Staying in Tennoji this time around meant that I was close to the main trunk like of the Nankai railway. The closest station was Shinimamiya which is a shared JR/Nankai station. It allows passengers to transfer from the loop line to the Nankai service. From here you can proceed north into the heart of Namba or south towards the Airport, Koyasan or Wakayama.
Between Shinimamiya and Namba is one station: Imamiyaebisu. This station exists on the two east-most lines and is only really served by local trains. Its location provides a great view in both directions, from both ends of the platform.
The two tracks to the west are for anything other than local trains. The expresses will pass along these lines at moderate speeds. Most express services still stop at Shinimamiya, so they wont be full tilt.
The only real drawback of the area is the ability for services to block your view and the overpass just to the north providing unwanted shade. First world problems, really. There were even other photographers there when I visited.
Nice sweeping curves and no issues getting full consists in the frame. Nankai has some basic liveries and a lot of stainless stock. Fortunately they like mixing it up quite a bit.
Northbound is just as nice... quite a straight stretch until the final right-hand curve into Namba. And then ... the consist I was waiting for approached.
The Nankai Rapi:t is the express train to Kansai International Airport. If you're staying in Namba, or don't have a railpass, then take this train when you arrive... it's fantastic.
REALLY BIG UPDATE: As of ... god knows when ... this yard has been entirely removed! Here I was, 2 weeks ago, at Shin Osaka station, waiting for a train from Umeda to pass but, alas, nothing came through. Turns out that, upon cruising past on the Haruka, the Umeda Freight Yards no longer exist! The timetables below are still valid but all traffic terminates at Suita.
Any mention of Umeda below is historical. The timetables have been updated to show Osaka... This yard is located right next to the Shinkansen Depot to the south-east of Senrioka.
Buried in upper-central Osaka is Umeda, home of the Hep-5 ferris wheel, the Umeda Sky building, the amazingly-new Osaka station and a relic: The Umeda Freight yards. Very easy to access, these yards' time has to be limited. The yard is situated on a prime development location and the surrounding buildings have slowly been creeping in.
In the yard you'll usually find any number of EF66s, EF81s, EF210s and DE10s for the shunting. There was a rake of WAMUs in there when I checked it out 10years ago, but recently it's been only container traffic. There is a large shed at the southern end which restricts visibility. You'll also find a very long passenger tunnel under the width of the yard. It connects the Umeda Sky Building to Yodobashi Camera. I really do wish this was an overpass!
I'd previously walked around the area and took a few photographs. The album is here if you want to check it out.
This yard is on the 'Osaka Station Bypass' that the high-speed trains to Wakayama and the Airport use. Also the Super Rail Cargo to Ajikawaguchi and the freight trains I'll mention in this post.
The traffic mentioned is fun to photograph and the lighting at any time of day provides great opportunities. Below are some shots of the area. Note that the first photo below was taken from the Heart-Inn hotel just south of the yard and walking distance from Osaka Station.
Times listed are between Suita and Osaka and don't relate to the map above :) I'll update that soon!
|▲4058||Niigata||0654||0732||0741||▲ = 休日運休 (Not Holidays)|
|(2060) ~ 4060||Sapporo||2026||2054||2103|
|▲5066||Hiroshima||ºº1446||1533||1545||▲ = 火曜日運休 (Not Tuesdays)
Has ºº, define this.
|▲56||Tosu||0506||0516||0528||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|(3072) ~ 72||Matsuyama||1002||1034||1045|
|(3076) ~ 76||Niihama||0329||0433||0445|
|86||Himeji||ºº1747||1838||1850||(Timetable has ºº. Define this.)|
|▲90||Ajikawaguchi||1739||1742||1754||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|(4088) ~ 1085||Sendai||0458||0536||0545|
|2074||Kagoshima||ºº1248||1319||1330||(Timetable has ºº. Define this.)|
|1392||Hirano||1459||1501||1515||配給 = Light Engine Movement|
|1476||Suita||––||0926||0937||配給 = Light Engine Movement|
|▲57||2043||2056||2058||Tosu||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|▲4059||2232||2241||2319||Niigata||▲ = 休日運休 (Not Holidays)|
|▲93||1049||1102||1111||Ajikawaguchi||▲ = 月曜日運休 (Not Mondays)|
|▲1080||1924||1934||2017||Niiza||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|1084 ~ (4089)||1829||1839||1925||Sendai|
|▲2081||1230||1243||1256||Fukuoka||▲ = 月曜日運休 (Not Mondays)|
|62 ~ (3051)||1640||ºº1651||2029||Fukuoka||Define ºº on stop at Suita.|
All traffic above is containerised. Also note that the yard can only be entered from the north. Hence trains to Ajikawaguchi (which is further down the line) have to be accessed by running around at Suita!
There are three ways for freight to be delivered into Osaka by rail. The first is into Ajikawaguchi located to the west of the city near Universal Studios, The second is into Umeda Freight Terminal, right in the heart next to Osaka Station, and the third is to take the Osaka Higashi Line to the east and arrive at Hirano Station. The latter service is the one we'll be investigating today.
The freight line itself runs south out of Suita Terminal, over the Yodogawa (Yodo River) and then wraps around the city, clockwise from Shigino to Hirano. This used to be freight only, or for movements to dead-head electric stock, but it currently being upgraded to a passenger line. The line was originally to be called the 'Osaka Outer Loop Line', but is now to be known as the Osaka Higashi Line. At Suita, the freight approaches from Suita in the east, whereas the passenger services will approach from Shin-Osaka in the west. Likewise, at the end of the line the passenger services will take the triangle to the west and arrive at Shinkami/Kyuhoji, whereas the freight ventures west to Hirano Freight Yard.
Currently there is no passenger service between Shigino and Shin-Osaka, but this is expected to start by 2018. There seems to have been an illegal site occupation on the former alignment near the triangle at Suita.
Seen to the left is the map of the line from both Google and Yahoo respectively. As you can see, the blue line highlights the path which crosses the river and then heads around lower Osaka.
There are no yards in between Suita and Hirano, so the freight will proceed as quickly as possible south, slotting in to the passenger traffic at the junction north of Shigino.
Once at Hirano, the freight is transferred to road vehicles for the rest of the journey.
I believe that both electic and diesel locomotives work over this line, but I've only currently seen DD51s pulling the freight services. Then again, if you look at the an EF66 here on Street View and an EF81. That latter EF81 looks like the locomotive I photographed in Umeda Yard years ago.
Thanks to the latest JR Freight Timetable for 2015, I can provide the following timings for the freight services in and out of Hirano. Please do take note of the comments column and ensure that you're ready for disappointment. Not all services run on this line, regardless of the slots available.
|▲65||Tokyo||0542||0547||0623||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|(▲1077) ~ ▲1079||Niiza||0948||1145||1222||▲ = 新座(夕)-横浜羽沢間 稲沢-百済(夕)間 日曜日運休
(Not Sundays between Niiza[Evenings]-Yokohama and Inazawwa-Hirano[Evenings])
|▲1092||Nabeshima||1311||1350||1422||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|▲4070||Niigata||0625||0637||0719||▲ = 南長岡-百済(夕)間 休日運休
(Not Holidays between South Nagaoka-Hirano[Evenings])
|(▲4077) ~ ▲4076||Hachinohe||1647||1713||1748||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|(82) ~ (▲3082) ~ ▲5087||Asahikawa||1420||1422||1453||▲ = 青森(信)-百済(夕)間 月曜日運休
(Not Mondays between Aomori[Junction]-Hirano[Evenings])
|¤7085||Tokyo||0411||0420||0457||¤ = Runs on unknown dates, not regularly.|
|▲64||2129||2201||2232||Tokyo||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|▲1074 ~ (1076)||1945||2018||2044||Niiza||▲ = 百済(夕)-稲沢間 日曜日運休
(Not Sundays between Inazawwa[Evenings]-Hirano)
|▲1093||1929||2002||2043||Fukuoka||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|▲4071||1303||1335||1427||Niigata||▲ = 休日運休 (Not Holidays)|
|▲4075 ~ (▲4074)||1959||2030||2123||Aomori||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|▲5086 ~ (▲3083) ~ (83)||2231||2304||2312||Sapporo||▲ = 百済(夕)-青森(信)間 日曜日運休
(Not Mondays between Hirano[Evenings]-Aomori[Junction])
|¤7082||2150||2222||2240||Tokyo||¤ = Runs on unknown dates, not regularly.|
|1392||1425||1459||1501||Osaka||配給 = Light Engine Movement|
I've translated the comments from the timetable to the best of my ability. From this I've even learnt of new freight yards that I had no idea about. For the comments that also suggest places, I'm a little confused... Should there be a need to state the to/from, when you could just say that the service doesn't run? Or is it part of a greater service where some legs aren't always operating? Does this mean that the consists will be shorter?
I'll find out in a few weeks when I go stalk this service for a morning or two!
More from the photo album I'd neglected... This time it's Osaka and it's 3 years since I'd last visited.
Staying at the same apartment as usual (Thanks Masa-san!) I had the same great view of the trunk from Shinosaka Station to Osaka Station north of the Yodogawa.
With my freight timetable in hand, it was easy to be there at the right time to see the transfers through to Umeda Freight Yard or Ajikawaguchi.
Later that night I ventured to Shinosaka Station itself and checked out the expresses on platforms 11 and 12.
Hankai Tram Network - Ebisucho
The Hankai Tramway runs from the southern end of Den Den Town into the southern suburbs of Osaka. It has a cute selection of very well looked-after aging rolling stock.
The two photos at the end are from the steps on the northern side of Spa World as you head into Shinsekai. It's a display of one of the old Hankai Trams and has mentionings on the history. I couldn't read it ....
Noda Station - Tetsudou Library
I waited here one night for the Super Rail Cargo M250. It didn't come... The Railway Library is still there though! Very impressive... something that wouldn't commercially survive in any other country, I'd imagine... the photos below are the most recent from May 2013 and then photo I took in 2010. Not much of a difference, just different paper posters in the left windows.
A Haruka also bolted past on its way to Kyoto...
Digging through my backed up iPhoto album, I'd realised that I'd completely failed to upload and blog about my 2013 trip to Japan. I'll be collating (and trying to remember) the photos and trips and hopefully write about them in due course.
This post is about a trip I took from Tennoji to Kansai Airport. Usually you'd just jump on the Nankai Rapi:t or JR West Haruka, but I had time to burn and new places to visit.
Why not take the express?
Scenery from a train window in Japan is, more often than not, impressive. It's not as educational as a TV, but the quality is realistic and the views picturesque. The audio quality is also fantastic and there's often a connection to the soul when one of the clicks or clacks actually physically interacts with you.
Realising this, I had decided to extend what would be a very short and fast trip into a long and thoroughly enjoyable one through the south Osaka countryside.
Kansai Main Line
From Tennoji, I watched the expresses depart southbound towards the airport and realised that 3 or 4 of them would reach my destination before me. I was in for a much longer trip, starting off heading east, instead of south, towards Oji.
This is the Kansai Main Line (the translation could also be "Kansai Original Line") which cuts across the Kii Peninsula from Tennoji through to Tsu. I travelled on the west side of it from Tennoji through to Oji, which uses an assortment of EMUs. Further to the east you switch to a DMU to get over the mountain range to Tsu.
Note that Google Maps correctly shows the name from Kamo to Namba as the Kansai Main Line. JR West has given the stretch from Namba to Kamo the nickname "Yamatoji Line" and runs the "Yamatoji Rapid" on it.
This line runs from Oji to Wakayama. From Gojo Station, the track parallels the Kino River (Kinokawa River? Kino River River?) giving the passenger some fantastic views. I was there in early Summer and there were carp kites hanging from cables strung across the breadth of the river. For the life of me I can't believe that I didn't take any photos.
This is the stretch of track from Tennoji to Wakayama. Multiple express trains run along here... The Haruka to the airport and the Kuroshio/Ocean Arrow to Shingu. I checked out Wakayama station, a junction for the Kisei Line and the Wakayama Railway Kishigawa Line.
This is the first station north of Wakayama on the Hanwa Line. The expresses don't stop... and there's a sweeping curve and bridge to the south, providing a great spot to get them coming through at full-tilt.
You then get great shots from the north with the mountain range in the background.
Heading north, the track enters a mountain range just after Kii Station. In the middle of that range is Yamanakadani Town. This little town has a tiny station where the expresses bolt through.
Further north, after the mountain range, the track makes it way towards the branch to Kansai Airport at Hineno. Two stations before this is Shinge Station. It's extremely urban and sees very much the same traffic. No express trains stop here.
The branch to Kansai Airport starts here. The Haruka Express trains therefore stop here to allow connecting passengers to continue south to Wakayama.
From here it was a quick transfer and trip through Rinku Town before arriving at Kansai International Airport.
First, a lesson in Japanese
|Model Train||mokei resshya||もけい れっしゃ||模型列車|
|Railway Model||tetsudou mokei||てつどう もけい||鉄道模型|
Den Den Town, Osaka
One of the most well-known Osaka hobby shops. A place you simply must visit. Has everything.
(Note that there Tsurumi shop is closed!)
A large toy department store with a floor dedicated to model railways. A good selection of HO-scale too!
A cute little shop with a good selection of consists. Also a good bargain-bin for second-hand items. Note that they will be graded from A-D where D is quite broken!
Another toy department store; you'll find the trains on level 6.
A small store on the north-west corner of Shinsekai. I walked in and couldn't communicate, but there's glass cabinets of nice stock, both N and HO. The owner is usually there building models as well. Seems to have a 'club' atmosphere with regulars often hanging around to chat to the owner.
Note that Shinsekai is a relic of Osaka, planned/built as the 'suburb of the future' back from 1903.
Uehommachi (East Osaka)
There's a good story behind this shop. I visited it in 2010 with a friend from university; her uncle actually works there. Back then the shop was south-east of Kintetsu Osakauehonmachi Station and it was a confusing walk from the station to get to it. The shop was small, full of glass cabinets and cutting boards. It had a great selection of N-scale and HO, specialising in paper kits. I remember that there were a lot of full N-scale sets, some 'custom made' and painted to prototypical awesomeness. I bought a DE10 and a set of passenger cars, beautifully detailed.
The shop has now moved here and, although I haven't been back since it moved, it seems to be a bigger and better presence with full layouts for demonstrations. It also seems a lot easier to get to!
Haven't been to this one, but can only imagine it's just like its brother in Den Den Town.
Yodobashi Camera (B)
Another department store... trains are somewhere up near the 4th level. I always end up going here since it's so close to Osaka Station and I can send my friends to other levels if they don't want to check out trains.
This shop actually seems to be pronounced ma-ha mokei; but for some reason they've translated that to 'mach'.
Right outside the East Entrance of Shinosaka Station, but still quite hidden... would've walked past the entrance 40-odd times, never noticed it! Therefore haven't visited and will need a review!
Review to come....
Haven't been to this one, but can only imagine it's just like its brothers.
Review to come....
I accidently stumbled across this shop. I'd bought a bike for my 4-week stay in Shinosaka and had been riding east towards Kyoto. The Tokaido main line and Shinkansen are both out that way and can be seen up quite close. Anyway, this shop is walking distance from JR Takatsuki Station, but closer to Hankyu Takatsuki-shi Station. Head due-east from either and then north-east along 国道171号線 (Japan National Route 171).
The shop has a great selection of new and second hand goods. I especially loved rummaging through the box of B-Train Shorty odds-and-ends. It seems that they had many split up boxes of B-Trains and each component is individually priced. Just remember, when you get to the counter things always add up!
From the website, this place seems to have a lot of stock. Has anyone been!?
Continuing the trend of top-rated pictures, here's a couple of EF66s (one of my favourite japanese locomotives) light-engine through Suita Depot in NE Osaka.
Night trains are becoming a thing of the past in Japan; but there should be a few that survive... hopefully the Twilight Express is one of them. This overnight sleeper train starts in Osaka and terminates in Sapporo, Hokkaido (and vice-versa.) The trip takes roughly 23 hours and traverses the west coast of the main island of Japan. There are two full consists of the Twilight Express to allow daily services from each end of the trip.
I'd seen the train in Japan when I was there in 2008 but hadn't even thought of travelling on it.
A ticket in hand
My next trip to Japan was to be in 2009 and I was determined to get on the train. I hadn't had many spare nights in Japan and the train had been booked out between Osaka and Sapporo on the nights I did have spare. This didn't deter me though, as the reverse trip wasn't booked out. Of course, I then had to get to Hokkaido first and I therefore took the Nihonkai (another sleeper train) to Higashi-Muroran (Hokkaido) and intercepted the Twilight Express as it returned to Osaka. I wasn't able to get all the way to Sapporo in time to meet the Twilight Express there. Higashi-Muroran was pretty cold; although it was the start of the Japanese summer, Hokkaido was still in the low teens (degrees) and I wasn't prepared.
The Nihonkai had arrived on time, giving me a 2 hour stop-over in Higashi-Muroran. There wasn't much rail traffic and so I ran to the nearest katsu curry restaurant to have my favourite dish. On returning to the station I didn't have to wait long to see those familiar blue DD51 diesels arrive. Of course, the lighting was dismal and my digital camera had no chance of catching them moving... I also had no time of getting to the front of the train to take a still shot.
Upon entering the car (I was in a B Class Sleeper) I was presented with beautiful wooden walls and very well kept rooms. As you can tell, I settled in pretty quickly... I'd also brought a few goodies on board. The conductor came in quite soon after to say hello and to apologise for not being able to speak English. Fortunately, my limited Japanese meant we could work out all the formalities: the coin-operated shower was in the Salon Du Nord car, dinner was in allocated time slots: 7pm,8pm,9pm (if I remember correctly) and finally I had to choose what 'type' of meal I wanted for dinner and breakfast? Japanese or Western... I wasn't on the train for Western food!
I then realised I wasn't alone in my cabin and started making new friends. Soon enough another conductor came and found me and offered to change me into another room (still a B Class 4-person) but with me being the only occupant. I couldn't turn down their hospitality and so obliged.
Salon Du Nord
Once settled in I decided to wander around to see what the train had to offer; The first target was the famed "Salon Du Nord". What I found was an amazing observation car beautifully fitted out with very large windows and two TVs. The channels were selectable, but of course, everyone had to agree to you changing the channel :) ... I do believe I watched the same movie 3 times whilst on my trip... but I didn't mind as I was mainly staring out the window.
The car also included the coin-shower and a vending machine. You could also go to the dining car next door and order 'from the bar'. I happened to have a very lovely couple of obaachans talk to me and ask me about my travels... it was quite difficult trying to converse in my broken Japanese and recall all the polite grammar forms; but it made the trip even more enjoyable. It made me laugh when they didn't believe that there were people from other countries taking the relaxed approach on a sleeper train because they liked trains... I was glad to change their perceptions.
I, unfortunately, did not take a full shot of the dining car, but I can assure you it is as tastefully fitted out as the rest of the train. The staff are fantastic and I even had my waiter ask where I was from and what I was up to. Then then offered drinks and the menu which had quite a lot of options. I, if I recall correctly, had a very lovely dish of Japanese Karaage (fried chicken.)
For breakfast I was greeted by the same staff and selected the Japanese breakfast option. There was no menu to choose from, as it was a set breakfast and I was asked to take a seat, admire the great view and await the meal. All of a sudden I had 5 dishes on my table and all I can say is yum!
I then bought my souvenirs; available from the dining car menu and returned to my room.
I had chosen the 'shared' cheaper B Class sleeper rooms, but you could also have a completely private A Class sleeper room. This included a 1-seater sofa/couch which folded out into a bed. The A Class carriage also included a small communal room at one end.
Twilight Express operations
Now comes the fun part of the trip. Both trains, regardless of direction, have an engine swap half way on their journeys. Actually... I lie... over the trip the train encounters a total of 4 engine swaps, but you can't get out and watch the other 3 of them.
The engine swaps are:
- Twilight Express EF81 from Osaka to Tsuruga
- Twilight Express EF81 from Tsuruga to Aomori Depot
- Unknown (I didn't get to see it) EF from Aomori Depot to Hakodate Depot
- Double Blue DD51 from Hakodate Depot to Sapporo
The reason for the swaps are very simple. Hokkaido isn't 100% electrified, so the diesels are required. They use two for on-time running more than gradient climbing. The diesels can't enter the Seikan Tunnel (Honshu to Hokkaido) and so the unknown EF (a stainless steel version) is for that section. The EF81s are then used for the rest of the trip, mainly for brand-recognition :)
Southbound engine swap: Tsuruga
So, after a sound nights sleep, we arrived in Tsuruga with a warning that we'd have to stop over for 10minutes whilst they swapped the engines. We (as they pretty much expected we were all train fanatics) were allowed out to take photos but were to return to the train as soon as the buzzer was heard.
Who could resist? I got out of the train and got to the front to see our first engine (EF81 113) already detached and heading south to the depot. I then walked further down the platform to take a shot of our train next to the Thunderbird that had just arrived. I could not believe the dirtiness of our consist; I hadn't expected an EF81 to cause that much build-up on the passenger car, but it could have been caused from the entire trip.
EF81 104 then started approaching to couple up to the train. It had been sitting in the yard ready to come up as soon as 113 had cleared the points. As soon as it 'clunked' onto the train and the air flowed the buzzer on the platform went off and everyone cleared back on to the train.
Final stations to Osaka
As we got closer and closer, more and more passengers departed at certain platforms. The train was actually scheduled to only stop at stations that passengers had designated to get off at; which is now quite obvious, as it was never going to pick any up. I had booked all the way through to Osaka, but was considering getting off at Kyoto... Unfortunately we were held up due to 'unfortuante circumstances' and I ended up just relaxing in the Salon Du Nord and getting back to Osaka an hour late.
Since this trip I've now also travelled on the Hokutosei and the Kitaguni. I still recall the Twilight Express as being the most memorable and stylish... but will endeavour next to get onto the Cassiopeia.