Shimonoseki, and headed to Kottoi Station. It took about 70 minutes by local train. I, then, changed there for the bus bound for Tsunoshima Island. My vehicle on the Sanin Line was a diesel rail-car, Class KiHa 47 of the KiHa 40 series. The body color was vermilion, which is the so-called "metropolitan color". The KiHa 40 series is a standard diesel rail-car for local lines. It was launched in 1977 by Japanese National Railways (JNR). JNR was Japan's largest railway network at that time, so, the KiHa 40 series was soon introduced to local lines all over Japan such as Hokkaido, Honshu and Kyushu Island. After JNR was split into seven railway companies in 1987, the KiHa 40 series has started retirement. For instance, the last KiHa 40 series rolling stock in the Tokyo metropolitan area disappeared in March this year. 

I enjoyed the beautiful resort island and the nostalgic diesel rail-car in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Tsunoshima-ohashi bridge near Kottoi Station on the JR West Sanin Line

Friday, July 21, 2017

New Relaxing Train on the Seibu Railway Network

EMU Seibu 40000 series passes through Tsunashima Station on the Tokyu-Toyoko Line

Japan has a problem that urban commuter trains are always crowded in the rush hour. On the other hand, it will soon be another problem that a number of urban commuters decrease due to the decreasing birthrate and population. It is a dilemma for the railway companies. What should they do?

For the former problem, the urban railway companies are continuously conducting enhancement of transportation capacity, such as constructions of double-double tracks and introductions of the longer trains. On the other hand, for the latter problem, many companies have started to operate special commuter trains with reserved seats to improve the quality of passenger service.

Please look at the picture. It is Seibu's new EMU, the 40000 series, launched on March 25th this year. This new model is operated as a commuter train with reserved seats between Tokorozawa on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line and Toyosu on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line on weekdays. It is also operated as a sightseeing train between Seibu-Chichibu on the Seibu-Chichibu Line and Motomachi-Chukagai on the Minato-Mirai Line on weekends.

One of the features of the 40000 series is its multi-purpose seat, which the conductor can change from long seats to cross seats using a remote control. Needless to say, the 40000 series is used as a cross seat train, when it is operated as a reserved seat train, named the "S-train". It is similar with those of "Keikyu Wing" and "Tobu TJ Liner".

S-train... it is a new relaxing train on the Seibu railway network.

EMU Seibu 40000 series leaves Tsunashima Station on the Tokyu-Toyoko Line

Official information about S-train (in Japanese): https://www.seiburailway.jp/express/s-train/

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

EMU 415 Series: Inter-island Commuter Train

EMU JR Kyushu 415 series arrives at Shimonoseki Station

As I posted before, Shimonoseki is known as the westernmost city of Honshu Island (the main island), about 1,100 km west of Tokyo. It is very close to Kita-Kyushu City on Kyushu Island across the Kanmon Straits via Kanmon Railway Tunnel, so that Shimonoseki functions as a gateway city to Kyushu Island.

If you visit JR West Shimonoseki Station, you can see not only JR West's rolling stock, but also trains from JR Kyushu lines. For instance, the EMU 415 series is the representative commuter train from Kyushu Island. The 415 series was launched in 1971 by Japanese National Railways (hereafter JNR). It is an AC (alternate current)-DC (direct current) dual electric system train built by Tokyu Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and so on. Currently, JR Kyushu has a total of 40 sets, 160 units of the 415 series. This model is operated as a DC train on the section between Shimonoseki and Moji stations via Kanmon Railway Tunnel; while it is used as an AC train on the tracks on Kyushu Island.

The outer design of the 415 series is the same as that of the JR West 115 series on the Sanyo Main Line. It is JNR's standard commuter train with a so-called "Tokai-type" face. Tokai is named after the Tokaido Line. As the name suggests, the first Tokai-type train had been operated on the Tokaido Line since 1958.

The EMU JR Kyushu 415 series... it is an inter-island commuter train with a traditional Tokai-type face.

Night view of Shimonoseki City near Shimonoseki Station

Saturday, July 15, 2017

EXE-alpha: Renovated Romance Car on the Odakyu Line

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, Romance Car EXE-alpha, passes through Kyodo Station

On March 1st, Odakyu Electric Railway Company launched a renovated Romance Car, EXE-alpha, set numbers 30251 (6-car train) and 30051 (4-car train) of the EMU 30000 series on their tracks. 

The EMU 30000 series, EXE, 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, named NSE. 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 7000 (LSE) and the 50000 (VSE) series, the 30000 series (EXE) doesn't have an upstairs cockpit. 

After 21 years of its operation, the 30000 series, EXE, has been reborn as 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, a 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.

EXE-alpha provides passengers with extra hospitality.

EMU Odakyu 30000 series, Romance Car EXE (original)

Official information about EXE-alpha, the EMU Odakyu 30000 series (in Japanese):

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unique Spot on the Yamanote Line

A railway crossing between Komagome and Tabata stations on the Yamanote Line

The JR East Yamanote Line is well known as Japan's busiest railway. Eleven-car trains, namely EMU E231-500 and E235 series, are operated every 2 minutes 30 seconds in the morning, every 4 minutes during the daytime and every 3 minutes in the evening of weekdays. Even on Sunday and national holidays, the trains are operated every 3 minutes 20 seconds on average.

The route length of the Yamanote Line is 34 km. It is looped through several downtown areas of Tokyo, such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Shinagawa. The track is double and its gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead. Each train runs in the same direction throughout the day; clockwise or counterclockwise. The train covers the entire route in about 60 minutes. There are 29 stations and most of them are interchange stations to the subway, private railways and/or other JR lines. 

The track of the Yamanote Line is generally elevated or three-dimensionally crossed with the other railways or roads; however, there is a railway crossing between Komagome and Tabata stations. Please look at the picture. It looks to be a railway crossing like any other, but actually, it is the only railway crossing on the Yamanote Line. I visited this unique spot last weekend, and took pictures. Different from the other sections on the line, it is a residential neighborhood, a rare sight. I never dreamed of there being such a quiet area on the busy Yamanote Line.

EMU JR East E231-500 series passes through a railway crossing on the Yamanote Line

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fujisan View Express on the Fujikyu Line

EMU Fujikyu 8500 series, Fujisan View Express, passes through Higashikatsura Station

The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan has been increasing. According to the Japan National Tourist Organization, the aggregate number of inbound tourists in 2016 totaled 24 million, which was a record-breaking increase by as much as 24 % on a year-to-year basis.

One of the popular spots for foreign sightseers is Mt. Fuji., which is located between Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. Needless to say, Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. It is 3,776 meters above sea level. This stratovolcano has erupted several times, so that the shape of Mt. Fuji is beautifully well balanced in right and left directions.

If you plan to visit this reputable mountain, I recommend you take Fujikyu Railway from Otsuki on the JR East Chuo Main Line. Fujikyu is a local railway company in Yamanashi Prefecture. Connecting Otsuki and Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi), its operating length is 23.6 km.

On April 23rd, 2016, Fujikyu launched a new sightseeing train, "Fijisan View Express" using a new model, the EMU 8500 series. The 8500 series is the ex-JR Central 371 series, "Asagiri (morning fog)", which had been operated on the Gotemba Line and the Odakyu Line until 2014. After its retirement, the 8500 series was moved to Fujikyu Railway, and completely renovated. Although it was decreased from 7 to 3 cars, the 8500 series has a special lounge car, in which you can enjoy superb views and delicious sweets.

Fujisan View Express, it is the new flagship express train on the Fujikyu Line.

EMU Fujikyu 8500 series, Fujisan View Express, passes through Tokaichiba Station

Official information about Fujisan View Express (in Japanese):

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hydrangea Garden on the Sotobo Line

Set C438 of the EMU JR East 209 series travels on the Sotobo Line

The season of hydrangea flowers in downtown Tokyo has almost ended, but still continues in suburban areas. Mobara, which is located about 75 km east of Tokyo, is one such area. Hatttori-noen (Hattori Farm) is one of the famous hydrangea gardens in Mobara City, Chiba Prefecture.

Hattori Farm looks like just an ordinary farmer's house standing in front of a small hill, but once you enter the gate, you will see a marvelous view. There is a carpet of hydrangeas blooming on the slope of the hill. They are purple, blue, pink and white colored. The sizes of the flowers look larger than those in the other gardens. I saw plenty of holidaymakers who seemed to come from not only the city but also outside the prefecture like me.

The nearest station to Hattori Farm is Mobara on the JR East Sotobo Line. Mobara is a large station as it is the central station of the city. Each day, 25 limited express trains, Wakashio, stop at this station. It takes 54 minutes from Tokyo Station. It is quite convenient, but I used a local train this time as I had enough time.

The local train operated on the Sotobo Line is the EMU 209-2000 and the 209-2100 series. Both models were launched in 2009 on the Sotobo Line. The 209-2000 series has pneumatic passenger doors; meanwhile the 209-2100 series has electric passenger doors. They are composed of 6-car and 4-car trains with 4 and 2 motorcars.

Hydrangea garden in Hattori Farm near Mobara Station on the JR East Sotobo Line

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Last Steel Body Commuter Train on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3400 series arrives at Yachiyodai Station on the Keisei Main Line

In present-day Japan, most new trains have stainless steel or aluminum bodies. They are resistant to corrosion, meaning that the bodies do not need to be painted, and they have cost merits, as well as a high maintenance efficiency.

The shining stainless steel body is very beautiful in the sunlight. I still remember visiting Eifuku-cho Rail Yard with my grandpa in my childhood and seeing the brand spanking new train, the Keio 3000 series, shining brilliantly in my eyes. That was my first experience to meet with a stainless steel body train. Since then, stainless steel body trains have been my favorite. Having said that, there are too many stainless steel body trains in Tokyo today. They are no longer rare. Rail-fans feelings for trains somchietimes change; they are fickle people, including me, so fully painted steel body trains have now become more cool and nostalgic.

I was recently fascinated or spellbound by the EMU Keisei 3400 series, which is a fully painted steel body train. With its light gray colored body and blue and red stripes, it is beautiful under the sunlight. The 3400 series was launched in 1993 using the demolished traveling apparatus of the Keisei AE series. Its clean and beautiful body hasn't faded despite 24 years having passed by. Its major assignment is to transport commuters from the eastern suburbs to the city center of Tokyo.

The EMU 3400 series, it is the last steel body trains on the Keisei Line.

EMU Keisei 3400 series passes through Senju-ohashi Station on the Keisei Main Line