Saturday, April 25, 2015

JRW's First Self-developed Commuter Train

Set number H13 of the EMU JR West 207 series stands at Osaka Station on the Tokaido Main Line

Japan's first railway was opened between Shimbashi, a downtown part of Tokyo, and Yokohama, an outport of Tokyo, in 1872. Since then, it has been extended bit-by-bit, and its current total operating length is 27,337 km. A total of 24 billion passengers use it every year.

Japanese National Railways (JNR) had been playing the largest role in rail transportation; however, it was split into seven private companies as the JR Group in 1987 due to financial difficulties. During the JNR era, plenty of rolling stock were introduced to tracks throughout Japan, but each JR group company has become to develop its own rolling stock since JNR was abolished.

JR West (JRW) was no exception. The EMU 207 series is JRW's first self-developed commuter train launched in 1991. It is a 1,067mm-gauge and 1,500V DC train in the Osaka area. JRW first adopted VVVF inverter (variable-frequency drive) as an electric control system on this model. The front shape looks slightly rounded from the side. It is similar to that of the E233-2000 series operated on the Joban Local Line in Tokyo.

In 2005, JRW launched a new commuter train called the 321 series as a successor of the 207 series. Furthermore, in 2014, JRW made a press release announcing that a new model, the 323 series, will debut on the Osaka Loop Line in 2016 to replace the old model such as the 201 series.

Rail fans can't keep their eyes off JRW.

Side view of KuHa 207-113 of the EMU JR West 207 series

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gentle Breeze on the Isumi Railway

Unit number 206 of the diesel rail car 200' series travels on the Isumi Railway 

I visited Ootaki Town in Chiba Prefecture last week, as something came up. After finishing my meeting, I searched the countryside for spring sceneries.

What came into sight were beautiful rice paddies. Urban consumers can obtain delicious and safe rice produced in Ootaki Town, as it is cropped by organic farmers. For instance, cultivation of Chinese milk vetch prior to cropping the rice is one of the organic farming methods. Chinese milk vetch absorbs nitrogen in the ground and is used for rice cropping after running dry. Needless to say, the rice is produced without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. I also found carp streamers in the paddy fields. A carp streamer is a symbol of power for children to grow up. Parents celebrate their children's birth and pray for their healthy growth by putting up carp-shaped banners in their paddy fields. The carps were whipping in the gentle breeze.

After enjoying a stroll, I headed to Shiromigaoka Station on the Isumi Railway. Connecting Ohara and Kazusa-Nakano, there are 14 stations over a total operating length of 26.8km on this local railway. The route is single track and non-electrified. The diesel rail car, 200' series is the oldest model on the line. It was launched in 1988 as the first rail car on the newly established Isumi Railway. A total of 7 units have been manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries, but, currently, only two units, namely unit number 202 and 206, remain on the track.

A carp streamer is seen near Shiromigaoka Station on the Isumi Railway

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baton Pass from the 115 to the 211 Series

Set number M5 (Yokosuka Color) of the EMU JR East 115 series (retired in 2014)

On Marh 14th, a new timetable started on the JR lines. The largest news was obviously the opening of Hokuriku Shinkansen between Nagano and Kanazawa stations, as I have already reported. Underneath the spectacular news, a reputable train, the EMU JR East 115 series is close to extinction on the Chuo Line. The 115 series is a standard local train commissioned by the Japanese National Railways (JNR) in 1963. Nearly 2,000 units had been manufactured for 20 years, but most of them have already been scrapped.

There are two kinds of the 115 series on the Chuo Line. One of them is the so-called Yokosuka-color train, which has a traditional two-toned (dark blue and beige) color design developed by JNR. All units belonged to Toyoda Depot in Tokyo Metropolis, but, currently, only one set is operated on the track belonging to Nagano Depot in Nagano Prefecture. The other one is the so-called Nagano-color train, which belongs to Nagano Depot. They have ivory colored bodies with light blue and emerald colored stripes. Currently, four sets are operated on the track, but will disappear soon.

Who is the successor of the 115 series? It is the EMU 211 series coming from the Takasaki, Utsunomiya and Tokaido lines. The 211 series has a stainless steel body with light blue and emerald colored stripes the same as Nagano-color trains.

Everything flows, nothing stands still.

EMU JR East 211-3000 series stands at Matsumoto Station