Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Expert Climber in Kobe City

Set 1122F of the EMU Shintetsu 1100 series arrives at Maruyama Station
Kobe is the main city of Hyogo Prefecture, some 600 km west of Tokyo. The population in this city stands at 1.54 million, which is the sixth largest in Japan. Although Kobe is a port city facing Osaka Bay, it is also backed by the steep Rokko Mountains. So, the housing land development of the city has been heading up the mountains since the 1920s.

Construction of the commuter railways has also been heading into the Rokko Mountains. For instance, Kobe Electric Railway (Shintetsu) has a 70 km-long extensive network in this mountainous area. Its route has many steep sections up to an incline of 50 per mil. Of course, the trains should have special equipment to climb up the steep tracks.

The EMU 1100 series is the oldest model of Shintetsu. It was launched in 1969. A total of 39 units are still operated on the track. The major group of the 1100 series is 3-car trains, which are composed of 2 motorcars and 1 trailer. The motorcar has four powerful 105 kW DC motors. You can also see the large resistor under the train floor.

I like the EMU 1100 series best in Shintetsu rolling stock. Its specifications are quite old, but the design is still cool. Specifically, two large frontal lights on the top of the face are my favorite. I could shoot this imposing train at Maruyama Station, when I recently visited Hyogo Prefecture. Cool!

The EMU Shintetsu 1100 series... it is the expert climber in Kobe City.

Set 1120F of the EMU Shintetsu 1100 series stands at Shinkaichi Station

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 "Sunrise" Summer in Himeji Station

EMU JR West 285 series, sleeper train, "Sunrise Izumo No.92", stands at Himeji Station

"Obon" is a Buddhist festival to recognize ancestral spirits. The souls of the dead are believed to return to their families during the festival in the middle of August. It is an occasion for people to visit their ancestors' graves to pray and make offerings of food and flowers. So, many people take holidays, and go back to their hometowns.

Although my hometown is Tokyo, I had an opportunity to go outside Tokyo during the obon season, as something came up. My destination was Himeji City in Hyogo Prefecture, some 640 km west of Tokyo. After finishing my meeting, I came across an extra overnight sleeper train, the EMU 285 series, "Sunrise Izumo No.92", at Himeji Station. Connecting Izumo-shi in Shimane Prefecture and Tokyo, its operating length is 954 km.

The 285 series was launched in 1998. It is not a series of passenger cars pulled by a locomotive, but an EMU. A total of 5 sets of 7-car trains have been built so far by Kinki Sharyo, Nippon Sharyo and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Three sets belong to JR West, while the other two sets are owned by JR Central.

Sunrise Izumo No.92 made a 10-minute stop at Himeji Station, so I could secure enough time to shoot this unique sleeper EMU. It then departed for Tokyo at 21.00 on schedule. I saw many families with children in the special train of the peak tourist season. Everyone looked to be having fun.

Have a good dream!

"Sunrise Izumo No.92", stands at Himeji Station on the Sanyo Main Line
Official information about the EMU 285 series (in Japanese):

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Old Post Town on the Aizu Line

DMU Aizu Railway AT-700 series leaves Tou-no-hetsuri Station
After our visit to the vast sunflower field in San-no-kura Highland, we headed to Oouchjuku in Fukushima Prefecture. Oouchijuku is a small village along Aizu West Road and once flourished as a post town in the Edo Period (1603-1868). The great number of feudal lords with their servants and the other travelers had been staying or taking a break there.

In 1884, after the Meiji Restoration, National Highway 121 was constructed far to the east. The old town and its name Oouchijuku slipped from people's memories, but in 1981, it appeared in the picture again. Oouchijuku was designated as a Group of Traditional Buildings by the government. Today, many old houses with straw-thatched roofs are carefully preserved along the main road. Thousands of tourists flock to this time-slipped post town.

To visit Oouchijuku, Aizu Railway is convenient. The nearest station is Yunokami-onsen. Aizu Railway is a local company, which has taken over the operation of the Aizu Line from Japanese National Railways. Connecting Aizukogen-Ozeguchi and Nishi-Wakamatsu, its operating length is 54.7 km. The track is 1,067 mm-gauge size single and partially electrified with a 1,500 V DC system.

The DMU AT-750 series is the latest model on the line. It was launched in 2010 to replace the old model, the DMU 8500 series. The AT-750 series is a 2-car train operated as "Aizu Mount Express", which is a flagship train on the line. Its red colored vivid bodies attract tourists and are popular among rail fans.

Oouchijuku post town near Yunokami-onsen Station on the Aizu Line
Official information about the rolling stock of Aizu Railway (in Japanese):