New Train

I have a new train for the layout, the first since last December. This is an outer-commuter version of the E233, the Tōkaidō Line E233-3000. It’s actually two trains, as I bought both the 10-car (Kato 10-1114 & 10-1115) and 5-car (10-1116) sets, and the two both include motors. I haven’t had mine apart yet, but it supports DCC and the new “version 2” interior LED lighting according to the documentation. Or does it?

Kato's "New" Coupler and Oct 2011 Status

When my Ginza 01 series train (Kato 10-864) arrived last month I put it on the track to break it in, then took it off and separated the cars as I usually do with commuter cars, levering them up until the couplers are nearly at a 90-degree angle, just as it says to in the brochure that comes with the train. This time, to my surprise, instead of uncoupling, one coupler assembly exploded into three parts (coupler, bracket, and spring). Attempting to re-install the spring led to it departing over the horizon (or at least into the depths of the basement), never to be seen again. A quick look at the brochure, and it was clear Kato had changed something. It showed the cars being separated by pulling apart rather than the levering up procedure I was used to from earlier commuter models.

This was a bit of a surprise, because the coupler looked just like the usual commuter coupler, with a square, pyramid-tipped spike and a matching socket, with a hook underneath, all designed to mimic the standard Japanese coupler used on many narrow-gauge trains, a type of multi-function close coupler known as a Shibata coupler after its developer, Mamoru Shibata, although often called more generically a “Scharfenberg” coupler, after the original European close-coupler it was modeled on. I decided it must be a new type of coupler developed for the new subway trains (which the Ginza is assumed to be the first of) and ordered a replacement. That turned out to be an incorrect assumption.

The Smaller Railroads of Tōkyō

Railroading in Tōkyō isn’t just huge railway stations and double-track commuter lines bringing people into the city from hours away, there are a number of much smaller railways, serving neighborhoods, industrial areas, or what have you. The photo above (from flickr, photographer: haribote) shows one of these, the Keisei-Kanamachi Line, (see also Japanese wikipedia) a mostly single-track line running 2.5 km through a residential neighborhood of Katsushika City, one of Tōkyō’s 23 special wards (which formed the original city of Tōkyō). The line runs due north from where it meets the Keisei Main Line at Keisei-Takasago station. The last station is adjacent to JR East’s Kanamachi Station on the Jōban Line.

Paging Captain Nemo: Japan’s Distinctive Train Designs

As I’ve mentioned before, Japanese trains are often visually quite distinctive. The Nankai Railway’s 50000 series rapi:t is one of the most distinctive, and evokes images of Victorian engineering and Jules Verne science fiction novels. It operates as an airport shuttle service between Osaka and Kansai International airport (about a 30-minute trip). According to wikipedia it was designed by an architect working with the theme of “outdated future”, which suggests that he was trying to create the “futuristic” look found in early twentieth-century works such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Whatever the intent, the result is distinctive and unique, and very far from the utilitarian design that characterizes most western trains (or other machinery).