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 Post subject: Not Big Boi, JR East Japan Steam Trains
PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2019 4:41 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 2395
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
So, I was at the Danish Railway Conference today, and the keynote was from Yasunari Nakajima, Director, Paris Office of East Japan Railway Company. He discussed how they market more than just their core transport services, including all of their real estate holdings. He had one slide where he described their special trains and efforts to market trains themselves as the destination and entertainment. Notice that four of the pictures are steam excursions.

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Steven Harrod
Danmarks Tekniske Universitet
 Post subject: Re: Not Big Boi, JR East Japan Steam Trains
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 2:02 am 

Joined: Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:10 pm
Posts: 17
I'll provide some quick insights into these four steam excursion routes operated by JR East.

Upper Right:
"SL GINGA"("Galaxy") from Hanamaki to Kamaishi, a run of 55 miles. Sustained 2% grades from Kamaishi to Ashigase station.
Locomotive is C58239 (JNR Class C58 2-6-2, Kawasaki 1940), returned to steam in 2014. A curious solution to the gradient problem, the "coaches" are actually Class 141 DMUs (converted Class 50 commuter coaches) and are capable of propelling themselves over the 2.5% max grade to the summit at Ashigase, after which their engines are left at idle and C58239 hauls the train in flat terrain.

Upper Left:
"SL Ban'etsu Monogatari" ("Ban'etsu Story") from Niigata to Aizu-Wakamatsu, a distance of 70 miles approx.
Regular locomotive on this run is C57180 (JNR Class C57 4-6-2, Mitsubishi 1946). Returned to steam in 1999. Its retirement, 30 years of display in an elementary school playground and restoration is featured in 7th grade Japanese textbooks as an example of nonfiction literature.
C57180 was pulled from service after suffering a badly scored tender axle in the middle of the 2018 season along with a plethora of minor issues, and has had to wait for its turn to enter Omiya Works for heavy repair and inspection until January 2019, after the facility finished the 8-yearly teardown rebuild of C11325, a 2-6-4T owned by a private railway company (as opposed to the national-network JR) in Tochigi. Work has now commenced to bring the engine back to service by the beginning of the 2020 season.

Lower Right ("SL Usui") and Lower Left ("SL Minakami"):
These two excursions are grouped together because they share rolling stock, all from JR East's Takasaki Depot.
The "Usui" runs from Takasaki to Yokokawa, a distance of 18 miles and return. Yokokawa is home to a major railroad museum celebrating the now defunct Usui Pass, a 7-mile stretch of railroad famed for being the steepest JNR mainline grade at 6.7%. At the museum, one can experience cab rides and driving lessons in Class EF63 electric locomotives, specifically designed for helper duty on this heavy grade.
The "Minakami" run takes the Jo'etsu line some 40 miles from Takasaki through some breathtaking scenery to Minakami, where the locomotive is turned for the return to Takasaki.
These two excursions are hauled by either of Takasaki Depot's two operational locomotives, D51498(class D51 2-8-2, JNR Takatori Works, 1940. Restored to working order in 1988) and C6120 (class C61 4-6-4, rebuilt using boiler from D511094 by Mitsubishi, 1949. Restored in 2011) .
2-8-2 No. D51498 was JR East's first steam restoration project and made an unforgettable debut as an excursion locomotive in 1988 hauling the Nostalgie Istanbul Orient Express on its visit to Japan. It has been a fixture in the Eastern area steam scene ever since, and rather remarkably until last year was the only fully operational and mainline certified Class D51 out of a class that numbered 1,115 and of which 178 are preserved.
4-6-4 No. C6120 is the largest and heaviest of JRE's fleet; JRE initially contacted JR Hokkaido for a potential lease or purchase of their larger Class C62 4-6-4, C623, restored in 1987 and withdrawn in 1996. C6120, preserved in a city park in Gunma prefecture, was selected for restoration when JRH refused the offer for C623. Originally restored as a backup for D51498 after a careless error resulted in a fire being lit in its completely dry boiler, damaging its firebox to the point of requiring replacement. C6120 often fills in for the other engines when they are not available; recently she was dispatched to Ban'etsu to cover for C57180 in the aforementioned tender axle failure incident.

Hope this helps, for any who are interested.

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