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1Dec/210

Twilight Express Mizukaze – Virtual Railfan

Whilst still stuck on the wrong side of the globe, having to watch borders closing again thanks to new variants, I decided I'd make the most of the plethora of live cameras popping up in Japan to chase the Twilight Express Mizukaze on one of it's current round-trips. It's actually really sad to think that I first virtually chased this in 2017, saw it in 2019 and then haven't been able to go back since!

But enough of the whining, we're here to chase it virtually. The official journey starts at Shin-Osaka Station, but since the consist is stored in the yards just south-west, there is no direct route to the platform it's meant to pick up passengers on. Instead, it runs a huge loop via Osaka Station! This is a bonus for us as it means it passes more cameras.

Shin-Osaka: Dead-head to Kyoto

As mentioned, the train has already done a loop via Osaka Station and can be first seen exiting Shin-Osaka Station at 0933, heading north on the Shin-Osaka Webcam.

Mukomachi: Dead-head to Kyoto

Instead of turning at Suita, or even at Mukomachi?, they run the service all the way to Kyoto! Is this some kind of shake-out? It passed the Mukomachi camera at 0952 heading north.

Kyoto Station: Dead-head back and forth

Thanks to the Kyoto camera just to the east of the station, it's easy to watch it bounce back and forth. Here it is passing at 1010...

And then back again at 1023...

Mukomachi: Dead-head to Shin-Osaka Station

The goal is to arrive at Shin-Osaka at 1114, for a 1147 departure. The train is seen passing back past the Mukomachi camera at 1032.

Arriving at Shin-Osaka for departure

Finally, the train is seen on the Shin-Osaka Webcam one more, arriving back in to Shin-Osaka Station at 1113 on the correct platform.

Nishinomiya

Another user has set up a webcam in Nishinomiya and the train can be seen passing at 1202.

Base of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

There's some amazing cameras mounted on one of the supporting piers of the bridge to Shikoku. At least one of these point towards the railway and the train is seen passing at 1225.

Okayama (x3)

The train's route is quite random this time around... it passes Okayama to Nakashou, goes back to Seto via Okayama, then westbound once more to Kurashiki. It therefore passes the Niwase webcam three times! Here it is on the way to Nakasho at 1432...

And then back to Seto @ 1550...

And then back to Kurashiki @ 1733...

Unfortunately the Okayama Freight Terminal webcam is offline. There was also the meant to be a camera overlooking construction at Hiroshima Station, but that's now changed to a view over Kure Port and Pachinko Parlours.

Amarube Viaduct

I haven't been able to find any other webcams for the train's western leg, so its Day Two journey around Matsue and Shinji will be if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods style. Fortunately, on Day 3 it passes the Amarube Viaduct at around lunch time. The viaduct's camera is some kind of older security camera and only produces singular frames. Fortunately it does refresh relatively quickly! I wrote a bit of code to continuously poll the image, check if there's a difference and then save the files. From here, I then filtered out the boring parts and turned the rest into an animated gif.

Above you'll see some beautifully-orange KIHA 40s running the local services, tour buses delivering hoards of ants, KIHA 189s running the Hamakaze and then finally the KIHA 87 Twilight Express Mizukaze bolting through, heading east.

Back via Kyoto

After meandering back through Fukuchiyama and Funaoka, the train passes the Kyoto Railway Museum and arrived into Kyoto Station. Thanks to the Kyoto Camera, we get it heading in...

And then heading back out on its final leg to Shin-Osaka...

And then, via the Mukomachi camera...

And finally back via the Shin-Osaka Webcam...

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8Nov/210

1952 Tokyo Railway Map

Next up from the box'o'paraphernalia, a map of Tokyo Railways from Charles E. Tuttle Company. This seems to have been produced in 1952!

Tokyo Railway Map - Cover

The map is usually folded into a single pane, but I stretched it out for that first scan above. Mainly so you can see the penciled in 25c price tag up top-right. I don't even remember where I acquired this from, but I'm sure I paid more than that.

Tokyo Railway Map

Note that the pop-up doesn't show the image in the best quality... use this high-res version instead.

The shot above is a stitched-together image from 9 A4 scans. I used Hugin to do the stitching, using the tutorial here. '10' is the magic number for focal length and it did a pretty magic job!

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27Aug/210

The Royal Express Visits Hokkaido (Again)

It's been a while, and there's a lot to post, but for now I'm catching up on trains. Actually, this isn't catching up at all... this train is touring Hokkaido as we speak. The Royal Express is a ridiculously beautiful electric set train that runs (usually) from Yokohama to Izu-Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula, but, due to Tokyu Corporation being perfectly adventurous, is running on non-electrified lines in Hokkaido!

It's an ELECTRIC TRAIN! You say? There's very few overhead wires in Hokkaido, you exclaim!? You'd be correct! To run this tour, they have employed two freshly-painted DE15 locomotives and a mail-car-come-generator-car painted in white, to (literally) tow the electric train through the beautiful pastures of Hokkaido.

Thanks to the current world order: we can't travel from Australia to Japan, but thankfully we can watch! Japan has a fantastic acclimation to rail-side webcams and a hotel in Obihiro has actually mounted one on their building with a perfect view of the station. The same team have also provided views of the airport and a famous bridge. Note that these links change all the time, so please just browse to their channel to find what they're offering!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah.. the tour train has actually already operated this route twice this season. Thanks to lockdown, I haven't been in any correct frame to be alert to its movements. Or maybe I was just working? The train passes the Obihiro Station webcam just after 4pm Australian Eastern Time and, well, it's knock-off for anyone starting on-or-prior to 8am.

Fortunately, I set my alarm today and caught it!

So yeah, double-DE15 + white power van + Royal Express EMU. Who would've ever thought to tow an EMU on 'genny'-power with two very light-weight diesels!? It's actually amazing on a many levels: reliability, engine-weight, loading-gauge... the list goes on.

Anyway, for those playing at home, Obihiro Station is a major freight-accepting town (the yard is further to the left/west of the camera), but has single-lines on either side. This means that, if you see a train, regardless as to whether it's meant to actually stop at Obihiro, it'll at least pause on the camera as there's line-working preventing it from proceeding. There are freight, Limited Express Tokachis (to the west) and Limited Express Oozoras (both directions) on the line at all times and there's always another service to wait for.

So yeah, it waited... and the westbound Oozora from Kushiro arrived.

Not long after, The Royal Express departed for Ikeda and the Oozora went onwards to Sapporo. From here it'll do a full loop, turning north at Kushiro (I want to do that next!) to Kitami and then back through Asahikawa. When this current world situation is over, I'll be doing the same!

Update: 04/09/2021

The Express De Royale has left on another lap, in delicious sunshine:

Enjoy patrons, enjoy.

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30Mar/210

Kangaroo Liner でGO!

2021's Timetable Revision is full of more surprises! First we had the innauguration of the new Fukuyama Rail Express from Ajikawaguchi to Morioka. Next up we have a new service known as the Kangaroo Liner, run by the Seino Group, from Nagoya to Fukuoka! The train is named after the companies' logo. Something quite similar to QANTAS, but backwards.

Above is the stock image that was sent out with all media online. I was very surprised to see a DF200 up-front... so-much-so that I thought there'd be a chance one would run the service! The media releases indicated that the train wouldn't be full of Kangaroo-only containers and that there'd be space available for other operators to hitch a ride.

Location Northbound Southbound (read upwards)
Service 5051
Nagoya Terminal 2212 1823
Inazawa 2229-2237 1721-1804
Gifu 2258-0007 1559-1655
Suita 0201-0204 1245-1250
Kobe 0238 1210
Himeji 0309 1135
Okayama 0423-0432 0911-0957
Hiroshima 0646-0649 0554-0601
Iwakuni 0734
Shinanyo 0850 0409
Hatabu 1028-1040 0219-0244
Kita-kyushu 1056-1106 0125-0202
Fukuoka Terminal 1247 0022
Service 5050

Westbound Service

The first train to leave was the westbound service from Nagoya to Fukuoka. At 2012 on March the 29th, the service departed and passed the Nagoya Station Camera not long after.

As you're watching the start of the video, you might be ready to tell me that it's "not the right train!"... but as the consist keeps rolling through the camera, you'll see that the Kangaroo-liveried containers are all piled on the rear. As mentioned above, there was always going to be spare room on the rake of flat wagons and the company was very happy to accommodate other operator's containers.

After travelling west, it then passed the Mukomachi Live Cam with quite a few more Kangaroo containers on-board!

From here, the Shin-Osaka cam picked it up, but it there was less-than-zero visibility. Unfortunately, there's no other cameras to the west to capture the action!

Eastbound Service

Due to this limited visibility out west, the first spot the train was seen was the Shin-Osaka Live Cam. The eastbound service seems to have at-least half a loading of Kanga-tainers.

After a stop-over at Suita, the train passed the Mukomachi Live Cam on time.

And then finally, back through the Nagoya Station Camera.

Looking forward to seeing these in real life... at some point... in the distant future.

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24Mar/210

Fukuyama Rail Express でGO!

The Fukuyama Rail Express is an express rail-freight service run by Fukuyama Transporting Co, Ltd. Regarding rail-freight, they previously only operated a service from East-Fukuyama to Tokyo.

Here's a shot of that service from my travels in 2019, running past Shin-Osaka Station behind an EF66.

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As of yesterday, a new service has been innaugurated from Ajikawaguchi (Osaka) to Morioka!

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How bad is my photoshop? Note that the services only run on weekdays.

Location Northbound Southbound (read upwards)
Service 58
Ajikawaguchi 2208 1600
Suita 2227-2231 1516-1528
Gifu 0023 1257
Inazawa 0038-0040 1229-1234
Kasadera 1206
Nishi-Hamamatsu 0200 1025
Shizuoka 0259-0301 0902-0910
Yoshiwara 0826
Numazu 0337 0747-0749
Sagami 0421 0656
Yokohama 0449 0629
Shin-Tsurumi 0505 (arrive) 0615 (depart)
Loco swap and service change to 61 Loco swap and service change to 59
Shin-Tsurumi 0541 (depart) 0541 (arrive)
Kajigaya 0551 0532
Niiza 0625 0502
Omiya 0642 0449
Utsunomiya 0745 0351
Kuroiso 0838-0842 0259-0303
Koriyama Terminal 0931-0954 0007-0158
Iwanuma 2234
Sendai 1147-1207 2141-2215
Higashi-Sendai 1217 2134
Kogota 2051
Morioka 1433 1908
Service 60

Thanks to Japan's love of live-cameras, I was able to follow the service in both directions. Actually, as I start to write this post, both trains are still running both north and south. Anyway, let's rewind and check out what happened.

Light Engine to Ajikawaguchi

The northbound service started at Ajikawaguchi, just next to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. To get the rake of beautifully-shiny containers out of the port, an engine was needed. EF210-156 was sourced from Suita and sent to Ajikawaguchi at around 1930 on the 23rd of March, 2021. Here it is passing the Shin-Osaka Live Cam.

It then passed the webcam near Fukushima Station.

Ajikawaguchi to Morioka

With the loco in place, the next step was to run the service! The consist ended up passing the Fukushima Camera around ~4 minutes behind schedule thanks to a late-running Haruka Airport Express.

Back to the Shin-Osaka Live Cam, it was nearly impossible to see it pass... but the audio is awesome in the night air!

Next up, it passed the Mukomachi Live Cam, amongst all the other freights and services.

A while later, it passed through Nagoya Station. Note the Shinkansen track vehicles working away also. That's a huge Tamper!

There's a great cam between Fuji and Shizuoka (which I've discussed before, recording times) and the train was seen passing through.

As that the train took the Niiza route through Tokyo, we couldn't see it on the Akabane or Shinjuku Cameras. Therefore the next and final camera was the Omiya Camera. The EH500 would've been swapped on at Shin-Tsurumi.

And that was it for the northbound. Congratulations Fukuyama Transport! Fortunately, we still had the southbound to stalk.

Morioka to Ajikawaguchi

The southbound left Morioka on the same night at 1908. It therefore passed the Omiya Camera before the northbound at around ~0450.

Whilst waiting for it at the Fuji cam, the northbound original Fukuyama Rail Express from East-Fukuyama passed by!

A little while later, the southbound was seen passing.

Next up was Nagoya Station.

And another guest came through an hour later...

And then again at Mukomachi Live Cam, right up the back, top-right, look really close!...

And since we're still waiting for the Fukuyama Rail Express to get to Mukomachi, here's Doctor Yellow passing Torikai to Shin-Osaka.

Whilst 'waiting at Mukomachi Live Cam', an EF65 passed towing a DD200!

And then, the main event at Mukomachi Live Cam.

Back through the Shin-Osaka Live Cam.

Through the Southern-Side Shin-Osaka Cam, one minute earlier if you believe system clocks... Also, this camera was down the previous evening when the inaugural service ran...

And then the final shot of the day! Past the Osaka Loop Line at Fukushima.

And that's a wrap!

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7Oct/192

201 Series Final Run, Osaka – June, 2019

This was officially the third final run 'seen' in one trip to Japan! First I got to see Ohmi Railway's 700 Series do its last run. Secondly, although not the final-final, I saw/rode Kumamoto Dentetsu's 200 Series during it's last month of operations. Finally, we have the Osaka Loop Line special: an orange-liveried 201-Series EMU. Starting in 2016, JR West put a lot of money into the Osaka Power Loop marketing campaign which saw new EMUs and new liveries on the Loop Line. This therefore meant a phasing out of the older rolling-stock.

Just my luck, the final run of the last running orange 201-series happened in early June. Unfortunately, I was working from the apartment and hadn't paid enough attention to when the final run would actually be! It turns out it was a single lap in the early morning peak! The train then retired to the yards near Osaka-Jo. I had actually gone out for a lap of the loop at around 3pm, waiting around Bentencho Station for the train to pass... after a while I google'd, only to find out that I was too late and therefore decided to head to the yards at Morinomiya. Before that though, there were some cool sites to be seen!

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And, of course, my goal had been to catch the last-run and freight... so at least I was in one correct spot at one correct time!

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The yard is located to the south of Kyobashi Station on the eastern side of the Osaka Loop Line. Morinomiya is the station directly south of the yard. The yard's entrance is on the north side and all operations are visible from the southern end of the Kyobashi Station platforms. To see parked trains though, I'd recommend walking from Morinomiya Station. It seems that everyone else had the same idea!

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So, the train was in the yard and the wall was high and secure. If you look in the photo above, there was a poor little kid who'd ridden his bicycle down and tried to use it as a pedestal to see over the wall. Unfortunately, he still wasn't tall enough to take a photo with his Nintendo 3DS. I didn't ask why he was using that... but I guess he was too young to have a phone?

I took the following photo over the wall...

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And then the poor kid looked up at me ... totally distraught. What else was there to do? I grabbed him and lifted him up high enough to take photos with his Nintendo! Made his day! On the way back, I stopped through Kyobashi Station as I wanted to actually check out the area. Whilst alighting, I grabbed a few shots of the local rolling-stock.

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I was pretty sad... this was my second-last day of a 5-week trip.

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4Oct/190

Flea Markets, Osaka – May, 2019

There's nothing better than queuing (queueing?) up at the entrance of a Flea Market... there could be any amount of treasure inside, so you'll never know what you might find. One also doesn't want others to steal said treasure, so one must be early! In Japan, just like most other countries, there's a lust for flea markets and there's always someone selling something which piques one's interest.

Banpaku Recycle Fair - Expo Park

This flea market, named Banpaku Recycle Fair, is held twice a month at Expo Park in North Osaka. Getting there from Shin-Osaka was very easy, taking the subway and the Osaka Monorail.

After getting off at Expo Memorial Park Station, exit to the east and then cross under the monorail lines. The entrance is well organised, and really, you just need to head towards this guy to find it...

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The park is used for a lot of events, even just families going for a picnic. The weather was perfect for a picnic also, but that's not what I was there for. Following the main path around to the left, you'll find the flea market.

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From here, the browsing commenced! I ended up picking up a Famicom and a few n-gauge trains.

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That Tower of the Sun God is ever-so-daunting.

Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine Flea Market

This one is nicely tucked away behind the busy streets of Umeda. It's a little bit south-east of the main JR Osaka Station, but within easy walking distance.

The temple itself is beautiful, a complete relic nestled in amongst a ring of skyscrapers. The area is connected to the Sonezaki Ohatsu Tenjin Dori Shopping Street (Shoutengai) which also offers some vintage and retro stores... if they're open when you're at the market!

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I managed to pick up a really nice Sony Walkman-style personal recorder. It had all the right inputs and looked like it might be able to be connected to an MSX/C64/etc.. for data recording.

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Don't forget to actually check out the shrine itself! Make a wish if you want!

Shi-Tennoji Flea Market

This market was huge! It's on the grounds of the Shi-Tennoji Temple and it's quite an effort to navigate the layout. You can access this market via the Tanimachi Subway Line at Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka Station or by walking north from JR Tennoji Station.

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If you're walking from the Subway station, you'll find the residents have their own stalls in the street leading to the main market. I don't know how by-the-book this is, but they've made the most of the traffic that comes through!

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Wandering around, the usual trinkets were to be seen... until I saw this!

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It's a vintage model maglev Linear Shuttle! Opening the box to check the contents proved that it wasn't in the best condition.

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There seems to be a small oil tube included, which makes me think that the vehicle isn't always levitating... a quick google indicated that it actually only levitates on one section of track which then propels it around the loop. The loop is also vertical, as in a loop-the-loop, and not a flat circuit. The metal was also quite corroded... so I passed on it... but I had been pretty damn keen!

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Don't forget to say Hi! to the turtles in the middle of the temple yard. And the dancing monkey! I just missed the show.

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Some stall holders happily dumped their wares on their tarpaulins... others were a lot more organised.

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And yeah... there's a lot of the above as well... it's always fun to check out the customers of such wares!

Shin-Osaka Station - East Gate

This small market is open every Saturday morning. Markets are pretty-much always on Sundays in Australia, so it was fun to come across this randomly when heading to the station to meet friends. Fortunately, there wasn't anyting that interesting... so I didn't have to lug anything around all day.

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It was also extremely hot... so anything you see above has probably already melted!

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1Oct/190

Suita Yard, Osaka – May, 2019

Thanks to the time of year, the sun was already starting to set later in the evening during May. I used the opportunities, when it wasn't raining, to venture out to the freight areas along the JR Kyoto Line. I'd visited Takatsuki the night before and realised, on the way back to Shin-Osaka, that I'd never really investigated the freight yard in Suita. The yard is officially located between Suita Station and Kishibe Station and there's a locomotive depot on the southern side of the line. I chose to proceed to Kishibe Station on train and then walk back to Suita.

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Approaching from the east, I was instantly happy with my timing. The sun was setting perfectly, pointing straight at the faces of quite a lot of freight locomotives! Not only that, the variety was quite surprising. There were even some EF200s ready to be chopped up!

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From the east side, there's a gate to the yard. This area provides a great vantage point to watch anything shunting around. It just so happens that a new HD300 was doing the honours with a set of KOKI flats. I don't actually remember the note of the engine as it was shunting, but for the life of me I don't think it sounded any less diesel! Shouldn't it have been more hybrid?

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An EF63 then came through and parked into a free road in the yard. It had actually just come from Hirano, where I'd seen it earlier passing through!

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Waaaay up the back of the yard there was also a standard YO5000 black guards van.

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I continued to walk around to the other side of the yard. A lot of the length is just the side of the engine shed, in which I could here a lot of work being done, but couldn't really see it. And then there was some treasure on the side of the road... wouldn't fit in the suitcase though... might have been handy to test the famicom tho!

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Things got more interesting on the other side of the yard... EF66s! My favourite!

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And then, after a bit more of a walk, there was an open gate with a perfectly framed view straight into the yard.

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What an awesome line up! The lighting wasn't too bad either. Finally, down the very western end, is the entrance to the offices. They've mounted a 52 Series EMU (KuMoHa 52001) in their yard!

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Nice surprise! I totally recommend anyone in the area to go for a walk and check this place out.

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30Sep/190

Takatsuki, Osaka – May 2019

There's a lot to check out in this area of town. If you catch Hankyu in, you'll arrive at Takatsuki-Shi Station and you'll find yourself closer to 国道171号 (Koudou 171) (National Route 171), the main highway through town, than you would if you took JR. On this strip of tarmac, you'll find 3 different recycle shops!

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Much fun was had and much junk was bought, but then it was time for trains. Actually, it was time for a cheeseburger at McDonalds next door. After that, a quick walk north takes you to a tunnel under the Hankyu line.

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But we're not here for that either... further north (about another 20 minutes on-foot through some beautiful suburbia) is the main JR Kyoto/Tokaido line. More specifically, it's the location of the Takatsuki Staging Yards that I'd visited a really long time ago. The weather was much better on that previous adventure! I think it was a lot earlier in the morning and there were more EMUs in nicer locations.... and it wasn't raining.

Anyway, There's a whole new housing development being built over the rice fields, so the view from the JR lines back to Hankyu will soon be obscured.

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But the view of the JR lines wont change as you really wouldn't want to get any closer...

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As per the previous shots taken near the monorail, there's the usual selection of Harukas, Thunderbirds, etc... and they are going track-speed here. Surprising really, as the pedestrian crossing is pretty daunting. It's actually a lift-it-yourself weighted broom stick!

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So, as per the link above, when you cross you get to wander straight through the storage yards. There wasn't much happening here this time around though.

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From the middle of the crossing, there's also cool views in either direction!

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Finally, back on the safe-side, there's a good view of the train wash. It just so happened that one EMU needed a clean whilst I was there.

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I then walked all the way to Senrioka Station, getting off again at Kishibe to check out Suita Yards... but I'll throw that into another post.

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26Sep/190

Minami-Ibaraki, Osaka – May, 2019

I can't remember exactly why, but I'd been on the Osaka Monorail again (see all about it here) and alighted at Minami-Ibaraki Station. The goal was to transfer to JR by following the Monorail north and then turning east towards the Aeon Mall, eventually arriving at Ibaraki Station. On the way, you pass under the freight viaduct and then over the JR Kyoto/Tokaido Line. Both actually offer quite nice afternoon/evening vantage points.

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Above you can see the same bridge that I shot the EF66 on previously from Minami-Ibaraki Station itself. The sun was in a really nice position, but there was really little visibility of the freight line from street level! If something did pass, I didn't hear or see it. As I kept venturing north, I passed over the JR lines and saw that there was a direct path to the Aeon Mall. The sun was still up so I checked out the area just across the overpass. It turns out that there was a nice channel to the west of the intersection where one could possibly see some interesting traffic.

As per usual, loitering around long enough got the following...

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All the limited expresses that pass my apartment in Shin-Osaka! I was a little sad that I couldn't get a freight train... or the Monorail + a LTD.EXP in the same pic... so here's just a Monorail.

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The sun was gone and even a local Crane was eating dinner...

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I packed up and proceeded over to Aeon and had a delicious Chicken Katsu Curry with added Spinach!

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