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Old November 7th, 2013, 03:50 AM   #1441
sacto7654
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I do think that if the Seven Stars in Kyushu train does continue to be successful, we could see both Twilight Express and Cassiopeia continue in service, though they will get service upgrades and rebuilt cars with improved sleeper rooms and an improved dining car. Too bad the JR Hokkaido lines between Hakodate and Sapporo are mostly not electrified, or the future trainset for Twilight Express and Cassiopeia could have used an updated version of the 285 Series trainset used on the Sunrise Seto/Sunrise Izumo service.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:47 AM   #1442
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Hokutosei, Cassiopeia, Twilight Express to be axed
http://mainichi.jp/english/english/n...na014000c.html

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Some of the last sleeper trains riding Japan's rails, their passengers lured away by air travel and Shinkansen bullet trains, will soon be retired, it has been learned.

The overnight express trains, including the so-called "blue trains," had played an important role in expanding domestic tourism since their first appearance in the 1950s. However, as the rail cars age and passenger numbers drop, East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido), and West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) have decided to wind up most of the overnight services.

According to sources close to the railway companies, Blue Train Akebono running between JR Ueno and Aomori stations will be retired when the railway timetable is revised in March next year.

The last blue train to be retired from regular service will be the Hokutosei connecting Tokyo and Sapporo, at the end of fiscal 2014. The Cassiopeia sleeper train running between JR Ueno and Sapporo, and the Twilight Express between Osaka and the Hokkaido capital, are expected to end operations at the end of fiscal 2015 -- around the same time as the launch of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line.

The Hokutosei, however, will still run on special occasions such as the Bon festival period in August and the New Year's holidays.

Meanwhile, two overnight trains -- Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo, operating between JR Tokyo and Takamatsu stations -- will continue services for the time being.

The overnight express train Hokutosei is seen near JR Uguisudani Station in Tokyo's Taito Ward, in August 2006. (Mainichi, file)
Looks like I spoke too soon...
Needless to say, the elimination of the Cassiopeia and Twilight Express is very surprising.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:48 AM   #1443
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Steam service to return to Tohoku
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/economy...AJ201311070074

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East Japan Railway Co. plans to try to lift the spirits of the quake-ravaged Tohoku region by bringing a steam locomotive back into service.

The company said Nov. 6 the “SL Ginga” (SL galaxy), which seats 180 and has four passenger cars, will start service in April 2014.

The train has been undergoing restoration work, JR East said.

Photos released by the company show the passenger cars sporting a motif from the fairy tale “Ginga Tetsudo no Yoru” (Night on the Galactic Railroad), written by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933). Miyazawa, a poet and one of Japan’s most celebrated authors of children’s literature, was born in the Tohoku region’s Iwate Prefecture.

The SL Ginga is painted in blue, representing the night sky, and gets brighter farther down the train. Golden stars and animals inspired by Miyazawa’s works are also illustrated along the exterior of the passenger cars.

The interior of the passenger cars includes retro-style wood tables and chairs, stained windows and electric lights that resemble old gas lamps. JR East said the cars will have galleries for Miyazawa’s works, a small planetarium, a lounge and an exhibition space dedicated to the Tohoku region.

Plans are to run the SL Ginga primarily on weekends and national holidays, for 80 days of the year.

The steam-powered locomotive will travel the JR Kamaishi Line connecting Hanamaki with Kamaishi, both in Iwate Prefecture, as well as other lines.

An artist's rendering of the interior of a passenger car on the steam-powered locomotive "SL Ginga" (SL galaxy) (Provided by East Japan Railway Co.)


An artist's rendering of the exterior of "SL Ginga" (SL galaxy) (Provided by East Japan Railway Co.)


An artist's rendering of a gallery inside the passenger car of the "SL Ginga" (SL galaxy) (Provided by East Japan Railway Co.)


A small planetarium will be built in one of the passenger cars of "SL Ginga" (SL galaxy) (Provided by East Japan Railway Co.)
JR East steam action at Takasaki (2013.10.20):

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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:56 AM   #1444
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The 3rd annual Mass-Trans Innovation Japan event is currently underway (2013.10.06 – 2013.10.08) at Makuhari Messe in Chiba (suburban Tōkyō). This is the largest transit technology conference in Japan, showcasing innovative new products in all fields of transit.

Sankei video report:

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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:57 AM   #1445
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Kawasaki Heavy Industries booth:
http://response.jp/article/2013/11/07/210229.html

The efWING, the world’s first bogie design with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) frame. Simplification of the frame design allowed them to shave about 450 kg of mass from the bogie, but the frame is still capable of supporting 36 tons on each side. Tests conducted in America confirmed stable performance at the top locomotive speed of 160 km/h and far better performance than existing models in preventing wheel load reduction, a cause of derailments.







E6 series Shinkansen seat

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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:58 AM   #1446
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Nippon Sharyō booth:
http://response.jp/article/2013/11/08/210246.html



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Old November 8th, 2013, 04:39 AM   #1447
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In the end, the ending of Cassiopeia and Twilight Express could mean that even the Sunrise Seto/Sunrise Izumo trains will not be long for this world. This may mean that JR West will need to push the Yakumo service to Matsue/Izumoshi more and JR Shikoku will probably make some adjustments to the Marine Liner service to Takamatsu.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 05:45 AM   #1448
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Quote:
Kawasaki Heavy Industries booth:
http://response.jp/article/2013/11/07/210229.html
I see in the background of the picture that KHI is still promoting their efSET export high speed trainset. There has been little (none) news about this product since its concept announcement a few years back, probably for lack of a launch customer (so far).

Quote:
The efWING, the world’s first bogie design with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) frame. Simplification of the frame design allowed them to shave about 450 kg of mass from the bogie
Interesting pics- I see that it is a bolster equipped design (rather than bolsterless), and that some kind of damper mechanism is fitted in the interior to the bolster crossbar, resembling a semi/active suspension.

Last edited by k.k.jetcar; November 8th, 2013 at 05:51 AM.
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Old November 8th, 2013, 02:14 PM   #1449
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quashlo View Post
Kawasaki Heavy Industries booth:
http://response.jp/article/2013/11/07/210229.html

The efWING, the world’s first bogie design with a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) frame. Simplification of the frame design allowed them to shave about 450 kg of mass from the bogie, but the frame is still capable of supporting 36 tons on each side. Tests conducted in America confirmed stable performance at the top locomotive speed of 160 km/h and far better performance than existing models in preventing wheel load reduction, a cause of derailments.
450 kg reduction per bogie?
900 kg per car will make a BIG difference.
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Old November 10th, 2013, 03:53 AM   #1450
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swede View Post
450 kg reduction per bogie?
900 kg per car will make a BIG difference.
One wonders has KHI already applied this to production trainset already. Remember, JR West recently announced they were finally going to replace the venerable 115 Series EMU's running on the San'yō Maine Line. Since KHI was one of the two builders of the 225 Seres EMU (along with Kinki Sharyo), shaving 900 kg off the weight of each 225 Series car could mean enough weight savings for a four-car 225 trainset to make it fully loaded up the famous Senohachi grade east of Hiroshima from Seno Station east to Saijō Station with no significant loss of speed.
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Old November 10th, 2013, 07:34 PM   #1451
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I don't think it's part of any production stock yet, but I suspect this type of design (CFRP) will eventually become the standard in new bogies.
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Old November 10th, 2013, 07:34 PM   #1452
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Some clips of the restoration of locomotive C58 239 by JR East’s Morioka office as part of the new SL Ginga steam service in Iwate Prefecture to begin soon.

60 s CM spot:



Rivet installation on the boiler unit:



Kiha 141 cars, which will be renovated to serve as passenger cars for the new SL service:



Three technicians from the Morioka office attend training courses at the railway’s Takasaki facility to prepare them to perform routine maintenance of C58 239. JR East already operates steam loco services in Gunma out of Takasaki:

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Old November 10th, 2013, 07:36 PM   #1453
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For global competition, the EU bets on international standardization
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/globe/f...AJ201311080014

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Over the last few years, bigwigs from the Japanese rail industry and the government have made a concerted effort to promote the Shinkansen, Japan’s high-speed rail system, overseas.

However, the success of this push may depend less on Japan’s hi-tech wizardry and more on a debate about something far more arcane: international standardization.

The railway industry is governed by a variety of standards that cover everything from trains to power lines and signaling systems. Basically, though, each nation has developed its own independent technologies based on local laws and regulations. This means, in effect, that each country has its own rail standards. On the other hand, Europe has been moving to harmonize its standards and is now pushing for these to be accepted internationally. This is part of an aggressive campaign to capture global markets.

“The battle began in the 1990s,” says Hiroshi Tanaka, the 58-year-old director of the Railway International Standards Center, a body established three years ago to engage strategically in international railway standardization.

The backdrop was EU economic integration and its elimination of national borders. The construction of a Europe-wide transportation network was vital to the development of a common market. As a result, German trains can now run in France, for example, while France’s own high-speed rail service can cross the English Channel into Britain. In order for rail companies to operate across borders, though, standards had to be harmonized. This process was supported by legal standardization and heavy EU investment in technological development.

The next milestone was the launch of the World Trade Organization in 1995. The WTO obliged states to conform to international standards if differing criteria proved to be an obstruction to trade. On the other hand, though, if a country did adapt its own technology to global norms, it would now find it easier to export overseas.

One institution that helps set international railway standards is the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), a body responsible for electric, electronic and related technologies. In order to approve any new standards, the IEC needs the approval of two-thirds of its member nations. However, 19 of the 27 nations participating in the IEC’s railway committee are from Europe, so when it comes to a vote, says Tanaka, “no one else has a prayer.”

The secretariat of the railway committee has traditionally been held by the French, too. Barring exceptional circumstances, the top post rarely rotates either. Furthermore, the officer also heads the railway committee of a similar institution within Europe. All this puts Europe in an extremely advantageous situation.

It’s not just railways, either. The situation is the same for any number of new sectors, from electric cars to smart grids (next-generation power systems): if a country’s technology gets adopted as the world standard, this will have a direct impact on that country’s ability to compete globally.

Yoichiro Usui, a professor at Niigata University of International and Information Studies, is an expert in the EU’s standardization strategy. He has a few choice words to say about the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a nongovernmental organization charged with setting standards for most industries, apart from the electricity sector.

According to Usui, EU nations account for most of the ISO’s member nations and the lion’s share of the leadership positions. The ISO has more than 700 technical committees and subcommittees, for example, and Britain, France and Germany are represented in nearly all of these. Indeed, the three nations hold the top three spots when it comes to participation.

“With safety and environmental standards in particular, the EU sets high benchmarks within its borders and then rolls them out internationally. For the EU, standardization and economic strategy are one and the same thing,” says Usui.

This is backed up by a 2011 white paper by the European Commission, which states that “the creation of the European standard (should) be carried out rapidly with the aim of asserting it as an international standard.”

Recently, though, Japan has been fighting back against this European domination, through Railway Applications, a technical committee established within the ISO last year. Japan has been involved since the planning stages, and the body is also chaired by a Japanese. The Japanese negotiations were led by Railway International Standards Center director Tanaka. He says the need for a railway committee was long discussed beforehand.

In autumn 2011, Tanaka heard about a proposal to station the committee in Germany. Apparently, it has been jointly submitted with France a week earlier. Figuring it would be too late unless it took immediate action, the Japanese side quickly put together its own detailed proposal with help from the domestic railway sector. This was unveiled at preparatory meetings taking place in France and Portugal.

In the end, the other participants were won over by the readiness of the Japanese proposal, while Tanaka also convinced them of the merits of involving countries from outside Europe. All that said, the other five major participating nations besides Japan are all European. The committee’s second annual meeting will be held in Tokyo in November.

“I want to deepen Japanese understanding of international standards and increase the number of Japanese leaders in the industry,” says Tanaka. “In this era, it doesn’t matter how advanced or safe a technology is; if it doesn’t meet international norms, it won’t be able to compete globally.”

EUROPE’S CEFR: THE NEW 'STANDARD' FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

We often come across “international standards” in our daily lives. Take English learning, for example. From fiscal 2012 onwards, the cover of the textbooks for English-learning programs on radio and TV by Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) will be adorned with codes such as “A1” or “B2.” Lifted from the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages" (CEFR), these symbols correspond to six levels, from A1 to C2. These levels in turn provide a detailed description of how competent someone is in a certain language based on their combined listening, speaking, reading and writing abilities.

Following the birth of the single European market, more people began moving across Europe. This created a need for a common yardstick to measure language ability. Based on decades of research by the Council of Europe from the 1970s onwards, the CEFR was gradually systemized into an “European standard” for measuring language competence.

NHK has been running English courses for close to 90 years, but this was the first time it adopted external standards. Before then, the program levels or course contents were decided by the lecturers and producers.

“English learning is more or less a lifetime endeavor for Japanese people nowadays. We wanted to help people start studying English at an appropriate level for them, whatever their stage in life,” says Mizuto Tanaka from NHK’s Youth & Educational Programs Division. The system will also be rolled out for other European languages from fiscal 2014.

In order to adapt the English education program for Japanese people, Japanese language scholars developed the “CEFR-J” by dividing the lowest levels into more detailed sub-levels. This was released over the Internet this spring. Since 2010, meanwhile, the Japan Foundation, an organization specializing in international cultural exchange, has been adapting its Japanese study levels and goals to comply with the CEFR. As with in Japan, the CEFR is also spreading rapidly throughout the rest of Asia, as well as Central and South America.

Ikuo Koike, a professor emeritus at Keio University with many years’ experience in English education in Japan, says the CEFR is the result of lessons learned by Europe from World War II.

“Incorporated in the CEFR’s view of language is the idea that language communication is integral to the realization of democracy,” says Koike.

Perhaps the universality of these “European values” is what propelled the CEFR to be adopted as an international standard.
Not entirely about rail, but a nice overview of Japan’s obstacles in the field of global standards, which affects how Japanese firms can market their rail equipment and technology overseas. There has historically been very little need for Japan to push any sort of cross-border standards with other countries, as the rest of East Asia is still playing catchup in terms of modernization and economic development. But it’s good to see them taking action to ensure that Japanese innovations, particularly in areas where they have superior technology, aren’t marginalized as a result of wider adoption of European standards.
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Old November 10th, 2013, 07:48 PM   #1454
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The last public tour of the Seikan Tunnel's Tappi Kaitei Station, the world's first undersea train station, was held today:

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Old November 11th, 2013, 06:52 AM   #1455
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Seven Stars in Kyūshū:
Source: kimuchi583, on Flickr

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Old November 11th, 2013, 06:53 AM   #1456
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Old November 11th, 2013, 06:54 AM   #1457
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And since its days are now numbered, the Twilight Express (Ōsaka – Sapporo):
Source: kimuchi583, on Flickr

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Old November 11th, 2013, 04:02 PM   #1458
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I think JR West is watching with interest how successful Seven Stars in Kyushu is. This is because JR West is seriously considering building its own luxury cruise train for high-end passengers who want to visit the various UN Heritage sites in western Honshu--and a variant of the Seven Stars in Kyushu trainset may just fit the bill....
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Old November 11th, 2013, 06:52 PM   #1459
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If I remember correctly, I think both JR West and JR East are fairly committed to operating luxury cruise trains. Not an if or when really, they just have to finalize the finer details like route, etc. It's not clear who will be designing those sets, but I doubt it will be Mitooka, since he doesn't really have a history with either railway. Off the top of my head, I can't recall any train that he's designed for either of the two largest JRs... He's mostly JR Kyūshū, with smaller local railways (地方鉄道). Plus, if you look at the render of the JR East set, it's clearly not Mitooka's style.
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Old November 11th, 2013, 07:59 PM   #1460
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quashlo View Post
The last public tour of the Seikan Tunnel's Tappi Kaitei Station, the world's first undersea train station, was held today:

Why do they stop these visits? In the Gotthard Base Tunnel similar visits are now planned as tourist attraction, even if they weren't planned when the project was started. There will probably be glass windows with a view into the tunnel, accessed by road vehicles (it seems that the Sedrun shaft, the one with the vertical elevator, will not be used, with visits taking place from some of the other three access tunnels, which can be used by buses).
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