Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 13 (pp.2 & 58–59)

Luxury Express Trains Run by Major Private Railways in Japan

Apart from the six JR passenger railways and some 100 small private lines in the countryside, there are 15 major private railway companies providing passenger services in the suburbs of the Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka regions. Their main role is providing commuter services, but some also run deluxe express trains using purpose-built rolling stock for business travellers and tourists. Seats can be reserved and passengers pay a surcharge to ride such trains.

Tokyo Region

Odakyu Electric Railway Co. runs a 82.5-km narrow-gauge (1067 mm) main line from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Odawara, and a 27.4-km branch line from Sagami-Ono to Enoshima. Odawara is known as the gateway to Hakone, a famous holiday resort, and Odakyu runs a large number of so-called Romance Car express trains to Odawara and to Hakone Yumoto, a hot spring town at the foot of Mount Hakone using the 6.1-km track owned by Hakone Tozan Railway. The company also runs Romance Car expresses on the Shinjuku-Enoshima and Shinjuku-Gotemba routes, the latter continuing on to JR Central's Gotemba Line from Matsuda.

Photo: The Series 30000 EMU, composed of coupled 6- and 4-car units, is the latest Odakyu Romance Car model (built in 1996).
(The Railway Pictorial)
Photo: The Series 20000 EMU, a 7-car trainset with two double-deckers built in 1990, is for through operation to JR Central's Gotemba Line.
(Satoshi Kubo)

Seibu Railway Co. has two narrow-gauge (1067 mm) main lines from Shinjuku Station to Kawagoe (47.5 km), and from Tokyo's Ikebukuro Station to Chichibu (76.8 km). The company runs express trains for tourists on the Ikebukuro-Chichibu route, and also runs deluxe commuter trains with reserved seats on both main lines using the same rolling stock.

Photo: The Series 10000 EMU New Red Arrow was built in 1993 for both the Shinjuku-Kawagoe and Ikebukuro-Chichibu services.
(Toshio Okazaki)

Keisei Electric Railway Co. runs a 69.3-km standard-gauge (1435 mm) main line from Tokyo's Ueno Terminal to Narita Airport, as well as some branch lines. The Skyliner express trains, leaving every 40 minutes in each direction, link the Airport with the northern part of central Tokyo, whereas JR East's Narita Express serves the Tokyo Central, Shinjuku and Yokohama stations.

Photo: The 8-car Series AE100 Skyliner was built in 1990 for Ueno-Narita (Airport) services.
(The Railway Pictorial)

Tobu Railway Co. is the third largest private network (463.3 km, 1067-mm gauge) in Japan and the largest in the Tokyo region. The most important route is the Nikko Line linking the world-famous tourist resort Nikko with Tokyo's Asakusa; the company runs a number of luxury express trains on this 135.5-km route.

Photo: The 6-car Series 100 Spacia, built in 1990 for Tobu's Asakusa-Nikko services, has four-seat compartments for families and group passengers.
(The Railway Pictorial)

Osaka and Nagoya Regions

Nagoya Railway Co. (Meitetsu) is the second largest private network in Japan totalling 539.3 km (1067-mm gauge). Its 99.8-km main line from Toyohashi to Gifu via Nagoya runs almost entirely parallel to JR Tokai's Tokaido Line, and there is severe competition between them. The company's express services also cover cities on its branch lines.

Photo: The 4-car Series 1000 Panorama Super, built in 1988, features a high-deck observation saloon at both ends.
(Hiroyasu Ito)

Nankai Electric Railway Co. has a 1067-mm gauge network totalling 171.7 km. Its main line links Wakayama, the prefectural capital 65 km south of Osaka, but its express trains link Osaka's Nanba Terminal with two destinations on branch lines, New Kansai International Airport, and Koyasan—a well known tourist spot.

Photo: The 6-car Series 50000 EMU was built in 1994 for Kansai Airport services. It has regular seats and more luxurious super seats as well as baggage space for airline passengers.
(The Railway Pictorial)

Kinki-Nippon Railway Co. (Kintetsu) runs the largest private network in Japan totalling 594.2 km (mostly 1435 mm with some narrow-gauge lines) covering the Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya and Ise-Shima areas. The main express services include intercity trains between Nagoya and Osaka's Nanba Terminal and tourist services to the Ise-Shima area from Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. Express trains also run frequently on the Kyoto-Nara, Osaka-Nara and some other tourist routes. The company owns 550 purpose-built express EMU cars of 15 different models.

Photo: The Series 23000 Ise-Shima Liner was built in 1993 exclusively for services to the Ise-Shima tourist resort area.
(The Railway Pictorial)
Photo: The Series 22000 was built in 1992 for standard-gauge express services.
(The Railway Pictorial)

Major Private Railways' Express Trains During the 1950s and 1960s

During the war, all express trains were withdrawn from daily operation on both JNR and private lines. However, as the national economy gradually recovered after the war, the railways restored their express services by using refurbished surviving prewar rolling stock at the first stage, and later by building new cars with novel designs and advanced technology. The late 1950s and 1960s saw a boom in such rolling stock built by major private railways.

Photo: Keisei Electric Railway's Series 1600 EMU
(Railway Pictorial)
The Series 1600 EMU was built in 1953 for express services from Tokyo's Ueno Terminal to the famous Buddhist temple Naritasan-Shinshoji. The reclining seats and on-board TVs were major attractions.

Photo: Odakyu Electric Railway's Series 3000 EMU
(Akira Ito)
The Series 3000 was built in 1957 and was used until 1992 for tourist express services between Shinjuku and Hakone-Yumoto. It was developed in cooperation with JNR's Railway Technical Research Institute, and featured eight articulated light-weight cars. Its high performance was proved when it was tested on JNR's Tokaido Line attaining a maximum speed of 145 km/h.

Photo: Kinki Nippon Railway's Series 10100 EMU
(Masahiko Watari)
The Series 10100 Vista Car was built in 1959 and was used until 1979 for both business and tourist express services. It featured three articulated cars; the middle one was a double decker. The trainset became the flagship of Kintetsu's luxury fleet.

Photo: Tobu Railway's Series 1720 EMU
(Fumio Yoshikawa)
The Series 1720 was built in 1960 and was used until 1991 for tourist express services to the Nikko area. There was severe competition between Tobu's Tokyo (Asakusa)-Nikko services and JNR's Tokyo (Ueno)-Nikko services, but as soon as the Series 1720 was put in service, it quickly wiped out JNR's not-so-luxurious service. Its main attraction was the luxurious reclining seats and spacious saloon.

Photo: Nagoya Tetsudo's Series 7000 EMU
(Yoshikazu Shirai)
The Series 7000 Panorama Car was built in 1961 and is still used for intercity and tourist services on Meitetsu's main and branch lines. It features observation saloons at both ends.