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Kushiro and Nemuro – May 2019

The initial plan was to return home from Asahikawa through to Shin-Osaka on the Saturday, but it had occurred to me that I should really tackle the trip to Nemuro. I was in Hokkaido and really had no idea when I'd be back. I had really only planned to do a daytrip to Oigawa the next day, and I'd been there before, so I cancelled that plan and booked a hotel in Kushiro. I also changed my Hayabusa seat reservation to the next day. Remember that ALL seats on the Hayabusa services are reserved and one must make sure they plan ahead!

So after a nice massage the night before in Asahikawa, plans were made to head down to Sapporo and then turn left. A Super Express Lilac would take me on this first leg.


As with most JR express services, the transfer timings are fantastic and a Super Ozora service was waiting for me at Sapporo, ready to leave 10 minutes later. Jussst enough time to stock up on snacks!


The eastbound scenery was very different. Quite dry inland and along the coast.


The line twists and turns along the way to Kushiro. At around 80% of the way, I saw a really familiar sign on a billboard next to the highway. It turns out that Shiranuka is the home of Tantakatan!


Kushiro Station

Again with this educated timetabling of transfers. JR Hokkaido has a joyful train called the Kushiro Shitsugen Norroko-go that takes passengers from Kushiro, up the Senmo Main Line, to Toro Station. And yeah, back to that timing... the train was sitting on the platform waiting to depart!


With just enough time to set up, I found a safe place for the camera and started recording...

Snacks were then bought and I boarded my Nosappu DMU (named after Cape Nosappu) to Nemuro.


The Nemuro Main Line (also known as the Hanasaki Line [花咲線]) runs along the coast from Kushiro to Nemuro and the countryside is quite different from that of the trip north to Wakkanai.


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If you see any deer in the photos above, then it's because we nearly hit them. The poor driver was on the horn most of the time trying to get them off the right-of-way!


Along the line, some of the stations had Lupin III characters! A quick google points out that: In 2012, the Hokkaido Railway Company unveiled Lupin III-themed trains on their Hanasaki Line between Kushiro and Nemuro station, in honor of Monkey Punch, who is a native of Hokkaido. Cool! But hence the fading, that was 7 years ago.

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Before long we were approaching Nemuro Station. We'd actually pass through Higashi-Nemuro Station, at-speed, but I saw the "you have reached the eastern-most point of the JR network" sign. DONE!

Nemuro Station

So, plan ahead with this! There aren't too many facilities at the station (not even a convenience store!) and the best option you have is a tourist information center. This has a little shop/stall inside it, but it was closed! So, if you're doing this trip and, like me, returning on the same service... pack for both directions... and don't drink all of your high-balls on the way there!


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And, well, yeah... 12 minutes later I departed on the local back to Kushiro. Since this wasn't the Nosappu Express, we actually stopped at the eastern-most point of the JR network!


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I stepped out of the train, stood on the platform and then jumped back on the service. The next one was hours away and the platform was as minimal as the southern-most station at Nishi-Oyama. From here, it was the same trip in reverse... stopping at a lot more stations...

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Things to look for? Deer! But the driver will help you there. The Lupin characters are everywhere... Stuffed-and-mounted Guard Vans are also all along the rails, acting as shelters.

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Taking photos from inside a vehicle can be problematic... so check if you can open the windows. If you see latches, as below... make sure you use both hands!


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I got off at Higashi-Nemuro on the way back. I'd checked the maps and realised I could take a taxi to a hard-off. Unfortunately, the station was very quiet and there were no taxis waiting. Instead, I hiked the 30 minute journey and found a PC Densha de Go Controller!


On the way back, I caught a taxi to Nemuro Station. The driver actually ended up driving past an institution that had an SL stuffed-and-mounted in the yard! I failed to ask him to stop in time and went back to check it out...


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There was then just enough time to get back to the level crossing next to Kushiro Station to catch the Kushiro Shitsugen Norroko-go returning.


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Interestingly, the DE10 was still on the rear. It seems the car at the front is actually a DMU? It's open-air, but has a driving cab in the rear! Makes perfect sense if you're going to a station where you don't want to have to bother with running around.


This is town is actually famous for its port! I hadn't realised that the town was so heavily based on shipping. From the railway, you only really see the land and the town... it's not until you walk far enough south that you get to see the port. For some reason though, I can't find any photos of my little trek down to the bridge and port.


I stayed in the Hotel Crown Hills Kushiro, located across the road from station. It had quite a view.. of the Super Hotel across the road... which would've had a better view! Fortunately, there isn't much to see on the Nemuro Main Line after Kushrio Station. Note that there are freight trains that run into Kushiro, but the freight depot is much further to the west.


From here, I had dinner in the station. There's a beautifully rustic restaurant in the building itself and the chicken curry was delicious. Supposedly you're meant to eat Sushi or Crabs here though! I never do travel for food. An early and uneventful night was spent in the hotel and the first service was taken westbound in the morning.


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I'd booked a seat, but the windows were quite terrible. The double-glazing had condensed and there was no chance of taking photos from the seats. Fortunately there's observation areas at the ends of the cars.

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Note that you can no longer get to the front window in these trains. Back in the day, you could look out the front as the drivers cab is elevated. I can't remember the exact event, but they now no longer allow passengers to cram themselves into the front vestibule for a drivers' view. It's really quite sad as that's how I captured Super Hokuto en-route to Sapporo and Super Hakucho approaching Kikonai in the snow.


And that was really it... there was a transfer at Minami-Chitose (actually, I went to the outlet mall as I had an hour) to the following EMU...


And then it was a seamless trip of transfers back to Shin-Osaka! I had left Kushiro at 6am in Hokkaido (on the hottest day on record! 39 degrees?) and arrived in Shin-Osaka at 10:30pm.

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Nayoro and Wakkanai – May 2019

The previous day I'd travelled from Sendai to Asahikawa in order to check out some afternoon freight. This also put me in a great position to catch the first northbound service from Asahikawa to Nayoro. The eventual goal was to get to Wakkanai and tick off most northbound station, but there were also delights to see prior to this achievement! The day started with the usual array of beautiful Hokkaido EMUs, before I even got to the station!


My train north was to be a stopper... I wanted to get to Nayoro early, so I chose the first northbound local. Turns out this was to be serviced by a joint KIHA effort.


I chose a seat close to the front of the service as I've always loved the ability to view where we're going.


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The scenery was nothing short of spectacular.. that previous mention of agriculture shining through. I could not believe how green the country was.


Before-long we had arrived at Nayoro.


This sleepy town used to be alive with railway activity. The remnants of the station yard show that there used to be a lot of steam activity. Back when locomotives needed more-frequent servicing, refuelling and shuffling, this area would have been a major depot. Unfortunately, nowadays the DMUs can zoom past this area and not give a damn as, well, their tanks are still a-plenty. The DMUs that I travelled on had done their dash and were to terminate here. In fact, they were to split and the older KIHA departed for the yard... the younger sibling ended up on Platform 3 to perform a later service.


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But, that wasn't what I was here for... a quick walk to the south-east of the station would provide me with my first real contact with a 9600 class steamer! Unfortunately... stuffed-and-mounted. But, as with the rest of this trip, I had to walk there first.


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At last, a caboose appeared...


And then ... nothing but stuffed-and-mounted steam trains... in terribly glary morning light.

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The 9600-class is such a fantastic-looking locomotive... one of those styles that uses every centimetre of available space. It was amazing getting up close to one... I wish there was still a running example! I hereby request that Oigawa restore the static exhibit sitting at Senzu Station (49616 is there in one of the photos)!

Anyway, that was enough to make the locals wonder what the hell a gaijin was doing wandering around their neighbourhood and local parkland. It was still early... somewhere near 9am and lots of people were heading to work. I hereby apologise! But it must be a common occurrence? I suppose the next bit wasn't though.. I dawdled from the SL display, past the back of the DMU/freight sheds, around to the curve on the northern side of the station. The southbound express was due next and I fluked a fantastic location!

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Half of the set that brought me to Nayoro was still on P3, but then I turned around and checked out the view... that would set the scene for the approaching express...


Ah yeah... Thank you sun, thank you grass, thank you ...

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You just can't ask for better variables... Hokkaido!

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I kept dawdling my way around, back to the station. Stocking up with goods at Convenience Stores for the further trip north.

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A DMU came through southbound, whilst I was waiting for my express to Wakkanai.

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And then we were off!

Wakkanai - The end of JR

The trip further north was beautiful. Right towards the end the line bends towards the western coast of Hokkaido and there's a huge volcano, similar to Sakurajima down in Kagoshima. But before that, it's countryside, cows and more countryside.


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A few minutes past the volcano and we were pulling to a halt in Wakkanai Station. At this point I'd now completed 3 of the 4 points of extremity of the JR network. I got out and checked out the station precinct. Due to the timing of return services, and my plans to get back to Asahikawa to see more freight, I had already decided to take the same train back... so I had around 15 minutes to find food and have a look around.


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The five station supports above have signs on them indicating how far Wakkanai Station is from other stations in the JR network. The first one above is actually Nishi-Oyama Station, which I travelled to a few weeks prior... 3068.4km away! Asahikawa was 259.4km away and Sapporo 396.2km. I assume they used the rail-length and not as-the-crow-flies.

After doing Wakkanai very little justice (I'll come back, I promise!), I was back on the southbound express, bound for Asahikawa once more. Here's some scenery...


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Asahikawa Station

The express arrived back in Asahikawa just as the freight was passing through. This happened to be the same timeslot as the afternoon before.


I returned to the hotel to freshen up... and to catch as many DMUs as I could on the viaduct.

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I then returned to the station as the sun was setting. The day before I'd been at Shin-Asahikawa, so I was pleasantly surprised that the lighting was just as fantastic here.


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The freight came through like clockwork and I feel sorry for the driver's retinas!

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From here it was back to the hotel for dinner and a massage. There's a great bathhouse and masseuse on level 2! Well needed to prepare for the trip to Kushiro and Nemuro the next day.

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Asahikawa, Hokkaido – May 2019

This was quite the tour! I'd been to Sapporo a few times in the past, and usually by sleeper train (I really miss the original Twilight Express), but this time I'd be travelling at much higher speeds. Thanks to the opening of Shinkansen services through the Seikan Tunnel, not only can you get to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto at lightning speed, you even get free wifi when you're under the ocean!

The trip started from Sendai. I'd spent the day before travelling from Osaka to Nara to Ogaki, eventually ending up in Capsule Hotel Topos Sendai Station West. This hotel is fantastic and I recommend anyone to stay here. Clean, tidy and there are even 'premium' capsules that provide extra room, security and comfort. After a good night's sleep, I was presented with the following steed at Sendai Station. I could have chosen a different path and started the day from Tokyo, but instead, I'd chosen to travel half-way up Tohoku to Sendai. The first northbound service starts from Sendai and gets you to Sapporo (and then Asahikawa) much quicker than a service starting further south.


Actually, I fib. That one was going in the other direction... this one was mine:

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You'll notice the coupled consists above. The front half goes all the way through to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, whereas the back half only goes to Shin-Aomori. Note that the whole train is reserved... so make sure you get your tickets early! But then again, as I found out later in the trip, changing reservations can be quite simple!


If you've got some cash to spend, then take Gran-Class above! Green, below, is just as comfy... but so is pleb-class, which I took. I do enjoy the on-platform smoking facilities.

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It was a very quick trip... thanks to free wifi and therefore free netflix!

Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station

This station is the location of the current terminus of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. The extension through to Sapporo is under construction and is expected to be completed by 2031. It actually used to be the location of Oshima-Ōno Station (渡島大野駅), but this was demolished/renamed/upgraded when the Shinkansen line was built through. Now the station serves as a transfer point to the Zairaisen. There are perfectly-timed express services, lined up with most Shinkansen arrival/depatures, ready to go in both directions. There are also freight trains! This is the main line from Sapporo through to Tokyo, so they're also quite frequent. I wish I had been paying attention to my freight train timetable, and not netflix, as I wasn't in the right spot when one flew straight past me!

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The view of the scenery from the station was already quite fantastic. You could tell you were on a different island from the 'main land'.


Transferring to the normal gauge express trains was easy enough... they've colour-and-flower/fruit coded the doors! You also get the Japanese translation... there'll be a test later.

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Before-long, the southbound and northbound expresses were in the station.

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Actually, I was too busy watching the southbound express come down from the mountain.. when I turned around my train was nearly ready to depart!


From here it was a quick trip through to Sapporo, where a quick transfer to the Kamui took place. This service is run by an EMU as the line between Sapporo and Asahikawa is electrified. Here it is arriving into Sapporo.


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The trip from Sapporo to Asahikawa is inland and the scenery was fanastic. There really is a lot of land up in Hokkaido and 99% of it seems to be used for agriculture.


Asahikawa Station has seemingly recently been elevated and the architecture is beautiful. Lots of wooden infrastructure and great views of the mountain ranges in all directions.


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There's also a lot of references to the animals of the famous Asahiyama Zoo.


I ventured straight to my lodgings as it had been quite a long day of travel. I'd chose Hotel WBF Grande Asahikawa - ホテルWBF, right next to the station as I'd assumed, if I requested a station on the rear-side of the hotel, it'd have a great railway view.


When I booked, I asked (via to have a railway view and they informed me the single I'd booked needed to be changed to a deluxe twin for this to occur. It seems that the railway-facing rooms are all twin rooms! The booking had been done a few months prior to travel and so, at check-in when they asked where my travel partner was, I was stumped. Why were they asking this? Oh yeah! I'd booked a twin room because I wanted the railway view, and so they assumed two people were staying. I'd forgotten the reasoning at this point and they nearly down-graded me back to a single room, until one of the staff saw the "loves trains" note on the booking and let it proceed. Hah. Anyway... the room was fantastic and the view?...


That'll do nicely. Bags dumped, it was time to get back to the station and check out the neighbourhood. Of course, that's a total fib... the goal was to get back into the station in time to see the next freight service come through. Prior to it arriving, there were enough other trains to keep me entertained.

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And then... like clockwork...



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The freight continued around the viaduct up to the freight yard. I wanted to catch the return service, so I made my on foot to follow it.


Getting here is easy enough, follow the viaduct around the bend and take as-many-photographs-as-possible to distract one'self over the length of the bloody walk! Yes, it was quite the adventure... but there's always a silver lining.

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I had time before the freighter... so... the silver lining...


And then a quick run to Shin-Asahikawa Station. Quite a beautiful area at sunset!


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DMUs everywhere... the wires must'nt last much further past the station.

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And then... right on time!


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I caught the train back to the center of town this time.

Asahikawa Station At Night

From here it was back to Asahikawa Station for some nighttime photography.


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The evening southbound freighter was right on time, and it was too dark to try a photo with motion, so I opted to try and hold my camera steady instead.

While waiting for trains, you get a great view of the signals on the northern side. If they're all red then chances are good that something is coming.


But that was a wrap... I needed to be up really early the next day for the journey north to Wakkanai.

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Copying Dolphin Save Games Cross-Platform

I recently removed my Dell Precision T3500... It was beautiful, but it started presenting very weird temperature/time related blue-screens and other gremlin-esque issues. I removed it and replaced it with a Raspberry Pi 4. That piece of fruit couldn't successfully even load my train radar (Chromium on Raspbian can't load OpenLayers Maps), so I went hunting for another piece of fruit in a local store and found a 2014 Mac Mini.

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I hate this... It's fkn old and has soldered-in 8gb RAM... but it Just Works(tm). So, with this new device, I loaded up Dolphin to see if I could continue my Pikmin 2 quest. My GameCube is long dead, so I use emulation to get the game disc, sitting on my shelf, performing in full glory on my 4K TV. Anyway... previous install was Windows 10... new is Mac OS Mohave. Installing Dolphin was easy enough... finding where it saved games wasn't.

Turns out that MacOS puts them in /Users/stevenh/Library/Application Support/Dolphin. To find this folder, ask Finder to show the Library Folder by choosing the option in View Options.

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Now that we've got the Library folder open... browse through to Application Support/Dolphin. Have a look... but this is the target folder... we need contents! As I'd mentioned, I'd come from Windows... so I mounted the disk and took a wild guess: My Documents! Of course, it's not called that anymore... it's Documents and it's in your home folder. In here, you'll find a very similar layout! If you're copying a WII game, then check the WII folder for saves/memorycards. If you're copying a GameCube game, then look in the GC folder...

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GOT IT! Move the relevant card saves to the relevant folder in your new Macintosh home directory and ...

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Meanwhile, this Macintosh Mini 2014 Edition is supposedly meant to be terrible... but it plays perfectly. The warning messages disappear after a while.


Yokkaichi and Yoro Railway – May 2019

The main goal was to get to Wakkanai, but before that I wanted to trek through Kansai and check out some smaller operations. The first stage was a voyage across Kansai over to Yokkaichi to check out the super-narrow-gauge lines. I'd been to these areas before, but the freight operations always managed to elude me. Actually, last time I also even totally failed to ride the Yoro railway! This time around I was going to fix those errors.

Kizu Station - Pan O Seeguru - パン オ セーグル

I was off to an early start on the Osaka Higashi Line, transferring at Kyuhoji for a Yamatoji Rapid to Nara. At Nara, if you go one stop further north, you'll end up at Kizu Station. Just a short walk south of the station, you'll find Pan O Seeguru or, in French: Pain Aux Seigle. The name translates to 'Rye Bread'. So I assume that's what they produce? Hah, either way, I arrived way to early and it was still shut! I had plans to get much further east, so a few photos from the outside had to suffice!


But yeah, they've managed to acquire the front end cab of an EF66 and install it inside the shop. You can see the building is new... I assume they built the building around the cab!

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Check their website above for an much cooler interior shot!

Yokkaichi Station

I had initial plans to take the original Kansai Line over the mountain through Tsuge to Yokkaichi, but I'd get to the Nagoya side a little too late for the scheduled freight operations. Instead, it was quicker to bolt up to Kyoto, across to Nagoya via the Shinkansen and then down to Yokkaichi via the Mie Rapid on a beautifully-sounding KIHA 75. All a bit round-a-bout, but still fun... and totally acceptable thanks to the rail pass! I'd also already ridden the Kansai Main Line.


There's a yard on the eastern side of the station where they store/shunt petroleum tankers. A DE10 was hanging around, powered-up but not being operated.


Before-long, the southbound freight I was hoping to see passed through...


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There were a few other locomotives stored in the yard. Recently a DF50 has been moved from Hokkaido to the Yokkaichi to work on the oil/petroleum trains.


Yokkaichi Station also has a third-sector railway attached. I didn't actually know this and so was surprised to see a different-liveried DMU hanging down the very end. Turns out it's the ISE Railway and it runs from Yokkaichi Station through to Tsu Station. If you check the maps, you'll note that JR takes an inland route via Kameyama, Ise is a little straighter, south through Suzuka and Kintetsu, although not connecting to JR Yokkaichi Station, runs right along the port... probably a better place to see the freight from! Next time!


I'd seen the freight and so took the next service north for a stop-over at Tomida Station.

Tomida Station

This station never disappoints. It's another freight yard, but this time providing a connection to a private operator: The Sangi Railway. Note that it's freight-only here, if you want to ride the Sangi Railway then you need to transfer; but more on that shortly.


Straight up, the two beautiful EF300 series locomotives of Sangi Railway were idling in the adjacent yard. They had two cement hoppers in their consist... pretty short for that amount of horsepower!

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They weren't due to depart for another 30 minutes, so I watched my service depart and another arrive...


And then the freighter left for the branch! How dare they.... at least 25 minutes earlier. I was meant to be on the branch before this!


I had time until my Kintetsu transfer, so I checked out Tomida Station a little more. It hasn't changed much!

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The odd passenger service shot through, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Kintetsu Tomida Station - Sangi Railway Sangi Line

A short walk west gets you from JR Tomida Station to Kintetsu Tomida Station. Here you'll also find the terminus of Sangi Railway's Sangi Line, which, interestingly, used to be owned by Kintetsu but is now totally private.


The streets are narrow and cosy and before-long you'll find yourself at the station. You'll actually need to cross the railway to get to the station entrance, which can be a problem if you're blocked by a train...


But there's also a pedestrian subway, albeit seeing little use.

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Navigating the ticket machines was easy enough. I arrived just in time for a train-load of students to arrive from a Sangi Line EMU who then all bolted as quickly as possible to the Kintetsu trains. Interestingly they were all going in different directions. It was hardly lunch time, so I thought they'd maybe be changing campuses? It was a little too early to be going home.


After the rush, I had a whole train to myself!


Another Sangi Line EMU then came in, but it would be departing in a later timeslot, so I chose the blue one.

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The engines of the EMU had a really vintage low growl to them. Winding along the narrow gauge (the Sangi Line is 1067mm, the Hokusei being 762mm) through the countryside was something else... beautiful weather and lush-looking rice fields!


My destination was Hobo Station, the depot for the line.

Hobo Station

The name actually has no real meaning and is just the name of the town, no persons of ill-repute to speak of. Just lots of brightly-coloured EMUs.


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And the odd retro livery!


Meanwhile, the Sangi Depot located here is definitely worth travelling to! Straight up, it resembles the Takekawa Yard on the Chichibu Railway, just with brown engines.


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Unfortunately... the services I had on my timetable to run through... didn't. I'll get you next time!

Kuwana Station - Yoro Railway

The final leg of this journey was Hobo to Ogaki via the Yoro Railway line. I'd just missed riding the Yoro Railway 9 years earlier when I was hanging around Minoakasaka, so this time there was no option to fail. Getting to the start of the Yoro Railway was easy enough: Sangi from Hobo back to Kintetsu Tomida and then the next east-bound express through to Kuwana Station.


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Somewhat reminiscent of the Hankyu livery, the Yoro EMU was sitting on it's isolated platform, waiting patiently to take passengers to Ogaki. Seeing as that we still had around 20 minutes until departure, I loitered around taking photos... first up? Kintetsu...


The express services were happily bolting through! Next up, that darned DD51 returned from Yokkaichi!


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Hang on, what's that... It's a westbound oiler!


Right-time-right-place... thank you very much. But yeah, maybe a closer platform would've been nicer... To calm my nerves, I went and found an Okonomiyaki Burger. The restaurant is called Don Don and it's in the mall just after the JR station. Omg it was delicious.

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After lunch, we were on our way to Ogaki Station. The line runs up the eastern side of the Mount Yoro and the view is splendid along the entire route.

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Along the way the train also stops into Yoro Station. The building's architecture is from 1919 and there are a whole bunch of [something] hanging from the station platform roof! Quite a treat and a chinese couple happily took insta-selfies with the low-hanging-fruit.


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We waited here to pass a southbound and very orangey-brown liveried EMU.


From there... it was a quick final few stops before arriving back at Ogaki Station. Waiting to take the next load of passengers south was the brand new 7700-Series!


Officially, looking at the map, I'd done a loop-the-loop, as I'd crossed under the Shinkansen line that took me to Nagoya earlier in the morning. Ticking items off the todo list really does take time and effort. Anyway, from here it was a quick EMU to Nagoya and then two Shinkansen, finally ending up in Sendai. The Hayabusa was to leave at 0640 the next morning, northbound.

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Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park – May 2019

The Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park (Poppo Town!) is located at the end of a valley in the south-west of Gunma Prefecture. The location is significant as it's the start of the Usui Pass, a now-closed (operated between 1883 and 1997) difficult mountain pass between Yokokawa Station, Gunma and Karuizawa Station, Nagano. The pass was no longer needed once tunnels (and then Shinkansen) were built.

If you look at the article on wikipedia, you can see that the site used to be a much simpler open-air park. Fortunately, some investment has seen it turn into a fully-featured tourist attraction! You can even drive an EF63!

Getting there...

It's an easy day-trip from Tokyo, but not so much from Osaka. Fortunately, after mastering the ordering of Sunrise Seto/Izumo tickets, I'd worked out that catching the midnight Sunrise to Tokyo would work perfectly. Arriving (as long as we kept to schedule) at 0708 in the morning would allow for an easy transfer to a Nagano-bound Shinkansen.


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The sunrise arrived perfectly on-time to Osaka and I made it into my Solo apartment. Unlike the previous 'Single' apartment, the Solos are a much more cramped experience.

Well, it's really only the entry that's cramped. As you can see, if you don't duck, you'll smack straight into the wooden frame up top. That wooden area is actually the footwell of the apartment above. The apartments are really efficiently built together into the railway carriage!

Due to already knowing that there was no buffet car, no time was spent searching. It was already midnight, so I just passed out and proceeded on a very uneventful trip to Tokyo.


A quick bit of shopping and tranfering from the standard lines to the Shinkansen lines (make sure you enter the Tohoku gates and not the Tokaido gates!) allowed a smooth transition to this beauty...


I remember when the E7 Series was just released. The E7 series was built in conjuction with the W7 Series, which was built for the Hokuriku Shinkansen. It was exciting to know that the new Shinkansen line via Nagano and Toyama was getting closer to Osaka. But back to the actual vehicle, the style and colour are just fantastic. It's amazing how many of them are in operation now and how they're just seen as run-of-the-mill. Taking things for granted is such a painful human tendency.

Anwyay, where were we? The next transfer was at Takasaki Station. If you were actually wanting to go through the pass, stay on the train... you'll bolt through the tunnel and pop out at Karuizawa Station... Maybe you're searching for the Terrace House Set? But that's no good for us... we want to stay on this side and switch to the Zairaisen (在来線, conventional lines). Takasaki Station doesn't disappoint when it comes to a variety of EMUs!


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Yessss! A Super Hitachi! Wait... Akagi? They've been relegated off the old service since the new E657 series EMU came in. This is one of my favourite designs.


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Anyway... that boring EMU in front was ours... we were going on the now-underused commuter local line up to Yokokawa. Previously, this line used to use beautiful express EMUs that received banking locos before the pass, but that's all a thing of the past now!

Usui Pass Railway Heritage Park

From the station, it's a quick walk to the park. Turn left out of the station and walk through the carpark towards the red brick wall and beautiful mountain valley. For some reason I didn't take a photo of the front gate! I need to remember to properly survey sites when I'm on holidays! So here's a shot from inside the park with a beautiful 485 Series.


And from here, I'm just going to dump photos of everything I saw (and touched! Finally my ultra-ultra-favourite EF58 was in reach!) But first, here's a map of the site. From the map, there's a 'torokko' railway line that forms the perimeter. Inside, up the back of the town, is a smaller 9" ride-on railway. Both were still warming up when I was there, so I didn't check them out.


From here, it's just a matter of wandering through and checking everything out...


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Right up the back was this very tired-looking Asama. I believe this was actually part of the previous EMU fleet that ran through the pass. I'm sure it'll be next on the list for refurbishment. There was quite a lot of work already being undertaken.

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I really really wish there was functional EF58 running tours. I can't believe they've all been stuffed-and-mounted.


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Model Railway Diorama

Once you've conquered the outside area, it's time to head inside and check out the displays. You'll find two floors of information on everything from track-laying to signalling. Unfortunately, very little English is available. I didn't check if there was an English audio guide.


That's the building to enter. Inside you'll find the following...


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Those electro-mechanical displays above are fantastic. They'll show you the power routing through an electric locomotive.


There was also a cute infrastructure evaluation vehicle mounted out the front. Maybe from the Shinkansen depot?

Drive your own train!

The park offers guests a full course to learn to drive an EF63 locomotive. To do this, there's a one-off day course valued at 30,000 yen. You then pay 5,000 yen per drive.
You'll find more information on their site.


You'll find the driving experience on the northern side of the park. The line runs up into the valley, as it's actually the original Usui Pass line! I think you get to travel all the way to the tunnel entrance? That loco above was actually being driven by a guest when I was there.

Back to Takasaki

What was next? A freight yard! But before that, a 'quick' 'walk' (aka spirited jog) across Takasaki City in the blistering heat to:


Hahaha... Many treasures found. And then... another 'quick' 'walk' to the freight yards. You'll find these to the south-east of Takasaki Station. For fellow otakus, there's a road that passes through the middle of the depot, providing some fantastic vantage points.

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From here, it was a slow crawl back to the station. It's a fair 30-minute walk... which gets exponentially longer in the summer heat. Make sure you bounce from the shade to the nearest convenience store along the way!


There's actually a great shaded path under the Shinkansen tracks!

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SL Yamaguchi – May 2019

A trip to Japan is never complete without seeing at least one Steam Locomotive. This time round I nearly missed out due to a well-needed sleep-in, but, thanks to the beautiful Shinkansen timetable, I was able to leave hours-upon-hours late and still see this majestic creature in action! A quick trip was made from Shin-Osaka to Shin-Yamaguchi on the Hikari.

Shin-Yamaguchi is one of those non-central Shinkansen stations that act as a transfer point to train lines that'll actually take you into the town the station is named after. Does that make sense? probably not. If you see 'Shin-' prepended to a station name, it means it's either a new standard train line station in the town where an existing non-'Shin-' station already existed, or it's a Shinkansen connection that was built away from the center of the town. Usually the later is done if the path for the Shinkansen line was going to be too destructive, expensive or inefficient.


Anwyay... the main point? I had to transfer to that beautiful 'Persimmon' KIHA above, which would then take me through to Miyano, just north of Yamaguchi Station. It's actually a relatively short point and quite a lot of the services terminate here.


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It was a really beautiful station... very summery... nice weather too, if not slightly overcast! There's a 7-11 Konbini just down the road too, if you're hungry. Locals were having a BBQ in the apartment carpark just next to the station and the kids were mucking around playing sports. Every so often they'd yell out "hello foreigner" and smile... hah... the parents were a little embarrassed.

Before-long, the main event occurred.

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An afternoon well spent! But of course... there's always a familiar shop... somewhere nearby! This time it was just north of Shin-Yamaguchi Station. First step, back on the DMU.


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And a light-hearted jog through town... it had just started to spit...


Success! Meanwhile, back at the Shinkansen station... it's a great spot to view freight on the lower lines...


And passing bullets on the above-lines...


I'm sure I took a video-or-two of them... time to search the card(s).... and I found them!

iMovie really is an easy-to-use app to blend them all together.

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MS Access: Error 6 – Overflow

A quick break between posts of the recent trip to Japan: I was distracted at work by a user who was experiencing a bug in an Access Database. Now, my team has never built access databases, but we're still the first-point-of-call for technical support on internally developed applications; even if not developed by us, nor in this decade!

We'd also just recently migrated a SQL server from one Windows VM to another, so there was a high chance that a user had been orphaned in the process... either way, I dug in.

First step: Reproduce locally!

I had the user screen-share over Skype so I could see what was going on. There was a very quick path to reproduction, so I took a copy of the database and brought it over to my machine. In no time I had the following:

Error 6 Overflow

Time to find the code?

Unlocking an Access DB

To get into the backend code, you need to unlock all the menus. Hit the File menu and then choose Privacy Options.

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From here... make sure the following items are checked. Allow Special Keys is required for breakpoints to trigger in the VBA script!


Close the database and open it again.

Hacking the code

You'll now have the navigation pain on the left-hand side. Somewhere down the bottom you should have one or more modules containing the code throwing errors.

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Double-clicking Module1 presenting me with the following... of course, like any good organisation, we had the passwords well-documented!

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Once in... breakpoints were set and code was tested. The breakpoints didn't initially trigger, as I hadn't set the Allow Special Keys option. The name really doesn't make sense, but it's required if you want to debug! Once going though, I found that the code wouldn't hit another breakpoint inside the following function...

Public Sub RetrieveTestNamesFromSpecs(iBulkID As Integer)
        Dim RCountDB As DAO.Database
        Set RCountDB = CurrentDb
End Sub

Nothing really special! But the Overflow error was happening before the function started. A breakpoint on the 'Set' line would never get hit. I looked at the line before the function call and didn't see anything incriminating. I then checked the value of the variable being passed in as iBulkdID. It was 32790. That's a pretty ominous number for anyone who understands bytes... or variable sizes. It turns out that an Access Database Integer only supports the value range of -32768 to 32768. Our ID had surpassed this and was therefore not 'fitting in' to the variable.

Changing this to a Long fixed the issue! I handed the DB back to the user and dusted my hands.

More Casting!

Before long I had the DB back on my desk as there was a new Overflow Error. I quickly dug into the code and found that the error was happening when executing the following SQL.

        strSQL = "SELECT * FROM [TblName] where [CName] = " & Me.Variable & " Order By CInt(CName) Asc"
        Set rs = RCountDB.OpenRecordset(strSQL)

Anyone playing at home will see the error straight-away, but I wasn't used to Access SQL syntax. Long-story-short, that CInt is trying to cast the value as an Integer, and we already know that it doesn't fit! A quick conversion to CLng fixed this error as well!

I then scoured the rest of the code for crappy Integer references...