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From Value One, Autumn 2011 No.34  

A Series N700 shinkansen train in the manufacturing process (at Nippon Sharyo's Toyokawa Plant)


The Series N700 rolling stock is one of the latest models used for the shinkansen, the world's top-level high-speed railroad system. The series made its debut in 2007 and is now serving as the main type of train on the Tokaido, Sanyo, and Kyushu Shinkansen lines. Because Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) is scheduled to replace approximately 70% of its shinkansen rolling stock with the Series N700 by fiscal 2013, Nippon Sharyo, Ltd., which is responsible for manufacturing these new trains, is operating its Toyokawa Plant at full capacity every day.

The first Japanese railroad began service in 1872, running between Shinbashi in Tokyo and Yokohama. During the early phase of the service, most of the locomotives, passenger coaches, and freight cars used were imported from the United Kingdom. Later on, rail transport was promoted under a government initiative as a priority industry in the nation, and train manufacturing companies began proliferating in 1896: Kisha Seizo Co., Ltd in Osaka City and Tetsudo Sharyo Seizosho Company and Nippon Sharyo in Nagoya City. As a pioneer in this industry, Nippon Sharyo supported rail transportation in Japan in its burgeoning years and has since supplied many coaches and cars for rail service, including the shinkansen.


Japan's shinkansen service began in 1964, timed to coincide with the Tokyo Olympic Games. The first generation of shinkansen trains, known as the Series 0, embodied the best that steel technology had to offer at the time and were as light as any other ordinary steel coach. Although later shinkansen cars were made of aluminum, the Series 0 remained in active service for 44 years until retiring in 2008.

For many decades, sturdy and inexpensive ordinary steel was the predominant material used in building not only shinkansen trains but also rolling stock in general. However, reflecting the growing need for higher speed and more energy efficiency from the 1960s, greater percentages of aluminum (which substantially reduces weight) and rust-resistant stainless steel (which does not require coating) were rapidly being utilized in making railroad vehicles. Today, these two materials account for some 80% of rolling stock materials in Japan.

Japanese rolling stock manufacturers flexibly use a variety of materials, such as iron, aluminum, and stainless steel, according to requirements. These manufacturers also use the high technical capabilities they have developed from manufacturing shinkansen trains. These trains will certainly continue to meet the worldwide need for greater comfort, safety, and speed.



Stainless steel commuter trains for JR Central



Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd. meets 100% of domestic demand for railcar wheels and axles.



A Series 0 shinkansen train is on exhibition at the Scmaglev and Railway Park.





Scmaglev and Railway Park
3-2-2 Kinjofuto, Minato-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi
Tel: +81-50-3772-3910 (JR Central)
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed on Tuesdays and December 28 through January 1
Admission: ¥1,000 for adults; ¥500 for elementary, junior high, and high school students; ¥200 for infants

In March 2011, JR Central opened the Scmaglev and Railway Park in Kinjofuto, which faces the Port of Nagoya. The railroad museum exhibits 39 railcars under the same roof, ranging from a steam locomotive to the Series 0 rolling stock, the first generation of shinkansen trains. The museum also exhibits a superconducting magnetically levitated vehicle, which is recorded as going faster than any train in the world on the experimental rails used for such vehicles in Yamanashi Prefecture. The park offers other attractions besides these exhibits, such as an elaborate railroad diorama and a life-size simulator that puts visitors literally in the driver's seat to experience what it feels like to drive a Series N700 shinkansen train. All visitors—children and adults alike—can learn about railroad technology and history here.

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