Dec 2011

Micro Ace E231-800

As any regular reader knows, the JR East E231 is the train the sparked my interest in Japanese trains, and in particular in the commuter trains of Tōkyō. I’m not really clear why myself. Objectively they’re simply boxes engineered to move large numbers of people rapidly. Perhaps it’s the simple functionalism of the design, coupled with the fact that it represents the culmination of fifteen years of re-engineering the commuter train, begun by the Japanese National Railway in the 80’s, and leading through several intermediate designs to one that now numbers over 2,700 cars. The E231 is hardly the end; evolved designs are already out there in the E233 and the prototype E331 (Japanese Wikipedia). But with the E231, JR East reached a point where the design achieved the original goal of “half the cost, half the life”, meaning a reduction in both initial cost and maintenance, at the expense of a reduced lifespan (15 years versus 30).

The E231 has been produced in many variants, but one of the most interesting lacked a model until now, the E231-800. This train, of which only seven 10-car trains were made, was produced to provide run-through service from JR East’s Chūō-Sōbu Line to the Tōkyō Metro Tōzai subway line. These replaced older 301 and 103 series trains dating from the 1960’s. For this use, the standard E231 body was reduced from 2.95m to 2.80m, giving the front a more squared-off appearance. Also, end doors were added to the cabs for in-tunnel emergency exits.

Tis the Season

’tis the buy toys. And when I stumbled across this one, I had to restrain myself from buying a set “to play with”. It’s a model of the JR East East-i E train. It’s part of Tomica’s “Hypercity” line of toy buildings and vehicles. Even more impressive, Toys R Us was selling it for US$129, considerably less than the $190 it’s going for on Amazon right now. And some of the other models were showing for half the current Amazon rate. It’s not clear if it’s a sale, or just their usual pricing (I didn’t see any sale signs). If you’re interested you should be able to find them; I found a large stock of these, apparently of little interest to most people, around the corner from the stuffed animals in my local store. I expect yours will be similar.

Two Greenmax Trains

Recently I’ve picked up a couple of new Greenmax trains, the Tōkyō Metro Tōzai Line Series 05 and Tōkyū Corporation Series 6000. The models are very similar in a sense, although the prototype trains are different in a number of ways. Both operate well, and look good from a distance, although not quite as good close-up in some ways.

The Tōkyū Railway Series 6000 is a relatively recent (2008) train, formed of six-car sets, operating on the surface Tōkyū Ōimachi Line on the south side of Tōkyō. The Tōkyō Metro Series 05, on the other hand, is a subway train dating from 1988 (but still in service), operating on an east-west axis underground route through the center of the city (it goes above ground away from the center). Both trains operate on narrow gauge track, from overhead 1500 Volt DC catenary, and are 2.8m wide, 20m long. The one difference is height, but not in the way you might expect: the subway train is actually 4.0m high, while the 6000 is 3.6m.

Bus Wiring and November 2011 Status

DCC is often said to simplify a model railroad because it requires “only two wires”. While that’s true to an extent, most real model railroads will require quite a bit more. Or maybe I just like to over-complicate things.