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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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25Sep/190

Osaka Monorail – May, 2019

The Osaka Monorail runs a quarter-ring around northern and eastern Osaka. Starting at Itami Airport in the north, it passes through Senri-Chuo Station (the terminus of the Midosuji Subway Line), continues through to Expo City and then turns south, passing through Ibaraki and Settsu before terminating at Kadomashi. There's also a branch at Expo City that ventures north, terminating at Saito-Nishi Station.

From Shin-Osaka, getting to the monorail is quite easy. Catching the Midosuji Line subway at either Nishinakajima-Minamikata or Shin-Osaka Stations and heading north will get you to Senri-Chuo Station for an easy transfer. This is the terminus, so there's no need to really worry about which train you catch, although some do terminate and reverse at Shin-Osaka Station. If this happens, then just alight, wait on the platform and the next one should take you to the end of the line.

Riding the monorail is just like any other train in Japan. Buy tickets or use your Ikoka/Pasmo and then board after people have alighted. Note that, just like most trains, you get a great view out the front. There's also a really cool seat where you can pretend to drive... unless someone else takes the seat... and then just sleeps... because why else would you want the front row?

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During this most recent trip to Japan, my first venture on the Monorail was due to a huge flea market known as Garage Sale being held at Expo Park, just north of Expo City. As mentioned above, the subway was taken north and then the monorail east to Expo Memorial Park Station. This station is fantastic, as to the east is the junction of the two monorail lines and, if you wait for a while at the eastern end of the platform, you'll get to watch the infrastructure deal with the traffic.

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Don't forget to also check out Expo Park... especially for the Tower Of The Sun...

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The flea market was awesome, but I'll post about that another time... also note that there's a Poppondetta Model Railway Store in the Lalaport Shopping Centre at Expo City! There's also delicious food and other great shopping.

From Expo City, the main monorail line turns south, towards Ibaraki. The next station is Minami-Ibaraki, but before you get there you pass under a huge sweeping concrete viaduct that happens to be a single-line electrified freight overpass. This line connects the freight yard in Suita to the yard adjacent to the Shinkansen staging yard in Settsu.

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I checked my freight timetable and timed a trip on the Monorail once more to catch a freight movement on the bridge. Sure, it was only a light engine (from what I could see?) but hey, it's an EF66! After seeing that, I continued south to Minami-Settsu. Prior to arriving at the station though, the Monorail passover over the Ai River, which happens to be a branch of the Kanzaki River. Anyway, the main point? Directly on the other side of the river is a JR Freight yard and straight after that is the Osaka/Settsu Shinkansen Depot!

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You'll find a differing amount of stored Shinkansen there depending on the time of day, but there'll always be at least one and therefore always be something to look at. The Yard is actually longer than 2 16-car shinkansens end to end to facilitate a storage area (closest to the monorail) and then actual cleaning/repair/inspection facilities at the far end.

Once arriving at Minami-Settsu, one can exit to the east and head south to find a land of treasure!

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Otherwise stay at the station and watch the trains coming and going from the crazy white wavy bridge further south. This bridge actually crosses the Yodo River!

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Actually, the view north is pretty cool too!

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If you keep travelling south, you'll end up at Kadomashi, the end of line. The track extends further south, through a crossover and into two end roads and a central lay-over. The best part here is that, if you've come south into the station, chances are good that your train has to run into the central road and turn back. Don't forget to head to the southern end of the platform to watch this happen!

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At Kadomashi, one can make an easy transfer to the Keihan Railway.

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24Sep/190

Higashi Osaka Line – May, 2019

It was finally finished and it was finally my time to check it out! I've written about this before and before and before as it's exciting to see that JR West are continually building/extending/enhancing their network. This new line meant that, since I often stay in the area, one could have direct access to see the freight trains running through to Hirano without needing to hike too far on-foot!

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The line starts at Shin-Osaka and uses platform 2. The train above had terminated an up service at Shin-Osaka Station, but was now on its way back down towards Kyuhoji. It's interesting that they managed to find enough of a slot to have the trains lay-over on platform 2 without causing too much of a timetable re-write. The fact that the trains are allowed to wait for (sometimes up to) 20 minutes at a time is quite interesting as I would've thought that this platform was heavily utilised by limited express services. It seem that crossovers have been installed on either side of platforms 1 and 2 to allow those limited express trains (Kuroshio and Haruka) to only now use platform 1 with no schedule changes!

As mentioned, the line starts at Shin-Osaka Station and heads north-east, following the Tokaido/Kyoto line alignment. Just after Higashi-Yodogawa station, the line splits off the main and elevates, taking you into Minami-Suita Station. This elevated curve and station actually form the fork of a full triangle connecting the Higashi Line to the Kyoto/Tokaido Line. From the northern platform, you can see the other half of the triangle; the path the freighters take to get to/from Suita Yard. Straight after the station is a beautifully curved bridge which you can see under construction here. It takes you across the Kanzaki River into JR Awaji Station. They had to prefix "JR" to the name, as Awaji Station is in use by Hankyu and it's a short walk to transfer between. This is also the easiest station to walk from to get to the northern bank of the Yodo River.

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The shots above were actually from another trip I took where I wanted to be in-time for the first southbound freight through the Higashi Line. It turns out that if you take the first JR service, you'll just miss the first southound freight as the passenger service is scheduled afterwards. Instead, from Shin-Osaka you need to use Hankyu Minamikata Station to get to Hankyu Awaji and then walked across to JR Awaji.

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From JR Awaji, there's also a good view down onto the Hankyu tracks below. Hankyu are currently undertaking a massive bit of construction to elevate their whole line from Juso to Awaji and beyond... and I believe it'll take quite a while longer as these concrete supports have been around for a few years.

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Note that you can also stroll south-west from Hankyu Awaji Station to see the stuffed-and-mounted EH10 in the park just nearby...

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From the northern end of the platforms at JR Awaji, you can see the shinkansen pass! You can also get a good view for southbound freight.

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And then there's also the northbounders!

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From JR Awaji Station, the line heads south and crosses the Yodo River. This bridge is a favourite for railfans in Kansai and used to be just a single lane, with a pedestrian path down one side. This has since been removed to allow the bridge to be dual-tracked.

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I'm surprised they didn't receive bad press for removing the ability for pedestrians to cross the river here. You can now, of course, take the train, but more-often-that-not this was used by bicycles with large loads of stuff....

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The first station after the bridge is Shirokitakoendori. As with all stations on this line, it's brand new and everything is very clean and tidy.

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For some weird reason, I was particularly fond of the design of the escalators. Not just clean and tidy, but the quality and styling! JR West knows how to build a nice station.

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From here it's an easy walk north to get to the southern side of the Yodo River. Stay on the eastern side and follow the bike tracks for some good views.

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There's also some interesting vantage points from the fire escapes of nearby buildings. Just make sure you ask the local residents or authorities if it's OK to take train photos from an elevated position!

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And then the freighter came through! A cute little light engine. My camera perfectly failed at this point with a lens error but I was happy the following shot succeeded.

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The train's next stop is JR Noe Station. Again, this is another station where the 'plain' name was already taken; this time by the Keihan Railway. It's an easy walk to transfer between these two stations and it can be a good path to get to the Osaka Monorail, transferring at Keihan Kadomashi Station.

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From JR Noe, the line travels south before joining the alignment of the Gakkentoshi Line. Just before the junction, you can see a former alignment and triangle where the Higashi Line branched west to a yard next to Sakuranomiya Station. It's now a footpath/cycleway and the yard is long-gone, full of apartment. I'll have to dig up more information on that area. But back to the line in question, after the bridge, the train curves into Shigino Station. Here you can transfer to the Gakkentoshi Line, through to Umeda at Kita-Shinchi Station, or after it turns into the Tozai Line and therefore beyond to Amagasaki or Nishi-Akashi.

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Staying on the train, you'll now approach Hanaten Station and then curve south to finally intersect with the Yamatoji Line to Nara. Before this though, there's quite a few more new stations, where JR have once again had to prepend "JR" to make the names unique: JR-Kawachi-Eiwa Station, JR-Shintokumichi Station and JR-Nagase. Kizuri-Kamikita Station after the list above, is finally a newly-named station, and I made an effort to get here one afternoon for a southbound freighter.

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Next comes Shinkami Station, named "shin-" as Kami Station is already just next door on the Yamatoji Line. Due to the design of the triangle, getting an "internal" transfer seemed impossible, so they went ahead and built two stations.

If you've stayed on-board then you're now approaching Kyūhōji Station - the end of the Higashi Osaka Line! Here you get the best transfers onto the Yamatoji Line to continue onto Nara and further east into Kansai. I actually did this on my previous trip through to Yokkaichi and Sendai.

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23Sep/190

Unleashing An Old 8-bit ISA IO Card

This monster had been sitting in my box-o'-stuff for a while... actually, it seems next month is its three year anniversary in the box... jeesh. This was part of a dismantled 386 PC, used at the Siding Spring Observatory where I assume they needed a lot of IO to control telescopes? Anyway, I've been cleaning/clearing out a lot of junk lately and decided to finally check this thing out. As per that post above, I'd guessed it might be similar to the ACCESS - IOD-64, but I wasn't too sure.

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As you can see it's a full length card with four 50-pin IDC headers along the top. There are very few markings on the card, making it near-impossible to work out who the manufacturer was. The bottom left tag area indicates D6004039 and the top-right IC has a serial number indicating 5215001. The card is 8-bit.

Base IO Header Status

Before getting started with anything like this, record everything you have in its initial state. Take photos of all the switches, all the jumpers, all the traces (handy to point fingers at who scratched what), all the pins, all the headers... one always ends up changing too-many-variables and needs a reference point to return to! Even if that point is incorrect (say 0x220 is a furphy?), it's a base to begin testing from again.

In this situation, I also wanted to know what the four ports were outputting, voltage-wise. Turns out the basic idea is as follows:

01 03 05 07 09 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25
~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v
+12v +12v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v
02 04 06 08 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26
27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47 49
~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v ~1.4v +5v
0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v 0v
28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50

So, the two tables above should be butted together at the 20s... they're just too long to display in one hit. The table, as a whole, describes the first IO 50-pin IDC plug on the board. This is the one closest to the end plate. Note that the port is keyed, that a SCSI cable fits perfectly and that pin 1 lines up with the red wire.

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From the image above, pin 1 is in the bottom-right and pin 50 top-left. We can determine that the even pins (top row) 6 to 50 are all ground/common since you can see them bridged via a horizontal trace. Pins 2 and 4 are providing 12v and pin 49 gives you 5v. I may have accidentally grounded all of these supply lines whilst initially testing, but it doesn't seem to have hurt the card! It did nearly melt my test wire though.

One quick thing we could determine here was the "V/G" jumper aligned with each header. My guess that it was either 'voltage' or 'ground' and would probably control the 'rail' of second pins from 6 to 48. A quick swap of the jumper on the first header proved that assumption totally wrong. Instead, when set to V, as they all were at the start, pins 2 and 4 were 12v. When on G, pins 2 and 4 then became GND, just like the entire rest of the row. This jumper does not affect the 5v on pin 49.

I never did work out what the EDP jumper setting did!

Programming Choices

I was going to install Visual Basic 6.0 (mount it with Daemon Tools) and build a pretty windows form, but I quickly realised that there's no direct hardware access to IO ports? I might dig into that again. Instead I downloaded QBasic 4.5 (it's also on the Win98 CD!) and slapped it in a folder on C:\. Note that if you want to play with QBasic on Windows 7++ then use dosbox.

QBasic supports the INP() Function which simply (and unrestricted-ly) reads a byte from an IO address. I had always thought this was only for serial/parallel ports, but it then occurred to me that any port in the system is really just a direct mapping (hopefully with some electrical isolation) of the data lines into the ISA bus. Therefore, if you give the IO address of anything else on the bus, you'll read data from those locations! Here's a list of standard ports for x86 which can, in this scenario, give you an idea of areas to avoid.

Hardware Configuration

Trying to work this out was a blast.... no, really... it took quite a lot of trial and error. If you look at the images above, you'll see the IO Address setting is set to 0-1-0-0-0-0-0-0, and if you look below, you'll even note a sharpie'd address written on the side of the first IDC port! 0x220 base IO address!

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Crap, that'll conflict directly with any SoundBlaster... if that's what you happened to have installed. Using my new-found knowledge above, I wrote a really simple QBASIC script to get the data from a range of addresses near 0x220.

FOR PORT# = 220 TO 230
  PRINT INP(PORT#)
NEXT PORT#

The output was upsetting... just multiple outputs of the number 255. I wondered what the chances were that the dipswitches had been tampered with? Who knows if that inscription of 0x220 was, at all, correct? At the same time, if my pins were floating, then would the card report a 1 or a 0? Knowing where the supply voltage pins where, I danced around them and grounded a few of (what I expected were) the IO lines.

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I still didn't get any results around 0x220, so I started searching... but, of course, where do I start searching? A DOS terminal screen gives me about 8 good rows of text space in text-mode, so I set a larger offset and started panning through the addresses. Using the IO Port Mapping for x86, I knew there were a few locations to skip and so I just kept digging.

This got pretty annoying after a while, so I went graphical... it really helped the next step!

DECLARE FUNCTION PortIsFree! (portNum#)
DIM DATACACHE(0 TO &H900) AS INTEGER
DIM OnOffPoints(0 TO 128) AS INTEGER
DIM OnPoint AS INTEGER
DIM OffPoint AS INTEGER
DIM COLWIDTH AS INTEGER
DIM ROWHEIGHT AS INTEGER
DIM COLUMNS AS INTEGER
DIM MAXADDRESSES AS INTEGER
COLWIDTH = 8
ROWHEIGHT = 16
COLUMNS = 75
MAXADDRESSES = &H5A
SCREEN 12
RESTORE OffPointData
FOR PY = 0 TO 5
  FOR PX = 0 TO 3
    READ A
    PSET (PX, PY), A
  NEXT PX
NEXT PY
RESTORE OnPointData
FOR PY = 0 TO 5
  FOR PX = 4 TO 7
    READ A
    PSET (PX, PY), A
  NEXT PX
NEXT PY
RESTORE OffCrapData
FOR PY = 0 TO 5
  FOR PX = 8 TO 11
    READ A
    PSET (PX, PY), A
  NEXT PX
NEXT PY
RESTORE OnCrapData
FOR PY = 0 TO 5
  FOR PX = 12 TO 15
    READ A
    PSET (PX, PY), A
  NEXT PX
NEXT PY

OnPoint = 0
OffPoint = 33
otherOnPOint = 64
OtherOffPoint = 80
GET (0, 0)-(3, 5), OnOffPoints(OnPoint)
GET (4, 0)-(7, 5), OnOffPoints(OffPoint)
GET (8, 0)-(11, 5), OnOffPoints(otherOnPOint)
GET (12, 0)-(15, 5), OnOffPoints(OtherOffPoint)
PORTSTART# = &H220
SELPORT# = &H220
PREVSELPORT# = &H220
FIRSTLOOP = 1
DATAOUT = 0
CLS
DO
	DIM row AS INTEGER
	DIM col AS INTEGER
	col = 1
	row = 1
	FOR PORT# = PORTSTART# TO (PORTSTART# + MAXADDRESSES)
		IF (PORT# > 0) THEN
			IF (FIRSTLOOP = 1 OR SELPORT# <> PREVSELPORT#) THEN
				LOCATE row, col
				IF (SELPORT# = PORT#) THEN
					COLOR 12
				ELSE
					COLOR 15
				END IF
				PRINT HEX$(PORT#);
			END IF
			freeport = PortIsFree(PORT#)
			IF (freeport = 1 OR 1 = 1) THEN
				DATAIN# = INP(PORT#)
				CACHED = DATACACHE(PORT#)
				IF DATAIN# <> CACHED OR FIRSTLOOP = 1 THEN
					DATACACHE(PORT#) = DATAIN#
					dotrow = (row * ROWHEIGHT)
					offset = (col - 1) * COLWIDTH
					FOR bit = 8 TO 1 STEP -1
						IF (DATAIN# AND (2 ^ (bit - 1))) THEN
							IF (freeport = 1) THEN
								PUT (offset, dotrow), OnOffPoints(OnPoint), PSET
							ELSE
								PUT (offset, dotrow), OnOffPoints(otherOnPOint), PSET
							END IF
						ELSE
							IF freeport = 1 THEN
								PUT (offset, dotrow), OnOffPoints(OffPoint), PSET
							ELSE
								PUT (offset, dotrow), OnOffPoints(OtherOffPoint), PSET
							END IF

						END IF
						offset = offset + 4
					NEXT bit
					LOCATE row + 2, col
					PRINT "    "
					COLOR 15
					LOCATE row + 2, col
					PRINT DATAIN#
				END IF
			END IF
		END IF
		LOCATE 1, 1
		col = col + 6
		IF (col > COLUMNS) THEN
			col = 1
			row = row + 4
		END IF
	NEXT PORT#
	PREVSELPORT# = SELPORT#
	FIRSTLOOP = 0
	LET K$ = INKEY$
	LOCATE 29, 20
	IF K$ = "q" OR K$ = "Q" THEN
		EXIT DO
	ELSEIF K$ = "/" THEN
		SELPORT# = SELPORT# + 20
	ELSEIF K$ = CHR$(0) + CHR$(77) THEN
		SELPORT# = SELPORT# + 1
	ELSEIF K$ = CHR$(0) + CHR$(75) THEN
		SELPORT# = SELPORT# - 1
	ELSEIF K$ = CHR$(0) + CHR$(72) THEN
		CLS
		FIRSTLOOP = 1
		PORTSTART# = PORTSTART# - MAXADDRESSES
		SELPORT# = PORTSTART#
	ELSEIF K$ = CHR$(0) + CHR$(80) THEN
		CLS
		FIRSTLOOP = 1
		PORTSTART# = PORTSTART# + MAXADDRESSES
		SELPORT# = PORTSTART#
	ELSEIF K$ >= "0" AND K$ < = "9" THEN
		IF (DATASTEP = 0) THEN
			DATAOUT = VAL(K$)
		ELSE
			DATAOUT = VAL(K$) + (DATAOUT * 10)
		END IF
		DATASTEP = DATASTEP + 1
		IF DATASTEP > 2 THEN
			DATASTEP = 0
		END IF
		LOCATE 29, 1
		PRINT "         ";
		LOCATE 29, 1
		PRINT DATAOUT;
	ELSEIF K$ = "s" THEN
		OUT SELPORT#, DATAOUT
	ELSEIF K$ <> "" THEN
		PRINT K$;
	END IF
LOOP
END

OffPointData:
DATA 00,10,10,00,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,10,00,10,10,00
OnPointData:
DATA 00,12,12,00,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,12,00,12,12,00
OffCrapData:
DATA 00,9,9,00,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,9,00,9,9,00
OnCrapData:
DATA 00,1,1,00,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,00,1,1,00

FUNCTION PortIsFree (portNum#)
	IF (portNum# >= &H2F8 AND portNum# < = &H2FF) THEN
		PortIsFree = 0
	ELSEIF (portNum# >= &H170 AND portNum# < = &H177) THEN
		PortIsFree = 0
	ELSEIF (portNum# >= &H1F0 AND portNum# < = &H1F7) THEN
		PortIsFree = 0
	ELSEIF (portNum# >= &H278 AND portNum# < = &H27A) THEN
		PortIsFree = 0
	ELSEIF (portNum# >= &H3B0 AND portNum# < = &H3DF) THEN
		PortIsFree = 0
	ELSEIF (portNum# >= &H3F0 AND portNum# < = &H3F7) THEN
		PortIsFree = 0
	ELSEIF (portNum# >= &H3F8 AND portNum# < = &H3FF) THEN
		PortIsFree = 0
	ELSE
		PortIsFree = 1
	END IF
END FUNCTION

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Ahh... christmas... this now made it very easy for the next step... determination of the IO address switch. If you look at the photo of the monitor, you'll see from 680 that the first and last pins are grounded. This continues for 3 bytes, then skips a lot and continues again. That was the pattern I created on the cables to make it easier to find the card when I was adjusting the switches below.

Decoding the switch for IO address

Here comes the binary! I checked out the manual for that card I mentioned at the very start and it had a very convoluted way of adjusting the port offset. I chose to have more fun with the qbasic app above which simply displays the IO map of the system. Changing the cards' dipswitches whilst the machine was still on instantly affected the bytes displayed on-screen! The pattern of grounded wires, set on the first and last IO ports on the card, made it easy to distinguish... and, well, as dangerous as it sounds, it worked perfectly! The only slightly concerning thing was the address sharing... some of the areas had a duplicated area 0x400 bytes higher in the port table.

SW1 SW2 SW3 SW4 SW5 SW6 SW7 SW8 Output
0x3F0,0x7F0
X 0x1F0
X 0x2F0
X X 0x0F0
X 0x370,0x770
X X 0x170
X X 0x270
X X X 0x470
X 0x3B0,0x7B0
X X 0x5B0
X X 0x2B0
X X X 0x4B0
X X 0x330,0x730
X X X 0x130
X X X 0x230
X X X X 0x430
X 0x3D0,0x7D0
X X 0x1D0
X X 0x2D0,0x6D0
X X X 0x4D0
X X 0x350
X X X 0x550
X X X 0x250,0x650
X X X X 0x450
X X 0x390
X X X 0x190,0x590
X X X 0x290,0x690
X X X X 0x490,0x890
X X X 0x310,0x710
X X X X 0x110,0x510
X X X X 0x210,0x610
X X X X X 0x410
X 0x3E0
X X 0x5E0
X X 0x2E0,0x6E0
X X X 0x4E0
X X 0x760
X X X 0x560
X X X 0x660
X X X X 0x460
X X 0x3A0
X X X 0x5A0
X X X 0x2A0,0x6A0
X X X X 0x4A0
X X X 0x720
X X X X 0x520
X X X X 0x620
X X X X X 0x420
X X 0x7C0
X X X 0x1C0
X X X 0x6C0
X X X X 0x4C0
X X X 0x740
X X X X 0x540
X X X X 0x640
X X X X X 0x440
X X X 0x380
X X X X 0x580
X X X X 0x680
X X X X X 0x480
X X X X 0x300
X X X X X 0x500
X X X X X 0x600
X X X X X X 0x400
X 0x7F0
X X 0x5F0
X X 0x6F0
X X X 0x4F0
X X 0x770
X X X 0x570
X X X 0x670
X X X X 0x470
X X 0x7B0
X X X 0x5B0
X X X 0x6B0
X X X X 0x4B0
X X X 0x730
X X X X 0x530
X X X X 0x630
X X X X X 0x430
X X 0x7D0
X X X 0x5D0
X X X 0x6D0
X X X X 0x4D0
X X X 0x750
X X X X 0x550
X X X X 0x650
X X X X X 0x450
X X X 0x790
X X X X 0x590
X X X X 0x690
X X X X X 0x490
X X X X 0x710
X X X X X 0x510
X X X X X 0x610
X X X X X X 0x410
X X 0x7E0
X X X 0x5E0
X X X 0x6E0
X X X X 0x4E0
X X X 0x760
X X X X 0x560
X X X X 0x660
X X X X X 0x460
X X X 0x7A0
X X X X 0x5A0
X X X X 0x6A0
X X X X X 0x4A0
X X X X 0x720
X X X X X 0x520
X X X X X 0x620
X X X X X X 0x420
X X X 0x7C0
X X X X 0x5C0
X X X X 0x6C0
X X X X X 0x4C0
X X X X 0x740
X X X X X 0x540
X X X X X 0x640
X X X X X X 0x440
X X X X 0x780
X X X X X 0x580
X X X X X 0x680
X X X X X X 0x480
X X X X X 0x700,0x300
X X X X X X 0x500
X X X X X X 0x600
X X X X X X X 0x400
X 0x7F0,0x3F0
X X 0x5F0
X X 0x6F0
X X X 0x4F0
X X 0x770
X X X 0x570
X X X 0x670
X X X X 0x470
X X 0x7B0
X X X 0x5B0
X X X 0x6B0
X X X X 0x4B0
X X X 0x730
X X X X 0x530
X X X X 0x630
X X X X X 0x430
X X 0x0x7D0,0x3D0
X X X 0x5D0
X X X 0x6D0
X X X X 0x4D0
X X X 0x350
X X X X 0x550
X X X X 0x650
X X X X X 0x450
X X X 0x390
X X X X 0x590
X X X X 0x690
X X X X X 0x490
X X X X 0x310
X X X X X 0x510
X X X X X 0x610
X X X X X X 0x410
X X 0x3E0
X X X 0x5E0
X X X 0x6E0
X X X X 0x4E0
X X X 0x360
X X X X 0x560
X X X X 0x660
X X X X X 0x460
X X X 0x3A0
X X X X 0x5A0
X X X X 0x6A0
X X X X X 0x4A0
X X X X 0x320
X X X X X 0x520
X X X X X 0x620
X X X X X X 0x420
X X X 0x7C0
X X X X 0x5C0
X X X X 0x6C0
X X X X X 0x4C0
X X X X 0x740,0x340
X X X X X 0x540
X X X X X 0x640
X X X X X X 0x440
X X X X 0x380,0x780
X X X X X 0x580
X X X X X 0x680
X X X X X X 0x480
X X X X X 0x300,0x700
X X X X X X 0x500
X X X X X X 0x600
X X X X X X X 0x400
X X 0x3F0,0x7F0
X X X 0x5F0
X X X 0x6F0
X X X X 0x4F0
X X X 0x770,0x370
X X X X 0x570
X X X X 0x670
X X X X X 0x470
X X X 0x3B0,0x7B0
X X X X 0x5B0
X X X X 0x6B0
X X X X X 0x4B0
X X X X 0x330,0x730
X X X X X 0x530
X X X X X 0x630
X X X X X X 0x430
X X X 0x3D0,0x7D0
X X X X 0x5D0
X X X X 0x6D0
X X X X X 0x4D0
X X X X 0x350,0x750
X X X X X 0x550
X X X X X 0x650
X X X X X X 0x450
X X X X 0x790,0x390
X X X X X 0x590
X X X X X 0x690
X X X X X X 0x490
X X X X X 0x710,0x310
X X X X X X 0x510
X X X X X X 0x610
X X X X X X X 0x410
X X X 0x3E0,0x7E0
X X X X 0x5E0
X X X X 0x6E0
X X X X X 0x4E0
X X X X 0x760,0x360
X X X X X 0x560
X X X X X 0x660
X X X X X X 0x460
X X X X 0x7A0,0x3A0
X X X X X 0x5A0
X X X X X 0x6A0
X X X X X X 0x4A0
X X X X X 0x720,0x320
X X X X X X 0x520
X X X X X X 0x620
X X X X X X X 0x420
X X X X 0x7C0,0x3C0
X X X X X 0x5C0
X X X X X 0x6C0
X X X X X X 0x4C0
X X X X X 0x740
X X X X X X 0x540
X X X X X X 0x640
X X X X X X X 0x440
X X X X X 0x780
X X X X X X 0x580
X X X X X X 0x680
X X X X X X X 0x480
X X X X X X 0x700,0x300
X X X X X X X 0x500
X X X X X X X 0x600
X X X X X X X X 0x400,0x800

So from above... the magical calculation is... dunno... but the weird sharing of XXX with XXX+400h was confusing and slightly dangerous when both ranges could conflict with other hardware in the system!

Port Mapping

So now we know how to set the base address, how do we then actually work with the data? The card needs 16 consecutive IO Ports, so please make sure you find a space in the address table that has the capacity. You don't want it interfering with other hardware in your system. Actually, the code above gives you a really good idea as to what areas in use and which are free. Also make note of the 'ghosting' that seems to occur with the lower address ranges. The table below expects you've set the above address to 0x220, but this means the data will also be visible on 620! This could easily interfere with an AWE Soundcard.

Port Usage
0x220 CN1 pins 33,35,37,39,41,43,45,47
0x221 CN1 pins 17,19,21,23,25,27,29,31
0x222 CN1 pins 01,03,05,07,09,11,13,15
0x223 Control Register for CN1
0x224 CN2 pins 33,35,37,39,41,43,45,47
0x225 CN2 pins 17,19,21,23,25,27,29,31
0x226 CN2 pins 01,03,05,07,09,11,13,15
0x227 Control Register for CN2
0x228 CN3 pins 33,35,37,39,41,43,45,47
0x229 CN3 pins 17,19,21,23,25,27,29,31
0x22A CN3 pins 01,03,05,07,09,11,13,15
0x22B Control Register for CN3
0x22C CN4 pins 33,35,37,39,41,43,45,47
0x22D CN4 pins 17,19,21,23,25,27,29,31
0x22E CN4 pins 01,03,05,07,09,11,13,15
0x22F Control Register for CN4

Writing to the ports

With the QBASIC code above, you can use the Up and Down arrows to paginate. You can then use the left and right to select a specific address. Use the forward-slash key to skip 10 addresses at a time. Once on an address, you can write a value to the selected port by typing that number in and pressing the letter S. From here I worked out the following:

  • You can only write out values to the bytes if you send a value to the control register first.
  • If you write a number to one of the three blocks of pins, then it'll set all associated bits HIGH.
  • Sending a 0 therefore sets them all LOW, 255 will set them all HIGH.
  • The final control register allows you to set all three bytes to 0 or 255 quickly. But I haven't totally decoded what the required values are.

I'm still trying to ascertain how it works. The EDP jumper seems to determine if one is allowed to send bytes to the ports, but I haven't correctly determined exactly how.
As is, the card could easily be used to control/read binary bits in its default setting.

Let's control a model railway!

This card would've been perfect when I was younger. I remember back at Lyneham Hockey Courts in Canberra, there was an engineer who'd build a smallish model railway at one of the conventions and it was totally computer controlled. There was this hulking XT/AT machine next to the layout with ribbon cables running everywhere. A card with this much IO would've been fantastic for sensors, point control and even throttles. I might do that now, just for fun, using some of the off-the-shelf Arduino modules in my box-o'-junk. Sure, it's cheating, but I'll still be using the full power of the card.

An L298 can provide the throttle, but it needs a variable resistance fed into this. We can use a Resistor Ladder to provide this, as we have so many pins available.

I might just put it back in its box for the next rainy day. If anyone has further documentation on this card, then please leave a comment!

Filed under: Retro No Comments
18Sep/190

Shin-Osaka Station Area – May 2019

Whilst recently staying in the area, I made it my goal to check out all corners of the railway. There's a lot to see around Shin-Osaka Station, so I'll try and document everything I stumbled across!

Staging Yards

To the west of Shin-Osaka Station, there's a large staging yard where all sorts of trains get cleaned/repaired/shunted. I started my walk around the yards from the south-east corner, as that was closest to the apartment.

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Straight up there were interesting things to be seen. The Salon Car Naniwa was stored, not to be going anywhere anytime soon, and the Twilight Express Mizukaze was being cleaned and prepared for an afternoon departure. I started my anti-clockwise walk around the yard.

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There wasn't much to be seen along the northern edge of the yard. Although you can see into the yard, under the shinkansen tracks, you can't really get much of a vantage point as the Tokaido line (for freight and non-revenue movements) runs along the ground level. On the western edge of the yard, there's a level crossing where the Tokaido Line runs out and re-connects with itself. I wonder if this part is actually called the Tokaido Line? It's the track that allows the freight trains to skip Osaka Station.

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The level crossing gives you a good fore-warning of railway events. Unfortunately, I only got to see it trigger once when a Thunderbird was dead-heading from Osaka in to the yard. The Twilight Express Mizukaze was being washed and didn't budge. I'd actually hoped it'd leave this yard via the apartment, but instead it seems to have exited on this west side, turned left at the triangle and proceeded down to Osaka Station.

I continued my lap around the yards, there's something to see over every fence... although you might have to jump!

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Freight Branch

That line I mentioned above splits off from the main line on the northern side of the actual platforms at Shin-Osaka Station. If you follow the road under the station to the west of the lines, then you'll cross the tracks. It's still a level crossing, so you'll know when something is coming.

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If you browse over to the Shin-Osaka Webcam write-up, you'll find interesting things that you can wait here for. Above is the light-engine movements that I've written about. If you see the DE10 run west at around 8am, then you'll have good chances of seeing it drag something east at around 2pm! Extra hint when there's others waiting around!

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Higashi-Yodogawa Station Area

Walking east from Shin-Osaka Station, you can do a lap of the area via the Higashi-Yodogawa Station pedestrian overpass. This station used to have a level crossing which, spanning over 10 tracks, was more-often-than-not closed.

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The station itself has received a huge upgrade, probably because of the new Higashi-Osaka Line changing the track layout quite a bit. The overpass it a bit of overkill... with REALLY LONG ramps to allow bicycles to easily be pushed over the hill.

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Walking down the southern(eastern?) side of the line, I realised I was in direct frame for the Shin-Osaka Webcam. It was dusk, so I used the flashlight on my phone to annoy the locals.

If you look really closely in the video above, I'm standing for the first 4 seconds to the left of the pedestrian underpass tunnel entrance. I'm wearing a white t-shirt and I hold my phone above my head to shine a tiny little white light for a few seconds. I then walk to the right, mid-way into the frame, to the next street corner and do the same again with my phone.

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Here's the neighbourhood in more light! Can you spot where the camera might be!?

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Shin-Osaka Station

Finally, the station itself! You'll see all sorts of services passing through here. Most stop, as it's the major connection to the Shinkansen above. Freight pass on the northern-most lines, either directly past the station (and the yard mentioned above), or through the station, past the apartment and down to Ajikawaguchi.

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With all the departure boards, you'll know exactly what's coming and going... I'm going to finish this article with a shot from 10 years ago, on the same platform, in what-feels-like another lifetime.

The Twilight Express pulls into ShinOsaka

Ahh... loco-hauled sleeper trains... I miss you.

Filed under: JPN No Comments
11Sep/190

Shin-Osaka Apartment – May 2019

It's just occurred to me that I've been visiting/staying at this apartment for well-over 10 years now. I first found it via a google search for "long stay apartments" in 2007, when I was planning my first longer-than-usual trip to Japan. The goal was to spend time away from Australia whilst switching jobs... avoiding all those funny clauses in IT contracts.

It turns out the advertisement is still online, 12 years later! Note that the TV/Video doesn't exist anymore... it was analogue terrestrial and, well, I don't think I ever turned it on for longer than 5 minutes... although... Japanese TV Commercials are pretty hilarious. Especially when you have no idea what's going on and just catch the odd (weirdly placed) English adjective. There also is no PC... but there is amazing wifi... Fiber to the wall is the bessssst.

The Location

The apartment is located 10-minutes-walk south of Shin-Osaka Station. I've also proven that it's located a 5-minute-run south! Every now and then, one might wake up late, or take too long getting ready, to realise that their Shinkansen wont wait... And so... One doth run. You also have the Nishinakajima area just south of the apartment, with it's Hankyu Station, Subway Station and host of amenities. There's even a Sega world with original arcade games!

Right near the apartment is a Lawson and a Famimart. Under the railway bridge to the west is a Coco Ichiban Curry House, Daily Yamazaki, Post Office ATM, Yayoiken, MOS Burger, etc... The list goes on! There's a real post office just north-east of the apartment and the staff are very friendly and helped me send some large boxes this time around.

The View

The apartment, unfortunately, faces to the east. Fortunately, the main stairwell (actually, and the fire-escape spiral stairwell) have great views of the main line between Shin-Osaka and Osaka Station.

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Of note, to the right are two repeater signals that you'll want to keep an eye on. Three vertical lights indicates a green signal ahead, diagonal is caution and horizontal is stop.

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They're both at stop above. This can be very handy when trying to work out if a northbound train is operating.

The video above was taken over the course of a fortnight... all services seen are described below.

What can you expect to see?

There's around 8 freight services per day, and on any day at least 75% of those will run. Some might just be loco provisioning whereas others are full services down to Ajikawaguchi. You'll also get all of the north-east Tokaido Line express passenger services. Sometimes there's also random freight movements with DD51s. Of course, the Twlight Mizukaze also passes through on some of its journeys.

So, where to start? Let's get up at 0455 in the morning! First you'll get a southbound freight train... and then the M250 Super Rail Cargo. Note that it doesn't run on Sunday morning.

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Of course, trains this early are only really visible during the summer months when the sun rises very early; thanks to Japan not using daylight savings. The next sweet spot for freight is between 11:15 and 11:55am. Three are due in this period. Sometimes they're just light engines, other times provisioning.

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Some of the shots above were also taken around 4pm, where you'll get two more freights in a half-hour window. Below, we have the odd movements, which I happened to fluke. Note that the Shin-Osaka Webcam comes in really handy here! It gives you visibility north of Shin-Osaka Station which'll give you enough time to put pants on, run outside and get your happy snaps!

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Above is a DD51 towing two Kansai Main Line DMUs southound. I assume these were going via Osaka, anti-clockwise via the Osaka Loop Line (they'd have to reverse to go clockwise), through Tennoji and then east to their depot?

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Meanwhile that HD300 got towed back and forth quite a few times!

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Plus the other express passenger services...

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And then, of course, the main event!

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Trackside - Green Pedestrian Bridge

In the shots above, you can see a green pedestrian bridge running parallel to the tracks. This is a pretty good point in the afternoon when the sun is on the right angle. Of course, the weather doesn't always have to agree... either way, I checked it out when the Mizukaze was due.

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Right before it came through, I had a trifecta of expresses!

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It's a really mean-sounding train... all-diesel so it can run along the entire 'west' coast of Japan.

The Bridges Over The Yodogawa

If you follow the main road (turn right at Family Mart) that runs parallel on the eastern side of the railway, you'll end up on the northern bank of the Yodogawa. This area happens to be a 10 minute walk, just south of the apartment, and provides a nice view of the railway lines. Before getting there though, you have to cross the Hankyu lines. There's then a pedestrian bridge over the road that also gives you a nice bit of elevation.

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From here, you then just get to stare at the JR lines...

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Of course, I was here for a good reason...

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I'll wrap up the apartment post here and post a few more articles soon about other places to visit in the area!

Filed under: JPN No Comments
6Sep/190

Katsura, Kyoto – May 2019

I made a pitstop in Katsura on my way back to ShinOsaka from the Eizan Dentetsu in north Kyoto. I'd seen from Google Maps that there was a Hankyu depot here and I wanted to check it out. I was also using Hankyu to return from Kyoto, transferring off Keihan at Gion-Shijo.

Katsura Station

This is the junction where the Kyoto and Arashiyama lines join. From the station, a short walk north will get you right next to the Katsura depot. I wandered around on-foot, to see what I could from the street.

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Straight up, no disappointments! The 4053 maintenance train was sitting right at the end of the yard, just begging to be photographed.

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The yard is perpetually busy, with trains being constantly shuffled in and out.

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I then followed the elevated Arashiyama Line to the magical land that time forgot.

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Well, to the magical land that equipment, of which time has forgotten, gets deposited!

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There were some beautiful old macintosh desktops in this branch, as well as a lot of interesting musical equipment!

Hankyu Kyo-Train

Most station platforms on the Hankyu Kyoto Line have stickers on them advertising the Hankyu Kyo-Train. I had totally forgotten about it and failed to plan it into my journey. It runs at specific times on weekends only! I did have one chance to see it though. I had just been to the Hard-Off above and was dawdling back to Katsura Station. It occurred to me that the Kyo-Train would be making its final run from Kawaramachi to Umeda as I was wandering to Katsura... and... if I ran (in the rain) I could get line-side to see it.

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Total fluke! The livery isn't too different to a standard 6000-class, but the interior is meant to be beautiful. Hankyu are always fitting a consist out like this, so I'll make sure I catch the next one, next time I'm in Japan.

Filed under: JPN No Comments
3Sep/190

Eizan Dentetsu, Kyoto – June 2019

After three weeks of gallivanting around Japan, my rail pass had run out. But thanks to some intricate planning, I'd already been to the southernmost point, westernmost point, northernmost point and easternmost point of the JR network. It was therefore time to check out places much closer to the apartment in Shin-Osaka. The following location just happens to be one of my favouries and, yes, I've been here quite a few times before.

Getting to the Eizan Railway

From Shin-Osaka, you've got a few methods to get to the north-east of Kyoto. One way could be to take any JR service to Kyoto and then transfer to either a bus or the subway. Another is to take the Midosuji Subway from Shin-Osaka or Nishinakajima-Minamigata south to Yodoyabashi Station and then Keihan straight through to Demachiyanagi Station. Finally, you can do the same with Hankyu, hopping on at Minamikata Station, transferring to a Kyoto-bound service at Ibaraki and then transferring once more to the Keihan Railway at Kawaramachi Station. This final option lets you walk across the famous bridge over the Kamo River at Gion-Shijo!

I ended up going a totally different way. I'd already checked out Demachiyanagi, and would end up there at the end of the day, so I chose to ride the subway from JR Kyoto all the way to the northern terminus at Kokusaikaikan Station and then walk over to Hachiman-Mae Station.

Hachiman-Mae Station

This is the first station on the Kurama Line after the Hieizan line splits to the east. As the name mentions, it's in front of the Hachiman Shrine, up the hill, to the north-east. I haven't ventured up to that one yet, but the photos look amazing. Meanwhile, here's Hachiman-Mae Station...

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This time the goal was to see the new maple-green Kirara, so the waiting game begun. Thanks to the frequency of the line, even on a Sunday, it didn't take long to see a service.

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The maple-orange Kirara then came northbound!

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The design of these vehicles is amazing and many awards have been won. I still haven't actually travelled at night, when the forests are lit during Autumn, because supposedly that's when the design really lends its hand to showing the passengers the beauty of the area. From the inside, you really get the idea of the view... the forest totally engulfs you.

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Whilst heading up the hill, the maple-green consist passed southbound. I must admit, I miss the maple-red. The green is quite intense... and yes, it perfectly matches maple leaves, so it's still in the grand scheme of the colouring, but...

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This was actually great timing. I'd chosen a location just south of Ninose Station and now I could approximate when this livery would pass.

Ninose Station

Yup, yup, yup... been here before... check over here for some beautiful photos in the snow. It's a station nestled in a valley with a small town right next to it. There's some beautiful galleries and cafes to enjoy, but there's also a fantastic viewpoint where the railway passes high over a river and roadway just south of the station.

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We arrived and had to wait for the southbound EMU to pass... after this, the precinct was beautifully vacant. There was the odd cicada, but the overwhelming sound was that of the water rushing south down the mountain.

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As I was waiting a random bunch of joggers were heading downhill. Did they take the train to the top first?

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From the station there are two relatively steep staircases at either end of the platform. Due to the dampness of the forest, they can be quite slippery, so do be careful.

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As you're descending, the view is fantastic.

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Actually, that logging is a bit of an eyesore... but I'm sure it'll grow back quickly. A short stroll down the road will get you to the rail bridge just south of the station.

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Finding a good angle was actually quite a challenge. I had my 18-200 "all-rounder" on, but the widest angle wasn't really wide enough... or maybe it's due to the slope of the road... or maybe I just always seem to take photos on an angle... just look at all my posts!

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The first EMU passed. It was easy to hear coming as there are quite a few curves prior to the bridge. There's also a signal which some of the following services stopped at. This one also hit its horn and seemingly came to a sharp stop, but it was out of view when it did so. Note that this is the EMU that we saw heading south from Hachiman-Mae Station above. We know that maple-green was following it southbound, so it should be next!

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There are only two stations to north past Ninose, so the maple-orange EMU I came on was the next service to pass southbound. After this had shot past, I checked out the area. Thanks to google, I knew I had around 20mins until the next pass, so I dawdled around and gandered at the gallery and tearooms just on the other side of the bridge. Much much too fancy for me, so I quickly retreated back into the shadows... no one wants to be out of position when a train is about to approach!

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Lots of overgrown old infrastructure mixed with beautiful houses. Everything is also so green!

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I seem to have been mistaken. I promised the maple-green service as the next northbound, but it turns out that there's more than one beige two-car EMU operating! Hah. Ok, it must be the next one?

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Nope, the next service was a monkey. No wonder the trains have been stopping and hitting their horns!

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Ah, OK, the green isn't such a bad match when it's buried in forest scenery. The driver had to pull right up to wait for the monkey to get out of the way. I wanted to catch this service southbound and had now seen all the liveries, so I proceeded back to the station. There is honestly something interesting to look at wherever you turn your head.

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After a bit of dawdling, maple-green arrived to take me back to Demachiyanagi.

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There was one more EMU to see on this line and I'd flukely timed it perfectly to meet it at the terminus.

Demachiyanagi Station

I'd seen drawings and then photos of this EMU, but had no idea what it really looked like. I was a little worried. Most reviewers had reported it to resemble the magic mirror from snow white, or just some other kind of ghastly portal to another universe. I think I have to agree with them... but then again, in reality it's a stunning design!

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It was timed to head up to Hiei right as I arrived, so I didn't get to check it out further.

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From here it was a quick trip to Katsura for the usual delights...

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30Aug/190

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 Reservations to the next day as the entire service is reserved and one must make sure they have a seat!

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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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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Higashi-Nemuro

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!

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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.

Kushiro

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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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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29Aug/190

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!

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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.

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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.

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Before-long we had arrived at Nayoro.

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...

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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...

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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.

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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!

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