Sunday, July 24, 2011

京成千原線 (Keisei Chihara Line)

Now for a more niche and maybe a bit of a sad part of the history of Keisei not many people know about. It's about the history of the Chihara Line, one of the less well known and appreciated stretches of the Keisei network. I think that not many people who are acquainted with Keisei know about this railway line at all, as there isn't much to find online, even in this age and time. This is a story about two railway companies that set up a third company.

Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu 3050 Type.

Source: (19.07.2011)
In 1942 the Japanese Government Railways Kihara Line (木原線) was forced to merge with the Keisei Electric Railway company. The funny thing about this merger is that the two railways have no connection to each other at all in terms of interconnecting stations. In fact, they didn't even have remotely close lines at all. But this was all supposed to change in the future, as initially, this merge was forced upon the two companies to provide a more rapid manner of freight transport in the Tokyo Bay and the Bōsō Peninsular area. The former Kihara Line is now divided into two parts, now the Kominato Railway (小湊鐵道) and Isumi Railway (いすみ鉄道). The Kominato Railway is still under the subsidiary of Keisei, while the Isumi railway is a standalone company. Now, I don't want to give you a history lesson on the Kominato Railway, as this is quite an unclear area to me and I might give you the wrong numbers and conclusions, so I'll step up directly to the creation of the Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu.

Chihara Line. Black: built and operated; Red: unbuilt.

Source: (19.07.2011)
In the late 1950s it became clear that urban development outside of the Tokyo Metropolitan area began to arise. Chiba Prefecture, a prefecture directly adjunct to the Tokyo Metropolitan area, was one of the prefecture that began to see rapid growth around the prefecture's capital, Chiba City. Around the city 'New Towns' were beginning to be planned and with this an expansion of the public transport network was only natural. One of these New Towns was located in the vicinity of the Kominato Railway around the Amaariki station (海士有木駅) area and promptly a licence to Keisei was issued to build a direct line to connect the Keisei station Chiba-Chūō (千葉中央駅) to provide a fast connection to the town centre of Chiba. However, the plans of the development of a New Town around Amaariki remained plans and remained on the shelf until 1975.

In that year, the plans were revised under the new Urban Development Law and the Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu (千葉急行電鉄) was created between a joint venture of Keisei and Chiba Prefecture, making it a 3rd Sector railway. So, construction of a line towards the Kominato Railway Amaariki station started and in 1992 the operation of the first section of the line started from Chiba-Chūō to Ohmoridai (大森台駅), with the opening of an extention to Chiharadai station (ちはら台駅) in 1995. This railway line was named the Chihara Line. The entire line was built in a manner to keep costs down, it was built single track, but with the future prospect of operating it eventually as a double track line. So, the track bed is actually a double track prepared line with one side empty. Some stations have two tracks where two trains can overtake one another and have quite basic points, or so it seems by the extremely low speeds they negotiate the points. Maybe these were installed as a temporary measure. It reminds me a bit of the East German Railway lines, where the Soviets removed one side of the tracks as a retaliation and retribution for war damages. It seems a bit tragic to me...

Anyway, after the hopeful opening in 1995 of the stretch to Chiharadai station, passenger numbers were not as high as expected, this due to the bubble burst in the early 1990s, the  slow development of the New Towns in the southern part of Chiba, high ticket fares, depreciation of land value, interest expectancy rates and high land acquisition costs. This led to the bankruptcy of the Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu in 1998 and the complete overtake of Keisei, leaving Chiba Prefecture out of the business. The final expansion to Amaariki station was never built after that.

It was a dream project of Chiba Prefecture and Keisei to be able to connect the Kominato Railway to the Keisei network and provide good transport to the New Towns in the south, but alas, it was not meant to be. It's kind of funny still see one of the Keisei railway companies/subsidiaries cut off from the main network when there is only a few kilometres to be laid. The trouble is, is that this small stretch would lead passengers to no place of interest, as there is nothing on offer at the moment. However, there are still plans to build this line and Keisei still is the owner of some land en route from Chiharadai station to Amaariki station, so there is still a chance that this stretch will be built, albeit a small one.

Livery comparisons on 3150 Series:
Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu (Left) and Keisei Denetstu (Right)

Source: (19.07.2011)
The illustration I've made is a tribute to the short lived Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu which existed from 1975 to 1998 and only operated the line from 1992 to 1998. This was manly done with leased trains from Keisei and Keikyû, which were repainted in dark blue with a white waistline. These are also the main colours I've used in this illustration, whereas the lighter blue depicts the non-existent part of the realised dream, but still is a dream. Laser-chan is dressed up as a Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu early 3050 Type painted in the early livery (dark blue with a white waistband), whereas the later types (from 1994 on) were painted in a reverse Keisei livery: red and blue bands switched places. See photograph for an example.

It seems to me that this railway company is already forgotten by the general railway fan public, which isn't strange, but then again, I'm a guy who likes stories like these.


Beer of the Post: Rip Tide (Stout);
Location of consumption: my room;

This time I'm drinking something from a country this type of beer originates from: the UK! Oh man, this is truly a good imperial stout beer. Bitter, strong and prominent tastes makes this beer a very pure and joyful experience. The ingredients are few and the design of the bottle is modern and attractive. The brewery, Brew Dog, really wanted to stand out from the rest of the UK market (as is clearly stated on the bottle and their website) and they really do. It's so very much different from Guinness (albeit it being Irish) or Newcastle Stout, not watery and mainstream, but a hardcore and honest stout. Having an alcohol percentage of 8% adds another punch to the pack.

With the first sip of this brew, you can already kind of feel the passion of the brewers for the beer they make. Pure ingredients, no bullshit added, just plain barley, hops, yeast and water. Just the basics to make a good beer. Just like the good old Rheinheitsgebot, just how I like it. The stoutness and strength of this beer makes it also stand out from other weaker porters, which are mostly pretty sweet as well and I don't fancy that much. However, it's all up to the brewer how they call their beer, so one can't really judge a stout or porter just by the name, you have to try it.

Anyway, it's a pretty awesome beer you can enjoy at any time, but can't drink too much in one go. It's a beer enjoyer's drink, not one to go and binge on. Well, you could do so, but then you would end up somewhere you probably wouldn't want to be, with a headache.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Toei Interlocking Tribute

Through other networks I promised to update my blog with an illustration. Well, today was also a sort of deadline on this, as this illustration is going to be exhibited in the American Book Centre (ABC) in The Hague as of the 1st August. This will be under the flag of Mangafique! A Dutch organisation that tries to unite Dutch manga artists and will start to act as an agency next to that. Mangafique! however is still in its organising phase and I don't know all the fine details to it, but I'm sure it will turn out fine. About the exhibition, I'm not entirely sure if it's organised well... If I know more about this, I will post it here, but for now, I'm still in the dark on how on earth this will be marketed for the big public. I myself have organised (almost entirely by myself) the first Mangafique! exhibition in the city hall of Utrecht and the public upturn was over a thousand visitors on the first day IIRC. Quite a big hit or so I might say. This was mainly thanks due to the press releases and marketing around it, but I doubt it that the ABC The Hague will boost such numbers. For one it is that it's in the midst of the summer holidays, so everyone is away and that it's not even presented on the website of the ABC. Not my thing to deal with, but it might be in the future, as I'm considering a position in Mangafique! My expertise in some fields could help them out I think.
Now, about this illustration. It's the second of two trials and IMO, it turned out pretty nice. I'm especially pleased with the background's effective simplicity, but not so much with Laser-chan... It's my first take on a Tetsu-tan (or Keikyû-tan as some like to call it). In essence the anthropomorphic version of a train as clothing. Mostly on cute girls, but I've seen examples of male characters as well. Laser-chan is dressed up as a Keisei 3000 Type, 2nd Edition, 7th Version (shortly: Keisei 3050 Type). The reason I've chosen this train, is that it's the only train that is especially built for the Haneda Airport - Narita Airport through connection express services. All the other trains in this service are already existing types that are only capable of 120km/h, whereas the Keisei 3050 Type can do 130km/h. This is because of the completion of the Narita High Speed Airport Line on 17 June 2010, 6 days from now, that allows speeds up to 160km/h. This is achieved by the Skyliner, but that train already gets so much credit, I left it out of this illustration. The colours of the Keisei 3050 Type dominate this picture as well, as they just are so very well fitting.

As you might have guessed, this illustration celebrates the one year anniversary of the Haneda Airport - Narita Airport new express services ('Access Rapid Ltd. Express' and 'Airport (Ltd.) Express'). I've put in some of the trains that run these services, but also one that doesn't quite belong in there. In the next post I'll reveal which one it is, but for now, I let you guess the types and companies they belong to. Next to the trains, I've drawn the entire route map these services run, together with the major stops where the trains call. Some of these trains have a few more stops on the Keikyû or Asakusa Subway section, depending on the company's train, but in general, it's just the stops depicted in my illustration.

I've drawn this, because I wanted to draw something rail related and to show my skills as a commercial oriented illustrator. It was also a good opportunity to practice my drawing skills in more tight and clear lines (which I discarded when I drew the trains). Next to that, I also wanted to make limited use of colours, because less is more as I'm told, and the colour scheme of the Keisei 3050 Type is quite attractive as well.


Beer of the post: La Chouffe (Blond) 0.33l 'Stubi' bottle;
Location of consumption: my room;

Yes, that's a Hankyu 6300 Type in the background. My only standard gauge (1,435mm) model. It's a strange one in my collection, since I'm quite focussed on Kantô trains, with the Enoden and standard gauge lines in particular. I don't know why I bought it in the first place... This is a Hankyû model that actually runs express services between Kyôto and Ôsaka, so that's in the Kansai region, far away from the Kantô plains... Oh, how I long for a Keisei, Keikyû, etc. collection, but that will cost a lot of money. Really, a LOT. Maybe I can settle for a collection of B-train shorties from Bandai instead or create an eighties fleet from cheap Greenmax kits. Meh, trains would be too long anyway, as they are all 8-cars long, which would be almost one meter in N-gauge. Maybe I should do 4-car versions of a fictive company that connects to Keisei or something like that.

Ah, yes. I almost forgot about THE BEER! This is the first Belgian beer on the Laser Train Blog, but certainly not the last. I'm not a great fan of Belgian beers, as they tend to throw in all kinds of strange additives, which makes the beer taste not very pure or in some cases even not like beer at all. This beer however is a good tasting, but strong beer (8%). A quite classic beer at that. Back in the days, this used to be a quite unknown brand, but now almost everybody knows La Chouffe. The taste is very typical for Belgian Blonde beers. A bittersweet taste with a quite prominent bitter alcoholic taste afterwards. Of all the more well known Belgian beer brands, this is a real beer drinkers' drink.

The bottle is a standard export 'Stubi' version and the beer is so as well. From draft it tastes a lot better and less bitter. It could also be because I don't leave the yeast bottom in the bottle, but pour the entire content in the glass. Some say you should leave a little on the bottom, as that is the yeast residue, but I'm of the opinion that beer shouldn't re-ferment in the bottle. Bottled beer should be finished and ready to drink when it's bottled IMHO. Maybe I should change that opinion and learn to consume Belgian beer a bit more serious next time... It's not German beer after all.



Monday, July 4, 2011

京成電鉄 (Keisei Electric RR)

As you've noticed, I failed to update for a long time already! I hope you didn't forget that I was moving, but now working on my BA thesis has also inflicted we with a loss of spare time. Please forgive me for that, but it's just how things are now. This update I would like to talk about a railway company in Japan of which I have some very fond memories. I haven't had the time for a new website review and I didn't feel like another. I'll have one in the next update! I promise!

Full 8-car 3300 Type to Ueno.
As I said, this time the theme is a railway company. Namely the Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd. from the summer of 2003. It's already some years ago, but still. This is because I found some old pictures during the move. I scanned the best few of 'em for this blog post, because some trains I've photographed have been downgraded in service or already put out of service! Just like this 3300 Series which is slowly being put out of service.

3600 Type for Nishimagome and a 3700 Type for Narita.
During that summer I was on an exchange program, funded by Mitsui Banking and carried out by YFU Netherlands. My homestay was 4 weeks in Takasago near Tokyo and all pictures are thus taken at or around Keisei-Takasago (Google Maps link). A very interesting station, as a lot of lines pass this station. The station was only 4 tracks during that time and saw almost all trains halt there. Except for the Skyliner that connects Ueno to Narita Airport almost non-stop. Nowadays, the station has a 2nd level where almost all trains to Kanamachi terminate. Back then, all trains to Kanamachi halted at track 1.

An AE100 in Skyline service for Narita Airport.
Trains like the AE100 Type were still running Skyliner services back then. Now, these types are only in use for the new Cityliner, Morning Liner and Evening Liner services on the Keisei Main Line. The new 2nd edition AE Types have taken over the Skyline service, which is now directed over the new 160km/h Narita Sky Access Line. Other trains on the new Narita Sky Access Line have a maximum speed of 120km/h. I think higher speeds are possible still, as here in Europe we have regular trains running at 160km/h and over on normal standard gauge tracks (1,435mm), but the Japanese rolling stock may be too light to be able to pursue high speeds without compromising axle loading weight ratios.
Signals at Keisei-Takasago facing the depot side.
The Signals at Takasago were a mystery for me in the beginning, but a bit later I found out that each signal depicts a certain route. The left three signals in this picture are for the Kanamachi (金町), Narita (Main Line) (成田) and the Hokusô Line (北総). Same with the two right signals, but without the Kanamachi branch. Very simple and easy to understand indeed! The square displays under the signals are indicating the kind of service the train is in (local, rapid, express, etc.). The Kanamachi Line is by the way one of my favourite lines, as here older rolling stock is used in 4-car formation and has a very local character with its single track use. I've been on this line a few times, since I needed to go to Kanamachi sta. for a transfer on the JR East Jôban Line.
Keikyu 1500 Type terminating at track 3.
As I said before, Keisei-Takasago is a station where many lines connect, but not only Keisei lines! The Keisei has access to some more railway companies, such as the Shin-Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd., Hokusō Railway Co.,Ltd., Chiba Newtown Railway Co., Ltd., Shibayama Railway Co., Ltd, Keikyû Corporation and the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation (Toei). All these companies have trains running on each other's tracks and are subsidiaries (3rd Sector-class) from the Keisei Group (except for Keikyû and Toei, which are totally independent from Keisei). A very wide variety of trains can be seen here from the various companies. Almost all trains from Keikyû are allowed to run on the Keisei lines as well. Apart from the 800 and 2100 Types, as they have different door configurations. The 2000 Type isn't allowed as well, as it doesn't have opening head doors. Trains without opening front doors aren't allowed to pass the Toei Asakusa Line, for emergency and security reasons. The same goes for all the streamlined AE Types from Keisei. You won't find these on any Keikyû line as well.
Hokuso Tetsudou 7000 Type bound for Haneda-Airport.
A quite rare train I've photographed was the Hokusô 7000 Series. This train is now completely out of service, which is a shame I think. The front design isn't to anyone's liking, but I'm rather fond of it. It's something completely different from all the other trains and it gives off that kind of typical careless and experimental eighties feeling. I didn't know it was rare at all at that time, I just liked the design and all. The ride was pretty good, but the loud engines made it a bit dreary for the regular passengers I presume. I only applaud loud engines. *laughs* The train on the picture is a Inba-Nihon-Idai to Haneda-Airport service, which passes through the very centre of Tokyo on the Toei Asakusa Line and continues on several Keikyû lines to Haneda-Airport. Back then, the Narita Airport Access wasn't built yet, so airport expresses (connecting Narita and Haneda) were directed over the overcrowded Main Line. Nowadays a special dedicated Airport Access Rapid Express service from Haneda to Narita and back is (partially) ran over the new Narita Airport Access Line. Some rare services connect to the Shibayama Railway Line (the shortest private railway in Japan) to Shibayama Chiyoda sta. as well.

Another AE100 Skyliner for Ueno.
Keisei-Takasago is a very busy station indeed where the tracks cross two railway crossings which are almost always closed. I think this has been reduced since the opening of the elevated section of the Kanamachi line, but it's probably still very congested there. The lines that pass Keisei-Takasago are the Keisei Main Line (connecting to the Oshiage Line at Aoto, the Toei Asakusa Line to Shinagawa and eventually the Keikyû network), the Kanamachi Line and the Hokusô Line (connecting to the Narita Airport Line and the Narita Sky Access Line). I really would love to visit Keisei-Takasago once again. Now with more knowledge on trains, Japan and the Japanese language, this could turn out to be a very interesting day once it is there.
My last train in Japan. A 3600 Type for Narita Airport.
But for now, it's all about waiting for that day when I'm able to go to Japan again. The problem is mostly money, which I'm saving at the moment, and in the future it will be time that will play the part. However, there is also that plan to move there to live together with that special someone I know... It'll be a difficult decision for me to make, as I'll leave lots of friends and family behind. But then again, I also have the prospect of one day returning to Europe again. I'll let you know in about a year what I'm going to do. Do you have a suggestion for what I should do?

UPDATE! On the JNS Forum I found a small topic on the remodelling of Keisei-Takasago. (ed. 06.07.2011)

Beer of the postTsingtao (Pilsner);
Place of consumption: Asia2Go Leiden, Netherlands. A place owned by a friend where another good friend works and does delivery runs. The atmosphere is always good, the food is great and prices very reasonable. Whenever I'm in Leiden -which I will visit more often now that I'm in the area- I need to visit the place for a bite, a chat up and of course a beer.;

Tsingtao is a great beer to go with Asian food. Well, what do you expect from a beer brewed in China? It's brewed together with rice added in the mash, which gives this beer it's distinct sweet flavour. This is very refreshing when served cold on a damp summers evening with some spicy foods. The menu I had were spicy stir-fried chicken-strips with vegetables and rice. Very down to earth, but very tasty. Unfortunately it was a bit too much for me that day, as I didn't burn much energy, so I wasn't in dire need of calories (yeah, I'm trying to cut down on calories a bit).

Anyway, the beer is a refreshing one that can be consumed at all times I think. The sweet rice flavour may get dreary after a while I think, but for me this isn't the case. The danger with this beer however is that when it gets less cold, it tends to lose its fine taste. So, it's kind of a rule that one consumes it in a rather quick fashion. It's a good thing the beer is only sold in 0,33 bottles and not in 0,5 containers over here... Hahaha! :D