Japanese Shinkansen

chadbag Apr 16, 2019

  1. chadbag

    chadbag TrainBoard Member

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    One of the great experiences in Japan is to ride the Shinkansen, the so-called "bullet train." The Shinkansen has progressed from the original Type 0 model, with many very high tech models of Shinkansen running across Japan.


    Most of Japan uses narrow gauge track (there are exceptions for some private railways, subways, etc.). The most common narrow gauge in Japan is so-called Cape Gauge, or 1067mm.


    The Japanese Shinkansen ride, in most cases, a dedicated track system that is built to the standard gauge (4' 8.5" or 1435mm). This track network is only for Shinkansen, which allows the trains to travel full speed without having to share tracks with freight, commuter, and other trains. Shinkansen have their own platforms at stations and in some larger stations have their own station-in-a-station.


    (There are what are called "Mini Shinkansen" in the northern part of the main island. These are standard gauge, but at certain points branch off to ride on shared, dual-gauge track to areas where it is not economically feasible to put in dedicated Shinkansen only track. These Shinkansen are made narrower since they share platforms with narrow gauge trains that are not as wide -- using extendable walkway platforms when using normal Shinkansen platforms that expect a wider loading gauge)


    With the privatization of the Japan National Railway in 1987, there were, I believe 6 JR (Japan Rail) companies created from the former Japan National Railway. Three are on Honshu (the main island), one on Kyushu, one on Shikoku, and one on Hokkaido. While each has a legal name, they are commonly called "JR XXXXX" where XXXXX represents the area they run in. The Central Japan Railway Company is called JR Central (JR Tokai in Japanese). The Kyushu Railway Company is called JR Kyushu. West Japan Railway Company is called JR West, etc. The various JR companies are all independent private companies, but share some things like reservations/ticketing (so you can buy a ticket for a trip that cross JR company boundaries at one location).


    The main Shinkansen network is on Honshu, with JR West in the southern end, JR Central from Osaka to Tokyo, and JR East covering the northern end of the main Island. JR Kyushu runs Shinkansen on Kyushu and in cooperation with JR West continues up to Osaka. JR Hokkaido has newly opened Shinkansen service onto Hokkaido but the Shinkansen just reaches the very bottom of the island of Hokkaido (but is actively being built out). JR Hokkaido runs their Shinkansen to Tokyo in cooperation with JR East. JR Central runs between Osaka and Tokyo, and also runs the fastest high speed lines all the way to Hakata Station in Fukuoka on the bottom tip of Honshu. So you get overlap in services.


    While they have different names, there are generally 3 main levels of Shinkansen service. I'll use the names JR Central uses (some of which may be also used by others).


    Nozomi -- the fastest service, these trains just stop at major stations. (Mizuho is the HR West equivalent and both Nozomi and Mizuho service are NOT included with the JR Pass for tourists. JR East calls their version Hayabusa, and it IS included with the JR Pass.) You can often see 3-6 Nozomi type services leaving Tokyo for destinations south per hour. They run often. Mizuho starts at Osaka and runs south.


    Hikari -- this is almost as fast as Nozomi type services, and uses the same rolling stock. The major difference is that they will stop at a few extra larger mid-size stations. This service IS included in the JR Pass and is what I have ridden many many times. They run about twice an hour during busy times, and once an hour during less busy times. The time difference from Osaka to Tokyo from the Nozomi is about 10-15 minutes IIRC. Not a big deal. JR West calls their mid-level service Sakura, and it IS allowed with JR Pass. JR East has multiple other services that would be included in this level of service.


    Kodama -- this is the "local" service on the Shinkansen lines. They basically stop at all or almost all stations on the Shinkansen network, and it can take twice as long to get to Tokyo from Osaka on a Kodama train. They often use the same rolling stock as the other levels of service, but by stopping a lot more often, they cannot travel at speed for great stretches, as they are having to stop and start. They also often will use the older Shinkansen rolling stock that has been "retired" from Nozomi service. The purpose of the Kodama service is not to go all the way from Osaka to Tokyo, or where-ever the service runs. The purpose is to allow residents of smaller cities to hop on a Shinkansen for a ride to a major station, where they transfer to Nozomi or Hikari services. (Naturally Kodama service is also allowed with the JR Pass).


    One interesting tidbit of information is that Japan has two power grids. Both are 100V (and use the same plugs, though usually only the two prong variety, as the US). The grid in western Japan runs at 60hz and the grid from Tokyo north and east runs at 50hz. This spills over into their rail network. The Shinkansen are all electric multiple unit type trains, and run at 25k volts. However the Shinkansen running with JR Central, JR West, and JR Kyushu run at 60hz, while those from JR East run at 50hz. Tokyo has two "station-in-station" Shinkansen areas, one for JR Central and 60hz trains, and one for JR East and 50hz trains. They are next to each other and you can easily transfer between them, but it is not as simple as getting off one platform, and walking across the platform for your continued train into the other area.


    There are some newer trains that can run on both 50hz and 60hz, but most trains run at one or the other. This means the Shinkansen types/models are different depending on whether you are running north of Tokyo or south of Tokyo. (The new Hokuriku Shinkansen, which goes directly north of Tokyo to the Japan see and then south along the west coast along the Japan see uses trains that can run at both 50hz and 60hz -- the E7/W7 models). Typically (with some older exceptions IIRC), the 3 digit Shinkansen type numbers (100, 300, 500, 700, N700, etc) are 60hz trains used by JR Central and JR West/JR Kyushu, while the E-series (E1, E2 -- mini, E4, E4, E5, E6 -- mini) are 50hz trains run by JR East. In the JR Central/JR West area, the most current model is the N700/N700A trains. You still sometimes see the older 700 series, and the 500 series are still used in Kodama services I believe. While I have ridden 100 and 300 trains 10 years ago, I believe they are all retired. On the E-Series side, the E5 and E6 are the most modern ones, though you see E3 a lot. E1 (double decker) are all retired and E4 (also double decker) is actively being retired, though still runs. I am not sure about E2 -- it is a so-called Mini Shinkansen and I think it still runs some but is being replaced by the E6 AFAIK. I could be wrong. The E7/W7 is a newer train that both JR East and JR West have their own versions of, and they are 25kV 50hz/60hz trains to run on a new Shinkansen line I mentioned above, the Hokuriku Shinkansen).


    Most of my experience is with the 3-digit trains of JR Central and JR West/Kyushu. I have taken short jaunts on E-series Shinkansen for the experience. Usually 20-60 minutes and then a return back. This summer we will be going all the way to Hokkaido and will be getting much more E-series experiences.


    Model railroads in Japan are VERY popular, and there are lots of stores where one can buy model trains (including small hobby shops, specialized train shops, and larger "electric" department stores). N-scale is the most popular with Z-scale growing pretty fast. H0 has some followers but because it requires a lot more room to run, it is not as popular as in the western world. N-scale has the greatest availability.


    Because most non-Shinkansen lines are narrow gauge, Japan uses a 1/150 scale for n-gauge, 9mm track (even for those trains that run on standard gauge that are not Shinkansen). However, for Shinkansen trains, Japan uses 1/160 for n-gauge.

    The first picture is an E7, the next an E2-E3 paired combo, and then an E3. The E2 (and E6) mini Shinkansen will be attached to a regular Shinkansen for the first part of the trip, and then the mini Shinkansen will be separated when the mini Shinkansen line breaks off from the main line. These shots were from Dec 2017 when my son and I went on a day trip to ride the E7 and others. Due to bad weather we ended up not going as far as planned and spent part of the day at the Omiya railway museum.

    IMG_1794.jpg IMG_1803.jpg IMG_1804.jpg
     
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  2. Akirasho

    Akirasho TrainBoard Member

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  3. chadbag

    chadbag TrainBoard Member

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    The video from @Akirasho is incidentally an E5 with an attached E6 mini Shinkansen. While they do slow down going through stations, they do not slow down that much if they are not stopping there.
     
  4. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Interesting read! I enjoyed the ICE train in Germany while living there. The ICE was high-speed, with lesser trains making more stops, and slower transit times, exactly as you described.

    This was a northbound ICE train at Mannheim, Germany, in a time exposure. It was slowly pulling out of the station, giving the impression of incredible speed...

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. chadbag

    chadbag TrainBoard Member

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    The ICE are nice trains. But there are some major differences. The ICE trains rarely get to max speed as they share rail networks with freight and slower passenger trains. They don't run on a dedicated rail net like (most) of the Shinkansen.

    Here is an interesting article that happened to be tweeted out yesterday that describes the problem with the ICE. It is in German language, and is comparing it to France's TGV, and not the Japan Shinkansen (though it does mention Japan as being similar to France).

    https://www.spiegel.de/reise/deutsc...lzuege-deutlich-langsamer-sind-a-1259209.html

    --

    When I lived in Germany a couple years in 86-87, I saw the original ICE-V, the concept ICE that was used to develop ICE technology, and evolved into the ICE-1 train a few years later. It was on a publicity tour. I was sitting on a train waiting to leave Offenburg when the ICE-V came in and stopped at the platform, the air suspension lowering the train down to platform height. At that time it was so futuristic it was hard to believe. Unfortunately, a minute or two after the ICE-V came in, my train left. Later, when I lived in Germany 91-93 I had a car, so did not ride many trains, but did hop on an ICE for a couple minutes when one was sitting in the station.

    I look forward to riding ICE next year when my daughter and I go to Germany for about 12 days. (And I have the KATO/Lemke ICE4 model on pre-order, the ICE4 being the newest ICE family train entering service in Germany).

    Not trying to minimize the idea that the ICE is a nice train system. It is. But there are major differences in the decisions made by Japan and Germany and how those affect the service.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
  6. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    True story; the Japanese and German approaches to high-speed passenger travel are pretty different, but the train system has an array of trains from ICE to little DMUs that go to remote stations and make every stop. That much is similar. The Shinkansen system being on dedicated gauge was a new concept for me.
     
  7. chadbag

    chadbag TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, both Japan and Germany have a "train culture", and trains play a central role in their societies. I think that is lessening a little in Germany -- just a gut feel from reading news articles and stuff -- but the railroad is something that both societies are very familiar with on a day-to-day basis. Part of that is due to their population densities, I think, as both are much more dense than the US (in most places) so trains make sense. You can actually get somewhere you are going, including long distance.

    The biggest difference in HST between Japan and Germany is that Japan planned a separate HST network (ignore the gauge difference) so that HST would not have to "mesh" with standard rail, passenger or freight. France seems to have done something similar with their TGV network, based on the article I posted above. Germany chose to build their HST system on top of their existing network, having to mesh everything from local passengers, slow and fast freight, and non-HST long distance express on the same system. I believe they have been building special HST tracks in some places, but in general, your ICE may leave from the same platform as a regional train and travel the same tracks as a freight train, limiting the speed it can go and making it necessary to schedule complex traffic patterns to make it all flow as efficiently as possible.

    The above is how I understand it from reading articles, and watching YouTube reports from German TV and stuff like that. I have, unfortunately, not been to Germany for 19 years, and its been longer than that that I rode a train there. But that will change next year on our 12 day (approx) trip to Germany/Europe. I have a few days where I need to be in Munich for some scheduled activities, otherwise, it is a free open trip, so I am thinking of flying into somewhere like Paris, and leaving from Berlin, and hitting Prague after Munich, and I plan on riding lots of trains in between.

    The trains in Germany are much different from when I lived there in the 1980s and early 1990s (two sep occasions) and rode a lot of trains. Then it was one state run railroad, Deutsche Bundesbahn. Now it is one large officially private conglomerate, DB (Deutsche Bahn), with various branches that control regional and long distance passenger service(DB Regio / DB Fernvehrkehr), freight (DB Cargo), a DB company that controls the track network, and other pieces of DB. Then there are lots of private railways competing with DB with freight, passenger service, etc. And foreign railways also come much further into Germany than before. In that regard it is more like Japan than it was, as Japan not only has the big 6 JR companies (broken out from the Japan National Railway in 1987), but a huge host of private railways large and small, and something called 3rd sector railways, which are small public/private cooperation railway companies, usually in more rural areas or where the big JR company decided it was no longer viable to run full service.
     
  8. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    What did the executive in the 1930s say about streamlining was to reduce passenger resistance, not wind resistance?

    These designers reduced air resistance.
     
  9. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    Germay is basically the only BIG European nation that did not build a separate (but in any case well connected to the standard system) HST network; main reason is that it was cheaper than the French (or italian, belgian, dutch ....) choice.
    In the long run however it did not pay out and the German system is now suffering for a capacity crisis due to the unforeseen (by the Germans) additional commuter and freight traffic being forced to share the same tracks; living now in germany i can tell you that the DB reputation for running trains on time has basically gone off the drain. People are protesting and the government is financing more than a few new lines dedicated to HST, but it will take many years to recover.
    In any case they are having the same problem with highways, these are already overloaded with traffic and need huge construction works both for maintenance and improvements.

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  10. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    Follow on that I am on my mac and not on the cellphone.

    Recently I had a trip from Kaiserslautern to Brussels via Paris and another to Hamburg.
    Looks like it testifies on the "HST" network built on the "cheap".
    KL (actually Mannheim) to the french border is the standard two track line without ANY upgrade, there are works being around to connect Mannheim to the French HST network (just a few miles from the border), but also these are on the cheap, looks like there will be another track added to the present line (for a total of three, I can't see space for the fourth), no realignment and no deconfliction at all with the existing stations and nodes. As you cross the GER/FRA border, you get (slowly) on the main EAST HST line (Paris Strasbourg) then you get to 300kph until Paris where you have to walk half a mile from the East to the North Station and from there is all HST to Brussels, Antwerp and Amsterdam. So Frankfurt to Paris, is all HST on the French side, NONE on the GER side.

    KL to Hamburg, you get to Mannheim on the old line and proceed way past Frankfurt before getting to Fulda on the HST, then you travel between 200 to 300 kph (the train was continuously changing speed, like the line was full) to Hannover, and then back on the mainline to Hamburg.
    On more than 600km, way less than half is a HST line. Average speed less than 100mph, and arrive 25 minutes late. On the way back, same thing, actually the new ICE4 got a problem in the kitchen and we could only get coffee from a cart whose thermos was refilled at every stop (you had to be quick before it was over).
    Overall not in line with expectations and former trips in Germany.
    Very peculiar is that generally commuter and regional trains are more on time than HST and other long distance.
    Maps of Europe here (site unfortunately not updated since a while).
    http://www.bueker.net/trainspotting/maps.php
     
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  11. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    In any case the price (KL to Hamburg) was very good (150€ return trip 2 adults, and the kids for free), the trains were clean and the conductors very polite and helpful.
    The kids got a DB magazine and a small toy each.
    Thumbs up for family friendly and for sparing the long drive.
    But this was NOT a HST service like you have in other nations.

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  12. Don Rickle

    Don Rickle TrainBoard Supporter

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    I was about to sell my N scale Shinkansen collection, but seeing this thread is getting me back in the mood. I was fortunate to visit Japan (2006) when every Shinkansen series from the 0 to the N700 was running. The 0 and 100 series were regulated to Kodama service on the southern end of the Sanyo Shinkansen line. Here's a video from Koriyama as well (2006).
     
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  13. chadbag

    chadbag TrainBoard Member

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    We happen to be on the tail end of our latest Japan trip and will be leaving for the station in a little over an hour to get on our last Shinkansen ride of this trip. 3 hours 25 min from Shin Kobe to Tokyo. Still a few days in Japan but all in the Tokyo area.

    We rode E5 several times and N700A and N700 (JR West) several times and the 500 Hello Kitty Shinkansen.
     
  14. Don Rickle

    Don Rickle TrainBoard Supporter

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    It truly is an amazing rail system there, that keeps evolving and advancing.
     
  15. Lawrence

    Lawrence TrainBoard Member

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    and JNR has never made a penny profit in all the years it has been going, in fact they have been bailed out by the government more times than any company I can think of, but all in the name of progress and punctuality.
    Despite that, I love it :giggle: and in fact it is the only layout currently in operation at home and I use the word operation lightly! :ROFLMAO:
    Hope you had a great trip chadbag
     
  16. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    JNR could have been making financial losses, but I think that Japan as a whole benefited from these losses many times over.

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  17. chadbag

    chadbag TrainBoard Member

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    The JNR has not existed for about 32 years. In 1987 it was broken up into 6 regional passenger companies and 1 national freight company and those companies were put on the road to privitization. By the early 90s the 3 Honshu based ones were fully privatized and publicly traded, the government holding company that had been set up as initial stockholder having sold the last of the shares held into private hands. (JR West, JR Central, JR East). JR Kyushu, if I understand correctly, was fully privatized about 3 years ago, when the last of the holding company shares were sold into private hands. The ones still struggling are JR Shikoku and JR Hokkaido. They are more rural and don't have the population centers to support them. The government holding company still holds most of their shares I believe. And I believe the freight operation, JR Freight, still has government involvement but I am not sure on that, as it was not mentioned in the articles I read. Interestingly, the struggling ones don't have the Shinkansen to rely on for steady revenue. JR Hokkaido finally got their first Shinkansen station about 3 years ago and it is scheduled to get to Sapporo by 2031.

    So the bulk of the JR group companies are fully private and profitable, the 3 main ones since the 90s. The JNR was losing tons of money before being privatized

    (sent from my phone while sitting in the heat and humidity at Tokyo Disneyland so excuse the big run-on paragraph and any typos)
     
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  18. Lawrence

    Lawrence TrainBoard Member

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    LOL - love it chadbag :notworthy:, I think you did exceptionally well given the trying circumstances. I did say "whilst it was in existence", I appreciate it has been split up now, much as it has been here in the UK, and we all know how well that has gone (n).
    I would need to look in my JNR History book to get exact figures but the cost of building the Shinkansen lines (especially the early ones) would have bankrupted any country.
    Please let me know when you are home, I would love to get more of your insights of railways in Japan
     

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