Saturday, February 23, 2008

Farewell to an old local friend.

January 22nd marked the last day of regular revenue operations by Tokyu's 8000 series train.

I've lived most of my life in Japan near the Toyoko, Denentoshi, Oimachi Lines, and grew up watching the train's stainless side look and hearing the unique thundering sounds. Whether it's a train you use every day or a local shop or restaurant you visit regularly, these are things that are usually taken for granted, things that you don't really stop to think about. But once you know they're going to be gone soon, you suddenly realize that times are changing. You miss these things you've never missed or even cared to think much about before.

The 8000 series started service in 1969 and for almost four decades served the people of Tokyo and Yokohama on the Toyoko Line, which connects the two big cities, hence its name. These series of trains were the most technologically-advanced of its time, being the first to be controlled digitally, enabling trains to run on tighter schedules, and has claims to being the first in the world to incorporate a field system chopper circuit which made regenerative brakes possible. With its length being 20 meters, it was also much longer than the commuter trains of its time, helping to make way for Japan's economic growth of the 1970s.

On January 13th, the gradual replacement of the series by newer, more advanced types was completed for the Toyoko Line with much fanfare, where amazingly over a thousand people from local residents of all ages to train afficionados gathered to bid farewell to the grand old workhorse. Truly a sign that it was loved by everyone. The last remaining example (ironically the first to roll off the production line), which served the Oimachi Line, a 10.4-km local route in southwestern Tokyo, was retired on February 22nd.

Tokyu Corporation has transferred many of these trains to Izukyu, a wholly-owned (but financially-troubled) subsidiary in Shizuoka Prefecture carrying holiday-makers to resorts on the Izu Peninsula. A handful have also been donated to Indonesia as part of Japan's official development assistance (ODA) to help set up Jakarta's railway infrastructure.

Adios. :-)

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