Sunday, August 28, 2016

Resort 21 Festa at Izukogen Rail Yard

Resort 21 trains: Kurofune Train (left), Alpha Resort 21 (center) and Resort Dolphin (right)

A big railway event was held at the end of the summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. On August 21st, Izu Kyuko Railway (Izukyu) held Resort 21 Festa at their Izukogen Rail Yard adjoining Izukogen Station.

What is Resort 21? It is a group of sightseeing trains. Its formal name is the EMU 2100 series. Resort 21 was launched in 1985 to promote tourism to Izu Peninsula, which is located about 120 km west of Tokyo. To enjoy gorgeous mountain and ocean views, Resort 21 has sloping tiers of seats in the front of the train. The passengers can enjoy a front view through the cockpit. So far, a total of 5 sets, 40 units, have been built by Tokyu Sharyo over 9 years. Currently, 3 sets, namely R-3 (Resort Dolphin), R-4 (Kurofune Train) and R-5 (Alpha Resort 21), are still operated on the track. We could see these three sets of Resort 21 arranged side by side at Izukogen Rail Yard at Resort 21 Festa.

Alpha Resort 21 is planned to be modified by 2017; meanwhile, Resort Dolphin will have its body colors changed also by 2017. The details of the modifications have not yet been announced by Izukyu, but Resort 21 Festa was the final opportunity to see the present features of these three trains simultaneously. Needless to say, the rail-fans fully enjoyed this precious opportunity, as did I of course.

I am truly grateful to Izukyu for holding this special event.

The front signboards for Resort 21 trains are exhibited at Izukogen Station

Official information about Resort 21 trains (in Japanese):

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rush Hours in Kurobe Gorge

A sightseeing train, pulled by the ELs Class EDR, arrives at Keyakidaira Station

Kurobe Kyokoku Railway (Kurobe Gorge Railway) is only operated from April to November. It is suspended from December to March due to heavy snowfall. In other words, summer is when the railway company makes a profit. In fact, a lot of tourists flock to the gorge in the summer vacation season. You can see rush hours at Keyakidaira Station the same as the urban stations in Tokyo, as all the tourists go back home or to their hotels before sunset. The tiny and lovely passenger coaches are fully booked in the late afternoon.

The railway employees are very busy. For instance, they have to shunt the electric locomotives one after another at the terminal stations. They work very hard, but everyone looks happy. They have pride in their job. Rail-fans are also happy just watching their brisk work.

In the meantime, Kurobe Kyokoku Railway has 29 units of locomotives. The allocations of electric locomotives (ELs) and diesel locomotives (DLs) are 27 units and 2 units, respectively. All passenger trains are pulled by ELs. They are mainly Classes EDR, EDM, EHM and EDV.

Class EDR is the standard EL, which was launched in 1994. The total length is only 6.9 m. It has four 42 kW traction motors with rheostatic electric control system. The axis arrangement is Bo-Bo in UIC notation. A total of 12 units have been built by Hitachi. The two round front lights stand out, as the body size of the locomotive is very small.

The EL Class EDM at Unazuki station yard

Official information about the rolling stock of Kurobe Kyokoku Railway (in Japanese):

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sightseeing Train in Kurobe Gorge

A sightseeing train passes through Shin-Yamabiko Railway Bridge 

It is mid-summer in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Most people go out to the suburbs to cool off at the weekend, and I am one of them. This year's destination was Toyama Prefecture, about 350 km northwest of Tokyo.

One of the reputable sightseeing spots is Kurobe Gorge in the eastern part of the prefecture. It has been an important area for electric power development since the 1920s. What the electric power company did first was to construct a railway (present Kurobe Kyokoku Railway) in the gorge for material transportation. Thanks to the railway, dams and electric power stations were completed one after another. 

Currently, the importance of the electric power development has decreased in Kurobe Gorge, because use of the other electric sources, such as nuclear and thermal power generations, have increased. The accelerating trend for environmental protection has also negatively affected the electric power development in the gorge. The railway has also changed its role from material transportation to that of sightseeing.

Kurobe Kyokoku Railway is a single track with a 600 V DC overhead electric system. Connecting Unazuki and Keyakidaira, its route length is 20.1 km. The gauge size is only 762 mm, which is quite unique in Japan. You can see small and lovely electric locomotives and passenger coaches without walls on the track. Looking at the deep and beautiful gorge scenery, holidaymakers enjoy one hour and twenty minutes travel from Unazuki to Keyakidaira Terminal.

To be continued.

A passenger coach, Class 1000, stands at Unazuki Station on the Korobe Kyokoku Railway

Official information of Kurobe Kyokoku Railway (Kurobe Goarge Railway):