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Yubetsu, Hokkaido – April, 2023

So, look... I was sad... there would be no freight in Hokkaido this time around! I found this out at ~8pm on a Sunday night and entered what-else-shall-we-do mode, scanning google maps for targets. Engaru was intially a junction for the line out to Yubetsu and, although the line no longer exists, there're still a few remnants to visit! Having the next day being Monday also meant that the bus services were actually quite frequent!

I got up at sparrow's-fart and left my crap in the Hotel room. To my surpise, I was presented with a warm sunny morning, after it'd been horizontally snowing the night before! I was also happy to find a bus terminal on the doorstep, but the bus wasn't for another 30 minutes. Instead, I dawdled to 7-11 and grabbed the day's essentials.

There is no purchasing of tickets from the station. Instead you grab a ticket from the machine as you enter the rear-door of the bus.

Around 8 stops later, match the number on your ticket toe fare listed on the board above the driver and pay the corresponding amount. From there, the bus will continue on it's way...

And you'll be presetend with Yubetsu Station, as it was... Or is it? There seems to be electrical caternary guards under that pedestrian overpass? Was it donated?

The YOs have been doubled-up and turned into classrooms, but they don't seem to have been used recently. I initally thought they were larger vehicles until I saw the welded footplates.

The whole park is beautifully designed and used as a road-stop. There's also a Tulip museum!

I caught the next bus back to Engaru, with the plan to check out and head to Abashiri via Kitami.

And the best part, a JNR KIHA was waiting for me!

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Engaru, Hokkaido – April, 2023

After making it to the northern and eastern extremities of Hokkaido back in 2019 (pre-covid!), I'd decided I wanted to do the round-trip via Abashiri. There's freight to see on the line from Asahikawa, via Engaru, to Kitami and a joyful train from Abashiri to Kushiro. Getting there would be no mean feat though!

The plan was to get to Asahikawa and then venture east. From Shin-Osaka, it would've been a 2-day trip via trains, and I'd done that last time. This time I was to cheat and fly Itami(Osaka) to Chitose(Sapporo), leaving very little time to transfer to the Limited Express trains.

Getting to Sapporo via Itami

The first leg was easy.. and this may even be the first time I've featured a plane on this blog. JAL has a Japan Explorer Pass and, even though I didn't fly JAL into Japan, any international visitor can still make use of it inside Japan, as long as you prove to have a booking reference for an international flight. You simply provide that information whilst booking. It's very similar to the Japan Rail Pass, which I was about to activate.

I'd never been to Itami Airport before, but it was an easy trip on the Hankyu Railway, with a transfer to the Osaka Monorail at Hotarugaike Station. Note that the monorail makes a huge S-bend at this station and it'd be great to photograph... when one isn't rushing to a plane. Getting to the Hankyu line involved a 5am walk through Nishinakajima-Minamigata... it was very serene.

Before long, a westbound local took me to Juso where I changed for a northbound service. It happened to be the first out of Umeda for the morning and the karaoke experts were all sleeping on the seats, just itching to get home to their warm beds.

Itami was a very non-eventful event. There was a huge queue to check in and so I tried to use the check-in kiosks. It couldn't work out my english name and, before I could press the 'call attendant' button, a staff member grabbed me and coerced me to the 'priority' desk. Hah. I felt sorry for the other passengers in the queue!

All checked in, with my bag still in hand (I had no time to wait for checked-in baggage at the other end), I headed into the airport's main terminal. It's... stunning!

I watched a lot of cargo get loaded... and other people's luggage...

And then we were off! Landing 5 minutes early.

Sapporo to Engaru

Despite being at the far northern end of Japan, the Limited Express trains in Hokkaido are still convenient and fast. Sometime in the future there'll be shinkansen, but it'll still only reach as far as Otaru, via Sapporo City. Getting further north will still require the use of zairaisen.

We arrived at Sapporo New Chitose Airport early and this meant I could make the 10:06 rapid to Sapporo. I could then take the Lilac 13 express north, arriving at Asahikawa in time for the first Taisetsu of the day! If I was a few minutes later, I'd have to take the ~2pm Lilac 17 from Sapporo and then a Rapid Kitami, getting to Engaru 2 hours later. Two more hours of daylight in my target destination was definitely a bonus! Maybe even an extra freight service.

The trip out to Sapporo was nice, being in the front behind the driver. I love being able to see the tracks ahead... but not the mountain-tops... isn't this meant to be the end of Spring?

Lucky I'd packed for winter. Sapporo Station was even still ready for winter:

Yup, those heaters were active.


Lilac 13 departed on time and we were on our way to Asahikawa. They've blocked access to the corridor which leads to the front window of these trains. It happened years ago, but it's still sad that there's no more ability to see through to the front.

Taisetsu (the name means 'heavy snow', I'd initially thought 'important') was there waiting... and the weather was dreary! It got furtherly-hilarious along the way...

But then we cleared the mountain range and the snow went from blizzard to spring.

And, before long, we were in Engaru... the first stop for freight!


This small town has a lot of railway history. The line used to extend north-east to Yubetsu, but now there's just a few relics along the old alignment. I didn't have transport, so instead loitered in town waiting for the trains to pass in and out. They don't officially pass 'through' though, as the station functions as a switch-back terminus.

It was bloody cold and there were signs of recent snow activity...

I climbed the pedestrian bridge where the incoming rails split north and south. Fortunately, there was another railfan waiting! The freight must be coming!?...

Not freight, but a darn fine KIHA40 in JNR Vermillion. Turns out all of the KIHAs up here have been painted in koku-tetsu (Old-skool JNR) liveries and that's what everyone's hanging out for. Speaking of hanging out, the freight never came... so I checked out the SL Park.

To the north-west of the station is a rock formation with a lookout up the top. The SL Park is down the bottom and there's even a public toilet. Can you just imagine how majestic the area would've been when the SLs were operational? Needing to be turned to pull the freight back out of Engaru yard? Anyway, thinking of that made me go back to the station and dawdle around... taking photos of random stuff ...

I'd arrived in time for the ~2pm freight, but that didn't happen. I then dawdled further until the ~4pm freight... but there was no sign of that either.

You can only take so many photos of Vermillion, right? Anyway, the next train wasn't until 8pm, so I went and checked into my Hotel Sun Shine.

After a quick relax... I found random combini dinner and then trotted back to the station for the evening freight. Actually, on the way to dinner I checked out the snow plow at the end of the yard.

Very cute... but I prefer a DD51 with plow carriages. Anyway, dinner.. then the station... and more KIHAs.

SO PRETTY. I then loitered...

Note that the departure boards are all fixed-lighting and they switch in the service departing from the platform. Very cool.

Then the expresses came through. They were meant to pass further south, but the northbound was delayed and the pass happened in front of me!

They both left... A KIHA was hanging around... so I photographed it...

And then the station-master came out and asked if I was waiting for the freight. I could feel the bad news coming.... He proceeded to explain that the "tama-negi" season was already over. I then asked if that's the only rail-freight on this line and he very simply said 'yes'. I was slightly astonished... they run two daily return trips to Kitami JUST for brown onions!

And just to rant... in English, "onion" is brown onion and "spring onion" is just that. In Japanese "negi" (onion) is actually spring onion and "tama-negi" (ball onion) is brown onion. Amazing how we have the single-word version backwards. Anyway, I digress... the whole bloody point of this trip was that I'd seen the paths on the timetable and thought it would be fantastical to see the freight operating. Supposedly I'd missed them by one week. Super Mario 2 had plucked the last onion around 10 days earlier and it'd already been boxed and railed.

It started snowing. I went to bed. I still wanted to complete the loop of Hokkaido and ... well ... now that there was no freight in Kitami, I could go to Hard Off :)

Oh! The pedestrian overpass did have graffiti.. I was a little surpised.

Appropriate? Maybe another tecchan also missed out.

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Mac Pro 1,1 A1186

This beast was AUD$30 at the local tip and (after failing with two of them months back and selling them off as parts) I thought it looked like a good challenge.

I got it home and checked the guts (you're not allowed to open things at the tip!), noticing no drives, no drive sleds and no RAM. This is all fine... except the RAM... those FB-DIMMs are proprietary hell. I tried to power it on anyway and got the slowly-pulsing power light, as expected when there's no RAM installed.

RAM must be installed in pairs, in a specific order. I scoured the web for the cheapest pair (or two) as I didn't want to sink too much cost into this thing, until knowing it'd boot. The FB-DIMMs arrived ... slowly ... darn Santa! ... and one pair was installed in the first two slots of the top RAM card.

Power was applied... and... a solid power light! No bong? Do these Mac Pros even go 'BONG'? Power was quickly removed and the second pair of RAM was installed into the first two slots of the bottom RAM card. This is, of course, following the installation order as expected. Power was applied once more and ... another solid power light!

Next up was disk. Without the sleds, the drives would be suspended in mid-air from the fixed SATA connectors. I therefore chose a very light-weight SATA SSD drive, anything heavier would apply way too much pressure to the SATA sockets. I'll install more drives later, once I print some sleds. For now, the goal is just to get an OS installed and booted.

So yeah, an OS. Let's not get too tricky, too early. This is a Mac Pro 1,1 and it's only good for OS X 10.7.5, so let's start with anything I have, bootable, lying around that keeps below that maximum. Yes, this unit can be flashed to pretend to be a Mac Pro 2,1 and can even run up to OS X 10.11! It can also run Linux and just about anything else, with the caveat being the 32-bit EFI vs. 64-bit CPU. This machine was born during the world's transition to 64-bit EFI, and so is quite a hybrid.

You'll find OS X 10.5 Leopard here, if you don't have media lying around. Fortunately, I had a DVD of OS X 10.7 Lion in my box'o'junk from previous eMac/MacMini tinkering. Of course, it wasn't legit... it was bought from a computer fair for the exhorbitant price of AUD$20 and is merely a 'restore' disc. Regardless, the bloody thing booted... and installed... to 75% and kept stalling.

The stalling was from a scratched DVD. Not the best investment. Realising this was never going to work, I instead burned a random ISO of 10.6, which I had on my NAS, to a USB key with Balenca Etcher. Balenca might warn that there's no bootable yada on the media, but please disregard this warning! Hit next-next-finish, slap that USB in the front of your Mac and reboot! Pray that the flashy-flashy-folder icon pisses off and that the installer starts.

It worked!

Fake MacPro2,1

I have a plan to upgrade the CPUs to X5365s, so I followed this video to upgrade the BIOS, using this file and this file. This all worked splendidly, even though it required a little mucking around. I'm sure you could just extract all required files from the mounted DMGs into a single folder and make the process a whole lot easier.

More RAM

The next two 2gb FB-DIMMs arrived and simply just-worked... Mac OS 10.7.5 displayed 6GB!

Yay... but not enough for 10.11... so... buy more. I found a bargain on generic Samsung FB-DIMMs and everything worked perfectly... 22gb baby! I have all slots full now, but it seems you can install 64gb of RAM if you really desire!

OS X 10.11

Follow this Youtube video to get OS X 10.11 on the machine. It seems it'll be the last ever version that'll work. Make sure to never run the software updater. I did this and it stopped the machine from booting up again.

Note that this was still running on the stock NVidia video card. You can now probably guess what's being replaced next.

Better Video

First I tried a Radeon 6870 and it was nice... but then I browsed to MacVideoCards and determined the 'final' best card for this machine: R9 280X. This thread about the card had ultimate success with the MSI Gaming 3GB version. I checked eBay and they were going for quite a lot of cash, so I scoured FB Marketplace, grabbing one for a nominal fee! You can use ATIWinFlash on Windows 7 (no idea if newer windowses will work!), or amdvbflash on linux. The latter was MUCH easier. I put the card in as my primary video and booted to MX Linux.

$ chmod a+x ./amdvbflash
$ sudo ./amdvbflash -s 0
$ sudo ./amdvbflash -p 0 MSI\ R9\ 280X\ 3GB\ Mac\ EBC.rom
AMDVBFLASH version 4.71, Copyright (c) 2020 Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

Old SSID: 2775
New SSID: 2775
Old P/N: 113-C3865000-G77
New P/N: 113-C3865000-O77
Old DeviceID: 6798
New DeviceID: 6798
Old Product Name: 113-MSITV277MH.300 TAHITI B0 XTL C38650 GDDR5 3GB 
New Product Name: 113-MSITV277MS.350 TAHITI B0 XTL C38650 GDDR5 3GB 
Old BIOS Version:
New BIOS Version:
Flash type: W25X20
Burst size is 256 
20000/20000h bytes programmed
20000/20000h bytes verified

Restart System To Complete VBIOS Update.

So yeah, after downloading, make it executable and then save the current ROM with -s. Use -i to get the ID of your card if you have mutliple installed. Finally, write back with -p followed by the card ID and the filename of the ROM.

Note that in the MacPro you'll need one 6-6 and one 6-8 PCI-E power cable. I only had two 6-6 cables, but a random ATX 6/8 cable on hand, so I rigged it together!

I tried all ports, but the boot only seemed to show on the mini-display-port closest to the DVI port!

The resolution options in OSX were fantastical. The best resolution, I found, was 3840x2160 (2160p).

More Disk!

Whilst screwing around with the video card, I had the 3D printer working overtime on a drive sled. The STL was actually pretty detailed and Cura demanded a 4.5hr print. Whatever, better to make it strong and safe so disks don't drop onto the newly installed video card!

Once printed, I grabbed a 4TB from the ex-NAS pile and slapped it in. I had no need for any of this space, but maybe I can just install a ridiculous amount of OSs on here for a museum-esque experience.

What first?

Max CPU?

That plan to upgrade the CPUs came true and was very easy!

So yeah, the final answer/question is... now what? A-Train?

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