Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

On the Night Train, Part 3

[On board the JR Cassiopeia overnight sleeper from Sapporo to Tokyo Ueno, posted 14 September]

We arrived in Hakkodate about 2100. We're almost getting accustomed to this platform, having been through the station twice in the past two days. We were able to get off the train (briefly escaping our overheated compartment) and run up to what had been the trailing end of the train, where we saw them attach an electric locomotive. They cut off the diesels on the previously leading end of the train and we pulled out of Hakkodate about five minutes after we arrived. Once again, I'm impressed by JR's efficiency. This sort of maneuver would have taken much longer on Amtrak.

The mystery of the missing observation car is sort of solved, or at least clarified. Where the observation car should be is instead a generator-train service car. The train must carry its own "hotel power" with it rather than draw it from the locomotives. Lisa and I speculate that the observation-lounge car has on-board generators, but with it out of service, they had to substitute a generator car in its place.

A new mystery was unveiled as we pulled out of Hakkodate. This train set is fixed formation, and the diagram of the set says that the observation end of the train always points toward Sapporo and sleeping car 1, including the end-cap "royal" room, always points toward Tokyo. But because Hakkodate is a stub-end station, we seem to have changed directions here and have the ends reversed. If the train stopped at Aomori as well, this would be okay, because they could do another engine swap and change ends again. But this train does not have a published passenger stop at Aomori. We'll know more by morning.

While heading toward the Seikan Tunnel, Lisa tracked down the conductor, who assured us that we had the room air controls set to as high a fan and as cold a temperature as they can provide. The room still feels like a steam bath to us. It's not that the Japanese are incapable of doing air conditioning; some of the trains we rode and restaurants we visited were very nice, and one of the hotels managed to get it so cold that we had to raise the temperature above the low end of their scale. But most of the time, we're always too warm, and it makes Lisa and me both cranky.

After a while, we traversed the Seikan Tunnel for the fourth time this trip, but this time we were able to do so from a completely darkened compartment, allowing us to examine the tunnel from the inside. We spotted both emergency stations, including Tappi-Kaitei, as we passed.

Lisa put on the provided robe and went to sit in the lower level mini-lounge on this car, because at least it's slightly cooler there. I will soon shut down the computer and we'll try to make out the beds in this room and try to get some sleep, because that was part of the point of this trip, after all.
Tags: cassiopeia, japan, sleeper, trains, travel

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