JRS members with 501

JRS members with the 1948 Nippon Sharyo built 501 in its historic Hakodate livery. February 1999.

Tramways in a Cold Climate
Hakodate and Sapporo

By Colin Brown

On our way to the 50th Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) at Sapporo in February 1999 a brief stop was made by a six strong group of JRS members at Hakodate where a visit to the tramway depot of the Hakodate City Transportation Bureau had been arranged by Anthony Robins with assistance from the Japan Tramway Society.

Arriving at the JR station just after midday one or two in the group walked right past the tramway official waiting to greet us. Unfortunately there were some who could not resist lunch in the station restaurant, which delayed us! Consequently our contact returned to the depot at Komaba. We went by tram the 13 stops to Shako-mae where he showed us around. We had less than 2 hours before our next train so the visit was a trifle hurried. However in the event I managed to photograph 19 of the 41 strong fleet including two of the three snowbrooms, numbers 4 and 5. The gauge of the system is to the unusual ex-Tokyo standard of 4'6" (1,372 mm) with overhead current collection at 600 V dc and a length that is now 10.9 km. Originally a 'figure of eight' configuration with four branches, it is now down to two routes both starting in the east at Yunokawa, a hot spring resort. These split at Jojigai with service #2 serving Yachigashira to the south. Just a few metres longer is the route #5 to the dock area. The tramway was electrified in 1913 after starting life as the Kikan Horse-car Railway in 1897, it having been taken over by a power supply company in 1911. With a length of 17.9 km, the city took over operation in 1943. Whilst most trackage was in the street, the outer end of the 'Onsen' line was on roadside private right of way. Due to road widening, this track was relocated in the centre of a new road in 1957.

Surprisingly for a fleet of 41 cars there are 10 classes. Naturally the snowbrooms numbers 3, 4 and 5, are in a class of their own and were built in 1937 and 1939 (#5). Originally there were six trams from the Seiso Electric Tramway between Narita and Sogo which closed in 1944. Four of them were rebuilt from 4-wheel passenger cars by Hakodate Hydraulic & Electric Co. The livery of the brooms is all over maroon/yellow narrow diagonal stripes. Although there had been a moderate fall of snow, rubber tyred mechanical shovels were being used for snow clearance. The three works cars were originally 4-wheel trams numbers 305-307 and were built in 1936, being rebuilt in 1971 by Hakodate Dockyard.

The passenger trams were variously built between 1948-1950 (#501, 529/530) by Nippon Sharyo as were the three cars in the 1000 class (#1006-1008) in 1955. Niigata Engineering supplied 14 cars of class 710 (10) and class 800 (4) between 1959 and 1965 as well as 8 trams in what is now the 8000 class in 1962/3. These were modified by Alna Koki between 1990 and 1997. Alna Koki also supplied 2 x 2000 class and 4 x 3000 class in 1993 to 1996. This total is 40 trams, the 41st being a 'Heritage' or 'Retro' car which was originally built in 1934 from the Tokyo class 7000. Restored in 1993 by Nippon Sharyo it has an example of the famous Brill type 21E truck and has an 8 window vestibuled body with a clerestory roof plus 'Providence' type lifeguards. The livery is a very attractive one of red lower panels with white upper parts with the clerestory in the same red. Most of the fleet is in advertising livery in various colours of mostly Light Blue, Dark Blue, Pink, Orange, Yellow and Green/White. I only came across one car, #529 one of the oldest, which appeared to be in what I would call a standard livery, which was dark green lower panels with muddy brown upper parts above the waist to the cant rail. Even this car carried a white panel with characters on it. One tram #3002 which had the characters for 'out of service' also had the English 'Forward' which we were told also meant the same thing. Most cars are one-man cars and are so marked on the windscreen. However some bogie trams, the 14 Niigata Engineering, ones are convertible from one to crew car operation and are presumably used on peak duties. Strangely for a tramway in northern climes the four Alna Koki lass 3000 cars are air conditioned. However as these plus the three in the 2000 class have inverter control and cardan shaft drive and are only between 3 and 6 years old I imagine they are standard products. They also feature single arm pantographs whilst the rest of the fleet have the fairly common 'Z' shaped pantograph with a bow shaped current collector.

This proved to be an enjoyable although brief visit in the snow for which we must thank the management. In fact it had to be curtailed as we were due to move on to Sapporo and in point of fact it was touch and go whether we caught a 'Super Hokuto'. We just had minutes to spare after a spirited dash from the tram to the platform. It was all the more frustrating that when we were reaching Sapporo we had a very retarded stop/start approach.

Hakodate 807

1963 Niigata Engineering built 807, between Hakodate Eki-mae and Shiyakusho-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

Hakodate 724

1961 Niigata Engineering built 724, between Hakodate Eki-mae and Shiyakusho-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

Hakodate 3001

1991 Alna Koki built 3001, between Hakodate Eki-mae and Shiyakusho-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

Hakodate 800

1962 Niigata Engineering built class 8000, between Hakodate Eki-mae and Shiyakusho-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

Hakodate 39

The Heritage car 39 restored in 1993 by Nippon Sharyo having the famous Brill type 21E truck, between Hakodate Eki-mae and Shiyakusho-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

Hakodate 806

1963 Niigata Engineering built 806, between Hakodate Eki-mae and Shiyakusho-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

And so to Sapporo:
Whilst visiting the Self Defence Force site of the 'house size' snow structures of the Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival), I missed the rest of the group while getting postcards franked with the official postal mark of the Festival. The site was located at the penultimate station of the centre guided, rubber tyred Nanboku (ie. North-South) Subway line, at that point on a covered elevated structure. The line was opened in late 1971 in time for the heavy traffic of the 1972 Winter Olympics held at the southern terminus of Makomanai. At the previous station Jieitai-mae under the viaduct is the Transportation Museum, which due to losing the rest of the group I missed. Making my own way back to the city centre, I realized I probably just had enough time to ride the Sapporo tramway.

As the capital of Hokkaido, Sapporo is laid out on a grid pattern with the existing single route tramway termini only three blocks apart. This 8.46 km long line is laid to 3'6" (1,067 mm) gauge and has a running time of approximately 45 minutes. Tramway service started with a 762 mm gauge horse worked line opened in 1910 which eventually reached a length of 20.2 km. The first electric line opened in 1918 following regauging and was 5.3 km long. Experimenting with diesel trams in 1958, a 2.0 km extension was opened in 1963. After 1967 when the diesel cars were converted to electric operation this extension was also electrified. The extension was left isolated when the northern portion of the Nanboku subway was opened in 1971. Eventually by March 1973 the other lines were closed so that the east-west Tozai subway could be built. As a consequence of an extension to the northern metro line which opened in 1977 the isolated tram line had been closed in April 1974. In the heyday there were five tram routes of which the present single line is the remnant of route 8, which had a 'figure of eight' configuration. Route 2 also traversed the eastern part of the present line.

Like Hakodate the fleet of the Sapporo City Transportation Bureau is split into 10 classes even though it is only 35 strong, plus a 'heritage tram' in a class of its own. The oldest trams go back to 1958, apart from the snow ploughs. Most cars were built by Sapporo Sogo Tekko Association, although 5 cars in the 330 class built in 1958 were supplied by Hitachi Ltd. In 1961 Motor + Trailer sets were used, numbered for instance M101 (the motor) + Tc1. These trams carried a rather dull livery of muddy brown upper parts with green lower panels, rather like the Hakodate livery. However the bogie cars had this colour scheme divided by a red stripe below the window line which carried around the front of the tram and inclined down to a point at the headlamp, thereby improving the appearance considerably. There is one car built in 1961, #M101 the only one in its class, by Nippon Sharyo and it may well have been a prototype, with a capacity of 96 with only 22 seats. Six articulated trams were supplied in 1965, the first three by Nippon Sharyo, numbered A831+A832, A833+A834, A835+A836 which won the 'Laurel Prize' in 1966. They were followed by A837+A838 to A841+A842 inclusive from the Tokyo Car Co. These three cars were sold to Meitetsu in 1976 for use in Gifu and became their 870 class. The 1997 Japan Tramway Society guide shows only two in use: 873+874 and 875+876. As is common practice in Japan each body section is allocated a separate fleet number.

By far the largest number of cars are in the classes 210 (4 off), 220 (2), 240 (7) and 250 (5). The 250 class are 13.1 metres long whilst the others are 12.5 metres, with a passenger capacity varying between 100 and 110 which includes 28 seated. The 330 class from Hitachi reverted to 12.5 metres long and 100 capacity. Some of these cars sport an all over green with grey skirt livery, whilst in my opinion the more attractive livery is white and two-tone green. The latest trams delivered although in three classes are all to the same design by Kawasaki Rolling Stock. Numbers 8501/2 were introduced in May 1985, #8511/12 in 1987 and #8521/22 in 1988. They have a capacity of 100 with 34 seats, new 'Z' pantograph and VVVF inverter control. There is a different livery, at least between 8502 and 8521 which is all green except for a white skirt. Number 8502 is white down to the waist with the lower panels having horizontal dark and light green bands. These and some other cars have small red chevrons on the lower front corners just above the lifeguards. In the excellent Transportation Bureau publicity brochure the five 330 class are quoted as being prototypes for the 'present' fleet. They are known as 'all advertising' trams or 'Munich Streetcars', are a 'unique design' and are the first of their type in Sapporo. A photograph depicts #331 in an attractive livery of cream upper and deep blue lower panels and it carries a shield, which belongs to Munich.

I had gone out before breakfast and photographed some of the all green cars, with the grey skirt. When I eventually got back to the city I claimed a 'Silver seat' - blue in this case - as a senior citizen on a very crowded lunch time tram mostly with older ladies and school children. I just managed to spot the depot at Densha-Jigyosho-mae in the south-west of the route. There is a very nice picture of this by our President on page 27 of Bullet-in no. 30. It was not possible to see the four new snow ploughs recently built in the workshops using electrical equipment from the old ploughs #1-4 which had been built way back in 1949, also in the company workshops. Close by, an 8 minute walk from the Ropeway Iriguchi stop is the lower Station of the Mount Moiwa cable car line (1,100 for a round trip). At five of the stops there are pedestrian access overbridges. Ten stops on the line have a pillar which has a flashing indicator when a tram is approaching and an audio device announcing 'A Streetcar is coming soon'. Safety fences, road heating and canopies have been installed at all stops where there are also coloured paving blocks at the access pedestrian crossings. Elegant centre traction poles, cream painted, as are the arms, have been installed between Susukino and Sosei Shogakko-mae. The base of the poles are encircled with decorative timber with an infilling of brickwork. There is a flat fare of 170 yen which is reduced to 150 yen for travel before 7.00 am. A one day pass for the trams, subways and some selected bus routes costs 950. According to the aforementioned brochure the '50th Anniversary Celebration of City Transportation' was held in December 1977 when tram #22 operated. Built in 1901, this trolley pole fitted 4-wheel car is a vestibuled 7-window bodied tram with a clerestory and 'Providence' type lifeguards. The brochure shows it in a lined all over yellow ochre livery when it was photographed in the Museum. The seating capacity is 20 with space for six standing. It was renovated in the company workshops in 1960. A start was made to rebody all the 330 class with #333/4 being tackled initially. They have been renumbered 3302/01.

The Transportation Bureau has a very distinctive 'sloping ST' logotype, coloured red, green, blue and orange. The red top stroke of the 'S' and the green crossbar of the 'T' represent the 'pace of development for the future'. The colour blue of the rest of the 'S' symbolizes the clear blue sky of the northern regions, while the upright leg of the 'T' in orange is for the friendliness of the citizens. Red is the sophistication and complexity of urban facilities, the green is for natural beauty. The whole symbolizes an active city surrounded by Hokkaido's glorious nature! It so happened that I was the only one in the group to ride the line before we travelled on to the Taiheiyo Coal Mine on the Pacific Coast at Kushiro. But that is another story, the "Marathon Journey" in Bullet-in no. 32!

Sapporo 3304

1998 Alna Koki built 3304, at Susukino, by Kazuhiro Kobayashi, August 2000.

Sapporo 255

1961 Sapporo Sogo Tekko Association built 255, by Kazuhiro Kobayashi, August 2000.

Sapporo 8521

Nishi-4-Chome terminus with 8521, by Kazuhiro Kobayashi, August 2000.

Sapporo 214

1958 Sapporo Sogo Tekko Association built 214, by Kazuhiro Kobayashi, August 2000.

Sapporo 8522

1987 Kawasaki Heavy Industry built 8522 equipped with VVVF Inverter traction control, between Sosei- Shogakko-mae and Higashi-Honganji-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

Sapporo 243

1960 Sapporo Sogo Tekko Association built 243, between Sosei-Shogakko-mae and Higashi-Honganji-mae, by Oliver Mayer October 1994.

[Home Page]