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News Update

By Anthony Robins

March 2014

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New Faces     JR East/JR Kyushu/JR Shikoku/Tetsudo Fan/Japan Daily Press

The first two 2-car sets of JR Shikoku's new type 8600 limited express EMU entered service in June.  Marked by an unusual circular cab end and in yellow, white and silver grey livery, the motor + trailer sets with a maximum speed of 130 km/h operate on 'Ishizuchi' services (Takamatsu-Matsuyama-Uwajima).  Also in Shikoku, a two car sightseeing train 'Iyonaga Monogatari' (Iyonaga Story) formed from two converted KiHa 47s is operating on the Yosan Line between Iyo Shi and Iyo-Ōzu at weekends and other holiday times from summer 2014.  With tables for eating and drinking, the all reserved capacity is 50.

Capitalising on their popularity and catering to the demand from local governments for special sightseeing trains, JR Kyushu plans to introduce a 'Sweets Train' service aimed particularly at female passengers to its Ōmura Line in Nagasaki Prefecture.  Design of the cars will be by 'Seven Stars' designer, Eiji Mitaoka, and the train is also expected to run on the Kyūdai Main Line in Fukuoka and Ōita Prefectures.  Also in Kyushu, 3rd-sector operator, Kumagawa Tetsudo, started operating its type KT-500 3-car 'Den-En Symphony' set on 8th March. Each car is in a different livery to symbolise different seasons.  

Due to enter service in Summer 2015, JR East's type E353 will be the new limited express for 'Super Azusa' services between Tokyo and Matsumoto, taking over from its type E351.  A smart and futuristic design featuring a black roof and cab area is combined with a violet and off-white livery reminiscent of the E351.  Interior (seat) colours are blue (standard car) and brown (green car).  While the E351 consists of 4M+4T (8 car sets), with a capacity of 423 standard and 50 green car seats, and 2M+2T (4 car sets), with a capacity of 240 seats, the E353 will consist of 5M+4T (9 car sets), with a capacity of 502 standard and 30 green car seats, and 2M+1T (3 car sets), with a capacity of 154 standard seats.

Steam Up and Down  Tetsudo Fan/JR East/Chunichi Shimbun

12th December saw steam raised for the first time on newly restored C58 239 at JR East's Ōmiya Sogo Sharyo (General Rolling Stock) Centre.  A traditional Shinto ceremony took place before testing in steam over the period until 7th January. Testing of the loco's ATS-P system was scheduled for late January, with the loco plus carriage Oya 12 1 successively hauled from Takasaki to Aomori by EF65 501, ED75 759 and DE10 1764.  The loco started operating the 'SL Ginga' service on JR East's Kamaishi Line at weekends and holidays from 12th April.  On Saturdays, it operates from Hanamaki (10:37) to Kamaishi (15:20), while on Sundays, it operates from Kamaishi (10:55) to Hanamaki (15:20).  There is a stop of more than an hour midway at Tōno.  Before the start of these operations, it also had a couple of outings on the Tōhoku Main Line.

Trams new and not so new  Tetsudo Fan

In addition to its first two type 1000 sets, 'Piccolo' and 'Piccola', Hiroshima Dentetsu now has a further two sets, 1003 and 1004, both in white and green and branded as 'Green Mover Lex'.  At a ceremony at Toyama Chitetsu's Minami-Toyama Station on 27th January, the company's 'Retro Densha' was launched. Commemorating the centenary of tram operations, this car (7022) is in a cream and dark green livery.  Another Eiji Mitooka design, it features widespread use of wood for its interior.

Takeover        JR East/Tetsudo Journal

Once operating nightly with more modern JR Tokai type 373 stock, the overnight 'Moonlight Nagara' (Tokyo-Ōgaki in Gifu Prefecture) which now only operates seasonally at holiday times changed over from its previous JR East type 183/189, last operated on 25
th August, to type 185 from 20th December.

The timetable change on 17th March saw ex Joban Line 651 'Super-Hitachis' take over from type 185s on most commuter limited express services between Ueno and Maebashi and Takasaki. Formerly known as 'Akagi', most services were renamed 'Swallow Akagi'.  Either side of the change, from 2nd February to 30th April, a ¥500 reduction in the reserved limited express charge was offered.

Full Operation         Mainichi Shimbun

Sanriku Tetsudō, hard-hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, started operation of services on its remaining out of service sections, the 15 kms between Yoshihama and Kamaishi (Minami Rias Line) and the 10.5 kms between Omoto and Tanohata (Kita Rias Line) on 5th and 6th April respectively.

Cutbacks      Tetsudo Journal/Oigawa Tetsudo

An Ōigawa Railway timetable change on 26th March saw return runs between Kanaya and Senzu reduced from fourteen to eight (plus one between Kanaya and Ieyama).  The first Kanaya bound service from Senzu is now at 06:17 rather than 05:29, and the last Senzu bound service from Kanaya is now at 20:28 rather than 21:11.  Return runs on the narrow profile Igawa Line were reduced from four to three.  Ex Keihan type 3000 was also withdrawn on 14th February.

Revival     JR Kyushu/Tetsudo Journal

As well as items including tickets commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Kyushu Shinkansen, for one day on 8th March JR Kyushu revived its type 787 'Relay Tsubame' which operated between Hakata and Shin Yatsushiro before the northern part of the Kyushu Shinkansen opened.  Leaving Hakata at 11:41, the six car set (half reserved for groups) arrived at Shin Yatsushiro at 1350.  Nineteen minutes later, an extra 'Tsubame (315)' departed for Kagoshima-Chūō, arriving at 14:54.

To commemorate its centenary on 5th April, three type 200 cars on Sangi Tetsudo's 762mm Hokusei Line (ex Kintetsu) have been repainted in historic cream and green livery reflecting the line's Mie Kotsu era.

Just in time           The Japan Times

JR Tokai is under some pressure to showcase its maglev Chūō Shinkansen in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It is therefore considering operating trains over a 49 kilometre section (existing 43 kms test section plus an additional 6 kms) between the test facility and a new station in Kōfu.

New Generation       Tetsudo Journal

Manufacturers are moving to produce more flexible platform doors as these are increased amid safety concerns while having to cater for through running with trains from different companies or with different door arrangements.  Kobe Steel's 'dokodemo' type, as installed at Seibu's Shin Tokorozawa station, can move, somewhat like flexible library shelving, to cater for trains with three and four sets of doors per side.  Others, from companies including Nippon Signal and Takamisawa, have wide openings with horizontal bars which are raised to allow passengers to board.

Second Life          Chunichi Shimbun

Through trading company, Marubeni, thirty Nagoya Subway Higashiyama Line type 5000 cars are joining other ex Tokyo and Nagoya cars in Buenos Aires. The sale is for the sum of just over ¥22 million.

Tourist Friendly        Mainichi Shimbun

With an eye on early preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, subway operator Tokyo Metro placed bilingual tablet computers at Ueno (Ginza Line) from 16th January and Shinjuku (Marunouchi Line) to help tourists from abroad.  Initially using English, Chinese and Korean were added from mid-April.

Numbers            Tetsudo Fan/JR East

9th November saw the Umekoji Steam Museum in Kyoto, visited by participants on a number of JRS related tours, reach a landmark with its eight millionth visitor since it opened in 1972.  Locomotives D51 1 and D51 200 were decorated with commemorative headboards.

During an application period from 10th to 17th December, JR East and JR West received 86,260 applications (for 214,306 passengers) for the chance to take five test runs of the new Hokuriku Shinkansen type E7 (W7) between 7th and 9th February.

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