Subway Trains

E231 and Ginza I 3549

In some ways there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Tōkyō’s urban and suburban commuter trains and its subway trains. Both are electric multiple-unit (EMU) sets, running on narrow-gauge track and typically using 1500V DC power from overhead (catenary) wires. Some commuter trains even run through into the subway tunnels to reach more central stations.

But there are differences. First, subway trains (and commuter trains designed for subway use) will have emergency exit doors on the ends, to facilitate evacuations in a tunnel. Second they are often shorter, to allow for tighter curves. And some are also narrower, although this seems less common. You can see some of the size difference in the photo above: the train on the left is a subway train (a Ginza line 01 series) and the train on the right is a commuter train (Yamanote line E231). The subway train is narrower (2.55m vs 2.95m), shorter 16m vs 20m and lower (3.485m vs 3.98m).

But two lines are even more distinct. The Tōkyō Metro Ginza and Marunouchi lines. These were the city’s first two subways (the Ginza opened in 1927) and use third-rail 750 Volt DC power instead of catenary. They also use standard-gauge track (there had been substantial discussion in the 1920’s about converting all of Japan’s narrow-gauge lines to standard-gauge, although this never happened, so use of standard-gauge on these lines was in keeping with the spirit of the time).

The Marunouchi line’s crossing of the Kanda river, underneath Ochanomizu Station on the Chūō line, was part of the inspiration for the subway station on my Riverside Station scene, which ultimately caused me to include a subway in the layout. And so a Ginza-line train was an obvious one to include, even if it wouldn’t be prototypical for it to run between the Commuter and Subway lines.

Also, as this was a Kato model, I had high hopes for the quality (and I wasn’t disappointed in that) and I had hoped it would be “DCC Friendly” (meaning compatible with Kato’s FL12 headlight decoder and EM13 motor decoder). This, unfortunately, didn’t prove to be the case. While it’s compatible with the FL12, it’s not compatible with the EM13. This is described more on my Ginza Series 01 page, and I’ll have more to say about the train once I receive the lighting kits I have on order and install them.

This is a bit of a problem, as my Subway line will be DCC-only once I finish working on the DCC electronics. I do have my Tōkyō Metro 10000 Series train (a Greenmax model) and I suspect it’s going to end up being my first wire-in decoder conversion so I’ll have something appropriate for the line.

But it won’t be the only one. Kato seems to be getting into subway trains in a big way. They’ve already announced (and I’ve already reserved) a model of the same 10000 series train Greenmax did. And more are likely on the way. And they’ve developed a new, narrower, version of their interior lighting kit (which is compatible with the FR11 DCC decoder for interior lights). That plus the FL12 compatibility gives me hope that they’re going to come out with a revised motor decoder that will fit the subway trains. They could also use it on new versions of some of their Shinkansen, as some of those are too narrow for the EM13.

At the same time, this seems to be spurring Greenmax to be competitive (or maybe that’s just coincidence) as they’ve announced two Tōkyō Metro Tozai line trains, the E231-800 and a Series 05. The E231-800 is a model which I’ve wanted for a long time: this differs from the usual E231 by fitting the size profile for a subway, and having the end exit door. But it also operates over part of the Chūō-Sōbu line, making it a perfect candidate for Commuter to Subway run-through operations.

So, this winter is shaping up to be a subway train bonanza. Once I finally get the track working, I won’t be short of models to convert to DCC and run on the subway line (I already have plenty of easy-to-convert commuter trains for the Commuter line, as well as other models I can run on the DC-capable Express/Shinkansen loop). All I have to find is the time to actually do the conversions.


I’ve been doing substantial cleanup of the site, now that most of the pages have been converted back from the problematic Stacks format into basic Styled Text pages. This included updating the photo albums, and re-doing the various electrical sections. I’m also running around and correcting bad links created by the conversion process, and restoring missing ones, but that’s not yet fully done as not all of the pages have been converted (mainly the older Musings are pointing off to incorrect pages, but I’m holding off on cleaning up those 100+ pages until I finish the page conversion).

Photo Albums

Back when I first started having problems with memory in RapidWeaver, I separated the photo album pages (which are huge, but use the Collage2 page type) off into a separate “site” within RapidWeaver. This made for a number of problems (for example, you can’t easily link between pages in different sites, and a number of links ended up pointing to the wrong page). It also didn’t help, as Collage2 is different from Stacks even though both are from the same company, and it doesn’t have the memory leak problem that Stacks does.

So I’ve now re-intetgrated the photo albums, and updated some of them. The “Electronics Album” has been rearranged as described below (I’d made a start on that before, but now it’s done). I’ve also added a couple of new ones, most significantly the Ginza Train page illustrating my attempt to install decoders (a text description is on the Ginza Series 01 page).

I’ve also, finally, included a number photos of freight-car models I’d been meaning to add for more than a year.

Electrical Sections

There are three different sets of pages related to electricity within the site, and they’d gotten a bit muddled. I’ve moved things around and changed some titles to make things clearer. At the same time, a number of the pages have been rewritten in part to bring them up to current status. What I now have is:

Electrical Systems - this set of pages, located within the Model Railroad section, describes the wiring and power systems of the layout itself. The Electrical Photos album goes along with this, except that DCC systems have been split off into a DCC Systems album, and signals (both models and electronics) have been split off into a Signal Photos album.

DCC for Model Trains - this set of pages, located within the Model Trains section, describes DCC as it applies to trains themselves, including background information about decoder programming, as well as all of my “how to install” pages. Photos related to this are in individual albums about the specific trains in the Model Train Photos section.

Electricity for Modelers - this top-level section (formerly the Layout Electricity section) contains pages related to electrical and electronic topics of interest (I hope) to modelers. It’s where I stick any reference info that doesn’t fit in the other two sections, but I’ve also included a couple of “Basics” pages to provide background for new readers. This section includes things like my DC power pack testing and LED lighting pages.

The Missing “Missing Page” Page

Somehow I managed to screw up the URL for the 404 error page (the web server was pointing to the right page, but it was somewhere else). I’ve fixed that now, so hopefully you’ll get a nice error if you go for a URL that isn’t there. Note that when I moved pages in this update, I tried to make sure I set up redirects for all of them, so even if the URL changed you won’t get an error. However, it’s possible I missed one or two, so if you get an error using a bookmarked link, look around. I haven’t removed any pages, just relocated them.

Blog Comments

You may have noticed there still isn’t a commenting system. I’ve been distracted by other cleanup, as well as the problems with getting transponding detection to work (it still isn’t, although I’ve eliminated a number of possible causes). That all pushed work on the comment system aside, although I’ve been making progress slowly. There’s a working user interface now, and I just need to implement the back-end database interface, and work out some anti-spam protections. It’s also very straightforward, it just takes time.