Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Samurai Path on the Keisei Line

EMU Keisei 3700 series travels on the Keisei Main Line

Sakura is an old city in Chiba Prefecture, some 50 km east of Tokyo. It has been developed as a major city of the Shimousa region (northern part of Chiba Prefecture) since around the 15th century. Specifically, it has prospered since the 17th century, when Sakura Castle was constructed by Load Doi Toshikatsu. Although the castle was demolished during the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century, we can still see some moats and earthworks that surrounded the castle.

Along with the castle ruins, the ex-samurai residential area is a popular spot in Sakura City. Several ex-samurai houses are still preserved and open to the public. True, it is interesting to visit those houses, but my favorite is a foot path toward the ex-samurai residential area. It is called "Hiyodori (brown-eared bulbul) Sloping Path" by local people. Hiyodori Sloping Path is just unpaved narrow stairs surrounded by a bamboo forest. It is rather dark even during the daytime. When I climbed up this sloping path, I created an illusion of passing a samurai, who was descending the slope.

To get to this historical city, the Keisei Main Line is convenient. It takes about 50 minutes from Ueno Station in the downtown Tokyo area. The EMU 3700 series is one of the main fleets on the line. This urban commuter train was launched in 1991 as the Keisei's first EMU with a VVVF-inverter (variable frequency drive) control system. You can feel comfortable on a journey to the old castle city.

Hiyodori Sloping Path near Keisei-Sakura Station on the Keisei Main Line
More information about trains on the Keisei Line (in Japanese):

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Old and New Rolling Stocks on the Gotemba Line

EMU JR Central 313-3000 series travels on the Goremba Line

Whenever I visit a local railway, I also try to look for preserved old rolling stock there. For instance, when I visited the Gotemba Line last year, I came across an old steam locomotive (SL), which had been operated on the line. It was unit number 70 of the Type D52 preserved in front of Yamakita Station.

The D52 is a 2-8-2 (Whyte notation) type SL that has a tender attached. A total of 285 units had been built for three years since 1943 to pull 1,200 ton-class freight trains in the closing days of World War II. Overtaking the Type D51, the D52 had the largest driving wheel output among all SLs in Japan. After WWII, the D52 70 was moved to the Gotemba Line to pull the trans-mountain freight and passenger trains. Eventually, it was retired from the track in 1968, because the Gotemba Line was electrified. The distinctive feature of this SL is its large boiler. It was quite impressive for me.

In the meantime, the latest rolling stock on the Gotemba Line is the EMU 313-3000 series launched in 1999. It has four 185kW induction motors with two IGBT-VVVF inverter (variable frequency drive) control systems per unit. The maximum speed is 130km per hour. The track gauge is 1,067mm and the electric system is 1,500V overhead. The 313-3000 series is operated every 30 minutes on average.

Both old and new rolling stocks are seen on the Gotemba Line.

Steam locomotive D52 70 is preserved in front of Yamakita Station on the Gotemba Line

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Setting of the Big Dipper: Part 2

Overnight sleeper train, Hokutosei (the DD51 and the 24 series) stands at Hakodate Station 
Following my previous post, I am going to show you the operation of Hokutosei after arriving at Hakodate Station.

Hakodate was opened as a trading port by Tokugawa Shogunate in 1859. Hakodate Station has four bay platforms (dead-end platforms) in front of Hakodate Port, which is located near the head of Hakodate Peninsula. Thanks to its structure, the passengers, who came from Honshu (the main island of Japan) by a railway ferry boat, could transfer to a train in Hokkaido Island smoothly at this station. Today, the ferry is no longer operated, as the Seikan Submarine Tunnel was opened, but the scenery of the Hakodate Station is still the same as it was.

After arriving at the historical platform, Hokutosei releases the electric locomotive, Type ED79, from the dead-end side. It, then, receives the diesel locomotive (DL), Type DD51, on the other end of the train. This is because the track from Hakodate to the Sapporo Terminal is mainly non-electrified.

The DL, Type DD51, was launched in 1962 to replace steam locomotives on the trunk lines of Japanese National Railways (JNR). A total of 649 units were manufactured over 16 years. Currently, JR Hokkaido, which has taken over the role of JNR in Hokkaido Island, owns 13 units of Type DD51. The vigorous double-heading operation of the Hokutosei train is seen in the northern steep track between Hakodate and Sapporo.

The Big Dipper will go below the horizon soon. Ride it while you still can.
Hokutosei (the Big Dipper) leaves Hakodate Station, and heads to Sapporo Terminal