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Tokyo International Container Terminal – July, 2017

The initial plan was to get to the Tokyo City Flea Markets. Who can resist a good bargain? And I've seen photos of stalls with railway memorabilia! Unfortunately, a little bit of drizzle CANCELLED THE ENTIRE MARKET. Funnily enough, we weren't the only people disappointed; quite a few locals walked past and shared our agony when they read the 'we are closed' sign.

Anyway... I had an ulterior motive... There's a shinkansen yard and freight terminal to the east, not a 20 minute walk away, that I wanted to check out and, fortunately, my comrades obliged when they had nothing else to do in such a remote location of Tokyo!

The map above shows you a terrible walking route from the Markets (M) to the Freight/Shinkansen Yards (Y). It's around a 20 minute walk and it drizzled the whole way! Fortunately there is some tree cover on the east side of the river.

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The yard happens to be huge and there's always a consist being built up or broken down.

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The M250 Super Rail Cargo was sleeping in the yard... it actually looks like these units had been put in storage? They weren't looking as top-notch as the regular runners?

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Of course, Shinkansen are staged here too...

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And then it happened...

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Doctor Yellow has a home here! I thought it always returned to Hamamatsu, but here it was, happily resting before its next duty! Shooting through the railings proved a challenge, but it was great to see the unit in the flesh.

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From there it was another dreary walk back to the Monorail Station at ŌiKeibajō-Mae Station which is part of the Tokyo Monorail.

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Note that you can see horsies from the station if you look out the windows towards the race track!

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So, it was a sad trip thanks to a cancelled flea-market... but, all's well that ends well when Doctor Yellow makes an appearance!

17Oct/170

Akihabara, Tokyo – July 2017

Following on my thread of airbnb apartments with train views, here's a beautiful apartment in Akihabara with a good view of the Chuo Main Line and the Sobu Main Line. It's, as to be expected in Japan, a small studio-style apartment which comfortably fit 3 of us and, thanks to being in close proximity to Akihabara and some great restaurants, never left us inconvenienced!

Of course, I could stay in a pig pen, as long as the balcony had something to look at...

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Yes, Platnium Fish Cafe (previously known as N3331 Bar and Cafe) in Maach Ecute on the old Manseibashi Train Station is just there... on that platform on the curve next to the building!

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That's better... check that view out! Right up front is the Chuo Main Line, and up the back in amongst the buildings of Akihabara is the Sobu Main Line. I must admit though, there's a lot of standard passenger traffic over limited expresses. But then again, you do get some cool movements. We arrived on a Thursday night and the next morning ~0700 a Super Azusa consist dead-headed west and then another (or maybe the same) returned east. I didn't have my camera ready and this didn't happen on Saturday or Sunday morning! A little sad as they're slated for the recycle center once the new model comes out.

Either way, it's still a fantastic location to sit back with a few tinnies from 7/11 and you'll get enough Limited Express Shiosai or Ayame on the Sobu Main Line as well.

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Sheesh... I need to work on my angles! I promise the track is level.

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An Azusa consist also takes the Sobu Main Line on a single inbound AM service and outbound PM service, getting people to and from Chiba.

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Anyway, I can only recommend this place if you need quick access to Akihabara and like trains! It's also an easy commute from Narita; just take the Skyliner to Nippori and transfer to the Yamanote Line clockwise.

16Dec/160

Tokyo, Japan – November 2016

After a lovely t-shirt-and-shorts-weather 25 degrees in Miyazaki, it was colder in Osaka. A few days later we arrived in Tokyo to a pleasant day, somewhat similar to Osaka weather.

After failing to correctly find a good location in the Urawa area last time, I had decided this time it was time to venture onto the Musashino Line and check out the freight as they branch down from the north.

Nishi-Urawa Station

This station is located to the west of Musashi-Urawa station and forms the left leg of the triangle with the Tohoku Line. Because of this, any freight that wants to head west uses this line to bypass the city. I arrived there on a really nice pre-winter afternoon and the setting sun provided a very surreal glow on all trains approaching from the east.

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You can tell you're in the right place when there's already a row of fans blocking your first shot :)

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I saw one express passenger train, but it wasn't until now that I realised it was a school excursion! The kanji is 修学旅行.

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Next up was an EMU transfer. Totally fluked it.

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Back to Minamisenju

I'd stayed in hostels here before, but this time I chose AirBNB. The apartment was in Arakawa-ku and had an amazing view of the Joban line, right after the freight line joined from the Sumidagawa Yard.

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There was a constant barrage of passenger trains, including express trains.

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And then the odd freight train!

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Having a beer on the balcony provided a perfect end to a fun day. The weather was getting eerily cool though.

First Tokyo November Snow in 54 Years?

WTF... it was freezing. What was happening... the sunset was amazing the evening before... where'd the heat go?

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Hahaha... that is ACTUALLY snow. And the flakes are huge. It's even settled around the neighbourhood already!

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Venturing out into it saw that the trains were actually struggling. Quite a few delays and a few track faults? I always laugh when Melbourne fails in the heat but never expected Japan to be caught unawares.

Back to Nishi-Urawa, the long way...

As that I was staying right next to Minamisenju Station, and knowing that freight traversed the Musashino Line, a direct path was cut to the closest Musashino Station. This happened to be Shin-Koshigaya Station on the Tobu SkyTree Line. Initially a local train was taken, but a transfer to an express occurred halfway down the line when the delays meant that the local would take a lot longer than expected.

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The snow was simply beautiful and not getting any lighter. It was actually making it pretty hard to focus on the trains over the large flakes!

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At Shin-Koshigaya Station, lunch was had at Matsuya. Once thawed out, we entered JR Minami-Koshigaya Station and departed for Nishi-Urawa once more.

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Even in the snow, there were still avid fans taking photos.

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This shot was nearly totally blocked by the EMU. My fellow photo taker got a little excited!

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An umbrella would've been a really great idea... keeping snow off the lens was a challenge.

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From there it was off to Akihabara...

Night Time in Minamisenju

Japan is always picturesque at night, so we went for an urban crawl photographing the scenes whilst trying not to freak out the locals.

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That last shot is a bit of cool street art depicting the Arakawa Street Car line that has a terminus just around the corner.

Freight at Mikawashima Station

The next day was back to brisk but sunny weather, so we checked out the area to the west of the apartment.

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The freight line drops away from the Joban Line at Mikawashima Station and there are a few level crossings to be taken advantage of. Unfortunately, the lighting in the morning isn't good for west-bound trains.

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Arakawa Toden Line

This is a small tram line running in the inner-north of Tokyo. It's all single-car EMUs and runs light rail at the east end.

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Most of my photos are in the shade as the line runs between tall buildings most of the time. I recommend checking it out later in the day!

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Last day in Minamisenju

A final shot from the balcony in the late-morning sun provided great lighting!

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The one location I haven't mentioned yet is the Sumidagawa Freight Yard which was just east of where I was staying. I've been here before a few times and have never been disappointed. There's always something being shunted, as well as services departing and arriving. This time they have a new hybrid shunter!

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And that was a wrap.. I'll post two more articles on Tokyo. We stopped through the N3331 Cafe in Ochanomizu and also ventured into Narita town itself as Jetstar delayed our flight!

1Aug/160

Tokyo – July 2016

The cheapest flight to Amsterdam favoured a return leg via Tokyo. Why just transit when you can stop over for two days? I've never really spent much time in Tokyo; My university was partnered with Kansai Gaidai and so most of my friends are living in the Osaka area. Due to this, I'd googled and facebook'd a few locations of interest...

Ochanomizu Crossing

right alongside Akihabara, you'll find Ochanomizu station. This station is located on the Chuo Line, right on the banks of the Kanda River. Two JR lines and the Metro intersect here and the scenery is fantastic. I took the Metro to Shin-Ochanomizu and walked 10 minutes to the bridge. Afterwards it was a further 5 minute walk to the middle of Akihabara.

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It just so happened to be raining... but nothing was stopping me from checking out the operations. I reckon in peak hour you'll have a high chance of getting a train on each track.

Tsurumi Line

This branch line (although it has physical connections at the far end) serves multiple industries in south-western Tokyo. It actually has multiple branches in itself, with specifically-timed services.

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The Tsurumi area is nearly all industrial and houses large warehouse/manufacturing plants for Toshiba, Shell and many others. You'll be presented with sidings of oil containers and other freight areas as you make your way down the line. Each factory seems to have it's own connection to the line.

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There doesn't seem to be any coupling/uncoupling at intermediate stations, so all trains have a single destination and the passenger must stay aware of this when boarding at Tsurumi.

Tsurumi Station

Tsurumi Station provides a transfer point to-and-from the Keihin Tohoku Line. Note that the Tokaido Line does not stop at this station!

Transferring involves heading up the escalator to the the station concourse. Walking north, you'll see the Tsurumi line trains waiting at the platform as they are elevated.

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Do make sure that the train you're about to jump on goes to your target station. Due to the multiple branches, there are specific interleaved services that travel to the individual factory terminals. I jumped on the regular service that goes via Hama-Kawasaki to Ogimachi. At Hama-Kawasaki you'll find a whole lot of freight activity, so it was high on my priority list.

Hama-Kawasaki Station

This station is actually the intersection of the Nambu Line and the Tsurumi Line. There is also a main freight trunk that connects Tokyo Freight Terminal (via a series of tunnels) to the Tokaido Line.

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This station is made of two parts and passengers, when using an electronic tickets, do NOT need to touch on/off when transferring. There are specific notices to prevent this. It also seems that photographers have haunted the place for a while! That sign about being careful whilst taking pictures is not new!

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A poor little critter has been abandoned in the yard right next to the Nambu Line Platform and it seems the environment is trying to reclaim it.

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Waiting on this platform, chances are good you'll see oil trains come to and from the yards to the south. You'll also see container trains bolting through the curve and turning north to the Tokyo Freight Terminal.

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I then walked a lap of the area. There are multiple level crossings and overpasses which provide vantage points in every direction. Of note is the viaduct that runs over the top of the station. Seems to no longer be in use, but would've been handy to allow through running previously. I am assuming that the Tokaido freight connection used to be further west, instead of coming down the Nambu Line?

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During my lap, I found the following. A collection of old prints that would've been hanging in a station building or staff quarters? I was on an overpass, so could not inspect closer... there was a line-side building that had been demolished, so they could've possibly come from there. Unfortunately it looked like their fate was sealed.

Kawasakishimmachi Station

I took a Nambu Line train from Hama-Kawasaki and got off here. This station is parallel to the freight lines, but doesn't give you the best vantage point. Either way, expect to see a lot of them pass.

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Of note around the station are a bunch of cool portable storage containers. Personal, private storage that you can rent. Those pink doors in that last photo show the containers. I saw two people using them whilst I watched the freighters pass. There's also a cool underpass between the platforms; I really (and I can't explain why) love the black paint and tubular formation.

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More freighters and then a hospital train? Also the local EMUs.

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Kita-Urawa Station

I've been a member of a Facebook group for a while where Japanese locals are always posting freights from the northern-Tokyo region. All of it seems to be centered around the Urawa area. There's a triangle here where the Musashino Line joins the main north-south Tohoku Main Line.

At Kita-Urawa Station you have the local trains on your platform... but then there's six other tracks to the west that provide express access into Tokyo. You'll see a range of freight and express passenger services here. I got off at this station as I'd already seen train buffs with their cameras out. I wasn't disappointed, but the camera angles weren't what I was expecting.

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Next time I'll traverse the Musashino Line and see what else is operating.

Shimbashi Station

C11 282 is stuffed-and-mounted here. It's a nice forecourt for the station. It's also a designated smoking area! How funny... humans can puff smoke just like the old Kikkansha used to! The area is called the "SL広場 新橋駅西口広場" which translates to Shimbashi Station West Exit SL Plaza.

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As with every trip to Japan... I get that feeling that I've hardly skimmed the surface.

28Aug/150

Vintage IMAI.S.S. Power Supply Voltage Conversion

I've recently returned from Japan and have brought a loot with me. Whilst in Tokyo, there was the annual Antiques Jamboree at Odaiba and I happened across a box of HO KTM brass that I could not refuse.

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This set included a lot of track, two powered locomotives, rolling stock and a power supply. Thanks to the age of the kit, the power supply was 110v only. Preliminary testing in my Tokyo hotel proved that everything was in fantastic working order. I assume this box has been in someone's cupboard for quite a while.

Don't plug anything rated at 110v into Australian sockets

You don't want to try this at home. Our powerpoints are more than double the voltage of that in Japan... I wonder if this explains why we have a ground line. Either way, any Japanese equipment that is not dual-voltage will bake if you plug it in. This beautiful old transformer would never handle it's new home.

I had the option of chaining in a power converter, but this would have been tedious. In fact, this is my first 110-only product and I would've needed to purchase a step-down transformer. Instead I chose to pull the thing apart and replace the transformer.

What were you expecting? Integrated Circuits?

I opened up the power supply and felt that I'd opened a treasure chest. I could pick out the potentiometer for the throttle, the switch for the direction and the transformer. The final component needed to be a bridge rectifier to convert the AC to DC, but it ... didn't look like one at all.

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Following the wires, it seemed that there were 5 contacts on the device I assumed was the rectifier. A little googling informed me that this is a vintage metal rectifier with selenium insulation acting as the diodes. Very cool actually.

Purchasing a replacement transformer

Jaycar is my local electronics store of choice (if not the last available store in Australian cities) and perusing their site came up with a valid substitute.

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There were quite a few to choose from, actually. As the amperage went up, so did the weight. I assume the copper coil mass dictates how much current the transformer can deal with.

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Transformer transplant

This all went quite swimmingly. The existing wiring was labelled for safety-sake.

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It turns out that the 110v input wires were hardly twisted and taped together. I would hope that this wasn't an original factory job... but as far as I know this is a Japanese brand and this should have been the original factory plug. Quite interesting... let alone dangerous.

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Once the 110v transformer was out, the new transformer was soldered and then bolted in.

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It just fit. I mean.. a few millimeters more and we would've had to determine if Jaycar does returns.

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The 240v feeder was passed in and the wires were heatshrinked, the rest were soldered in place as per the previous construction.

Plugging it in...

With breath held, I plugged the transformer into the power board. It worked. The light lit dimly and no smoke came out.

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I rigged up a quick test track from the box of treasure purchased in Japan and tested the KTM ED100 that also came with it. After a little wheel and track cleaning the locomotive started bolting along.

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Success! This transformer is solid... although has zero short-circuit protection! Smoke started to appear during a motor short.. but I couldn't determine the source... I'll make bloody well sure in the future that shorts don't last too long.

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The directional switch is momentary unless you force it to either extremity. This is a nice touch as you can set your speed and then pulse the direction as required.

After running my brass EF62, I found a screw left on the track... the downfall of brass locomotives is that they're bound to shake things loose eventually!

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I was nothing short of ecstatic to have found this box at the antique fair in Tokyo.

5Aug/150

Tokyo Freight: Shinjuku Station

So you're in the big smoke for the day and want to see a freight train? The best advice I can give you is to head on over to Minamisenju as Shinjuku sees very little activity. On the off chance you can't do this, please refer to the table below.

Timetables

The timetable covering Shinjuku station incorporates two paths through Tokyo. The major path is the branch to Sumidagawa Freight Terminal (aka Minamisenju) and secondly the less-busy line through Shinjuku Station to Shin-Tsurumi yard. It seems that trains choose a path south from Omiya and split at Tabata Station to either destination.

I'll just cover the freight through Shinjuku for now.

Southbound Omiya Tabata Shinjuku Shintsurumi
Service Origin Depart Pass Pass Arrive Comments
▲3080 ~ (▲3071) Sapporo 0205 0226 0254 0314 ▲ = X間-Y間 月曜日運休
(Not Mondays between Aomori[Junction]-West Hamamatsu)
3086 ~ (3075) ~ (3073) Sapporo 1135 1152 1212 1227
4070 ~ (5072) Sendai 0214 0236 0256 0326
8086 Sumidagawa !! 1449 1509 1528 !! = Starts at Sumidagawa at 1402 to Tabata by 1410.
8572 Utsunomiya 0209 0231 0251 0320
8588 Utsunomiya 0454 0512 0532 0554
Northbound Shintsurumi Shinjuku Tabata Omiya
Service Origin Depart Pass Pass Arrive Comments
(▲3070) ~ ▲3081 West Hamamatsu 0246 0301 0321 0340 ▲ = 日曜日運休 (Not Sundays)
(3090) ~ (5090) ~ 4081 Nagoya 0227 0249 0309 0334
(96) ~ (5096) ~ 4083 Nagoya 0446 0502 0522 0543
8089 Yokohama Hazawa 1528 1551 1611 !! Proceeds to Sumidagawa at 1743 after Tabata. NOT Omiya.
8171 Kawasaki 0300 0320 0340 0407
8585 Kawasaki 0515 0532 0552 0618