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Japanese Rail Car Nomenclature (KuHa, SaHa, MoHa, KiHa)

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...the prefix "De"="KuMo" ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???



The prefix "de" is an old designation of the government railways for motored electric multiple units.  It was superseded by the "mo" prefix in 1928.  However, private railways continued to use the "de" prefix, and even now some still do, such as Tokyu or Kobe Dentetsu.

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I had always looked at this thread a few times before I finally registered but just to continue the fun for now either way here's one I've thought about


kiha 55-1

naha 01-2

naha 01-3

kini 55-4


don't tell me I'm not supposed to put baggage service on this train!! hehe :grin

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I'm waiting for the new BaKa 210 to come out.


Ba - Bar/Lounge

Ka - Drunks only


Figure the ladies get their own, why not something for the business men.


ROFL ... How'd I miss this post?


Great work!





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...what's the difference between Deha and Deo (for instance 叡山電鉄株式会社 Eizan Dentetsu) ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???


"Deo" is very unique format used only Eizan Dentetsu,I don't know the case on the other railroad.

that means large("Oogata") motorized rollingstock.

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Does anybody know this nomenclature for freight cars? I've seen ToKi (open wagon?), TaKi (cistern?), KoKi.... and many others.


Sorry, I found the answer in this post: http://www.jnsforum.com/index.php/topic,6017.0.html


There is a link to a page in SumidaCrossing with all the information you can be searching for and many more!!! ==> http://www.sumidacrossing.org/Prototype/JRFreight/FreightCars/





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...what's the difference between Deha and Deo (for instance 叡山電鉄株式会社 Eizan Dentetsu) ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???


"Deo" is very unique format used only Eizan Dentetsu,I don't know the case on the other railroad.

that means large("Oogata") motorized rollingstock.

Thanks, and "DeNa" (always Eizan Dentetsu) which appear even bigger and very american ??? Thanks


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Thanks, and "DeNa" (always Eizan Dentetsu) which appear even bigger and very american ??? Thanks


Hi all, "Na" means the middle size "Naka Gata",

but this phrase is uncommon in Japanese.  Usually , we use "Chu gata".


Kindly regards,


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Going back to Mark's post from 6 years ago(!), these classifications seem to relate to Japanese words like acronyms, but it's not clear what the words are in some cases.  MO is motor, NE is a sleeper (neru?), SHI is dining (shokudo, first kana in that word is shi), etc.


Does anyone know the origin of KU, RO, HA, RU, SA, and YA?  I've only guessed that RU could be ryutsu, but if it followed the pattern of SHI for dining cars, it would be RI, so I kind of doubt that.

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Should have checked Wikipedia first...

  • RU is from kubaru, 配る. Didn't know the kun reading of that character, I also expected it to be at the beginning of the word
  • YA is from yakusho, government/public/administrative office
  • KU is from kudosha, kudo 駆動 being "driving force" apparently
  • SA... Japanese wikipedia has a few sentences about this, there are various explanations. An old word, saburafu 候ふ meaning to serve next to a superior; the English word subordinate, which if pronounced with the Japanese syllabary would start with 'sa' not 'su'; lastly sashihasamu 差し挟む, to insert or slip in between
  • I, RO, and HA are from iroha, イロハ, a previous ordering of the kana? This like saying class A, B, and C.  'I' was once upon a time first class, RO second, and HA third. At some point second became first and third became second.  I guess this explains the MAINE cars in the Seven Stars in Kyushu set.

Still a few more to find... :)

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SuRoNeFu 25-501

Tried to "lifting" the thread from 7 months ago (?), it seems that there is still a missing explanation on "IRoHa" system...


I, RO, and HA are from iroha, イロハ, a previous ordering of the kana? This like saying class A, B, and C.


The letter "I", "Ro" and "Ha" are taken from the first three letters of Iroha poem (written in Heian period, according to Wikipedia). This poem is very famous, because it is a very perfect pangram and isogram (the latter is because each of syllabary characters (Kana) are used exactly once; no repeated usage of even one of Kana in itself). Due to this, many of experts decided to classify this as the Japanese equivalent of "A-B-C-D-..." character sequences. Even JGR decided to adopt the "IRoHa" system, as this system was (and is still) considered as "de facto" by many people, up until today...

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SuRoNeFu 25-501

But oddly enough, Kintetsu and Meitetsu does not use the "IRoHa" system on their trains, just Ku, Mo and Sa. I think there is a good reason that causes them to use "IRoHa" classification...

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Oh jeez this is gonna get confusing for me. Mantetsu and Sentetsu both used similar systems with a fair bit of overlap but also some notable differences... two examples off the top of my head are the DeRoHaNi electric railcars of the old Kumgangsan Electric Railway (금강산 전기 철도, I think Kongosan Denki Tetsudo in Japanese)... one of these survives at the Pyongyang Railway Museum. Then there's the Sentetsu electric locomotives, DeRoI and DeRoNi, where De is from denki for electric, Ro from Roku for six powered axles, I and Ni being 1 and 2, for first 6-axle electric, second 6-axle electric... I have the passenger and freight car designations too but don't recall them from memory and I'm not at home right now

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For the current japanese classification, Ro is used for green class, Ha for standard class and some luxury train cars still (or again) use I.


For electric motor cars, Mo is used, where the older system had De, so an old DeHa is now usually a MoHa or a KuMoHa (motor control standard class in english).


The system described by Pashina12 seems to be from the era of the early JGR.

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That would make sense, as it was in use from I'm not sure when until 1945. North Korea still uses the same system for freight cars, except written in hangeul instead of katakana

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Well in case anyone's interested, for comparison's sake, here's the Mantetsu info for the system used from 1938-1945. Sentetsu's system from 1938-1945 was nearly identical.


Steam locomotives had three-katakana class names (same as in the 1920 system), the first two indicating wheel arrangement and taken from the American name of that wheel arrangement, the third one being the class number. So you had:

  • 4-4-0: アメ from "American"
  • 0-6-0: シカ from "Six-Coupled"
  • 2-6-0: モガ from "Mogul"
  • 4-6-0: テホ from "Ten-Wheeler"
  • 2-6-2: プレ from "Prairie"
  • 4-6-2: パシ from "Pacific"
  • 0-8-0: エト from "Eight-Coupled"
  • 2-8-0: ソリ from "conSOLIdation"
  • 2-8-2: ミカ from "Mikado"
  • 4-8-2: マテ from "Mountain"
  • 2-10-0: デカ from "Decapod"
  • 2-10-2: サタ from "Santa Fe"

All tank locomotives (effectively only 4-4-4T and 2-6-4T) were classed ダブ from "Double-Ender".

The class numbers from 1 to 10 were I, Ni, Sa, Shi, Ko, Ro, Na, Ha, Ku and Chi.

And then you had the actual road number. So my username, Pashina12, refers to the 12th unit of the 7th class of 4-6-2 (which differed from the other 11 through the streamlining designed by Kawanishi Aircraft Co).


For railcars/MUs, the first syllable indicated the power type:

  • Supe - steam-powered railcar (track inspection cars)
  • Supeki - inspection car with internal combustion engine (reclassified from Mota)
  • Ki - passenger railcar with gasoline engine
  • Ke - passenger railcar with kerosene engine
  • Ji - passenger railcar with diesel engine


The rest of the syllables were taken from the passenger car classifications:

The most commonly used ones:

  • I - 1st-class
  • Ro - 2nd class
  • Ha - 3rd class
  • Ki - Kitchen
  • Ne - sleeping car
  • Shi - dining car
  • Te - baggage
  • Ten - observation car
  • Yo - mail

And then there were some rarer ones:

  • Ere - Memorial (I have no idea what this means but I'm guessing these are cars used to transport dead soldiers?)
  • Ia - "Comfort" (i.e. brothel)
  • Kehi - guard
  • Kihi - VIP
  • Mute - car without electricity
  • Seri - hospital
  • Shike - laboratory
  • Shiya - official company use
  • Toku - special use (not sure what)
  • Kiyo - school car

And then there were additional ones:

  • O - car has independent heating (i.e. a fireplace in the compartment)
  • Fu - car has an attendant
  • Fuse - control car with an attendant

And then after all the syllables there was an Arabic numeral to indicate the class, and then the running number. The "Asia Express" between Dalian and Harbin was pulled by a Pashina and made up usually of TeYu - Ha - Ha - Shi - Ro - TenI. The "Nozomi" from Busan in Korea to Mukden in Manchuria (aka Shenyang now) was TeYu - Te - 4x Ha - HaNe - Shi - RoNe - TenINe (1st class observation sleeper!).


Freight cars worked the same way, katakana for type, a subscript katakana for class number and then running number in arabic numerals.

Closed cars:

  • Fu - ventilated boxcar
  • Ho - insulated boxcar
  • Re - refrigerator
  • U - stock car
  • Ya - boxcar

Open cars:

  • Chi - flatcar
  • Ko - ore hopper
  • Mu - gondola
  • Ta - coal hopper
  • Tsu - sand car

Tank cars:

  • A - petroleum tank
  • Ke - diesel tank
  • Ma - bean oil tank
  • Mi - water tank
  • O - heavy oil tank
  • Ra - paraffin tank
  • Ri - sulphuric acid tank
  • Ru - tar tank
  • Yo - nitric acid tank

Non-revenue cars:

  • Ashi - cinder car
  • Ese - sanitation car
  • Hi - emergency vehicle
  • Ka - caboose
  • Kika - inspection car
  • Koha - generator car
  • Shiku - crew car
  • Yuki - snowplow
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  • Densha changed the title to Japanese Rail Car Nomenclature (KuHa, SaHa, MoHa, KiHa)

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