Large Scale Central

Train watching in Japan

I’m in Osaka for a few weeks on work travel, and wanted to remark on their extensive train system.

Sorry for mispronouncing the area name in the video, it’s Fukushima.

Every morning I hoof it to this nearest train station, and it’s only a 15 minute walk from the apartment. At Fukushima station I and my colleagues take a train to the end of the line, just past the Universal City stop. Say, half hour all in. Then the reverse in the evening, when we go to dinner.

Tonight I remembered that I’d promised Rooster to do some rail fanning (which obviously just makes good sense), so I paused at the station and took this little video.

Tomorrow, maybe some bullet train action.

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Nice. They sure keep their equipment clean and shiny.
Thanks for posting.

Thanks Cliff.
I notice there is no “Tagging” on any of those freight cars.

I noticed no bell or especially horn at the crossing.

Great video, Cliff. Thanks for sharing.

Rooster, the Japanese have figured out that you in fact can fix stupid … remove the bell and horn from trains … removes them from the gene pool :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I noticed how quite the wheels on the train cars.
Not any flat spots, just a rail joint on the track.


Hi guys, thanks for your thoughts and responses. They make me feel not so far away from home.

Today I and my colleague JR (who knows the ropes) went to Kyoto to see the train station and just knock around some.

I’m uploading a bunch of my best videos, but that will take a while with my connection. But here’s some photo highlights.

The Shin-Osaka station, where we started out, is actually many train stations that are grouped together in an area about 3x the size of a US shopping mall, and on 4 levels. It is a literal shopping mall which seemed endless, and was crazy busy.

It took a lot of walking to get to the proper station within the station, on the right level, and the right track. I’ll post vids on all this.

At Kyoto, the station is also immense. This is just a portion of it.

We then walked a mile to the train museum, which was simply amazing with beautiful locomotives and cars both indoors and outdoors, all with careful presentation.

It’s a large museum, having many sections, beginning with the history of steam engines (of any king) in general.

The early locos were very familiar.

Meticulously-built models were everywhere, in all the indoor sections. This is but a small fraction of their models.

Since so much of the US model locos have been created in Japan for so many years, it really struck me that here, their skills were truly employed in honoring their own nation’s equipment.

Lunch was great. Our table overlooked the very active train lines, which I’ll post a video on.

A very cool aspect of this museum, which was a first time for me, was their very careful education on every aspect of railroad machinery. For example, pantographs (all actuated) and trucks, both in their history and how they worked.

The roundhouse and turntable were awesome. And imagine my surprise at finding an early Porter loco in their collection.

Very much a contemporary product to “my” Joe Douglass, whose railroad I’ve been researching and writing about every day (when I can, even if only for 10 minutes). And just to prove that my fat self was here and not just googling pics…

By buddy JR took that shot, and was so fun to talk to all along the trip.

The museum offered a short steam train ride, for only ~$2 extra. Coal fired!

They have a large shop for restoration and repair. This is off-limits to the public, but they let you look in.

And their fleet of operable locos appears to include at least these two more, loaded with coal and ready to go.

After all this, we went to a sort of flea-market / public square / performance / food court thing, which seems to happen every weekend in Kyoto at this park just outside the museum.

Then we took a train (our 3rd of the day) back to Kyoto Station. Here’s JR (the big dude with the beard) getting our tickets.

Getting through the gate to the platform:

Train ride #4 for the day was on the bullet train, from Kyoto back to Osaka. No pics, but I’ll upload video links (which are still uploading) in a subsequent post.

This has been a real eye-opener day. I’d had an ignorant notion that the Japanese had basically adapted everything from the US and Europe. But instead, I was struck at every turn by the re-thinking, re-application, and general inventiveness in their systems. Especially with the high speed trains, and heavy reliance on daily railroad commuting nationwide, they have been a technology leader for a long time.

I now have a profound respect for Japanese railroading. Though the US and England had the upper hand in the 1800’s and early to mid 1900’s, Japan’s essential dependence upon trains, and therefore its development of railroading technology, has greatly surpassed us. My hat’s off to them. It’s been a mind-blow.



OK, here are the promised videos. On the YouTube videos, I’ve typed in a bit more description, so please go to those if you wish. It’s nearing 11:30pm, so I’m kinda cooked for the day, haha!

These 13 vids represent the essence of what we did today, step by step. If you want more info, I’ve typed some into the YouTube description. I don’t know if this will all work, but here goes.

Trip to Kyoto 1, Shin Osaka Station

Trip to Kyoto 2, regular train going there 1

Trip to Kyoto 3, regular train going there 2

Trip to Kyoto 4, tunnel animation (in the museum)

Trip to Kyoto 5, train view from the museum cafeteria 1

Trip to Kyoto 6, train view from the museum cafeteria 2

Trip to Kyoto 7, train museum roundhouse

Trip to Kyoto 8, museum train ride

Trip to Kyoto 9, museum train ride

Trip to Kyoto 10, train from museum back to Kyoto station

Trip to Kyoto 11, Kyoto bullet train coming in

Trip to Kyoto 12, Kyoto bullet train going out

Trip to Kyoto 13, Kyoto bullet train going to Osaka


Hi guys, following through on railroady stuff for y’all while I’m on a work trip…

FWIW, here’s a clip from my morning commute.

This evening we had a sort of good bye party for the USA folks who’ve been helping out, and we had a dinner-part-cruise on a main river in Osaka. I and one colleague will stay one more week. Here’s the boat:

The bridges are all amazing, every one a work of art.

But my phone died! So I stole the phone off a colleague, took lots of shots, and will somehow transfer stuff from him to me tomorrow. Main thing was that, after lots of failed attempts near railroad bridges to get a passing train shot, the boat pilot stopped the boat to wait for a good opportunity for me. I think I got a good clip, but I haven’t seen it yet.

The cherry blossoms are all in peak bloom right now, a super BIG deal in Japan. Blooming trees all along the river, and everywhere else. But at the moment I only have this crap blurry shot!

The meat fest bbq was nice…

Most folks wore fake mustaches and sometimes eye patches because this was a pirate-themed cruise.

Better pics tomorrow or Sunday…

I hope to visit a model railroad hobby shop tomorrow, which I hear is amazing. These people take their trains seriously, and their model-making, so I’m looking forward to that.


Wallet be were … Careful … Cliff … your can ship things home I heard … :kissing:

Today was epic, walking (a bunch) to three hobby / model train stores in the vicinity. There are many more such stores in this (huge) city, and it’s great to see that the model railroading hobby is more than thriving here.

And it was cool to see notice big brand names like Tamiya and Kato. I also wanted to get some gifts for my wife Linda and our daughter Bethany (who still lives with us, and just had a birthday I had to miss).

So, for those that might be interested, I took a bunch of videos, and sometimes photos, and here there are. I’ll go chronologically.

I first went to the Yodobashi department store, which is like a moderate-size shopping mall in footprint but with… 13 levels? One level was games & hobby & toys, and after working through the immense Playstation & Nintendo areas…

… I walked the comics areas and figures stores. My daughter wanted a character with certain characteristics, and it took at least an hour to choose something I think she might like (the time diff makes it tough to get real-time guidance). But very fun.

I passed the Tamiya store, where they had this hilarious racing track.

Now, to the main train store on the (vast) 5th floor of the (immense) Yodobashi complex. The train store is only one area within an open mega store space. I’m learning that this is a frequent thing: no storefront, just a footprint in a seriously trafficked place. And for the Japanese, it’s the same thing I think as “brick and mortar.”

Many other hobby sub-stores were present on this Yodobashi floor, of all sorts (model gundam [robot-monster-transformers], cars, planes, ships; painting; shadow-box paper art; other crafting; etc., etc.). It was therefore sensible that there was a common tool sub-store / area.

After that I went to a yarn store to get some decent swag for my wonderful wife, who’s put up with all this travel of mine. I thought the store looked like this:

But no; this was a corner of yet another ginormous multi-floor shopping mall. After wandering stupidly within the first floor concourses…

… I asked a security guard if he knew where the yarn store was (I showed him their web site on my phone). He couldn’t figure it out, but he sent me to an English-speaking Info desk, and the woman there looked it up and was able to tell me exactly where to walk. But I had to take a pic of her floor plan for a visual guide…

Up 10 floors, on the furthest diagonal corner of the complex. but I found the place, got the goods, and scored a major victory!

OK, back to things railroady. The next train store was inside the silly-huge Osaka train station, and Google Maps has not been helpful in these big indoor concrete-lined spaces. Long story short, it required finding a directory map and using Google translate to eventually locate the shop in theory. And with a couple asks for help (and semi-awkward exchanges, though the people have always been willing to give it their best shot, wow I’m gonna miss that), I made it.

Here’s the storefront, which has two layouts visible through a window.

And here’s a bit about the content of the store. It was sort of cramped, with plenty of customers, so I apologize for the non-optimal view angles. Main thing for me was the two layouts, one over the other; and the several operator stations. Maybe a club is involved, don’t know. But it certainly looks like you an test drive a loco or train there before you buy it.

My last objective was a third train store. On the walk from Osaka Station to my 3rd model train store. I post this because of the different approach the Japanese have to larger intersections and pedestrian use of them. Unlike the practice in the USA for pedestrians to walk with the flow of vehicles, in this intersection at least there are a few stages of vehicle management, and then the entire square is shut down to vehicles and open for walkers.

And since I was now expecting it to be buried within a larger structure, it took quite a while to find that it was indeed on street level, at the sidewalk. Quite small, but very much enabling N gauge addiction for locals.

That’s it for the day. Except that I still need to access and upload those files from last night’s boat ride…

[sorry about the wonky short vids, turns out that YT forces less than 1 minute videos into a “short” category with different rules of display / presentation, ticks me off.]

Love it, Rooster; that’s from the Jetson’s, right?

Contrary to that though, my wife’s been patient through this three-week effort that got extended to four, and has had to deal with stuff I’d normally handle. Trash, recycling, other stuff…

I miss her and respect her, and wanted to make the special trip to the yarn store, which I’d sent her a link on. I got her what she asked for, and a bunch more. She’s in to yarn spinning and dying (and teaches classes on those), so the different Japanese methods are very intriguing to both of us.

For example, let’s pour dye into the center of a big ball…

And knit up a lacy triangle with it, and call it a shawl.

Anyway, that’s my wife’s gig, and I’m trying to support it because she supports my train gig.


[edit: but to your point Rooster, no, t’weren’t cheap, haha!]

I now have semi-access to photos and vids of the Osaka dinner cruise.

I really enjoyed how each bridge was presented as a work of art, by its architecture and lighting. This one has a central spiral art form, and had fountains running earlier.

A vid of a train crossing over a different bridge.

The cherry trees along the river are amazing, and at full bloom this weekend.

The best part for me though was when the boat pilot paused at the turn-around spot, and waited for the train because of my wanting to video its crossing the river. And I was blessed with two trains!

My main vid. The boat captain-pilot stopped the boat until the trains could go by, so I could take the shot.

This is George and Jane. Part of the show’s opening credits I think. Who remembers the first prime USA 1/2 hour cartoon show?

Very good of the boat captain!

I’ve spent the weekend in local department stores, a total mind-blow.

5 busy workdays are ahead, and them I’m coming home Saturday.

Jerry B alerted me to a fun-weird railroady thing a few train stops out of the way on my normal commute trip, and I hope to book a slot there.

Picture an N-scale train-operating session, with you on the controls, while eating chow. But put a bunch of cats on the layout and see what happens.

I’ll let you know if this leads to anything…

A few closeups of their track.

Not sure if the four things beside the track are sensors or signals, but I’ll guess the latter. In the last photo you can (almost) see the sensors centered on the ties.

A couple more evenings and days here, then I’ll come home Saturday. It’s so weird that I lose a day and get home sooner than I left.

I’ll be glad to be back in the same (or near) time zone as my pals here.

I’ll miss the culture here. Utterly safe; everyone helpful; always honor-and-friendship-oriented. If you have the chance, please come to Osaka, or other of Japan’s slightly-less populated cities (Tokyo seems too massive for me to recommend).

But what do I know, I’m just a dude being sent to a place… yet feeling seriously compelled to speak about that place. You guys on LSC are my friends, so I must convey my experience to you and recommend your experiencing similar, if you can make or find the chance.

Bests regards to you my friends from Osaka,

To answer an earlier promise, no, I wasn’t able to book a dinner at the cats-on-the-railroad-layout-you’re-trying-to-run-trains-on-while-eating thing. They were booked this week.