Keikyu, one of the typical urban
railways, serves the Yokohama and Yokosuka area from Tokyo with
a complicated but interesting operation pattern.
A Journey into Tokyo in The Morning Rush-hour:
Most Japanese railways have different types of train-service to make the best use of their tracks; Keikyu is no exception. They have one of the most complicated systems of train movement in Japan. To understand this system of trains overtaking each other, let's start a journey into Tokyo in the morning rush-hour.
We start at Uraga, the last station on the main line, with the Regular (local) train, leaving the station at 6.59. (It goes all the way through to Shinagawa, 55.5 km away.) The third stop of this train is Horinouchi, where we arrive at 7.04. Here we wait for a fast Limited Express, to which, if you are in a hurry, you transfer. (As most passengers in the rush-hour are in a hurry, nearly everybody gets off the local train.) The Regular will arrive in Shinagawa at 9.13, and the Limited Express at 8.17, nearly one hour earlier.
The Limited Express leaves Horinouchi at 7.05, and we follow one minute later. Then we pass along the depot near Kanazawa-Bunko station, where we stop. We do not wait for a faster train this time; but passengers who have joined the train at the previous stations, alight here to wait for another train. Our first long stop is at Keikyu-Tomioka, where we wait for 9 minutes; a Commuter-rapid-limited-express and a Limited Express pass and an Express stops. Again, the chance arises to change to the Express. About one minute after the Express, we leave Keikyu-Tomioka, and go to Kami-Ooka. Many people leave the train here, again to wait for faster trains or to change to the Yokohama municipal subway. For us, there is no time to wait for an other train, so we go on to Minami-Ota, where we let again three faster trains pass, one Commuter-rapid-limited-express and two Limited Express. When the signal has turned green, after the last Limited Express has passed, we leave Minami-Ota. After 7 minutes we are in Yokohama, Keikyu's busiest station. Here you can change to JR, Sotestu, Tokyu and the subway, but also of course to Keikyu's faster trains. As Keikyu's Yokohama station has only one track per direction, we cannot wait for an other train, and so we have to go on very fast to Kanagawa-Shimmachi, where we wait for 9 minutes. First an Express stops at the other side of our platform, and so the passengers can change. Then a Commuter-rapid-limited-express passes through the station, followed by a Limited Express that stops here. The Limited Express leaves at 8.20, and we leave at 8.22. But 5 stations later, at Keikyu-Tsurumi, we have to wait again to let a Commuter-rapid-limited-express pass, and then we go to Keikyu-Kawasaki. There we arrive at 8.38, leaving enough time to go to the other side of the platform and to change to a Limited Express leaving at 8.41 and to a Express leaving at 8.43. We leave Kawasaki at 8.44, and our next longer stop is at Heiwajima, where a Commuter-rapid-limited-express passes and a Limited Express stops. We leave the station at 9.00 just after the Limited Express, but at Samezu (3 stations later) we have to wait for an Express, and the passengers can change again to this faster train. Then we have a green signal until Shinagawa, where we finally arrive at 9.13. This journey took a total of 2 hours and 14 minutes - much longer that the 73 minutes that a fast train from Uraga takes. We could have taken a Commuter-rapid-limited-express, leaving Uraga at 7.06, to have been in Shinagawa at 8.19.
This system behaves differently during the day, when the stops for overtaking are only at the biggest stations as Kanazawa-Hakkei (or Kanazawa-Bunko), Kami-Ooka, Kanagawa-Shimmachi and Keikyu-Kawasaki. Then the local trains are slightly faster, but it is still much better to change to faster trains at these stations. Keikyu's local trains (Regular) are very slow compared to the local trains of other railway. Most passengers take a Regular only to go from their home station to the next big station to transfer to a faster train, and back from there in the evening. More important stations are served by the Express. As the Regulars stop at Keikyu-Tomioka and Minami-Ota a long time, some Express trains stop at Tsurumi-ichiba, Idogaya, Gummyoji and Nokendai in the rush-hour to give the passengers of these stations much faster connections.
Competition to JR:
So why, you might ask, does Keikyu have this complicated system? (Actually, it is not as complex as it sounds.) The conductor makes many announces as to where to change and to which train, so - if you understand Japanese - you hardly ever board the wrong train. At all stations, there are big tables showing where the trains stop, how long the trains are and where to change. In fact, after a few days on the Keikyu, you can understand the system quite well. However, there are two reasons for this complicated system: The first is due to Keikyu's history as a tram between Shinagawa and Yokohama until 1930. A tram has many stops, and nearly all of them have become railway stations today. Thus, there must be quite slow local trains to serve these stations. Take the section between Shinagawa and Yokohama as an example: Keikyu has 25 stations, while JR's Tokaido-line has only 3 and JR's Keihin-Tohoku-line has 9; both lines being just a few 100 meters away from Keikyu. Competition to JR is the second reason for the train system: Besides the slow trains that are necessary, Keikyu must have fast trains, so that the long-distance-passengers do not use JR on their way to Tokyo or Yokohama.
JR and Keikyu do not only run parallel between Shinagawa and Yokohama, but JR's Yokosuka-line goes (from Tokyo, Shinagawa and Yokohama) to Zushi, Yokosuka and Kurihama, so to the same places as Keikyu. There is also competition between Haneda-Airport and Tokyo, as Keikyu's Airport-line goes via the Asakusa Subway to central Tokyo, and on the same route the Tokyo Monorail can be taken. So Keikyu must invest all the time to keep its place as a railway in this area. A good example is the 2000 series, which was introduced in 1982. The cars are very comfortable with cross seats, only two doors per car and are much better than JR's cars on the Yokosuka-line. The 2000 series won the Blue Ribbon in 1983.
Over the last seven years, I have observed the development of Keikyu quite well. There have been no major changes, but the service has slowly been upgraded. Firstly, there are now more trains before and after the rush-hour, thus some passengers can avoid the very crowded trains if they want. Also, in the rush-hour the Rapid-limited-express and Commuter-rapid-limited-express are all running as 12-car-trains between Kanazawa-Bunko and Shinagawa, and the Limited Express between Kanazawa-Bunko and Kanagawa-Shimmachi. Recently, the northbound platform of Keikyu-Kamata station was lenghtened to accomodate the Commuter-rapid-limited-express (normal Rapid-limited-express does not stop there).
The introduction of the Keikyu Wing was another step to make riding more comfortable. A second step to a more modern railway was investment in the track. Nearly the whole Keikyu network has continuously welded rail, so the ride is smooth. An advanced signaling system, including 5-indication signals with one special aspect (flashing yellow over green) at some points, enabled the speed to be increased to 120 km/h on some parts of the main line. Additional tracks for overtaking have been built at some stations, so more maneuvers are possible.
Many kilometers of main line have been raised and put on a viaduct, so all level-crossings on these sections are no more and Keikyu can make use of the space under the viaduct. There are new shops (most of them operated by Keikyu, of course), bicycle and car parking areas, footpaths, playgrounds and much more. In the stations, nearly all of the ticket barriers have been replaced by automatic barriers. Thirdly, there is more English. When I first traveled on the Keikyu, I had quite some problems to see where I was, as I could hardly read the Japanese place names. Now, most route-maps of Keikyu also give the English reading of the names, so making it easier for foreigners to use Keikyu. There are actually many Americans using Keikyu as there is a US Navy base at Yokosuka.
Rolling Stock and Car depot:
Keikyu's trains are all for a gauge of 1435 mm, electrified with 1500 VDC. All cars are 18 meters long and between 2.70 meters and 2.80 meters wide. They are coloured red with a thin white stripe under the windows, the 600 and 2000 series have a wide white stripe over the windows.
2000 series: first built in 1982, total of 72 cars, of which six 8-car-trains and six 4-car-trains are formed. Two doors per car, cross seats. Used for Rapid-limited-express and Commuter-rapid-limited-express only.
600 series: built since 1994, total of 40 cars (more are being delivered), of which five 6-car-trains are formed. Three doors per car, cross seats. Can run in subway lines. Used for all services expect for local trains.
1500 series: first built in 1985, total of 166 cars, of which thirteen 8-car-trains, one 6-car-train and fourteen 4-car-trains are formed. Three doors per car. Some cars can run in subway lines. Used for all trains except for Rapid-limited-express.
1000 series: first built in 1958, total of 244 cars, of which eight 8-car-trains, five 6-car-trains, thirty one 4-car-trains and thirteen 2-car-trains are formed (some of the 2- and 4-car-trains are coupled to form 4-, 6- and 8-car-trains). Three doors per car. Some cars can run in subway lines. Used for all kind of trains (but for Rapid-limited-express only during the rush-hour).
800 series: first built in 1978, total of 132 cars, of which nineteen 6-car-trains and eight 3-car-trains are formed. Four doors per car. Used for local and Express-trains.
700 series: first built in 1967, total of 84 cars, of which twenty-one 4-car-trains are formed. Four doors per car. Used for local trains, mainly on the Daishi-line.
Of Keikyu's old cars, de51 (1924) and de1 (1930) have been preserved in the Kurihama workshop. Most of the other cars have been scrapped when they were life-expired, but some have been rebuilt (sometimes new bogies for 1067 mm) and sold to other private railways: Cars of the 400 series are now running on the Konan Railway (Aomori-Prefecture), Iyo Railway (Shikoku) and Sobu- Nagareyama Electric Railway (near Chiba), cars of the 230 and the former 600 series (of course not from the new 600 series) are running on the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railway in Shikoku. Keikyu has three depots in Kanagawa-Shimmachi, Kanazawa-Bunko and Kurihama. Each of this depot has about the same size and takes care for about 250 cars. The main workshop is in Kurihama.
Tips for Railfanning Keikyu:
When visiting the Keikyu, here are some tips. To watch the train operation, it is best to go to Keikyu-Kawasaki, to Kanazwa-Bunko or to Shinagawa. At Shinagawa, you can also see many different cars of the through-service with Asakusa subway line. For taking photos, the best place is Minami-Ota, as there are four tracks. When a fast train stops at a big station where a local train waits, the driver and the conductor of the local train help to lead the passengers to the fast train and to the exits. This can often be observed seen at Keikyu-Kawasaki and Kami-Ooka. Announcements at stations are often made by the conductors of the trains stopping there; they use wireless microphones for this. When you change to Keikyu, it is the best to use Shinagawa and Yokohama stations. At both stations you can change from JR to Keikyu directly without leaving the station. Buy a through ticket at your first station, so you do not have to buy a new ticket at Shinagawa or Yokohama again, thus saving time (but not save money!). At Yokohama you can also change from Tokyu to Keikyu directly by walking through JR's main concourse.
Modelling the Keikyu:
Kato offers the Keikyu 800 series: a 3-car-set (cat. no. 10-058) and an additional 3-car-set (10-059) (N-gauge). Green Max has a kit to build the Keikyu 600 series, which comprises of a basic set of 4 cars (1/150).
I used the following sources to write this article: "Keikyu"
by Mitsuo Yoshimura, Hoikusha Color Books; "Private Railways
of Japan, their Networks and Fleet", by Yasuo Wakuda; JRS
member Naoaki Okada in Tokyo sent me information about the rolling
The rail map and track layout were drawn by Hiroshi Naito.