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PC-98 – PC-9801NS/A – RAM, CPU And PCMCIA

This story doesn't have a happy ending. I went on a buyee-spree, trying to find all the parts I needed for this laptop... including a single (obviously-not-legit) floppy drive that contained the PCMCIA driver software needed to get the PCMCIA slot working in DOS. The goal was to then load up a SCSI PCMCIA card connected to a SCSI CD Drive to get data flowing. There were also RAM and CPU upgrades and they looked awesome! Who didn't want a DX2/66 laptop? Who cares if the internal LCD is monochrome.

Anyway, the crap arrived...

RAM and CPU Upgrades

The RAM module was clean and tidy, but the CPU (PK-NSA66/C) not so much.

They're both add-in modules that slot in underneath the unit.

No issues powering up... and the RAM was obviously working!

Very nice... +11mb? There was already a 1.2mb RAM disk in this thing, so the additional 11mb was a bit weird. Maybe it's 10mb? Or maybe it totally replaces the onboard RAM and it's +12mb? Anyway, I went into MSD.EXE and CPU info showed...

No dice... no amount of cleaning or re-inserting got it to say anything different. There was also no heat in the board, so I can't quite tell if it's kicking in... or if it needs an IPL like the PC-9801VX. It seems there are many hardware benchmark softs and other CPU tools on which I'll play around with later. Thanks to this thread on another upgrade for pointers.

Update: Yeah, I was right... this specific upgrade board for the NS/A is the only one that needs an IPL! Of course, the drivers at IO-Data are just updates... just like the hell I went through with obtaining the IPL for the PC-9801VX. See more about the available upgrade boards here, and an even better write-up over here. It seems I need to find PKNSA.EXE. How insulting.

Anyway, I suppose I might as well go ahead and install Win3.1 via floppies... since I'd already created them. Later.


So, I'd received the disk from Yahoo Auctions with an original manual. I still cannot work out what that image/logo is on the manual? Anyway, I eagerly got everything set up.

I slapped the disk in the laptop and DIR'd.

Get stuffed. What is TAKAHOUSE? I tried to boot it...

GRRRR... AUD$60 for an over-written floppy ... but I got the manual!

Marcin to the rescue!

If you jump to the comments below, you'll see two pointers from Marcin to drivers that might-just-work. I tried the MECIA3ATA driver first from PC-98 Tips, using a PCMCIA to CF adapter that I had lying around.

First screenshot is with no card in the slot... and a complaint from the driver saying it can't find anything. Second screenshot above is a switch to D:! What's in there?

Random Macintosh stuff that I had totally forgotten about! Useless for this unit, but we can read a PCMCIA ATA card! Unfortunately the second link just provided SSDRV.SYS which doesn't work with this hardware. Maybe it'll work on the 9821Np/540W that I'll whip out next.

Thanks Marcin! We've made progress!

Filed under: Retro 2 Comments

Hojo Railway, Hyogo – April, 2023

Hojo is a small town in Hyogo, just a bit north of Kakogawa. It contains the terminus and depot of the Hojo Railway Line, the only rail line operated by the Hojo Railway Company. The line is single-track and non-electrified, running through the countryside from Ao Station. They own a fleet of four one-man DMUs, with two or less operating at any one time via passing loops at larger stations. Their fleet used to consist of only three 2000-series "flower" DMUs, but they recently had a crowdfunding operation to bring a KIHA40 into the mix. It succeeded, and I helped!

Getting there...

From Shin-Osaka, there are a few hops to traverse. Hojo Town is in the sticks and the JR Kakogawa Line, starting at Kakogawa Station, happens to be the best rail connection to get there. Unfortunately, there's no Shinkansen connection at Kakogawa Station, so the closest transfer point from Shin-Osaka happens to be Nishi-Akashi. Once at Nishi-Akashi, you can transfer to a Special Rapid on the Tokaido Main Line which'll have Kakogawa as its next stop. As that Nishi-Akashi is smaller Shinkansen Station, you'll either need a Hikari or Kodama. I took the first Kodama from Shin-Osaka Station, but first had to let the first Sakura get out of the way...

Then check out the view... as the Kodamas don't come frequently...

And yeah, don't forget to grab an eki-ben snack from the platform shops... it's a slow ride. The funniest part about the 'slow ride' is that it's usually operated by the (well, back in the early 2000s) fastest rolling stock. You're either going to get a 700-series Rail Star, a 500-series shinkansen, or even a hello-kitty themed 500-series if you're lucky! Mine turned out to be a Rail Star and I wasn't disappointed.

Still looking good for its age! There's even business cabins which you can happily make use of as the services aren't very well patronised. The next best thing about the Kodama, for a rail-fan, is that (apart from single-platform stations like Shin-Kobe) they have to stop at all stations to let the other services pass. This allows for great photo opportunities, when you're not stressing that the train might leave without you!

You can even fluke it... and have another Kodama waiting in the other loop platform!

Ok.. that's enough Rail Star love. I made it to the Nishi-Akashi Shinkansen station and transferred to the JR Tokaido Main Line.

The Special Rapid was ready to roll and before-long we were at Kakogawa Station. Interestingly, you will need to go through a set of turnstiles to get to the platform, even though it should all be one concourse as it's all JR. Don't fret, just show your JR Pass or ticket and you'll be able to proceed.

Up on the Kakogawa Line platform, you'll find a 2-car green EMU ready to take you to Tanikawa (or Nishi-Wakishi, as per the service above.) The trip takes around 30 minutes to Ao Station, the start of the Hojo Line.

A Hojo DMU was already waiting on the platform when we arrived. Everyone else had a Pasmo/Ikoka/Suica card and just transferred using the machine, but I didn't so I asked the conductor what to do. It turns out that the driver also accepts coins! Just review the electronic board above the driver to work out the cost... knowing that you've travelled from the first station. I was going through to the terminus and would pay whatever the greatest cost was... and fortunately I had the coins in my pocket. If you don't, the ticket machine next to the driver can turn a 1000yen note into coins.

Single-Track Working

Straight away, you're in the country-side and you can see straight out the front of the DMU. The country-side was very green after a lot of recent rain.

Before-long we were approaching Hokkeguchi Station and an opposing DMU was already in the platform, waiting for us to clear the line.

Their driver was waiting on the central platform, radio'ing with the base to confirm that we were out of the block. I wish I'd watched if he also grabbed a staff from our driver? Either way, we were on the way again and in Hojo after about half an hour.

Hojo Station

On approach, the target was visible, but once in the station, getting to the target required a wander...

The poor KIHA40 was parked in an end-road and obviously wasn't going to be operating on the day I visited, but I still got to visit it!

After a quick dawdle around the streets, I made it to the level crossing in the the rear of the photos above...

It looked in really great condition! Sad I could go for a spin on it, but hey... I'd already done that in Hokkaido. I loitered for a bit to see the service we'd crossed earlier come back into town.

And then I checked out some junk shops up the road. Nothing of great interest, but a few cute SCSI and USB cables. What next? There's a notable park on the mountain just north of the junk shop, so I went for it... I had an hour+ before the next service!

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park is located on a mountain (which they obviously think is circular!) in the east of Hojo Town. It was quiet when I was there, but if you go by the "don't do this" signs, then it must get pretty busy. There's a large pond, a globe that actually functions as a clock and a really long rollercoaster/slide.

Anyone paying attention to that last shot above will see the red 'pads' handing in the little shelter at the end of the slide. You're meant to take one and sit on it whilst you go down the slide... but I totally missed them and just bolted to the top of the mountain. There was a train to photograph!

Straya! The globe spins and tells the time... supposedly. I was too excited for the slide. But actually, the next service was due to depart soon, so I checked the clock closer and waited for a shot of the train.

The train passed...

The slide beckoned...

Fun was had!

There's a pause half-way... probably to stop human avalanches. Also to let people on half-way if they don't want to do the whole run.

Not using a pad under my arse, I was nearly jolted around enough to stop... but... when in Rome.

Tunnels... twists... turns! But that last corkscrew had me jammed... had to scoot forward and off.

That's what I finished the rides and saw the pads you were meant to sit on. Haha. Speaking of park rules...

In every language! And... look how scruffy that poor feral cat is.

A little bit of wildlife watching... and then done. Thanks Maruyama Park!

On the way back to the station, I passed this random under-contruction freight yard... or was it? Hah containers-as-hotel-rooms!

Back to Kakogawa

The weather was pleasant, so I dawdled to co-incide with the return trip of the DMU, of which I'd seen from the mountain-top.

I then pre-purchased a ticket from the vending machine and waited for the next service to depart. There happens to be a list of donators on the station wall, but I had chosen not to pay for that level of crowdfunding.

Before-long the service was off to Ao.

Ao Station

I had half a plan to walk from Ao Station back to Abiki Station to photograph the Hojo DMUs are they passed through the countryside. There's a great S-Bend between these stations and I had calculated a ~35 minute walk. What I hadn't calculated was a late arrival at Ao Station, as that meant I'd have milliseconds to get to the first photo spot before the train I'd travelled on returned to Hojo Town.

I walked way too slowly from Ao to the photo point... getting distracted by the Kakogawa Line...

Only to see the DMU piss past quickly...

It's a great spot. It was actually getting too warm, so I chose instead to return to Shin-Osaka and chill out for the afternoon. Mainly I was sad that it wasn't a KIHA40 in the shots above. I was a little put-off that I'd come on a day when it wasn't running. So... I returned to Ao Station, only to realise that the Kakogawa Line service that I'd photo'd above was the service I should've transferred to and that the next service was 1 hour away.

No problems? There must be a convenience store nearby? There isn't? It's a 30 minute walk!? I won't get back to the station in time? Hah.

The middle shot above shows the directions to each of the three railways that service Ao Station. Kobe to the left, JR straight ahead and Hojo to the right.

So yeah, where was I? No food? Too much time? I'd drank enough coffee cans to pee for the rest of my life... let's just photo the crap out of the station. Oh, and dawdle back to the rice fields to check out a cemetary.

Google says it's Ao Castle Ruins, but I don't know what to believe. Anyway, back to the station... and starvation...

Hojo then returned... as it was to make the connection with my Kakogawa service.

And then we all had to run up the platform as the 2-car service stopped way forward next to the Kobe Line Service.

This time I actually checked out the view from the front of the train. One is never unimpressed!

And then it was a transfer onto the Special Rapid. I could've then switched to the Shinkansen, but I had time, and a front seat on the Tokaido Main Line.

Not too many limited express trains at that time of day... or freight, for that matter, but I wasn't ready for much more than just staring out the front.

Filed under: JPN No Comments

PC-98 – MIDI

During the most recent trip to Japan, I managed to pick up an SC-55 Roland Sound Canvas. Once back in Australia, and once I had the PC-9801NS/A up and running, it was time to get it outputting MIDI signals. The SC-55 has a serial port, and it turns out that many games can support MIDI over RS-232.

Many moons back, during a trip to Japan that I've nearly forgotten about, I actually managed to pick up this unit.

It's the COME ON MUSIC MA01.

I had originally thought it was for PC or Amiga, but, this time around, whilst searching for RS-232 MIDI options, a photo of this unit appeared! I quickly dug through the boxes to find it.

Of course, the serial port on the PC-9801NS/A isn't a standard DB-9...

It's a mini-centronics something-something and it'd need a serial converter cable to get it to connect to the MA01 above. Fortunately, here's one I prepared earlier... hilariously also found at the Hard-Off in Okayama where I got the PCMCIA SCSI card.

Not feeling like finding the right game from the initial list above, I instead searched for a DOS MIDI player that supported RS-232. had a great list of software to choose from and Fu-Music Player 1.03 mentioned RS-232 compatibility in the description!

A standard DIN-5 MIDI cable was used between the MA01 and SC-55 and.. the rest is history... and CANYON.MID.

Filed under: Retro No Comments

PC-98 – PC-9801NS/A (98-Note)

This beast was sitting next to another PC-9821 Note (more about that one in the future) at a junk shop in Den Den Town, Osaka. They were cheap. The shopowner gave me a huge WTF?! are you doing when I asked to purchase them. "No return, no refund!" he exclaimed as I told him I just wanted them for decoration.

I don't know what I expected when I brought them home, but the mofos (plural, there's another PC-9821Np/540W) fired straight up, asking for system disks. I used the 3.5" DOS disks I'd previously created.

And I was in DOSS Hell before I knew it! Next up I'd want Windows installed, but I wasn't doing that via floppies... I needed a better file transport mechanism.


I managed to pick up an IODATA PCSC-F PCMCIA SCSI Card from Hard Off in Okayama, which just happens to support the PC-98 Note series.

The drivers are over here and I thought I could just install them and go. Unfortunately, when you try, it exclaims that PC Card Services are not running.

A quick read of the manual tells you that you need PCカードサポートソフトウェア (PC Card Support Software) installed prior to trying to install the driver.

Is this disk available on the Internets? Hellz no. It's unobtanium... unless you google for closed auctions on Yahoo.

Then you see an auction for a SINGLE DISK going (buy-it-now) for well over AUD$60. Isn't it pretty? Anyway, back to the manual above, it notes that we need SSMECIA.SYS loaded in CONFIG.SYS... but this file is also NOT on the internet. All bulletin boards mentioning any of this software just contain people begging for it, asking everyone else to email them a copy!

For fun, I scoured the PC-98 Win3.11 disks, but they don't contain the DOS drivers. Nor do the DOS disks.

I thought I had something after googling for "PCカードサポートソフトウェア". I got here and saw a promising link to the NEC Lavie support site. Unfortunately this is just an ATA HDD driver to be used AFTER loading the support services!

So, back to where we were at with the PK-486 for the PC-9801VX.... drivers lost to time.. or scalpers! But then I realised something.. There's quite a list of laptop models noted in the manual for the SCSI PCMCIA Card, which all use the same driver? Maybe we can find another support disk on Yahoo... Maybe for the NX/C instead of the NS/A?

And shit, there it is, sitting on Yahoo Auctions right now, ready for me to spend money on! A dodgy copy for the bargin-basement price of AUD$65! It's a huge gamble, but let's see what happens when it arrives. The best part is that it's also coming with RAM+CPU for this unit and a new HDD caddy for the other Note. Anyway, in the meantime...

UPDATE: The gamble didn't pay off: The floppy was over-written with other shit.

Can it play A-Train?

A-Train needs two floppy drives.... this unit only has one. I was curious though, as the unit has a very specific RAM Drive activity LED? Oh right! That RAM Drive is specifically designed to act as a second floppy drive. NEAT! But, how do we use it?

PC-98 Machines start lettering from A:\ and just keep going... usually HDDs first and the Floppy Drives. A:\ is the internal HDD and B:\ is the floppy, so does C:\ exist?

Yes, yes it does... let's format it? Ok, sure... and a quick text file with SEDIT persisted after power cycle!

So... let's dump the "DATA" floppy over to C: and then boot the real floppy in B:. Do excuse the LCD refresh vs. my shitty phone camera.

Crisp! The animation was smooth also... what is this magical power from a tiny 486 SX?

Shiitttt.... it works. There was one weird thing though. I initially booted it with no mouse, so I couldn't do anything in-game. I then powered off and booted up with a mouse plugged in. During boot it just presented the "Please insert the system disk and press a mouse button" screen. Even if I clicked the mouse, the screen kept appearing... I'm guessing a RAM issue?

So I disconnected the mouse, rebooted back into the game... then plugged the mouse in after the game had loaded and all was well!

Amazing. (Excuse the dither/blur on the LCD. I ASSURE YOU there's a train in the last shot above!)

Let's try Windows...

You could tell what was going to happen next...

Unfortunately, Windows installer baulked at zero Extended Memory...

I suppose I could disable the RAM drive and start again, but I don't think 1.2mb of RAM will cut it. I'll make another post in the future regarding PCMCIA shennanigans. Actually... regarding MIDI also... if I can do it.

Filed under: Retro 2 Comments

PC-98 – Working With 3.5″ Disks

So far, I've only really had to deal with physical 5.25" floppy disks, as my PC-9801VX does not have 3.5" drives. My external Gotek was an emulated 3.5" set, but there was never a need to write actual 3.5" floppies. This all changed once I picked up other PC-98 machines.

Above are three BIOS screens from two 98-Notes and a PC-9821, all complaining that they want you to "Set a System Disk". The term 'set' is a little misleading, as they're really asking you to insert one. None of these machines have 5.25" drives, and all the disk images I have in my arsenal are 1.22mb images!

Make a 3.5" Floppy Disk think it's a 5.25"

To get anything to boot, we'll need to write one of these images to a 3.5" drive. I assumed this would all be simple and used the same technique as I did over here. Turns out that, even though the image will write fine to the disk, the machines needing the floppy won't be able to read it.

This is because standard 3.5" floppies are, by default, formatted as 1.44mb. Writing a 1.22mb image to a 1.44-formatted drive will mismatch the data and the receiving PC wont be able to correctly read the tracks. Or this is what I understand. Prior to all this, I'd assumed that the format of the disk was in the first track and that writing an image would also re-write the format... but this isn't true. Instead, we have to re-format the disk prior to writing the image. You can read all about disk formats here.

(Update: Oh lol... if I'd read the link above I would've realised that 1.22mb 3.5" disks are normal... they're known as 2DD, not the 2HD I'm used to!)

Of course, this is the internet, so someone has already done all of this for us. The basic idea is to re-format the disk to the correct format using a tool called ufiformat, convert the image to raw bytes with no header and then dd the image over. There are supposedly only a limited number of USB floppy drives that can do this, but my Teac FD-05PUW worked perfectly.

First up, connect the USB floppy to the machine you'll use. If you're using Virtual Box (like I was, on my NAS!), then you'll need to map the USB device through to the guest OS in settings. Once it's up and your machine is alive, make sure to update your package manager with the latest sources. I did this with:

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~$ sudo apt-get update
Get:1 file:/run/live/medium bullseye InRelease
Ign:1 file:/run/live/medium bullseye InRelease
Hit:7 bullseye InRelease
Get:8 stable InRelease [1,825 B]
Get:9 stable/main amd64 Packages [1,078 B]
Fetched 2,903 B in 1s (3,537 B/s)
Reading package lists... Done
E: Some index files failed to download. They have been ignored, or old ones used instead.

Next, let's install ufiformat:

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~$ sudo apt-get install ufiformat
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
Reading state information... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 265 not upgraded.
Need to get 0 B/14.4 kB of archives.
After this operation, 42.0 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Selecting previously unselected package ufiformat.
(Reading database ... 214799 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../ufiformat_0.9.9-1+b1_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking ufiformat (0.9.9-1+b1) ...
Setting up ufiformat (0.9.9-1+b1) ...
Processing triggers for man-db (2.9.4-2) ...

Once that's installed, we need to find the floppy drive. The best method is with dmesg.

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~$ sudo dmesg | grep "removable disk"
[    5.065667] sd 3:0:0:0: [sdb] Attached SCSI removable disk

Nice, so the floppy is loaded at /dev/sdb. Now we need to get our images ready. I'm wanting to install DOS 6.22, so grab your images from whereever you need to. Depending on the image format, use any of the d88split tools over here to get the images into the correct format.

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~/dos622$ ls -l
total 9888
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS1.FDI
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS2.FDI
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS3.FDI
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS4.FDI
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS5.FDI
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS6.FDI
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS7.FDI
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1265664 Jun  6 18:53 DOS8.FDI

My DOS images were in FDI format, so I needed to convert to Mahalito and then to RAW. For each of the images, this required:

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~/dos622$ ../ DOS1.FDI DOS622-1-MHLT
FDI: 1265664 bytes (4096 header + 1261568 body)
77 cyls, 2 heads, 8 sectors/track, 1024 bytes/sector => body 1261568 bytes
writing to DOS622-1-MHLT.2hd and DOS622-1-MHLT.dat
swh@virtual-deb-nas:~/dos622$ ../ DOS622-1-MHLT.2hd DOS622-1

This results in the following files from one disk image:

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~/dos622$ ls -l DOS622*
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh   10175 Jun  6 18:58 DOS622-1.2hd
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1261568 Jun  6 18:58 DOS622-1.dat
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh   10175 Jun  6 18:57 DOS622-1-MHLT.2hd
-rw-r--r-- 1 swh swh 1015808 Jun  6 18:57 DOS622-1-MHLT.dat

You can ignore everything but the final DOS622-1.dat. We need to write this to our floppy, but beforehand we need to format our floppy! Slap a disk in and enter the following:

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~/dos622$ sudo ufiformat -f 1232 /dev/sdb
geometry: track=77, head=2, sector=8, block=1024
formatting track=76, head=1...

Once it's done, we can write or first image:

swh@virtual-deb-nas:~/dos622$ sudo dd if=DOS622-1.dat of=/dev/sdb bs=64k
19+1 records in
19+1 records out
1261568 bytes (1.3 MB, 1.2 MiB) copied, 27.4431 s, 46.0 kB/s

Done! 1.3mb Written! Did it work?

Rinse and repeat for the rest!

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Abashiri, Hokkaido – April, 2023

After failing to find freight in Engaru and checking out station ruins in Yubetsu, I proceeded through Kitami to Abashiri. There are quite a few limited express trains between Engaru and Kitami, but I chose an old rattler. It didn't disappoint!

The other good thing was that the local service had to wait for all other express services to pass.

At Kitami I saw the 'on-road' freight terminal, with no freight trains... as expected.

But the station area was very well looked after.

Instead I used the local bus to check out the local Hard Off. It didn't disappoint, finding a cheaply-priced random set of Marklin Z-Scale Coca-Cola Liveried DB passenger cars.

I even then had enough time to catch the bus back and the Taisetsu to Abashiri. Look at the engineer, happily standing in the vestibule looking out the front window. We used to be able to do that!

Before-long I was in the town of a very famous jail, but I didn't visit it. Instead I just saw a train, locked up.

Abashiri is the end of the line for the express trains and therefore has quite a nice yard with sheds to keep the diesel engines warm in the winter months. Actually, the summer months too as there was still remnants of snow on the ground.

From the north side of the station, you can walk into (and through) the carpark to get to a pedestrian level crossing which has a great viewpoint in both directions along the rail.

One can only assume that there's been a few incidents at the crossing.

Don't be one of them.

Katsuradai Station

From Abashiri, There's a local service around the eastern coast and through the mountains to Kushiro. I had enough time to spare, so I wandered from Abashiri Station to Katsuradai Station, the next along the line to the east.

Along the walk you can see where they've 'recently' elevated the line to get rid of a few level crossings. There's also random interesting junk lying around...

Before long, I was at Katsuradai Station, waiting for a service to come through.

There's a bridge just to the north of the station which provides a great viewpoint in both directions.

And more random junk...

And then it pissed down... right when the southbound train was due. Through the rain, whilst hiding under the nearest tree, I could hear 'urgent'-sounding announcenments from the station speaker. Once the rain stopped, I walked back to the station to listen more-clearly.

I couldn't understand it all, but it didn't sound good... so I checked the website.

Oh right, it got progressively worse as I kept refreshing the page...

All services cancelled! I needed to take this line the next day!

I walked back along the line, but then continued into town. There's a beautiful bus depot in the middle with a vintage shell petrol station embedded.

The rest of the day was spent dawdling around the yard watching trains come and go... and being scared of the weather.

I asked at the station if the line to Kushiro would re-open the next morning and was told that it would. Everything would be fixed overnight.

Shiretoko-Shari Station

I got up early enough to have a plan-B... but the plan wasn't sound. I could either take the Taisetsu/Ohotsk back to Asahikawa and then Sapporo, or attempt my circumnavigation of the rails and try and go clockwise on the local service via Kushiro. The issue was that the anti-clockwise express left first, so if I chose not to ride it AND the local to Kushiro failed, I would then be totally stuck.

I checked the JR Hokkaido site when I got up and gambled on the Kushiro service. I could see that the local to Kushiro was waiting, humming nicely, on the platform.

I watched them kick-over and extract the express from the shed. It has to traverse the previously-mentioned level crossing a few times, so it's great to view in the morning sun.

Watching the other stock kick-over was also a delight. Before-long my only hope had left for Asahikawa... And other diesels were brought in for other services.

I was left to ride my jellyfish/potato-express.

Pretty hilarious, as this is the DMU I wanted a photo of the night before. Anyway, we were on our way and the scenery was fantastic.

Before-long, we were at Shiretoko-Shari Station. The opposing train came in (single-line-working ahead), but I saw that the station master had donned his hi-viz and was discussing problems with our driver.

The northbound service left us in its dust and we were left on the phone to JR Hokkaido asking them to fix the signals. The station master did a great job communicating this to the 6 passengers on the train. 4 Foreigners and an ederly Japanese couple. The latter had to get to a hospital in Kushiro and the rest had to get through to Sapporo.

I checked the website whilst the station master was still trying to work out if we could proceed and found out that JR Hokkaido had already put a stop to that... that first 06:41 line was my train!

Around 20 minutes later, a local taxi driver had been summoned and we were bolting down the highway. Sometimes it was 120km/h in a 50-zone... other times it was 40-in-40 when it was obvious that speeding wasn't warranted.

We followed the line for a while, but then veered further west, taking a path off the highway to Kushiro.

And then... finally some freight!

And then... the cost. Thanks JR Hokkaido!

We actually made it to Kushiro faster than if we'd travelled by train, but not totally unsurprising. Last time I was here, I'd wanted to visit the model railway store in front of the station, so I did just that.

I giggled in excitement when I saw the prices in that last display cabinet... but the shop owner was watching and quickly told me that was the museum case and everything was display-only. The prices were as-they-were back in the 70/80s. Oh well.

I went to get the same curry I did last time in the station building, but that shop had closed for good.

Instead I found something similar a few shops down the corridor. Finally, it was a waiting game for the express to Minami-Chitose.

Much cleaner than the last Ozora in 2019... and again no access to the front window.

After that it was a quick trip to Minami-Chitose and then the airport.

Whilst transferring, I quickly checked out the outlet malls... but every second shop had closed down! Bloody covid.

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