Wednesday, 11 May 2016

JAPAN - Tokyo Part 2.4

Inbound Keio train arriving at Tama Center - with the Tama Monorail viaduct passing above - no luck with a 2-train photo though...

Day 4 (5 May 2016)

Thursday started again as a very sunny day, and after having conquered the south and the east of the metropolitan area, it was time to go west for the Tama Monorail. I took a Shinjuku Line train out from the Subway system to Sazakusa, the first surface station on what is Keio's New Line, virtually an underground extension of Toei's Shinjuku Line (or seen the other way round, the Shinjuku Line is merely an underground city extension of the large Keio network). From there an express train which was bound for Hashimoto, but I got off at Tama Center, where I could have travelled also on an Odakyu train via a different route to catch the Tama Monorail at its southern end. 

 Tama Monorail's impressive Tama Center station as you approach from the Keio/Odakyu station 

This is actually one of their most impressive stations, I suppose (I didn't see the others from outside). Although there is a day pass just for the monorail, I did it the 'cheap' way and just used my PASMO card, although I got off several times along the route, rode to the end and finally returned to Tachikawa, to be charged 400 Yen, the maximum single fare on that line. From Tama Center, the train was packed with families, as this is holiday week in Japan, and many used the day to go to the zoo (Dobutsu-koen), four stops further north. The trains ran every 8 minutes, and at most stations you can take quite good photos from the opposite side platform. 

Tama Monorail - out of the front window view near Otsuka-Teikyo-Daigaku

Sometimes I had to run over to the otherside for a picture as I was visiting in the morning. Compared to the strange seat arrangement I would see two days later on the Tokyo Monorail, the Tama Monorail looks like a normal metro train inside. The ride is smooth, but somewhat slow. The route is not as spectacular as that of the Shonan Monorail, but still provides nice views of the surrounding suburbs. The trains are quite appealing in their strong orange livery. Orange and green are also the basic colours found in the stations, but once again colours were used only to make the stations fancier, but not to help passengers. In Tama, the tones change from orange in the south to green in the north, with little squares of darker tones being added station after station. So, while this looks good, it does, of course, not help in any way to distinguish the stations, as the differences between neighbouring stations are hard to tell. 

Tama Monorail - fancy station marker and colours, but not really helpful

And while other stations are spaced at quite regular intervals, Tachikawa has a stop just north and just south of the railway station, so I guess most passengers take the JR Chuo Line to continue towards Tokyo (well, Tama is in fact also Tokyo).

I did the same, but as I wasn't aware I jumped on an express to find out that it does not stop at Nishi-Kokubunji, the interchange with the JR Musashino Line, a sort of outer circular line through the northern suburbs. As my next destination was Omiya, I had to return one stop to change to a Musashino Line train north to Musashi-Urawa, an interchange with the JR Saikyo Line. At that station I was joined by Craig Moore, who happened to be in Tokyo for a few days and who has been feeding my website with lots of metro pictures he took on his frequent trips to Asian cities. He had been to Tokyo often, but never made it out to the "New Shuttle" in Saitama. In fact, I was wondering how he knew about it as it is not even included on UrbanRail.Net, as I had only learned about it a few months ago when we started to prepare our Tokyo book. But the "New Shuttle" is just another of several rubber-tyred metros I have already seen on this trip, but being far out in the suburbs, no one has ever claimed it. 

"New Shuttle" side by side with Shinkansen

The funny thing about this one is that it is attached to the Shinkansen viaduct, with the "track" in each direction aligned on the outside of the Shinkansen route. In fact, a few days later, on my way to Sendai, I could see some of the stops from the Shinkansen, and the pink train was just passing by. Where the Shinkansen splits, with one route heading west to Nagano, and the other north to Sendai, the "New Shuttle" becomes single-track along the south side of the Nagano Shinkansen, but with passing loops at all intermediate stops. As we arrived there in the early afternoon (I have got the impression that Japan is actually in the wrong time zone, the sun is always much further in the west as one would suspect!), the northbound route on the western side of the Shinkansen was perfect to take some pictures from the end of the platforms (about every other station has stairs at the northern end, but the other ones are perfect), although you only get shots from the rear of the train, of course. At Omiya they actually turn around in the loop, but for the outer end, they still have cabins at both ends. I made Craig jump off the train rather often, as the "New Shuttle" has a very varied fleet, at least all cars are painted in different colours, so I wanted to get as many as possible - and I think I got all that were in service that afternoon. Unfortunately, the larger series does not have a good design for people who want to look out the front window, as there is only a small glass window between passenger department and driver's cabin and at a rather low level. By the time we got to the end of the line, the sun had actually arrived so far west that it was possible to get a good shot with a train arriving, and not just a train, but the only one of a new series, which looks quite stylish (but I'll have to reserve that photo for the book, of course....). 

"New Shuttle" - front of new train

By the way, as it is difficult anyway to take pictures from street level as the line is rather high up, we didn't leave any station; instead, with had bought the cheapest ticket for 190 Yen, which was then rejected by the machine when we wanted to exit again at Omiya. But Craig, an expert in those things, went to the ticket clerk and asked for a stamp on it, I did the same, and the guy looked very confused, but did what we wanted and let us go out. I normally wouldn't do it, but I have been getting tired a bit of that Japanese fare "disintegration" that in the end you pay much more if you rely on several means of transport (and I'm not talking about excessive train spotters!).

Nippori-Toneri Liner - best shot I managed to get from platform end at Nishi-Nippori

Being so successful with the Tama Monorail and the "New Shuttle", we thought we could still have a go at Toei's Nippori-Toner Liner. But this line is very railfan unfriendly! Stupidly, you can't even take pictures at the end of the platform, because they have put some film over the glass windows! So the only option to get a train photo is from the front or rear window of the train you're in. Being operated in driverless mode you can actually sit in the driver's seat (very uncomfortable, though) and try your luck. Because on most stretches there is a kind of walkway between the tracks.

Nippori-Toneri Liner - typical view from front of train

Nippori-Toneri Liner - bad view from end of platform glass panel showing new train

Anyway, the sun was already getting too low for a good photo, and we were getting tired and headed back to the hotel, to enjoy a proper Japanese meal that evening (I'm proud I managed to eat it all with chopsticks!).

Go back to Tokyo Part 2.3 | Continue to Tokyo Part 2.5


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