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Some random photos from the past

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On 1/17/2023 at 5:45 AM, Aleks said:

That's one bizarre reason to close a line... But probably also explains why Japanese cities don't have more developed tram systems.


Most Japanese public transportation operators receive little or no subsidies and thus have to rely on their own means to makes end meet. That's why so many of them have diversified into parallel activities like retail or real estate, so as to obtain funds to keep their rail operations afloat. However when big-ticket expenses crop up many operators will find that they simply don't have the funds to proceed... in the case of the Hankai they looked at the price and hassle of procuring new specialwork and realized that the cost was not worth the while of keeping a short stub, especially one whose terminal station was just a short block away from a stop on the main line.


Cheers Nicholas

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@Nick_Burman sorry what I was referring to is the multiple unit technology. Although the technology itself came up in the late 19th century and train MUs were wide spread (eg subways), for trams specifically I think it was not widely used until after WWII. The prevailing scheme for two-unit trams was motor car + trailer car for some good 10 years even after WWII. I think Wiki says the first MU PCC trams in Europe were in Stockholm starting 1953, not sure about US-built PCCs. I don't think Tatra T1 or T2 could operate as multiple units, and T3 was produced starting 1960. Riga's RVZ-6 did not get MU capability until RVZ-6M2 model built from 1974. So I think in war-devastated Japan building MU trams was a major endeavor...

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On 1/14/2023 at 9:14 AM, Aleks said:

Kyoto. This tram is not easy to find, it's in a place you would not expect to see a tram. To my knowledge, there was no line there. It is listed on Google Maps as Chinchin train (which means "jingle" or "chink" but also has another not so nice meaning in Japanese) and is inside the garden of Heian Shrine. A fee is required to enter I believe, no doubt only because of the tram.

On 1/17/2023 at 5:05 AM, bill937ca said:

There were some tram lines in Kyoto with ancient trams until about 1960.


This car isn't just preserved as a remnant of Kyōto's extensive streetcar network, nor is it simply an ancient streetcar, this car is considered to be important cultural property and is registered as such for a very good reason. this is one of the few remaining Kyōto Dentetsu Type 1 electric cars, one of the most significant trains ever to be introduced in Japan, both in a historical and a cultural sense.

These cars, and the railway they were built for, are up there with events like the opening of the first railway between Shimbashi and Sakuragichō, the introduction of the Shin-Keihan P-6 type cars, the Sangu Kyūkō 2200 type cars, Keihan 1800 series and even the Tōkaidō Shinkansen and the introduction of the 0 series shinkansen in terms of importance. Which may seem a bit exaggerated, but trust me they are that important.


The Kyōto Dentetsu type 1 cars were, as the name implies, the first, and only, series of cars to be introduced by the Kyōto Dentetsu, or Kyōto Electric Railway. The Kyōto Dentetsu itself opened on the 1st of February, 1895 and was the first electric railway to open in Japan. Now taking into account importance of the Kyōto Dentetsu, allow me to briefly explore the how and why this railway came to be in the first place, and why it made sense for Kyōto to be the birthplace of electric traction in Japan.


The reason why Kyōto actually became the birthplace of the Japanese electric railway is rooted in the changes brought about by the end of the Bakufu, and restoration of Imperial rule through the Meiji restoration in 1868.


Following the Meiji restoration, the city of Edo which had already become the de facto centre of power during the Tokugawa period would become the seat for both the new Meiji government as well as the emperor himself, with the city being renamed to Tōkyō, or Eastern capital, during this period. This of course resulted in Kyōto losing its status as capital, a position which it had fulfilled, almost unobstructed, since emperor Kanmu selected the area to built his new capital, to be named Heian Kyō. The loss of both the status as capital and the seat of the emperor saw both the finances and population of the city decline during the first years of the Meiji period.

In order to stem this decline of the city, proposals were being forwarded by the Kyōto prefectural government to transform Kyōto into a modern, industrial city which resulted in project like the Biwako Canal, which in itself would play an important role in the appearance of the Kyōto Dentetsu. The construction of the Biwako Canal would start in 1885 and was originally intended to be used as a water source as well as a source for irrigation, transportation and perhaps most importantly for this story, a power source for industrial purposes through the use of water wheels. The canal was completed on April 9, 1890, with the official opening taking place on April 12 of the same year. Prior to the opening, in January 1890, it was decided to built a hydro-electric power station near Higashiyama, this would become the Keage Power Station.


Construction on the Keage Power Station started prior to the opening of the canal, with construction starting in January of 1890. The power house would be completed in June of 1891, and would be the first commercial hydroelectric power station to be built in Japan. The availability of cheap and reliable electricity to the city as well as central Kyōto being built along a grid layout, which the city inherited from her conception as Heian-Kyō back in 794, made Kyōto the ideal place for the emergence of the first electric railway in Japan.


The technology itself wasn't entirely new to Japan though, back in 1888/1889 president of Tōkyō Dentō Yajima Sakurō as well as chief engineer Fujioka Ichisuke visited the Richmond Union Passenger Railway, built by the Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company, which had opened in 1888 as the worlds first successful electric railway. Impressed by what they had witnessed in Richmond, it was decided to buy two electric streetcars fitted with the Sprague system in order to demonstrate this technology in Japan. The two cars would be demonstrated at the 3rd National Industrial Exhibition held between April and July of 1890, running on a 310 metre oval built at the Ueno exhibition grounds. These two cars proved to be incredibly popular with the public, and would serve as a proof of concept for for the introduction of electric railways in Japan, both urban and interurban. Both cars would be stored after the exhibition ended, and would eventually be loaned to the Daishi Dentetsu, the third electric railway to open in Japan, the first electric railway in the Kantō region and as important, the first broad gauge (1,435 mm) railway to open in Japan. They would be converted to standard gauge prior to shipping, and would enter service at the same time the Daishi line opened for traffic, January 21, 1899. The Daishi Dentetsu would be renamed to Keihin Dentetsu in April of the same year, though it would eventually become known by its unofficial abbreviation, Keikyū. Both cars would be bought outright by the Keihin Dentetsu in June 1899, though they would eventually end up at the Tōkyō Shiden, or Tōkyō Streetcar (Tōden) prior to 1906, with one of them being preserved at Aoyama Depot, honouring the historical and cultural significance held by these two cars. Unfortunately though, despite the careful preservation of this car, on the 25th of May 1945 the Great Yamanote air raid would lead to the devastation of most of the (south) western Yamanote area in Tōkyō, leading to the death of 3,651 people as well as the destruction of ~166,000 homes and other buildings, including Aoyama Depot, including the sole remaining Sprague car.


Going back to Meiji era Kyōto, it was decided that the 4th National Industrial Exhibition would be held at Okazaki, Kyōto between the 1st of April and the 31st of July, 1895. 

An application for the construction of an electric railway, using power supplied by the newly completed Keage Power Station, would be filed with the Kyōto prefectural government, which received a positive report from the governor. A similar application would be filed with the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1893, resulting in the establishment of the Kyōto Denki Tetsudō on the 1st of February 1894. In order to signify the importance of the Keage Power Station in the birth of electric traction, Kyōto Dentetsu adopted a stylized representation of a Pelton Turbine as their company crest, the same type of turbines used at Keage.

The Kyōto Dentetsu Fushimi line would open on the 1st of February 1895, inaugurating Japan's first electric railway for actual revenue service. 


The cars built for the Kyōto Dentetsu would be classified, retroactively, as the Kyōto Dentetsu type 1 cars, and would be built locally based on American practices and with imported parts provided by J.G. Brill, for the trucks, and General Electric, for the traction motors, while the cars themselves would be built by Umebachi Tekkōjo, which would later become Teikoku Sharyō.

A total of 133 cars would be built between 1895 and 1912, though actual production data is hard to come by. With these cars being built over a 17 year period, a period in which there were significant advances in technology, it shouldn't come as a surprise that these cars would see several design changes throughout their production run. The overall length would be increased at least 3 times as an example, though the changes remained minimal enough for them to be treated as a single series, and they are actively treated as such in official documentation.


The original cars, or early types as I would refer to them, were built to an overall length of 20 shaku (or ~6,061 mm) while the intermediate types introduced between 1903 and ~1910 would be 24 shaku (~7,273 mm) in length. The final cars, or late type, introduced circa 1910 were once again extended, this time to a total length of 27 shaku (~8,182 mm). The most obvious way to recognize the differences between early, intermediate or late type cars is to simply count the number of passenger windows, the 20 shaku cars had 7 windows per side, the 24 shaku cars 8, while the final 27 shaku cars had 9 passengers windows per side. They were built according to a typical late 19th century, American based, streetcar design riding on single Brill 21-E type fixed trucks. They would be fitted with open platforms on either end of the car with access to the enclosed passenger compartment via either vestibule, with a motor controller (direct, series only) and handbrake on either end. The 20 shaku cars would be fitted with a single, 25 horse power General Electric 800 type traction motor, mounted in a nose suspended configuration, though still using a torsion bar at that point in time, while the 24 and 27 shaku cars would switch to two traction motors of the same type.


The Kyōto Dentetsu would be acquired by the municipally owned Kyōto-shi Denkikidō, or Kyōto City Electric Tramway (literally: track) precursor to the Kyōto Municipal Transportation Bureau, in 1918. Though the Kyōden had been built using cape gauge, the municipal system was built using a broad gauge (read standard gauge) track gauge. As the Kyōto Dekikidō had also numbered their own roster of cars in the 1~171 number range, the addition of the Kyōden 1 type cars resulted in duplicate car numbers, which was resolved by simply adding an N to the car numbers of all Kyōden 1 type cars, with the N signifying they were Narrow gauge cars, this resulted in these cars gaining their nickname of N-densha, or N-den for short. Both the N-den and broad gauge cars would receive a minor renewal during this period, with a semi-enclosed front replacing the traditional open platforms, providing the motorman with at least some sort of shielding from the elements, at least from the front.


With the Kyōto Denkikidō deciding to standardize on broad gauge, conversion of the existing Kyōden lines to a 1,435 mm track gauge started in the 1920's, which also saw the sale of some of the oldest N-den cars, starting with the first 33 cars in 1919. Further conversions saw the fleet shrink year by year, with eventually only the Horikawa line remaining as the sole cape gauge line to remain in service, with the line exclusively served by the remaining N-den. A total of 15 cars were transferred to the Nagoya Municipal Bureau of Transportation in 1944. A total of 28 cars would be left after the end of the war, all of which were of the late type, which would serve the Horikawa Line until the end of their service lives. The last of the broad gauge 1 type cars would be retired in 1955, after which the remaining N-den were renumbered, receiving consecutive car numbers in the 1~28 range, and as the broad gauge cars had been retired, they would lose their N prefix at the same time. The former N-den would remain in service until 1961, with 22 surviving until the abolition of the Horikawa line on the 18th of July, 1961, ending the illustrious career of the first electric train to see revenue service in Japan.


Though unfortunately none of the early car has been preserved in its entirety, only one of the single motor Brill 21-E trucks was originally preserved at the Transportation Museum in Tōkyō, which in itself was relocated to the Railway Museum after the Transportation Museum closed in 2007, and can still be found there to this day (to the left of the display case next to HaNiFu 1, former Kōbu Tetsudō De 963 type De 968, the first multiple unit capable car to enter service in Japan, another car which deserves a bit more attention considering her importance). This truck used to be a compressor cart after being scrapped, and it is unfortunately impossible to trace back her original car number. Numerous late type N-den were fortunately preserved, of which at least 3 were returned to their original state and have been preserved dynamically. The car in your picture is one of the late type N-den which was statically preserved at the Heian Jinja because of her historical and cultural significance, the Heian Jinja itself was built for the 4th National Industrial Exhibition of 1895, and is actually the only part of the exhibition grounds which has been preserved, which considering the importance of the exhibition for the establishment of the Kyōto Dentetsu already provides enough of a connection, even if we do not take into account the importance of these cars for the city for which the shrine was named, and whose protective deities it houses, or the country at large. Adding to this, the Kyōto Dentetsu did built a temporary track to the exhibition, with electric cars serving the exhibition grounds between April and July of 1895, the track being removed after the exhibition ended.


So, long story short, the Kyōto Dentetsu type 1 cars are of such historical and cultural importance to both the history of the city of Kyōto as well as Japanese (railway) history in general that the preservation of one of these cars at the Heian Jingu makes total sense, even if we don't factor in all other factors. Taking into account the history of the shrine itself, and the fact that it was served by the Kyōto Dentetsu during the 4th National Industrial Exhibition only serves to cement this connection further.



Now was all this exposition necessary? probably not, yet I do think the story of the Kyōto Dentetsu deserves to expanded upon, considering the significance of both the railway and the cars that operated on it, and as this topic gave me the perfect excuse to do so, well I'd be daft not to take this opportunity and run with it now wouldn't I?




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@200系thank you very much for a great story! Yes the connection makes total sense. I wish I read the story somehow as I was visiting. So after all, there was a line somewhere there, close to the garden, if only during the 4th National Industrial Exhibition. It's interesting this car received #2, which would not have been its original number considering it's from the late release (9 windows), but may be it was renumbered #2 when it lost "N" prefix and thus served with this number in its late career.


I am impressed Heian Kyo in 794 created a city grid that survives until now. I don't know if many ancient cities would have built a planned grid like this in those days.


Daishi Dentetsu - is this 第四電鉄? In other words Electric Railroad No. 4? Interesting that it became the third electric railroad in Japan.

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I love the EF55. An Electric loco you needed a turntable for.


Microace also produced a RTR model many moons ago. They now seem to fetch at least 3 times their initial retail price.


Microace A1305 if you wanted to try and find one.

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While the legs of my benchwork continue to dry after an elaborate oil massage 🙂 (also known as polyurethane finishing), another batch of photos.


Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, April 16, 2017 (a day or two after the route opening). One of two then-existing trolleybus routes in Japan, and now the only one.











The route goes inside a tunnel under the mountain, and is mostly one-lane. This is departure from the Daikanbo Station (towards Toyama), but that's how most of the route looks like too, minus the station infrastructure.




In the middle, there is a widening of the tunnel where there are two lanes, so ETBs going in the opposite direction can pass each other. Because an ETB can carry only so many passengers, they send them simultaneously in flocks from both side. You can see three here going in the opposite direction, and since the system has a total of 8 trolleybuses, there were probably 4 going in each direction, all meeting in the middle.




The other ETB system in Japan was a little further east on the same route, between Kurobe Dam and Ogizawa, also in a tunnel under a mountain. Sadly it was replaced with an electric bus traction in 2018. My trip was a day trip from Toyama and back, i.e. effectively covering the entire Alpine Route twice during daytime, which is possible but requires an early start and going quickly through all stations, and a little luck, as some legs can have waiting time due to crowds. By the time I was at Kurobe Dam, in theory I had enough time to go to Ogizawa and then be able to return all the way back to Toyama, but there was no guarantee there would not be a long line to board the trolley bus in Ogizawa... and it's impossible to get to see the buses on that route unless you are riding them. So all I have from the second and now defunct ETB line is this:




To get from the mountainous area to Toyama, you take Tateyama Line on the Toyama Chiho Railway. At the Tateyama Station terminus.




The big attraction to visit the route in April is these high snow walls - you can walk between them like in a deep cutting too, along the bus route:




But the weather can be so-so (as it was at times) and the nature is probably best enjoyed in the summer or early fall. The place does have the highest altitude onsen in Japan, I believe, in Murodo (2410 meters).




Also a number of inclines and ropeways on the route... This is Tateyama Cable Car.






Edited by Aleks
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