The year is now 1964 and the New Tokaido Line is ready to be opened! The 515.4 kilometres (320miles) between Tokyo and Osaka was opened to critical acclaim in October 1964 and instantly became a world wide hit. High speed trains were the future! In the line’s early days the services were limited to a maximum of 210kmh although the trains could go faster. The world was quite sceptical anyone could pull off a brand new railway especially when the future was those revolutionary cars, planes & space craft. Trains were no doubt seen as remnants of a bygone age. The following quote illustrates this…
People laughed at us, Mr. Ichijo recalled, when we first talked about building the new Tokaido line between Tokyo and Osaka. ‘A new railroad, in this age of jet planes and space travel?’ They scoffed. But no one is laughing at us now. In six years of service since October, 1964, the sleek blue and‐white streamliners have carried over 250 million passengers and account for 30 per cent of the passenger revenue of the system. (New York Times 21 June 1970.)
A last look at the prototype trains. This is B-01 on the test track. Source: Chubu Jidousha
The new trains are ordered – and delivered
Early production trains being readied for their move to the new railway. Source: Pinterest
The first production series Shinkasen trains were placed on order in early 1964 for sixty train sets (360 railcars altogether) with the first batch of 20 trains being available by March 1964. These were built quite rapidly with the first sets being available for trial running within three months. Sets were to be delivered to either Tokyo (Shinagawa) or Osaka (Torikai) depots.
Wikipedia tells us the shinkansen fleet delivered for use from 1 October 1964 consisted of 30 12-car sets. ‘Six sets, H1 to H6, were built by Hitachi between April and August 1964, six sets, K1 to K6, were built by Kisha between July and September 1964, six sets, N1 to N6, were built by Nippon Sharyo between March and September 1964, six sets, R1 to R6, were built by Kawasaki Sharyo between July and September 1964, and six sets, S1 to S6, were built by Kinki Sharyo between April and August 1964.’
One of the production batch of ‘Super Dream Express’ trains being delivered to the New Tokaido Line depot at Shinagawa in Tokyo on 2nd June 1964. The trains were transported on 3ft 6in bogies. Source: Twitter
The depot at Shinagawa was actually next to the JNR’s freight depot some distance to the east. This rail served yard proved to be an ideal location for the Shinkasen’s new depot because it both had spare land and rail access which enabled the new trains to be delivered on these special 3′ 6″ gauge bogies.
New Tokaido Line Super Dream Expresses being prepared for service at Shinagawa prior to the official opening. Source: Maipenrai
Report detailing the progress of the sixty trains for the Shinkasen. The first batch of twenty trains would undergo testing on the western section between Maibara and Osaka from April 1964. Note also the progress with pressure changes in the tunnels. Source: World Bank
Even though trains were delivered to both Shinagawa and Torikai depots, only those at the latter could begin proper testing because the lines into Tokyo were not completed until July 1964, after which it was then possible to test trains from both depots. Clearly as the pictures below show, the possibility of testing trains out of Tokyo itself was advanced forward somewhat as these began testing at the end of July 1964 rather than early August.
The Shinkansen’s first full test run with a production train in April 1964. The location is near the Higashiyama tunnel, east of Kyoto. Source: Twitter
The Super Dream Express’ first ever run into Shin-Osaka station, 15 July 1964. Source: Railway in Memory
Trial running from Osaka to Tokyo began on 25th July 1964 though at rather more sedate speeds, with some sections authorised for the full 200kmh. From August 24th 1964 trial full speed services were begun throughout, these being the Kodama and Hikari operations. The former being the stopping services and the latter the express service stopping at two/three stations en route.
One of the early trial runs in August 1964. Source: Pinterest
The reason for through test trains between Tokyo and Osaka not commencing until August 1964 was because a section at the Tokyo end hadn’t been finished! There was a problem regarding possession of a 50m section of the route in the centre of Tokyo, as well as interfaces with the adjacent railway meant construction and difficulty of possession of roads meant some steel overbridges had not yet been built. No construction along this section could begin until March 1964 at the earliest.
The 50 metre section belonged to a factory which insisted it could not move out before February 1964 despite the insistence of the railway. This left the engineers with a very tight timeline for construction, and it is no less than amazing that they managed to demolish the factory, prepare the ground and construct an elevated section for the new line in just three months!
The JNR’s committee’s notes expressed a strong hope that this section would be completed ready for track laying and equipment installation by the end of May 1964. Certainly by the end of July 1964 trains were able to reach Tokyo from Shinagawa, pending restrictions on movement and slow speeds imposed until the full trial services on this section could begin later in August 1964.
Trains numbered in the odd series were based at Torikai depot in Osaka whilst those numbered evens were allocated to Shinagawa depot in Tokyo.
One of the new trains (with dirty nose!) at Torikai depot. Probably has just come in from an intensive period of testing. Source: World Bank
The substantially finished Shin-Yokohama. Source: Twitter
Shin-Yokohama – possibly late August 1964 – with a test train and a somewhat unfinished station. Source: Pinterest
This could well be the first official Series 0 train to reach the new terminus at Tokyo. This photograph was taken right at the end of July 1964. The km post denotes the start of the 515.4km (320 miles) to Osaka. Source: Twitter.
Looking west from the unfinished platforms at Tokyo with a train heading westwards. The nature of the work shows the very lateness of construction here. The rusty rails shows how few Series 0 trains had ventured to the Tokyo terminus up to that point in time. The picture is possibly late July 1964. Source: Night Train Heisei
Media previewing the cab of a Series 0 train at Tokyo station. As some of these 1964 pictures show, it seems the very first of the production Series 0 trains came with a removable topmost bonnet – which can be seen again in the next picture. This space may have been used for additional equipment to monitor the train. Source: Diamond Online
Shinji Sogō admiring one of the new trains at Tokyo platform 19 prior to the launch of public services.
The New Tokaido Line at Nishi-Ginza in the Japanese capital during late summer 1964. Note the so far unfinished Metropolitan Expressway. Source: Twitter
The Tokyo monorail opened on 17th September 1964, just two weeks before the New Tokaido Line. This is a 1964 pamphlet of the new monorail. Source: Twitter
The New Tokaido Line opens October 1964
Japanese National Railways 1964 network map with the New Tokaido Line route marked in red. Source: Twitter
The opening of the New Tokaido Line on 1st October 1964 at platform 19, Tokyo station. JNR President Reisuke Ishida is cutting the tape to mark the start of the new services. Source: Britannica
One of the new trains for Osaka departing from Tokyo’s platform 17 on 1st October 1964. Source: Twitter
The opening of the new railway was much publicised and televised, no doubt putting Tokyo station in the limelight. There were celebrations too along the route with several performing ceremonies to mark the start of the new services. As the following picture shows, Osaka took it in turn to mark the commencement of services westwards to Tokyo. It also performed ceremonies along with a band when the first train from Tokyo arrived.
Official opening at Shin-Osaka 1st October 1964. This is the first train, the 6.30am Hikari express for Tokyo. Its drivers were Kameo Seki and Kazutaro Oishi. Source: Railway in Memory
During the first month of operation on the new railway, the speed limit was kept down to a more sedate pace of 160kmh meaning trains took four hours or more for the trip to Osaka. Just a year later, on November 1st 1965, the trains’ maximum speed was raised and the fastest trips were taking just three hours ten minutes. Incidentally during trials prior to its opening in October 1964 total transit times had been in the order of four hours.
Promotional video from 1964 showing the New Tokaido Line in its first days of operation. There’s great footage of the line’s official opening on 1st October 1964. Source: Youtube.
The New Tokaido Line in its early days
The newly opened Shin-Osaka station – rather like an airport terminal! Source: Twitter
The new railway crosses the Meishin Expressway – which had ironically been opened as early as 1957 to compete with the older narrow gauge railway system. It was the construction of this new road which urged JNR to push ahead with the New Tokaido Line. Source: World Bank Japan
Children excitedly queuing for platform tickets at Gifu-Hashima. 1st October 1964. Source: You Tube
Gifu-Hashima. Probably a day or so after opening October 1964. Source: Kannon 0018
The new railway. Notice the different sleepers in use. Welded rails more than a kilometre long were used. Source: World Bank Japan
Some will have noticed the early Shinkansen very clearly uses the railways’ traditional track laying methods. Indeed the Tokyo to Osaka section relies on the classic system of track ballast rather than the concrete ballast track which was used later. Its perhaps a reason why the western Shinkansen (the Tokaido and Sanyo routes) and the eastern/north eastern Shinkansen sections (the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen) have never been merged – even though they both have their terminuses at the same central Tokyo station. Part of that is no doubt due to the fact the lines are constructed differently. To achieve current high speeds on the more sinuous Tokaido shinkansen trains need tilting bodies. On the eastern Shinkansen non-tilting trains are used because the tracks are already built for these higher speeds.
Despite the fact titling trains are now used (there are currently the N700S) the Tokaido Shinkansen has some severe speed limits, the sections through Tokyo being limited to largely 70kmh, whilst between Shinagawa and Shin Yokohama, there’s a sharp double curve at Musashi Kosugi which forces trains to reduce their speed to 120kmh. The positioning of this means trains that have departed from Tokyo westbound can only reach a speed of 170kmh briefly before the Musashi Kosugi curve. From there to Shin Yokohama its a maximum of 230kmh, thereafter trains can attain the current full line speed of 285kmh.
A Series 0 leaving Tokyo probably soon after the new pair of Shinkansen platforms (14 & 15) had come into use. Source: Pinterest
A Series 0 leaving Tokyo soon after the new platforms (14 & 15) had opened. Source: Twitter
Series 0 on the Hinode viaduct near Shin-Osaka. Source: 4Travel
One further station on the New Tokaido Line was in due course built within the Metropolitan area of Tokyo. Shinagawa, just over six kilometres from Tokyo, opened in 2003. The opening of this station doesn’t have any real detrimental effect on total train times as between Tokyo and Musashi Kosugi (approx 16km or 10 miles) the Shinkansen is quite slow anyway with speeds of about 70kmh winding sharply as it does through the various built up areas. Thus adding the Shinagawastop doesn’t really impact on overall transit times to Osaka or Hakata.
The new Shinagawa station was built in a compact location where the old Shinkansen tracks had descended to pass underneath towards the nearby rail yards. This connection I believe was originally part of the abortive Shinkansen freight project (more of that in the next post.) The layout was rebuilt and the new Shinagawa station constructed on this remodelled elevated section.
The classic Series 0 train in its twilight years. Source: Twitter
Nice shot of the Series 0. Source: Pinterest
Series 0 buffet car. Note the speedometer on the wall. Source: Twitter
The train description and destination on a Series 0 unit. This is a Hikari express for Tokyo. Source: Twitter
The Series 0’s successor – the Series 100, also arrived by narrow gauge railway as did the Series 300 and the Series 700. Since then later series have been delivered by road or by ship. Source: Twitter
Series 0 epilogue
Most of the original trains were scrapped. A few have got into museums including our own national Railway Museum at York! In Japan a number now feature as street sculpture or art…
Akishima, a surburb of Tokyo, has this! Source: Twitter
Series 0 (first generation) being lowered into place forming the feature of a new library at Suita City. Source: Twitter
Other posts in the series:
The last three (never published) are focused on specific aspects of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen: