鉄道は、たくさんの人たちをつないでくれる「道」だと思います。 This is a blog about railways in Japan and around the world by an enthusiast.
Odakyu Railways （Romance cars）小田急ロマンスカーの展望車
Odakyu Railways line from Shinjuku, Tokyo to Odawara, Katase Enoshima and Karakida (Tama City) is one of interesting private railways. I grew up near Yurigaoka station along Odakyu and had used it for nearly 20 years in young age, and my life as a railfan is strongly influenced by this railway.
Romance car limited express is a notable service by Odakyu. It is characterized by an observation car in the front. You can specify an observation seat by the web reservation system although it is popular and difficult to get.
They are popular and run frequently. About 3 trains depart Shinjuku terminal every hour, so you will easily catch a romance car.
The photo below was taken in Romance car museum locating just in front of Odakyu Ebina station. This museum preserves and presents several past notable vehicles and is worth visiting.
I begin with the history of Odakyu romance cars. SE (Super Express) series 3000 which debuted in 1957 was a pioneering model in Japan to open the era of EMUs long distance express trains. Its maximum speed was 110 km/h and ran from Shinjuku to Odawara in 62 minutes, and the average speed was about 80 km/h despite many curves.
Before that, Japanese long-distance trains were locomotive pulled coaches which were not so different from other countries and also slow with maximum speed of 95 km/h. Besides, the damage of WW2 worsened the situation of Japanese railways in that era.
Odakyu SE and JNR series 151 (181) at that time changed that situation, and leaded to the technology advancement which finally resulted in 1964 high speed rail Shinkansen. SE made a record of 145 km/h in an experiment of 1957, and JNR series 151 made 163 km/h on the same year. It was the world fastest 1,067 mm gauge trains at that time.
The large role EMUs trains is unique in Japan. It is due to the necessity of high accretion rate to cope with dense train schedule, frequent station interval and speed limit of sharp curves commonly seen in this country.
The history of Odakyu romance car has continued after SE until now. After the open of Shinkansen, the competition of speed from Shinjuku to Odawara was not so important, and Odakyu put more emphasis on comfortable and pleasure train travel together with leisure development in Hakone and other touristic destinations.
More recently after 1980s, commuter also increased because residential area of Tokyo metropolis expanded, and Odakyu has cope with such demands. Passengers can avoid packed commuter trains by using romance cars.