Subway Train

Kato Subway Train and December 2011 Monthly Status

My latest Kato model is another subway train, the Tōkyō Metro 10000. I already have a model of this train made by Greenmax, which I have mentioned briefly a few times (it featured in the “first run” video of the subway, see my Subway First Run musing for more on that). It’s not a bad model, but it lacks an interior and requires wire-in decoders for conversion to DCC. And while I’ll eventually get around to that, it’s not high on my priority list. So trains that are easier to convert to DCC, and that means Kato, are at the top of my list for actual operations once I finish up installing all the DCC electronics for the Commuter and Subway loops.

For the above-ground Commuter loop, I have lots of Kato’s commuter EMUs, but trains for the underground Subway loop are another matter. As mentioned back in October I’d hoped to have the Kato Ginza Series 01 be one of those, but it ended up not supporting the EM13 motor decoder (probably due to the narrower width of the cars).

The Kato 10000 had been on my must-buy list anyway, but with fingers crossed that this one would be “DCC Friendly”, I eagerly awaited its arrival. Kato hadn’t actually said it would be DCC Friendly (meaning compatible with their Digitrax-made proprietary decoders) although they rarely do, and there was a cryptic reference to some issue with the interior lighting that had me worried it was some kind of one-off design. I’d previously bought several of Kato’s new “version 2” LED light sets (which I describe more on my new Kato Interior Lighting page) planning to install them in the Ginza train, but hadn’t gotten around to that after it turned out not to support the DCC motor decoder. So my plan was to use them, if I could.

Two Greenmax Trains

Recently I’ve picked up a couple of new Greenmax trains, the Tōkyō Metro Tōzai Line Series 05 and Tōkyū Corporation Series 6000. The models are very similar in a sense, although the prototype trains are different in a number of ways. Both operate well, and look good from a distance, although not quite as good close-up in some ways.

The Tōkyū Railway Series 6000 is a relatively recent (2008) train, formed of six-car sets, operating on the surface Tōkyū Ōimachi Line on the south side of Tōkyō. The Tōkyō Metro Series 05, on the other hand, is a subway train dating from 1988 (but still in service), operating on an east-west axis underground route through the center of the city (it goes above ground away from the center). Both trains operate on narrow gauge track, from overhead 1500 Volt DC catenary, and are 2.8m wide, 20m long. The one difference is height, but not in the way you might expect: the subway train is actually 4.0m high, while the 6000 is 3.6m.

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.

Subway Trains

In some ways there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Tōkyō’s urban and suburban commuter trains and its subway trains. Both are electric multiple-unit (EMU) sets, running on narrow-gauge track and typically using 1500V DC power from overhead (catenary) wires. Some commuter trains even run through into the subway tunnels to reach more central stations.

But there are differences. First, subway trains (and commuter trains designed for subway use) will have emergency exit doors on the ends, to facilitate evacuations in a tunnel. Second they are often shorter, to allow for tighter curves. And some are also narrower, although this seems less common.

Subways of Tōkyō

You’d think someone who’s built a Tōkyō-inspired model railroad with a subway on it would know a bit about the subways of Tōkyō. But in fact when I started construction I knew next to nothing, and I’ve only recently begun to rectify that. Part of the reason is that I’ve been focused on the commuter trains of JR East, and JR doesn’t operate any subway lines (although they do operate a couple of subway trains, as we’ll see in a bit). And part of it was that models of subway trains weren’t all that common, and I hadn’t collected any.

Of Vending Machines and Subway Stations

It took longer than expected, but the Riverside Subway station, now known as the (fictional) Tōkyō Metro Kawate station, is done and servicing commuters and schoolkids making their way about Sumida Crossing. Or at least it will once I finish the much-delayed work on the power systems and get the trains running again.

E231 Commuter Train: JR East’s Flagship

Commuter trains, and in particular urban commuter trains, are the workhorse of the Japanese narrow-gauge passenger lines. While there are plenty of suburban and regional passenger trains, the ones that move the most people, over 90,000 passengers per hour at peak time on some lines, are the urban commuters. These are heavy-rail electric multiple-unit trains, typically of 10 to 15 cars in length, running on headways of only a few minutes during rush hour, often sharing their tracks with suburban and regional trains, and in some cases freight. Typical speeds are low, often well under 100 kph (62 mph), with frequent stops, so power and efficient use of power, rather than raw speed, is most important.

Subway First Run

Sunday, 13 June 2010 was an historic day for Sumida Crossing. After the track was all cleaned and re-installed, and the wiring completed, it was time for the trains to take a run. The actual first loop was done by a “maintenance of way” train (actually an old Atlas B23 I was willing to sacrifice if I’d made some horrible wiring error). That done, I broke out the East-i E Inspection Train, and had it take a run to check out the pantograph clearance and general track usability. And I recorded it and made a short video.