Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When High Speed Trains Fall In Love

A Series E6 Super Komachi (red) coupled with a Series E5 Hayate (green) at Tokyo Station as a jealous Series E2 looks on. 

Separately, the Super Komachi and Hayate travel at 300 kilometers per hour, but when coupled slow down to a leisurely 286 kph.   Together, they travel north from Tokyo to Morioka in Iwate Prefecture where they part company; the Super Komachi heading for Akita while the Hayate goes on to Shin Aomori at the far nothern end of the main island of Honshu.  They make few stops along the way.

By the way, Komachi means "town belle".  Hayate means "hurricane".  Whirl wind romance, perhaps?  Regardless, we're in love with Shinkansen travel.

The E2 in the background is a much older design (1997) and makes many more stops.  It is no slouch with a top speed of 275 km/h on this run, and has some double decked cars.  A high speed work horse you might say.  Each machine has its purpose.   Sometimes, the E2 is coupled to the E6 so one can imagine that there is a love triangle of sorts going on.

We took an E5 Hayabusa to Sendai in 2011, after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, to support the local economy up there and lend support to the local people of Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture.   (Our sailing neighbor - Y-San who sails an American made cat rig - was living in Sendai at the time.)

The Hayabusa (Peregren Falcon) is similar to the E5 Hayate, but travels solo at higher speed and has some very fancy accommodation for first class passengers - "Gran Class", shown in this advert with a famous actress...

All of these trains are reserved seat, no smoking, only.   The Hayabusa is the world's most energy efficient train, being more than 10% more efficient that previous Shinkansen models. JR East has a target to reduce the company's CO2 emissions by 32% by 2018 and by 50% by 2031.  We need a lot more focus on that issue!

So what has this to do with sailing?  Not a lot, but it is involved in how we spent September - with airplanes, trains, lakes and rivers.  Or is that trains, planes, and sailing mobiles?

Until next, sweet sailing.


my2fish said...

Mass transit in the USA (most of it anyway) just can't compare to those trains. Detroit has pretty much nothing for mass transit, and there are some train routes in the midwest, but most are quite slow, maybe 55 mph max. A nice alternative to driving at times, but not much faster, and not usually any cheaper.

We did take a train up to Toronto a few years back - the mass transit there (subway, streetcar, & bus system) was fantastic.

Pandabonium said...

my2fish - I hear a lot of good things about Toronto.

I read that Amtrak Cascades has nice trains (built in Spain) that go 79 mph and they working on the tracks so they will be able to run at 110 mph. They operate between Eugene Oregon and Vacouver, B.C. and have proved to be very popular.

I don't think America can afford to build very high speed trains like the Shinkansen lines now, but I think it would be smart to spend money on regional systems to provide reliable service with good speeds - say in the range of 90 to 120 mph.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Yeah, we could really use a high speed rail system between L. A. and San Francisco which would economize on fuel & time costs. Unfortunately, indigenous political wisdom is governed by short-term thinking.

Pandabonium said...

Doc - "Short-term thinking" - which is often concerned with business interests vs the public interest.

High speed is nice, but having any reliable alternative service between such hubs is needed.

Having to chose between driving and flying is a Hobson's choice. (Apropos since Hobson rented horses.)

Trains are the most energy efficient transportation systems - after bicycles - with the least impact on the environment. If operated properly, as the Japan Rail systems famously are, they are the safest as well.

High speed would be icing on the cake.

George A said...

The last time Elisabeth and I went back to her home town in Sweden we booked seats on the X-2000. While the fast train was indeed speedy, looking out the windows was not all that pleasant. I guess I'm an old stick in the mud but looking out the window, and actually enjoying the view rather than enduring a nauseating blur, is part of the appeal. I'm sticking to slow trains!

Pandabonium said...

George - I like the speed since we don't get many days for travel. But I also appreciate your point. Japan also has trains with large windows and lower speeds - such as the Yufin no mori: www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/train/yufuin_no_mori.html and the new "Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu" which offers travel packages and has luxury sleeper cars with panoramic windows and nature resort destinations.