The Olympics - Your Chance To See a Famous Railcar The Series 0 Shinkansen Helped Drive Rail Tech Innovations in Japan-

2012-08-02

Rail Update Japan

The Olympic Games in London are a great attraction for sports fans, and there’s something else not far away that offers excitement for railway buffs.

In England, the birthplace of rail transportation, you can get close to one of Japan’s Series 0 Shinkansen cars, those dream-like high-speed trains that surprised the world 48 years ago, during another Olympic year (Tokyo). The Shinkansen has long been admired overseas, and thanks to the donation of one of its end cars now you can see it in Britain, as well as enjoy the Games. Technology developed during Japan’s period of rapid economic growth ushered in dependable, high-speed trains that have never experienced a major accident. After the nation’s national railway was privatized, the technical expertise was taken over by JR Central and JR West and formed the foundation for rail technology that is now praised worldwide for its reliability.

Japan’s premier travel agency JTB has organized 5-day tours during the Olympics, from August 7 through 11, offering seats at events like track and field and women’s volleyball, plus a one-day round trip on the high-speed Eurostar, which connects London with Paris by rail in about 2 hours 15 minutes. One of JTB’s staff managing the tours says they are just about sold out.

Tour participants may want to take the train for cross-border shopping and museum hopping, but if the attraction is rail travel, another good option is to remain in England and go to the National Railway Museum in York, the largest such museum in the world. Its spectacular collection of about 300 rolling stock items includes some of Britain’s early locomotives, royal carriages, and the Mallard which, at 202.8 km/h, set a speed record for a steam locomotive. Now also taking an honored place in the collection is that Shinkansen Series 0 end car from Japan.

The museum expressed a keen desire to display one, and in 2001 JR West donated a model made in 1976, which happens to be another Olympic year (Montreal). The Series 0 seems to have quite a few Olympic connections.

At 6:00 am on October 1, 1964, nine days before the opening of Tokyo’s Olympic Games, a Series 0 Shinkansen train named Hikari 1 left Platform 19 at Tokyo Station. Its top speed was 210 km/h, the world’s fastest at the time, and it incorporated many technical innovations still in use today, like automatic train control (ATC). Back then, advances in airplanes and automobiles had people in the West and elsewhere predicting the demise of passenger rail travel, but the Series 0 opened the door to a brighter future for trains.

Later, other countries followed the example set by the Series 0. For instance, France now has its TGV, Germany its ICE. Shinkansen technologies have made their way to Taiwan, China and elsewhere.

During the approximately 20 years since Japan’s economic boom times, about 3,200 Series 0 railcars were manufactured. But their role gradually diminished with the coming of new models like the Series 100 and 300. In 1999 they were taken off the track between Tokyo and Osaka, and between Osaka and Hakata in 2008, ending 44 years of faithful service. Incidentally, 2008 happened to be another Olympic year (Beijing)!

Today, four years later, even the Series 100 and 300 Shinkansen trains are no longer running. And perhaps memories of the Series 0 are beginning to fade. So it is fitting that two years from now, in October 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tokaido Shinkansen’s first commercial run, three companies (JR Central, JR West and JR Kyushu) will hold an international conference to highlight abroad Japan’s high-speed rail innovations, like the Series N700 Shinkansen and linear motorcar technologies.

Japan’s technical revolution in high-speed rail that has grabbed the world’s attention could not have occurred without track laid down by the Series 0. In this Olympic year, people in England for the Games have another opportunity to celebrate the exploits of the Series 0…

(Written by Takafumi Uno)

This article is taken from Bijinesu no Uragawa (Another Side of Business) published in the June 17, 2012 issue of the Japanese-language MSN Sankei News. We thank the publisher, Sankei Digital, for granting permission to present the article translated under the auspices of JORSA.


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