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Tennoji, Osaka – July 2015

I'd forgotten to post about this, and I've been catching up lately on the 'airbnb apartments with railway views' theme... We stayed in an apartment just off Shin-Imamiya Station which had a terrific view of the platforms. It was a busy place every morning and you could see the Ltd. Express trains heading to Wakayama or Kansai Airport.


Of course, you also get all of the Osaka Loop Line (Kanjousen) EMUs stopping through. It's actually quite mesmerising to watch the platforms fill up and empty as each train approaches/departs. A Kuroshio service was blocked from view just as I was taking the following photos...

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Anyway, this apartment is cheap and cheerful and happily supported 6 of us! Convenience stores are nearby. Den Den Town is nearby! Shin-Sekai is nearby! The hosts were also fantastic. Highly recommended.


Virtual Train Trip – Osaka Station to Shin-Osaka Station

For those who don't know, suburban Japanese passenger trains, more often than not, have front windows of which passengers can actually see out of. This is very unheard of in Australia, as the driver's cabin is usually separated from the dangerous passengers by opaque walls.

Therefore in Japan, if you get into the front car of a passenger consist, not only can you see the driver and watch his every move.. you can see out the front of the train and watch as you drive along the tracks!

It's totally mesmerising. Of course, you can then also watch all the gauges and other instrumentation that the driver must control to keep the whole system functioning.

I hereby present a video I took by suction-cupping a GoPro to the front window inside a 223-Series EMU from Osaka to Shin-Osaka.

What you're seeing here is the view on the 'conductors' side of the cabin. When the train is running in the opposite direction, this is the area where the conductor usually works from as the doors switches and guard light controls are all on the wall. It's also a good shelf to store your work bag.

The trip starts with the curve out of Umeda, crossing the Yodogawa before quickly arriving at Shin-Osaka Station. If you want to then see the area afterwards, check out my Shin-Osaka Webcam sightings here.


Osaka – Super Rail Cargo

I've tried before, but always failed. The Super Rail Cargo is an express EMU freight service that runs in the middle of the night and is a hard one to photograph. Turns out though, that Japan doesn't do daylight-savings. Therefore, in summer, in the wee hours of the morning, one has a good chance of seeing this thing on the move.

One service leaves Tokyo whilst the other leaves Osaka, around the same time, nearly every night of the week. I've never tried to hunt down the Tokyo end, as it's sorta out-of-the-way down past Shinagawa. Fortunately, the Osaka side passes through Umeda, on it's way towards (and along) the Tokaido Main Line.

The Stake Out - Fukushima Station

This train runs from Ajikawaguchi yards, along the Yumesaki Line, joins the Loop Line at Nishikujo, passes Noda and then heads north where it branches off the loop at Fukushima. It's even at road-level and there's a level-crossing, so you get an advance notice of anything approaching.

I used my freight timetables as posted here to know when it might arrive. It was my last morning in Osaka, a Tuesday, and I wasn't going to miss it this time.

I was staying in Tennoji and awoke at 4am. There were no train services at that time, so I found a taxi and asked to go to Fukushima Station. The driver alerted that there was nothing to be gained in going there, but I actually stated that I hoped to take a photo and he chuckled and agreed that it was OK.

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It was around 4:40am and indeed still dark.. but I was very happy to have the sun rising.. although on the wrong side for a good shot. There were lively characters coming out of Karaoke venues or bars, but also people making their way to work.

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At 5:05am, the booms triggered and an EF66 with a short rake appeared. It seems this would be ▲59 making it's way from Suita. I think I still had my polariser on at this point, not really knowing the best way to shoot in low light. Hence the photos are quite dark.

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A loop line service came through at 5:12am... meaning that I could've slept in a little later and taken it from Tennoji. There was no way I was going to risk that timing though.

Either way... The gates then activated again and the M250 came through!

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Not the best photos... but for the first time I saw the actual service in flight; whilst I had a camera ready. Success!


Paris, January 2015

So, the goal was to see the TGV La Poste. I'd also been warned.. it'd be dark. Well, it was. Pitch-black. I got to Maisons Alfort-Alfortville early on two mornings and saw the TGV La Poste (two, on one morning) pass. It was too dark to get a shot with the equipment I had. Another morning, I hung around the east end of the Gare De Lyon yards. The result is as follows.

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That, my friends, is the TGV La Poste. I then proceeded to scale the yard on foot, trying to find where the train stopped. It was nowhere to be seen... I have no idea what shed it rolled in to, but it is not visible from any bridge, road or platform.

The land of the TGV

I had seriously underestimated the sheer quantity of TGV rollingstock in France. The variety, too, was much grander than I had expected. My first model train was a Lima HO TGV in orange and grey and it was good to see that this model was still running... although somewhat refurbished.

Anyway, whilst scaling the yards for the yellow one... I took photos to make sure that my entire trip wasn't going to end in a puddle of tears.

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DSC05237 DSC05242 DSC05243 time it'll be summer... it'll be southern France... it'll be at the beach ... and the TGV La Poste will have been discontinued and chopped up.


Kyoto City Tram (WWII Era Japanese City Maps)

Did you know that Kyoto used to have an extensive street-car network? I sure-as-hell didn't and was very happy to find out. This all started due to the post: Early Showa period Kitakyushu tram on JNSForums. Yes, the post describes Kita-Kyushu... well west of Kyoto, but further down Kitayama-san posted the link to the US WWII Military Maps. My eyes then opened wider than before...

Japan City Plans 1:12,500 (U.S. Army Map Service, 1944)

First and foremost, a VERY large thanks to the Library at the University of Texas at Austin. In the archives exists a set of maps of Japanese Cities that was used for military activities against Japan during WWII. These maps are of high quality and provide a snapshot of the layout of towns in Japan during 1945-46. Specifically of interest to me was the city map of Kyoto South.

I was busy inspecting the Umekoji roundhouse to the west of the main station when I saw (what looked like) a moat ... built of railway track. A square border exists on the map, and since Kyoto was the ex-capital, I initially thought it was a fortification. It then became apparent, after looking down the very west 'wall' that it was, indeed, a tram track. There was a specific gap that had the small note: "PROJECTED CAR LINE".

Note: There's maps of a lot of different cities in Japan. Check out the index here. Some notable maps: Kyoto North, Sapporo, Sasebo, Toyama, Nagasaki, Wakayama and Ichinomiya (with good overview of Nagoya). Nagoya actually gets a lot of maps: north-east, south-east, south-west and north-west. The mines in Ogaki get a map and so does Yokkaichi... these are the areas I've visited before around Minoakasaka and Tomida.

There's a lot of data in those maps. They mainly cover industrial/factory areas so that they could've done real damage to Japan's industry. Osaka doesn't seem to get a mention! The closest the maps get are Suita (OK, that's really close), Otsu and Seta, Yokkaichi and Wakayama.. but I'm repeating myself.

Tokyo gets a whole index.

Kyoto City Tram (京都市電)

From the wikipedia article, the Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau ran the 京都市電 Kyōto Shiden Tram Network up until 1978. Ridership reached a peak in 1946, a second peak in 1955 and then progressively dropped towards 1978. The network was then closed in stages.

Studying the WW2 maps showed where the network was at the time. Intriguing, I had never known there was ever an 'outer loop' tram line of Kyoto. Tracing this around, I then found there were lines flowing south-east as well, down to the river adjunct with Inari Station and also south down to Station.

In the map below, you can see the alignment horizontal from the road that stops on the left. It seems there was also a bridge over the canal, but the maps I've seen show that the terminus was on the west bank (Just below the Neko Cafe TiME!!)


And down at Chūshojima, you can see where the trams veered east from their north-south direction into the station. The road indicates where the tram line was. The station building (where the blue station symbol is) was actually the tram terminus.


Umekoji still has a running example

At Umekoji roundhouse in Kyoto, it turns out there's still a functional example with it's own tram line. The museum is to be expanded in the near future, but I assume that the tram-line will survive.

From the shot below, you can see the line running from the south-west clockwise around to the north tip of the precinct.


There also seems to be a lot of preserved street cars around the museum. They're listed as "Umekoji Park", so I don't quite know if this is in the precinct or in the park to the east. I'll find out and update this when I visit the museum next. Read further down to see where the surviving rolling stock are located...

Did they ever finish that projected car line?

Check the map out here, you'll see that the US surveyors indicated that there was a strip of track that wasn't completed at the time. This map was created in 1944 from a miriad of sources. Check the bottom-right of the map to see who they used to create it.


The line is known as Nishiōjisen (にしおおじせん) 西大路線. There are two maps referenced on the main wiki page: the first one seems to indicate that this missing track is between 4th and 7th blocks (Nishiōji Shijo - Nishiōji Shichijo) and the second one doesn't show the outer loop at all!

The wiki page for the actual line indicates that trams were running from the June 3rd, 1935. The line was then extended further north with the connection from 7th to 9th blocks operating from December 12th 1938. If the maps were created in 1944, then their intelligence could have been quite wrong?

Other surviving rolling-stock

Further References

旅鉄おとーはん has a nice gallery here: 懐かしの京都市電ギャラリー. There is also a page with a map of the Kyoto Tram network!
むーさん has a great set of pages with random tram networks from Japan (it seems to be a quiz): 宮さんの全国路面電車アトランダム № 1. "No. 4" is a shot from Kyoto. Also here (No. 3) and then a whole page with shots of the network from 1961.


Declining ridership saw the end of this network... just another city to lose another form of transport. Sydney, Australia is a prime example of this! Will have to check out a few of the old alignments when I'm in Kyoto next.


Steamers in the UK (London 2014)

Have always loved the A4; specifically the Mallard: the fastest steam engine on record and simply put, a beautiful engine. I was over in the UK for NYE and was lucky enough to be there for The Bittern Farewell Tour to Lincoln from Kings Cross. Unfortunately, the tour was all sold out prior to me even knowing about it. In the end this didn't matter as I happily settled for a few line-side photos.

Prior research

The A4 would run on the East Coast Main Line for the start of its journey and I therefore had to find out a good position in correlation with the sun. Turns out there's a great website called SunCalc which allows you to set the date/time and then browse the map to see where the sun will be. I also found a blog post by Jake Miille which gave a little more information on how to use the site.

It seems that, for the most part of the southern end of the ECML, the line runs north-south. This really isn't advantageous as the sun wont be at a good angle. I browsed around the line and had settled on either somewhere near Welwyn or a little further north at Arlesey. The viaduct just south of Welwyn North would've been amazing, but getting there on foot would've been a challenge. Also there was a lot of potential shadow around the stations, so I therefore chose Arlesey.

As I was researching, I stumbled across Trainspots. This sight has an amazing amount of detailed information. You're able to research any location in the UK to determine what travels through, when and where the best photo spots are.

The train was to leave Kings Cross at 7:51am, so the plan was to catch it there and then take a local train to Arlesey, hopefully beating the steamer.

The timetable

7:47 AM	Old Street >> Subway Northern towards Edgware [4 min (2 stops)]
	 7:51 AM	King's Cross St. Pancras
8:22 AM	London King's Cross >> Great Northern towards Peterborough [35 min (4 stops)]	
	 8:28 AM	Finsbury Park
	 8:47 AM	Stevenage
	 8:52 AM	Hitchin
	 8:57 AM	Arlesey
==== VIEW STEAMER PASS Arlesey Station ====

Seems there's also a site to tell you what's actually coming through a location!?

Kings Cross

Beautiful station. Had breakfast at the Savanna Cafe on the concourse as I'd gotten there too early. Tickets were purchased to Arlesey and then I entered the platforms... good to know that you can loiter without too much trouble. Great open space too... turns out there were already a lot of fans hogging the end of the closest platform.

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So... I went to the next platform along. Turns out it's longer and provided a better side-on view!

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And then they were off... I had thought the diesel that dragged them in would have been dead-attached, but it stayed behind at the end of the platform. Always good to see steam under its own power.

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The race to Arlesey

The steamer left in a hurry... I was actually concerned it'd kick my ass and I'd not see it... turns out I was wrong. I caught the next north-bound semi-express and passed the steamer just north of London.

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At Arlesey, a lot of others had the same idea. I must've looked like a regular, as quite a few people asked for information. They were all quite surprised to hear that I'd come on the commuter and beaten the train from Kings Cross.

A few high-speed expresses came through and then we all heard the unmistakable sound of a steam engine powering north.

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The lighting was as expected... could've been better, but I was very happy to see my first ever A4... the fact that it was also pulling its own train made it even better.


The tube was a pretty cool system. Very cramped rolling stock... felt like a rollercoaster between some stations... but nonetheless practical and efficient. I am used to escalators in Melbourne and therefore became fascinated with the staircases in most tube stations.

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Back to Welwyn North

When travelling to and from Arlesey I'd seen this station out the window of the expresses. It seemed that, because of the tunnels and viaduct on either side, the line through this station is only double-track instead of the usual 2-up/2-down. This, of course, meant that all expresses (and there are a lot of them!) have to be timetabled in-between the stoppers. It also meant that the expresses would be full-tilt right on the platform. I was not disappointed...

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Freight Trains?

I'd tried to determine the best locations to find freight trains around London by scouring flickr groups for pictures. One such group, Freight Trains in London, seemed to show quite a few pictures around the Stratford area. I tried to work out by the track layout where the trains would be, but I didn't do too well. An entire afternoon of hanging at stations around Stratford and to the east of the station resulted in zero sightings. As per usual, just as I was about to head back to the hotel a freighter came. I think it was at Canonbury, but I can't be sure anymore.

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...I think I'll go back to London in summer next time...


JR West Thunderbird

I just happened across an eBay auction for a "Thunderbird" 7-Car consist in JNR red/beige livery which very much looked like a JR West Raichō or Kitakinki. After digging a little deeper, it turns out that the seller actually directly translated the Kanji of 雷鳥 to "Thunder bird". This, whilst literally correct, is a mistranslation of the train name which is, of course, the Raichō.

Little did I know that the JR West Thunderbird actually steals its name from the Raichō, which means "thunder bird" in Japanese. The bird is actually the Rock Ptarmigan, a native to the Tate[yama] Mountain Range of the Toyama region (which is where the train[s] travel to.)

Interesting to know that JR West first called the Express the 'Raichō', then released a 'Super Raichō' and then created a new service to the same area with the same name, but this time in english: the 'Thunderbird'.

Going through my galleries, turns out I have more shots of the Thunderbird than I care to remember!

Thunderbird passing Suita JR Tokaido Line to Osaka (from Ogaki) Thunderbird approaching Ogaki Thunderbird heading to Osaka Height limit

Thunderbird passing Suita Thunderbird heading to Osaka Thunderbird heading to Osaka

Twilight Express EF81 104 joins (passing Thunderbird) Thunderbird coming into ShinOsaka Thunderbird enters Toyama Station

Thunderbird paused at Toyama Station Thunderbird paused at Toyama Station_001 Thunderbird Set at Shin Osaka Station

Thunderbird passing Takatsuki Thunderbird passing Takatsuki Thunderbird heading to Osaka

Thunderbird heading to Osaka Thunderbird to Toyama Thunderbird arriving at Toyama

Thunderbird leaving Toyama

The Thunderbird just happens to be one of my favourite EMUs. It's colour-scheme is a little dated, but the design and practicality (opening end-vestibules) is awesome. Not surprisingly, it also reminds me of the Dutch NS Koploper.


EMU Staging Yards, NE Takatsuki

These photos were taken back in January 2008. I'd hired a bicycle and had been dawdling along the Tokaido Main Line from Shin-osaka through to Takatsuki. I'd made it all the way to the staging yards just north-east of Takatsuki (Google Maps seems to indicate the area is known as 'Amanishinocho') before turning around to return to Osaka.

I stopped and took these shots from the pedestrian crossing visible in the map above. I can't quite believe that it isn't an overpass. I don't know if this crossing still exists today.

Towards Kyoto...

Takatsuki, looking at 3 sets of 321 Series towards Kyoto

And towards Osaka...

Takatsuki, looking towards Osaka.


My Favourite Shinkansen: 300 Series

This photo was taken with a second-hand (and then damaged by me) Fujitsu Finepix back in 2006. It was my first meeting with the 300 Series and it was love at first sight.

300 Series Shinkansen

I can't believe they've already chopped this model up.


Battered EF66s at Suita, Osaka

Continuing the trend of top-rated pictures, here's a couple of EF66s (one of my favourite japanese locomotives) light-engine through Suita Depot in NE Osaka.

EF66s at Takatsuki