Rail Fans

Koi-Yamagata Station「恋山形駅」- The sweetly designed Station

image from pbs.twimg.com

Koi-Yamagata Station (Japanese:恋山形駅) is station on the Chizu line, located in Tottori Prefecture, Yazu District, Chizu. This line is operated by Chizu Express Company.  The word "Koi" means "love" in Japanese. This is one of the 4 stations with "love" theme.

This will be a great station to visit with your love one any time of the year. Of course, if you are looking for a romantic Valentine's Day, maybe you want to bring your love one there.

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Kumamoto Electric Railway 5000 Series - Retiring on Valentine day

Kumamoto Electric Railway or Kumaden is a railway company in Kumamoto, the capital city of Kumamoto prefecture. Does Kumamoto ring any bell when you read it? Or maybe I should ridge it to its mascot - Kumamon? If so, maybe I will write more about the area next time.

5000 Series History

Kumaden 5000 Series Image from Wikipedia (Photographer: Sui-setz)

Kumaden 5000 Series Image from Wikipedia (Photographer: Sui-setz)

The 5000 series used on Kumamoto Electric Railway is not a brand new train when it arrived at Kumaden in 1980s. These train sets are Tokyu Corporation's first generation 5000 series used previously in Tokyo. Built in 1950s, which mean they are about  56 years old.

When they arrived at Kumaden, additional features were added such as LCD display and IC-card readers, but due to the light frame, no air-conditional system is added.

In 2004 ATS system was added to 2 sets of rolling stock:

  • 5101A (formally 5101)
  • 5102A (formlly 5102)


5000 Series Special Livery

Sgt. Frog (ケロロ軍曹)Livery. Image from Wikipedia (Photographer: Sui-setz)

Sgt. Frog (ケロロ軍曹)Livery Image from Wikipedia (Photographer: Rsa)

This special livery train run for a year, from 13 Oct 2012 to 12 Oct 2014. 

Other than the livery, the announcement used in the train was by Kumiko Watanabe「渡辺久美子」, the voice actor of Sgt. Frog. 


5000 Series Interior

5102A Interior. Image from Wikipedia (Photographer: MK Products)

5102A Interior. Image from Wikipedia (Photographer: MK Products)

The interior didn't change much since the day it was produced, except the additional of LCD screen and IC card reader.

Service Route

Currently this train is serving the Kamikumamoto Line 「上熊本線」between Kitakumamoto 「北熊本」 and Kamikumamoto「上熊本」. They are only run on Sunday.

Last day of Service

The last day of service will be on 14 Feb 2016. After which, it will be preserved. 

Any rail fans who is going to Kyushu, you may want to try to catch a ride before they are retired on Valentine Day 2016. If you love one is a rail fan, maybe you could bring him or her on a ride on this retiring 5101A and keep it as a lasting memory?

JR Hokkaido-Tokyo Cassiopeia - Moving into history soon

There are several Tokyo-Hokkaido night train services that provide overnight ride from Ueno, Tokyo to Sapporo, Hokkaido. The overnight service for this route was started with Hokutosei 「北斗星」in 1989 followed by Cassiopeia 「カシオペア」in 1999. Hokutosei had retire from this route since August 2015. This left Cassiopeia serving this route.

Cassiopeia travelling between Akabane and Urawa Station. Image by toshinori baba from wikipedia
Cassiopeia travelling between Akabane and Urawa Station Image by toshinori baba from wikipedia

With the news of Cassiopeia service going to be discontinued in March 2016, when the new JR Hokkaidao Shinkansen  Service starts to serve between Tokyo and Hakodate, this would be the end of Tokyo Hokkaido overnight sleeper train service.

image from upload.wikimedia.org

ED79 Locomotive pulling Cassiopeia from Aomori to Hakodate through Seikan Tunnel Image by ウラ人 from wikipedia

Currently the Cassiopeia is pulled by different locomotive along different sections of the journey, with the shared line track between the new Hokkaido Shinkansen and conventional rail in the Seikan tunnel may be the ultimate factor that end this overnight sleeper service. 


  • Ueno to Aomori: JR East EF510-500
  • Aomori to Hakodate: JR Hokkaido EF79
  • Hakodate to Sapporo: 2 x JR Hokkaido DD51 diesel locomotives 

With the increase in voltage to support the JR Hokkaido Shinkansen service, the electric supply will be increased to 25kV from the current 20Kv. This means that the current EF79 cannot travel on the share track in the Seikan tunnel. The freight locomotive has been replace by EF800

Furthermore shinkansen track and overhead line check and maintenance is done at night with the run of Doctor Yellow ( the Shinkansen Maintenance train). This may interrupted by the slower sleeper train through the tunnel. 

Another factors may be the decrease in demand for such service. The price tag range between ¥35,230 to ¥66,540 a person.

Cassiopeia Suit

image from homepage3.nifty.com image from homepage3.nifty.com

Cassiopeia Suit
http://homepage3.nifty.com/ohanefu/ (image 1), http://tetsutabi.seesaa.net/ (Image 2)

Cassiopeia Suit is available on Car number 1 &  2. The picture above was taken in Car number 1. This is the 2nd most expensive room on Cassiopeia at ¥47,720.

It is extreme difficult to get hold of the ticket now, with the news of it operation ending soon, all the date available till  3rd Feb are fully book. You may want to check JR website (http://www.jreast.co.jp/cassiopeia/reserve/) for the reservation detail. Website is in Japanese.

It looks like we can only wait till the service ended and the car transferred to sightseeing cars before we are able to know its new route and be able to book. Even so, we hope to see that it will run special service from Tokyo to Hokkaido when the schedule permit. The locomotive through the Seikan tunnel should pose much issue as it is very likely to be able to pull by the New EF800. 

A station remains in service for just 1 student. (Special Report )

Editor Note: Usually our rail article is on Tuesday when our railfan writer could prepare an article for us. This is a special report which all of us think is worthy to publish as a special report.

JR Hokkaido made a decision to maintain one of its stopping at Kami-Shirataki Station along the Sekihoku Main Line in Hokkaido until 26 March 2016. Currently only 2 trains stop here each day, one for each direction, for just for 1 passenger - A high school student for need this service to go to and from school. 

Kamishirataki station Station No:A44. Image by @Amaris_417 from twitter

Kamishirataki station Station No:A44. Image by @Amaris_417 from twitter


This station was opened in 1932 but over the years with the aging population and decreasing usage, this old station cannot escape the fate of been removed from service.  The track is still in use by other train services which do not stop at this station.

Kamishirataki station Timetable. Image by @Amaris_417 from twitter

Kamishirataki station Timetable Image by @Amaris_417 from twitter

When the high school student graduated this coming march, the station will walk into history.

When a corporate takes such measure, it show a lot about the company  corporate-social responsibility. Not many corporate around the world may want to run a non profitable service for the benefit of just 1 person. 

There are some places around the world where bus routes were merge or even cancelled when the usage drop beyond acceptable revenue level. For this, we really have to take our hat off and praise JR Hokkaido. 


Deepest Train Station in Japan - Doai Station

The extensive underground network of train and metro lines in Tokyo looks like a roller coaster in tube if one looks at its 3D diagram. Even that, the deepest train station by means of relative to the surface is not in Tokyo. The deepest in operation station in Japan is the Doai Station 「土合駅」in Minakami, Gunma, Japan and operates by JR East company.

image from pds.exblog.jp
Doai Station. Image from http://sobatabi.exblog.jp/

This station is about 4 hours by train from Shinjuku, Tokyo via JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line and JR Joetsu Line including 2 transfers. There is a skiing park and ropeway nearby, other than that, there aren't much attractions there ( I will write a little about it), so you have been alerted, don't spend a total of 8 hours just to come here and find nothing except the deep platform.

Stairway to the surface. Image by Rsa, from Wikipedi

Stairway to the surface. Image by Rsa, from Wikipedia

The station has 2 platforms, one is the underground platform at 70m below the surface. The other one is on the surface. The underground rail is for Northbound train to Nagaoka, while the surface platform is for Southbound train toward Minakami.

The number of steps from the underground platform to the surface is 486. 

This underground platform is constructed in the Shin-Shimizu tunnel, when the tunnel opened on 27 September 1967. Originally Doai station was single track and was opened in 1936. 

Doai Station is within the mountainous region, with Mount Tanigawa nearby. This mountain is listed in the top 100 famous mountain in Japan. Since 1930s, over 800 people had died there.

Since it is a mountainous region, winter will turn this place into a winter wonderland.

Winter at Doai Station. Image from wikipedia
Winter at Doai Station. Image from wikipedia

Nearby attraction

  • Tenjindaira ski area via Tanigawadake Ropeway

The ropeway is a bus ride away from Doai Station. If you decide to go to the ski area, please check the official website for weather and other information. The bus is operated by by Kanetsukotsu Bus and it stops in-front of the station. Both the ski area and the bus company websites are in Japanese. 

My advice is that, it might better to take the bus from Minakami Station. The Minakami Station is a major station that provides train service to Ueno in Tokyo, therefore you could get clearer information there. There are also many buses from different travel companies from Tokyo during ski season too.

Yamanote Line 「山手線」 - The new E235 rolling stock

Editor Note:This article is written by our guest writer who is a railway fan. She has gone on for further study, so she won’t be writing here frequently.

Many travellers arriving in Tokyo and plan to travel within Tokyo will be familiar with Yamanote Line. The Line that run through major urban centres and place of interest such as Akihabara, Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Ueno, Yoyogi etc.

"YamanoteYamanote Line E231. image by LERK from wikimedia

This olive green Yamanote line has a long history that is dated back to 1st March 1885 (The late Meiji era). The loop was completed in 1925. The olive green colour that indicates the Yamanote train was introduced in December 1963.

E235 ECU of Yamanote Line. Image by Rsa from wikimedia

E235 ECU of Yamanote Line.Image by Rsa from wikimedia

Priority Zone in E235 Car.Image provided by JR East

Priority Zone in E235 Car.Image provided by JR East

By 2020 in time for 2020 Summer Olympics, the rolling stocks will be completely changed to E235 Electric Multiple Unit (EMU). Physically, the olive green will only be featured on the driver cab and the doors instead of a full solid line across the cars.

The interior of the car will have a total of 9 priority seats and an area for wheelchair or baby stroller located at both end of each car except the end car. For our Singapore readers, each car has a sliding door at each end to separate the cars, different from the metro trains used in Singapore. This could be used for individual car climate control; some cars may not be that cold as compare to others.  

The first E235 was put into revenue service in 30 November 2015 but was pull out of service due to some technical difficulty. The latest update is that JR is putting the ECU into testing from 27 December onward, and if there is no other technical issue, we may see the train in revenue service soon.