Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Abandoned Track in Samukawa Town

Abandoned track of the Nishi-Samukawa Branch Line

Walking on abandoned tracks is popular among rail-fans in Japan. So far, many guide books have been published, and those are selling well. It is probably difficult to understand for non-rail-fans, but to imagine an appearance of a past railway on an abandoned track is quite exciting. This feeling is probably similar with those of people who like history.

The ex-Nishi-Samukawa Branch Line is no exception. It was opened as a branch line of the Sagami Line in 1923. The route was originally functioned to transport gravels from Sagami riverbed to large cities for constructions. Connecting Samukawa on the Sagami Line to Shinomiya, then shortened to Nishi-Samukawa, the route length was 1.5 km. The track was un-electrified and single. The gauge size was 1,067 mm. After 61 years of its history, the Nishi-Samukawa Branch Line was abolished in 1984 by Japanese National Railways due to a decrease of passengers.

After the abolition, the site of the railway track was remodeled as a pavement, namely Ichinomiya Greenway, but a part of the section is still preserved as it was at that time. I saw that a cat was sitting on the ex-railway track to relax, as surely it is quite a safe place nowadays.

For your information, Samukawa was developed as a temple town of Samukawa Shrine. It is well known as the ichinomiya (a shrine occupying the highest rank in a prefecture) of Kanagawa Prefecture, some 60 km southwest of Tokyo.

Samukawa Shrine near Samukawa Station on the JR East Sgami Line

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blue Pond: Hybrid Train to World Heritage Site

DMU JR East HB-E300 series, Resort Shirakami-Aoike, leaves Akita Station

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Akita City, which is a distance of 660 km north of Tokyo. It is a main city of Akita Prefecture in Tohoku District. Although I was very busy there, I could have a slight chance to see several trains at Akita Station after my assignment. 

One of the unique trains, which I could get a shot of at Akita Station, was Resort Shirakami-Aoike (Blue Pond), which is a sister train of Resort Shirakami-Buna (Japanese Beech). Shirakami is famous for its unspoiled expanse of virgin forest in the mountains in Akita Prefecture. It was designated as the World Heritage List in 1993. Aoike is known as a beautiful blue colored pond located within the forest. Needless to say, Resort Shirakami-Aoike train is operated for this World Heritage site via Oou Main and Gonoh lines from Akita Station.

Different from Buna, Aoike train is a hybrid powered. Its formal name is the JR East HB-E300 series. Using a diesel engine, induction motors, VVVF (adjustable voltage adjustable frequency) inverters and lithium-ion batteries, the HB-E300 series is a hybrid train. The induction motors also act as generators during braking, so the generated electricity is charged when the brakes are applied.

A total of 3 sets, 8 units of the HB-E300 series have been built since 2010 by Tokyu Sharyo and Niigata Transys. The other 2 sets are operated in Nagano and Aomori Prefecture under the names of Resort Furusato (Hometown) and Resort Asunaro (Hiba arborvitae).

Side view of the HB-E300 series

Official information about Resort Shirakami trains:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Komorebi Path on the Seibuen Line

EMU Seibu 2000N series travels on the Seibuen Line

On June 5th, the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that this year's rainy season had begun in the Tokyo metropolitan area, but so far we had only a little rain. Such a dry rainy season is called "karatsuyu". If karatsuyu occurs, in many cases, water to be used in the summer cannot be secured resulting in drought.

Although the water shortage will be a problem, karatsuyu is suitable for walking in suburban areas. I visited Hachikoku-yama in the western part of Tokyo Metropolis last weekend. I enjoyed walking in the forest, where I could see beautiful "komorebi". Kimorebi means that sunlight filters through the trees - the interplay between the light and the leaves. I saw a beautiful komorebi path there.

To get to Hachikoku-yama, the Seibu-Seibuen Line is convenient. Connecting Higashi-Murayama Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line to Seibuen Terminal near Jukkooku-yama, its operating length is 2.4 km. It is a local route with an electrified single track. The gauge size is 1,067 mm. The electric system is 1,500 V DC overhead.

I got on the EMU 2000N series. Among the train fleet on the Seibu lines, I like the 2000N series best. The yellow colored body and two large rounded front lights are Seibu Railway's traditional design. Meanwhile, two large panoramic front windows with an emergency front door was an up-to-date style in 1988, when the 2000N series was launched. 28 years have already passed, but it is not out of date.

I enjoyed the komorebi path and the train on the Seibuen Line.

Komorebi path near Seibuen Station on the Seibuen Line