The cheapest flight to Amsterdam favoured a return leg via Tokyo. Why just transit when you can stop over for two days? I've never really spent much time in Tokyo; My university was partnered with Kansai Gaidai and so most of my friends are living in the Osaka area. Due to this, I'd googled and facebook'd a few locations of interest...
right alongside Akihabara, you'll find Ochanomizu station. This station is located on the Chuo Line, right on the banks of the Kanda River. Two JR lines and the Metro intersect here and the scenery is fantastic. I took the Metro to Shin-Ochanomizu and walked 10 minutes to the bridge. Afterwards it was a further 5 minute walk to the middle of Akihabara.
It just so happened to be raining... but nothing was stopping me from checking out the operations. I reckon in peak hour you'll have a high chance of getting a train on each track.
This branch line (although it has physical connections at the far end) serves multiple industries in south-western Tokyo. It actually has multiple branches in itself, with specifically-timed services.
The Tsurumi area is nearly all industrial and houses large warehouse/manufacturing plants for Toshiba, Shell and many others. You'll be presented with sidings of oil containers and other freight areas as you make your way down the line. Each factory seems to have it's own connection to the line.
There doesn't seem to be any coupling/uncoupling at intermediate stations, so all trains have a single destination and the passenger must stay aware of this when boarding at Tsurumi.
Transferring involves heading up the escalator to the the station concourse. Walking north, you'll see the Tsurumi line trains waiting at the platform as they are elevated.
Do make sure that the train you're about to jump on goes to your target station. Due to the multiple branches, there are specific interleaved services that travel to the individual factory terminals. I jumped on the regular service that goes via Hama-Kawasaki to Ogimachi. At Hama-Kawasaki you'll find a whole lot of freight activity, so it was high on my priority list.
This station is actually the intersection of the Nambu Line and the Tsurumi Line. There is also a main freight trunk that connects Tokyo Freight Terminal (via a series of tunnels) to the Tokaido Line.
This station is made of two parts and passengers, when using an electronic tickets, do NOT need to touch on/off when transferring. There are specific notices to prevent this. It also seems that photographers have haunted the place for a while! That sign about being careful whilst taking pictures is not new!
A poor little critter has been abandoned in the yard right next to the Nambu Line Platform and it seems the environment is trying to reclaim it.
Waiting on this platform, chances are good you'll see oil trains come to and from the yards to the south. You'll also see container trains bolting through the curve and turning north to the Tokyo Freight Terminal.
I then walked a lap of the area. There are multiple level crossings and overpasses which provide vantage points in every direction. Of note is the viaduct that runs over the top of the station. Seems to no longer be in use, but would've been handy to allow through running previously. I am assuming that the Tokaido freight connection used to be further west, instead of coming down the Nambu Line?
During my lap, I found the following. A collection of old prints that would've been hanging in a station building or staff quarters? I was on an overpass, so could not inspect closer... there was a line-side building that had been demolished, so they could've possibly come from there. Unfortunately it looked like their fate was sealed.
I took a Nambu Line train from Hama-Kawasaki and got off here. This station is parallel to the freight lines, but doesn't give you the best vantage point. Either way, expect to see a lot of them pass.
Of note around the station are a bunch of cool portable storage containers. Personal, private storage that you can rent. Those pink doors in that last photo show the containers. I saw two people using them whilst I watched the freighters pass. There's also a cool underpass between the platforms; I really (and I can't explain why) love the black paint and tubular formation.
More freighters and then a hospital train? Also the local EMUs.
I've been a member of a Facebook group for a while where Japanese locals are always posting freights from the northern-Tokyo region. All of it seems to be centered around the Urawa area. There's a triangle here where the Musashino Line joins the main north-south Tohoku Main Line.
At Kita-Urawa Station you have the local trains on your platform... but then there's six other tracks to the west that provide express access into Tokyo. You'll see a range of freight and express passenger services here. I got off at this station as I'd already seen train buffs with their cameras out. I wasn't disappointed, but the camera angles weren't what I was expecting.
Next time I'll traverse the Musashino Line and see what else is operating.
C11 282 is stuffed-and-mounted here. It's a nice forecourt for the station. It's also a designated smoking area! How funny... humans can puff smoke just like the old Kikkansha used to! The area is called the "SL広場 新橋駅西口広場" which translates to Shimbashi Station West Exit SL Plaza.
As with every trip to Japan... I get that feeling that I've hardly skimmed the surface.
I've recently returned from Japan and have brought a loot with me. Whilst in Tokyo, there was the annual Antiques Jamboree at Odaiba and I happened across a box of HO KTM brass that I could not refuse.
This set included a lot of track, two powered locomotives, rolling stock and a power supply. Thanks to the age of the kit, the power supply was 110v only. Preliminary testing in my Tokyo hotel proved that everything was in fantastic working order. I assume this box has been in someone's cupboard for quite a while.
Don't plug anything rated at 110v into Australian sockets
You don't want to try this at home. Our powerpoints are more than double the voltage of that in Japan... I wonder if this explains why we have a ground line. Either way, any Japanese equipment that is not dual-voltage will bake if you plug it in. This beautiful old transformer would never handle it's new home.
I had the option of chaining in a power converter, but this would have been tedious. In fact, this is my first 110-only product and I would've needed to purchase a step-down transformer. Instead I chose to pull the thing apart and replace the transformer.
What were you expecting? Integrated Circuits?
I opened up the power supply and felt that I'd opened a treasure chest. I could pick out the potentiometer for the throttle, the switch for the direction and the transformer. The final component needed to be a bridge rectifier to convert the AC to DC, but it ... didn't look like one at all.
Following the wires, it seemed that there were 5 contacts on the device I assumed was the rectifier. A little googling informed me that this is a vintage metal rectifier with selenium insulation acting as the diodes. Very cool actually.
Purchasing a replacement transformer
Jaycar is my local electronics store of choice (if not the last available store in Australian cities) and perusing their site came up with a valid substitute.
There were quite a few to choose from, actually. As the amperage went up, so did the weight. I assume the copper coil mass dictates how much current the transformer can deal with.
This all went quite swimmingly. The existing wiring was labelled for safety-sake.
It turns out that the 110v input wires were hardly twisted and taped together. I would hope that this wasn't an original factory job... but as far as I know this is a Japanese brand and this should have been the original factory plug. Quite interesting... let alone dangerous.
Once the 110v transformer was out, the new transformer was soldered and then bolted in.
It just fit. I mean.. a few millimeters more and we would've had to determine if Jaycar does returns.
The 240v feeder was passed in and the wires were heatshrinked, the rest were soldered in place as per the previous construction.
Plugging it in...
With breath held, I plugged the transformer into the power board. It worked. The light lit dimly and no smoke came out.
I rigged up a quick test track from the box of treasure purchased in Japan and tested the KTM ED100 that also came with it. After a little wheel and track cleaning the locomotive started bolting along.
Success! This transformer is solid... although has zero short-circuit protection! Smoke started to appear during a motor short.. but I couldn't determine the source... I'll make bloody well sure in the future that shorts don't last too long.
The directional switch is momentary unless you force it to either extremity. This is a nice touch as you can set your speed and then pulse the direction as required.
After running my brass EF62, I found a screw left on the track... the downfall of brass locomotives is that they're bound to shake things loose eventually!
I was nothing short of ecstatic to have found this box at the antique fair in Tokyo.
So you're in the big smoke for the day and want to see a freight train? The best advice I can give you is to head on over to Minamisenju as Shinjuku sees very little activity. On the off chance you can't do this, please refer to the table below.
The timetable covering Shinjuku station incorporates two paths through Tokyo. The major path is the branch to Sumidagawa Freight Terminal (aka Minamisenju) and secondly the less-busy line through Shinjuku Station to Shin-Tsurumi yard. It seems that trains choose a path south from Omiya and split at Tabata Station to either destination.
I'll just cover the freight through Shinjuku for now.
|▲3080 ~ (▲3071)||Sapporo||0205||0226||0254||0314||▲ = X間-Y間 月曜日運休
(Not Mondays between Aomori[Junction]-West Hamamatsu)
|3086 ~ (3075) ~ (3073)||Sapporo||1135||1152||1212||1227|
|4070 ~ (5072)||Sendai||0214||0236||0256||0326|
|8086||Sumidagawa||!!||1449||1509||1528||!! = Starts at Sumidagawa at 1402 to Tabata by 1410.|
|(▲3070) ~ ▲3081||West Hamamatsu||0246||0301||0321||0340||▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)|
|(3090) ~ (5090) ~ 4081||Nagoya||0227||0249||0309||0334|
|(96) ~ (5096) ~ 4083||Nagoya||0446||0502||0522||0543|
|8089||Yokohama Hazawa||1528||1551||1611||!!||Proceeds to Sumidagawa at 1743 after Tabata. NOT Omiya.|