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Akebono limited express retired with 2500 fans looking on

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Very happy I rode on the Akebono in November now, sad to see it go but at least it will be run on special occasions still.

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So what "Blue trains" are now left?


I am in Japan on May on holiday for two weeks so will be looking to try photograph those that are still left running.


I can catch the "Twilight Explorer" between Osaka and Toyama* but what other blue trains are still extant?


For example, does anyone know what days the "Nihonkai" runs on this year?


And when do the "Hokutosei" and "Cassiopeia" arrive / depart from Ueno?


*Just spotted that Twilight Explorer is not run on all days so what days of the week does it run on?

Edited by yakumo381
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I think you're referring to Twilight Express, which may finally end service once the Hokkaido Shinkansen opens in March 2016. Indeed, the opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen may finally mark the end of the Cassiopeia and Hokutosei overnight trains too. In short, the last overnight train left in Japan by 2016 is the Sunrise Seto/Sunrise Izumo service.

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And the Akebono is not fully retired. It will still do limited runs in the "busy season". It's just retired as a regular service train.

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But how long before JR decide that maintaining the cars for just a few runs a year is worthwhile?  The days when railways around the world kept large fleets of rollingstock which was only dusted off for two or three busy weekends a year is sadly gone.

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As far as i know the cars are alway kept (without any maintenance) until their last license runs out. This time depends on the date of the last checkup and the service period. After that, they either store them, sell them or cut them up. The JR companies almost never decide to store a train, while some european and american railroads tend to just put their old trains down somewhere and leave them for a few decades until someone needs them or until they rust away, whatever happens first.

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Here is some overview of what's left. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Train_(Japan)

  • Akebono - connects Ueno (Tokyo) and Aomori once daily (scheduled to be discontinued from March 2014)[2]
  • Cassiopeia - connects Ueno (Tokyo) and Sapporo three times a week; uses deluxe cars (expected to be discontinued from spring 2016)[2][Note 1]
  • Hokutosei - connects Ueno (Tokyo) and Sapporo once daily (expected to become a seasonal service from spring 2015)[2]
  • Nihonkai - connects Osaka and Aomori (discontinued as a regular service, seasonal services remain)
  • Twilight Express - connects Osaka and Sapporo four times a week; uses deluxe cars (expected to be discontinued from spring 2016)[2]
  • Like 1
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So the the only daily blue train still running is the Hokutosei. The Cassiopeia and the Twilight Express are luxury trains, the Akebono and the Nihonkai are seasonal only. And there are also two sleeper emu-s. Not much is left and not for long.


Considering that the capacity of a daily sleeper train can be replaced with a single extra shinkansen run, their retirement is understandable, but imho they will be missed as much as the steam locomotives and the classic JNR era commuter trains.

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Kind of a rare item being a regular express rather than a limited.  I can only think of a few others that operated over the last 10 years or so, the Kasuga (Nagoya to Nara via Kansai Line) and the Tsuyama (Okayama to Tsuyama) come to mind.  Both are gone now.

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bikkuri bahn

Yes, the keeping of the express service is interesting.  There used to be an overnight rapid service (kaisoku) between Sapporo and Hakodate, using converted dmus, but that was axed.  At least in the past, the overnight trains in this area were often used by college students on trips back home who were either going to school in the Sapporo area or Hirosaki.  I figure with the opening of the shinkansen to Shin Hakodate, there will be a wholesale culling of these services. Eliminating the ostensibly "budget" overnight rail services between Hokkaido and Honshu and making people take the shinkansen is low risk for the railways, as there will be no competing direct bus services (unlike within Honshu), thanks to the Tsugaru Strait.

Edited by bikkuri bahn
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Nice video of the ceremony to mark the retirement of the Akebono with the traditional handing over of a bouquet of flowers to the driver and guard.
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