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Older JNR Coaching Stock formations

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With the new runs of older JNR coaches from the likes of Tomix and Kato, are there any rules to follow when it comes to creating formations of local and express trains?


I would like to get some Suha 43 series and Oha 35 series coaches from Kato and possibly mail coaches like the Oyu 10 or Suyu 13 from Tomix or Tenshodo.


I have found it difficult to find information on formations when it isn't a named express for loco-pulled local or semi-express services.


Does anyone know whether anything goes it terms of blue and grape (brown) coaches from these series being thrown together as they were general coaches or is there some rhyme and reason that should be followed? I understand the Suhafu or Ohafu go at the ends as usually do the mail vans. How about the Refurbished Oha 47s etc..? Were these thrown in with the older coaches or did some of these things never run together?



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That's a good question and one which interests me to the point I have amassed a fair bit of reference material but haven't had the time to go through it systematically (and it's a real can of worms in terms of different types...)


I suspect if you look hard enough you can find pretty much any combination, but as a general rule I'd say the closer the production time range of types, the more likely you are to see those running together. Or put another way, it's unlikely you'd see brown clerestoried SuHa 32s running with blue OHa 46s etc.


I think I have a magazine with a special on coach formations somewhere in the pile, I'll see if I can dig it out.


The "9 Scale World" magazine has a long-running section on coach types (and their availability in N) but doesn't give much info on formations.

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Thanks Squid.


I too have found a lot of images of loco pulled trains but no break down of the formation make up. I assume there must be some process of where they have toilets and conductor compartments etc.  Any information you can share would be appreciated. 



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I'm not necessarily an expert on this specific topic, however I've been nursing an interest in the old type passenger cars, and their use (especially in their later years), and I have been researching this specific topic for a couple of years, so perhaps I can be of assistance.

I believe there are few members on this site who specialize in the late Shōwa era J.N.R., and in particular locomotive hauled passenger services, who might be able to provide you with even more details, but for now I hope I can at least answer your questions.



9 hours ago, Kamome said:

I have found it difficult to find information on formations when it isn't a named express for loco-pulled local or semi-express services.

45 minutes ago, Kamome said:

I assume there must be some process of where they have toilets and conductor compartments etc.  Any information you can share would be appreciated. 


That's because they weren't generally operated as formations per se. From what I've seen, the old type passenger cars (all passenger cars built before the 10 series was introduced in 1955) were generally operated in a 'as needed' fashion, in which compositions were formed or changed depending on the requirements. As such, I believe, all cars were more or less self contained in terms of passenger facilities, all cars were equipped with toilets for example (at least from what I have found), with the main difference between XHa and XHaFu type cars being the conductor compartment on the Fu cars (Fu apparently comes from ブレーキ, i.e. they are similar to the use of Brake in British passenger car/emu nomenclature). And yes, end cars were mostly either XXFu or XX(X)Ni type cars, and those are usually the only ones fitted with marker lights in model form (at least for the N-gauge cars, not sure if this is the same for H0 scale cars).


Similar to the way the old type electric cars (getaden) were operated, the exact composition depended on the need of the specific service/line, and could vary wildly depending on the line served, the time period or even the time of day.

This is the same for the use of brown or blue cars, as this was again dependent on the time period.

Generally speaking there were two groups of blue, old type, passenger cars. The first group consisted of a small number of, mainly SuHa 42 series, cars intended for further use in (limited) express service which were modernized between 1959 and 1960. And the second group would be modernized/remodeled cars which went through the (1963~1966) modernization program starting in 1964, with cars going through the program in 1963 retaining the brown colorscheme. These cars were also intended for express services.


However, even during their later years, with all the different modernization programs, and the mixing of cars formerly used/modified for express services with those remaining in general service, mixed formations of blue and brown cars could still be observed far into the 1980's. Ranging from entirely blue, mostly blue with a few brown cars, to mostly brown with a few blue cars (or even still entirely brown) and everything in between. The same was true for the different modernization programs as cars with aluminium window sash (1955 and 1970~ (for long distance trains) improvement programs) were mixed with those with their original wooden sash (1963~1966 and 1970~ (other than those for long distances), improved interiors versus the original wooden interiors, new metal doors vs the original wooden doors, were all used interchangeably.


One thing you do have to keep in mind, is the traction you are using related to the specific cars. This is universal between all of the old type passenger cars, but they were all built with steam heating equipment only. However, a significant number of the old type passenger cars were modified with electric heating equipment starting in 1960, the cars modified as such, were renumbered into the 2000 sub-type range. This was universal for all the, steel bodied, old passenger car types (SuHa 32 series, OHa 35 series, SuHa 43 series, 60 series and 70 series), so if you want to run a composition with more modern traction (e.g. something like an ED75), make sure you are using 2000 sub-type cars (and vice versa for steam era compositions).


^ A good example of a 2000 sub-type car (both the OHa35 series and the 60 series car) still in the original brown colors.

Note the original (wooden) doors, as well as the wooden window sash.




^ 12 car composition on the Tōhoku Main Line, note the single brown car (SuHaFu 33).



^ Brown/blue combination on the Tōhoku main line, as well as several different old type passenger cars (all of the series still in service at that moment). Note the difference in details between the different cars.



As for the formations, the Kato website provides some excellent formation diagrams for their old type passenger cars:










Some of the numerous blogs about Shōwa era operations will have information about specific formations, though as I said the compositions themselves were not fixed and could change depending on the operational requirements.


For example (Tōhoku Main Line, December 1974):



Not entirely relevant to the question at hand, but Nippon Sharyō has an excellent guide to the classification (1941 and 1953 revisions, the 1959 revisions didn't impact passenger cars) system used for the old type passenger cars: 



In short, old type J.N.R. equipment compositions (both loco hauled and multiple units) were incredibly dynamic, and therefore more complex to model. If you know how to recognize all the different variants (which may not be the easiest place to start), you may be able to recognize which compositions were used through period photographs/video, however this is of course no substitute for an actual formation diagram, but it does give you the flexibility to mix and match depending on the specific prototype.


I hope this, sort of, answers your question.


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Thanks for your help @200系

There’s a lot of helpful information here.


Essentially i don’t have a set area i am modelling but more in HO, i pick up things that interest me or are blatant steals at used shops which seem interesting. I have a few JRF locos, kokis etc but generally I’ve become more interested in JNR era.


Locomotive wise, I have a pair of cold region DD51s which i tend to haul Takis with or some early JR Hokkaido 50系51形 coaches.


An ED78 and EF71 that I tend to haul a local Niigata area 50系 or mixed freight but would like other options.


A DF50 on preorder with the hope of adding a DD54 and JNR spec ED76 this year too. 


So all are possibles for some blue and brown 32/43 type coaches.

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So, what your telling me is

Since I model the last days of steam in hokkaido 

Specifically the hokadate main line

I should pick up some blues to go with my 4 brown cars?

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