People bid farewell to elderly Shinkansen super-express in Japan

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The final 0-Series train entering Shin-Osaka Stn. This end was the tail on departure. – 14:44, 14 Dec. 2008 JST
The head car of the final 0-Series train ready as HIKARI 347 in Shin-Osaka Stn. – 14:47, 14 Dec. 2008 JST

The final farewell train in the first series of Shinkansen super-express, called zero-kei (0 Series), ran through western Japan Sunday afternoon from Shin-Osaka to Hakata. 0 Series has served in Japan since 1964, undergoing some model changes, and was retired from regular runs at the end of the last month. Extra farewell runs were scheduled for three days, with all seats allowed to be reserved, and this was the final run.

On Sunday in Shin-Osaka station, a farewell ceremony for Shinkansen 0 Series began at 14:30, where those who contributed to its debut were invited. Around 14:45, the train slowly appeared to enter Track 20. The head and tail cars changed roles, and the train got ready by 14:48 as HIKARI 347 bound for Hakata. And, at 14:56, blowing a long horn, the 0-Series train left for the final trip.

Japanese news media report that approximately 2,800 people gathered to see off the final departure, so did many in the stations the train stopped by. Lastly, the train arrived at Hakata as scheduled at 18:01, welcomed by about 1,600 fans.

A 0-Series Shinkansen train at National Railway Museum, U.K.

Shinkansen network was launched on 1 October 1964, just before Tokyo Olympic Games, with a route connecting the capital Tokyo and Osaka City (now operated by JR-Central). The route for 0-Series trains was gradually extended to the west, which in 1975 reached Hakata area of Fukuoka City (now by JR-West).

Shinkansen 0 Series has a characteristic round face with a part like a shallow bowl, and was nicknamed “dango-bana” or “dangoppana” (literally, “dumpling nose”). At the time of its debut, 0 Series ran at a maximum speed of 210 km/h, which was the world’s highest. HIKARI, meaning beam or light, was the name of trains for the faster service. Even while more modern and faster series were rising, 0 Series continued to serve for some years, but in 1999 it ceased from JR-Central services, and in March 2000 from regular HIKARI runs of JR-West.

According to the media, remaining 0-Series Shinkansen cars are destined to be scrapped. Some other cars, which were withdrawn earlier, are preserved in museums including one in Osaka and National Railway Museum in the U.K.

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