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TOMIX Series 381 pendulum limited express

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al camino
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Tomix announced the series 381 for the end of this year.


国鉄 381系特急電車(クハ381-100)基本セット


I am curious about some details someone of you might know.

The shape reagrding the clearance profile of coaches with tilting mechanism usually is different from standard coaches.

Using google I did not find clear information about this when comparing e.g. 381 and 481.

By the Tomix offered prototype image it seems the 381 car sides are less steep than the 481.

Does anyone of you have a hint to find these information (e.g. the Japanese words to search with)?


Does anyone know if Tomix will make the train with tilting machanism such as e.g. FLeischmann once did in H0 with the Neigezug class 610 (art.# 4418).

class 610 by Fleischmann (this is just to show the item. I am not related to the seller in any way!)

This feature would be a reason to order another limited express.


Thanks in advance for any helping hint or information.

Edited by al camino
amended that I am not related to the ebay seller
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@al camino, I'm afraid I can't help you with your questions about the model itself, but I might be able to help you out with some information on the prototype.


3 hours ago, al camino said:

The shape reagrding the clearance profile of coaches with tilting mechanism usually is different from standard coaches.

Using google I did not find clear information about this when comparing e.g. 381 and 481.

By the Tomix offered prototype image it seems the 381 car sides are less steep than the 481.

Does anyone of you have a hint to find these information (e.g. the Japanese words to search with)?


To put it simple, yes the 381 series does have a different cross section in comparison to the other National Railroad limited express type trains.

But, as I'm not one to keep it simple, quelle surprise, let's dive a little bit deeper shall we 😉.


Though the design of the 381 series differs quite significantly compared to the other National Railroad limited express series (aluminium carbody, slightly longer cars (21,300mm for all 381 series cars vs 21,000mm (control trailer cars)/20,500 (intermediate motor/trailer cars) for the 485/183 series), different traction motors (MT58 type vs the ubiquitous MT54 type used on (almost) all National Railroad new-performance suburban, ordinary express and limited express series of that generation) , passive tilting etc.), the basis for the exterior design of the 381 series can still be found in contemporary designs, primarily the 183 series and post 1972 485 series, with a limited number of elements based on the earlier 181 series also being incorporated (primarily the floor height (which is lower on both the 183 series and the 381 series, compared to the 485 series (family)). With regards to the exterior, the 381 series was largely based on the design of the 183 series, which in itself was based on the 485 series (the exterior was based on the 1972~1973 KuHa 481 type 200 sub-type cars), combined with elements introduced with the 591 type test train, which was a test bed for the passive tilting system (and a number of other technologies) completed in 1970. As such the 381 series looks both very similar, yet at the same time truly distinct from her more conventional limited express cousins, and the closer you look at them, the more those difference start to become apparent.


To keep my response at least somewhat on topic, rather than going through all the differences between the different limited express type trains (which reminds me that I really should get into gear and finish my planned guide to the National Railroad (limited) express series), let's focus on the most obvious visual differences between the 381 series and the 485 series:


-> The sidewalls, above the hem, are indeed sloping inward at about 3.5 degrees.


-> As a result of the above, the drivers cab is a lot narrower compared to the other denkigama (electric rice cooker) style cabs found on the 581/583 series, 485 series (KuHa 481 type 200 sub-type (1972) and up), 183 series etc. This is especially noticeable on the center windscreen, which is much narrower than the ones used on the other denkigama series and as a consequence, the center pillar of the windscreen has a pronounced inverted V shape when viewed from the front compared to the straight pillars on the other series [note1].


-> There's a streamlined fairing aft of the drivers cab, this is absent on the other limited express types.


-> The roof mounted air conditioning units and auxiliary ventilators present (AU12, AU 13 and AU71 type) on all other National Railroad limited express types were replaced with a centralized AU33 type air conditioning unit, which is mounted on the underframe as opposed to the roof, ostensibly for center of gravity reasons, which gives the 381 series a very clean looking roofline compared to the other series.


-> The underframe is narrower compared to both the 485 series (family) and the 183 series, and though the 381 series is slightly narrower than the other limited express types (2,900mm vs 2,946mm) this creates a much more pronounced squeezed hem [note2]. This combined with the inward curving sidewalls gives the 381 series the typical tumblehome shape which can be found in most Japanese tilting, limited express, series (see e.g. the E351 series as an example).


-> Intermediate cars (MoHa 380/381 and SaHa 381 type cars) were fitted with emergency escape hatches, similar to the 0 series 0 sub-type and 1000 sub-type cars up till 1981. They were eliminated for the final cars built between 1981 and 1982.


Now compared to the 481 series, though part of the larger 485 series family, the difference between the width of the drivers cab is somewhat less obvious because of the design of the 481 series. The 481 series, being the first of the AC/DC limited express types was only fitted with 20kv 60Hz AC and 1.5Kv DC compatible electrical equipment which limited their operational reach to the Keihanshin->/<-Kyūshū corridor only, with the 483 series, which was pretty much the 20Kv 50Hz/1.5Kv equivalent of the 481 series, facing the same issues just for the Kantō ->/<- Tōhoku corridor. As such the 481 series cars were built for a short period only, between 1964 and 1965 (with the 483 series being built between 1965 and 1966), before production switched to the 20Kv 50/60Hz/1.5Kv capable 485 series in 1968 supplanting both the 481 and the 483 series for future AC/DC limited express orders. Because of this, the KuHa 481 type end cars [note3] ordered for both the 481 and the 483 series were all still using the bonnet type front which had a much narrower cab than the later denkigama type front I mentioned before. The same was initially true for the KuHa 481 type cars built for early 485 series formations, though this changed in 1972 with the KuHa 481 type 200 sub-type cars mentioned earlier, with the denkigama design being used until the last 485 series cars were completed in 1979.


For visual reference:



A good comparison between the 381 series (left) and "183" series (right), which gives a good visual comparison between the 381 series and 485 series (no typo here, [note4]).


A visual comparison between the 381 series and the 443 series,



And another, more animated, comparison:

JR West 381 series and 183 series, read former 485 series cars converted to DC only, formations at Fukuchiyama station. Note that the KuHa 481 type car closest to the camera is one of the early production denkigama style cars (KuHa 481 type 200 sub-type) recognizable by the through doors at the front. Both 381 series and 485 control trailers built between 1972 and 1973 were fitted with through doors and gangway connections for combined services. As this rarely materialized and the doors weren't exactly airtight and as such produced a noticeable cold air draft near the front, they were eliminated for all cars built from 1974 onward including the KuHa 481 (changed to 300 sub-type), KuHa 183 and KuHa 381 type cars.


I hope this answers your questions, at least for the prototype side of things.





[note1], Interestingly, the center part of the windscreen as used on the denkigama style cabs is actually a slightly modified version of the center windscreen used on the 0 series shinkansen. This is also why it's so much wider, taking into account the much wider loading gauge used for the shinkansen, in comparison to the earlier bonnet style cabs.


[note2], the loading gauge, as specified for the (former) National Railroad network (different (major) private railway operate under different loading gauges depending on the regulations they were established under, or eventually ended up operating under. For example the 1919 Local Private Railway law limited railway operating under its guidance to a maximum width of 2,744mm for example.), limits vehicles to a maximum width of 3,000mm. However, this maximum width can only be used above the platform height (~1,100mm), as the allowable width of most platforms limits the maximum width to a maximum of 2,850mm at the platform level. As such when the National Railroad started building wider cars, the hem had to be squeezed in order for the cars to still fit within the platform limits even with the expanded width. As such on all National Railroad suburban, ordinary express and limited express types you can clearly see this squeezed appearance. Commuter type trains generally kept within the lower limits, and as such all National Railroad commuter type cars generally kept to a maximum width of 2,800mm (excluding the rain gutters) compared to the ~2,950mm width used on the equipment mentioned above. After the split the different JR companies have started specifying full width (widebody as it is sometimes called) carbodies for pretty much all their equipment. The different loading gauges being employed in Japan, and the nuances between them is, in my opinion, a fascinating subject in itself, however, I'll leave a more detailed explanation of these nuances for a more appropriate time and topic.


[note3], As the changes between the 481 series, 483 series and 485 series were al related to the electrical equipment, the only cars which really changed between the series were the motor cars of the MoHa 480/482/484 type and the MoHa 481/483/485 type, while the trailer cars of the KuHa 481, SaRo 481, SaHa 481 and SaShi 481 type  were kept in production under their original classification. The 489 and 189 series were somewhat different in this regard, as they were designed for combined services with the EF63's on the Usui Pass, and as such there were some differences between their control trailer cars (KuHa 489 and 189 type cars respectively) and the "standard" cars used on the 485 series and 183 series respectively.


[note4] As a bit of an aside, though this is indeed a JR West 183 series, as pointed out in the blog, the JR West 183 series cars weren't actually built as 183 series as such.  Instead they were actually surplus 485 series cars which had their AC equipment removed/deactivated after the J.N.R. split, creating DC only cars which were reclassified accordingly. As such they retain their typical 485 series features, the higher floor and for example the cab mounted headlight are among the easiest ways to distinguish a 183 series from a 485 series at a glance (the 183 and 189 series weren't fitted with the center headlight as they were originally intended for Chūō line services, which meant the headlight would've put them out of the vehicle limit for the Chūō line.), which makes them much closer to the 485 series in a structural sense.

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al camino


Many thanks.

This was more than I expected.

Appreciate this much!


I'll dig through the text more extensive later today after finishing the cleaning work for today on the water damage occured by a broken water pipe on the attic.

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