Hello all! I'm back from the dead, or better, from my thesis! As a sort of a "celebratory" thing for my graduation, here's my first new project after far too much time, and for the occasion, to match my degree, i've choosen the most urban-planning-related train possible: the Housing and Urban Development Pubblic Corporation 2000 Series (or better known by it's other alias: Chiba Newtown Railway 9000 Series)!


Already available on my website!

Altough not really well-known, this very small series of just two trains fetaures a huge number of quirky fetaures and interesting things, above all, the company owning them: "the Housing and Urban Development Pubblic Corporation". This isn't of course any normal railway company - the HUDC was a Japanese government-owned pubblic corporation (de-facto operating as a government bureau) tasked with designing, building and managing new pubblicly-owned residential developments and correlated necessary pubblic services.
So, how did what was essentially a pubblic housing authority end up with it's own train fleet? The answer lies in the intricated mess that is the Hokuso Line, and, more broadly, the Keisei group.

It all started in the 1960s, at the height of Japan's economic miracle. With mass immigration from the countryside to major metropolitan areas, a huge strain was put on the already precarious housing system of most major cities: there simply weren't enough houses to accomodate all those that were moving into the city, and the existing stock was inadequate as well, mostly still formed of relatively cramped Machiya-type traditional houses, with tiled roofs and wood framing. To prevent an all-too-probable rise of uncontrollable and messy urban expansion, the Japanese government began building the so-called "New Towns", precisely and neatly planned large-scale housing developments, formed almost exclusively of the "Danchi"-type apartment blocks, inspired by soviet practice, comprehensive of most pubblic services and rivalling (and often surpassing) in size nearby historic towns. As the focal point of these "New Towns" was to serve people that were to work in the city, the connection with the city itself was of utmost importance, meaning that New Towns had to be inevitably built along railway lines. In Tokyo, this was applied rigorously, with the largest New Town ever built, Tama New Town, being placed explicitly along Keio's Sagamihara and Main Line.

However, some issues soon became apparent, in the form of the land's natural geography: Tokyo's western side was already railway-wise extremely well-developed, but the same area is also rather hilly, limiting chances to expand without undergoing expensive and time-consuming land adjustment works (basically flattening hills and mountains - actual environmental concerns would come only in a decade or so). With no end in sight to the urban population boom, and with no more room to place new developments in western Tokyo, an alternative had to be found.

This alternative came on the other side of Tokyo, all the way in Chiba prefecture: unlike it's southern counterpart, with a coastline littered with industries, the northern portion of Chiba prefecture always was relatively underdeveloped and almost entirely rural. In 1966, as the definitive location of Tokyo's new airport, Narita, was choosen to be in northern Chiba, the prefectural government, very likely not coincidentally, announced a plan to build a "New Town" capable of accomodating 340'000 residents in roughly the same area. For the first time, Urban Planners had the closest thing possible to a clean slate: miles and miles of flat, nondeveloped countryside to build on. Construction of "Chiba New Town" began in 1970, but remained rather sluggish, in part as well probably due to the heightened scrutiny over the new airport itself, wich most chiba residents vehemently protested against. Finally, in 1978, the project's status was considerably expedited, being elevated from prefectural to a national one, as the Housing and Urban Development Pubblic Corporation (then still known as the "Japan Housing Corporation") became involved at the request of the prefectural government itself.

A forecast of 340'000 residents is a hefty number; the only system capable of moving such an amount of people in a cost-effective and efficient way is of course a commuter railway. One small issue: the area where Chiba New Town was located had none - JNR's Narita Line was too far north, Keisei's Main Line was too far south. The solution was simple: build one from scratch. The new line, and by extension the new town itself were to be built on a east-west alignment, roughly following the shortest route between the new Narita Airport and Tokyo's city center (paralleling the proposed, and ill-fated "Narita Shinkansen") with plans calling for it to be integrated, or atleast connected and provided with trough-services with either Line No.1 (the Asakusa Line, wich eventually prevailed) or Line No.10 (the current Shinjuku Line, whose construction had just begun), both of wich were Toei subway lines, owned and managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, wich had a considerable stake of interest in the Chiba Newtown project. The project for the line, as per modern praxis, was divided in phases, to be built eastwards in sequence: the first phase was to connect the Komuro area of Chiba Newtown to the Shin-Keisei Line at Kita-Hatsutomi, the closest "existing" railway line, where the trains of the new town line were to continue onwards onto the Shin-Keisei Line up until Matsudo station as a provisional mesaure until a more direct link to central Tokyo could be built. The second phase consisted in an eastwards extension, entering into Chiba Newtown "proper", serving Chiba-Newtown-Chuo ("Chiba New Town Central"), Inzai Makinohara and Imba-Nihon-Idai ("Imba Medical University") stations. The third phase was to properly connect the line to central Tokyo, abandoning the trough-services with Shin-Keisei and building a westwards extension of the line up until Keisei-Takasago, establishing a connection with the Keisei network and thus trough-services to central Tokyo via the Keisei Main Line and Toei Asakusa Line.

The first phase of Chiba New Town's railway opened on the 9th of March 1979 as the "Hokuso Line" ("Hokuso" being an alternative kanji reading of "North Chiba"), running 7,9Km between Kita-Hatsutomi and Komuro stations with trough-services with the Shin-Keisei Line, as planned. The Hokuso Line and it's trains were (and are) owned and operated by the Hokuso Railway, a company founded and owned jointly by Keisei Railway and the Prefectural Government of Chiba, with a small portion of the shares being in the hands of Matsudo city as well. As the first phase of the line was completed, and construction began on the second, demand for housing rose sharply (signing the beginning of Japan's euphoric, and ultimately fatal, asset bubble), with the Japan Housing Corporation choosing to involve itself even deeper in the project, unusually taking upon itself the task of building and managing not only the housing and service-related part of Chiba New Town, but the remaining phases of the railway as well!
Thus, after passing some necessary administrative and bureaucratic steps (and coinciding with it's restructuration from the "Japan Housing Corporation" to the "Housing and Urban Development Pubblic Corporation, reflecting the agency's widened scope), Japan's pubblic housing corporation became a full-fledged railway company as well. HUDC's first railway line, the first portion of the second phase of Chiba New Town's railway, the four Kilometers between Komuro and Chiba-Newtown-Chuo stations, finally opened for regular services on the 19th of March 1984 as the "Kodan" Line ("Kodan" being Japanese for "Pubblic Corporation").
Being HUDC's first railway line, the pubblic corporation had readied a small fleet of trains to operate it: it's own "2000 Series", just two six-car sets.
The new trains had been designed thruought 1982, with the order being placed to Nippon Sharyo in April 1983, wich built them between November and December of the same year. Sinc ethe "Kodan" and "Hokuso" lines were always intended to be operated jointly, HUDC's 2000 Series was entirely based on Hokuso Railway's distinctive 7000 Series, wich had been introduced in 1979 with the opening of the Hokuso Line (and had also been manufactured by Nippon Sharyo). As such, the two trains were technically identical, sharing the same traction motors, shunt-chopper control (similar to the ones in use on Keio's 6000 Series and Tokyu's 8500 Series trains), bogies, bodyshell construction system and driving cabs (as a result of wich, retained the same two-handle arrangment with a vertical-axis controller and the iconic removable wood and brass brake handle, typical of the 1960s and 1970s). Air conditioning was also fitted from the start, with units on set No.1 having been provided by Toshiba, and the ones on set No.2 having been manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric.

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However, from an external point of view, the two trains were nothing alike: the unique segmented front of the 7000 Series (allegedly based on the quintessentially french Néz-Cassé locomotives) was changed in favour of a less complex, less distinctive but still very much pleasant convex front and the mainly blue livery of Hokuso Railway's (only) trains was changed into an interesting mix of red, light (almost lime) green and dark gray, with the addition of HUDC's brand-new light blue logos on the front and sides, giving these trains a distinctive appearance.

After the entry into service, things went rather smooth for the trains themselves, running between Chiba-Newtown-Chuo and Matsudo along the Kodan, Hokuso and Shin-Keisei Line, along with their (just slightly) older 7000 Series siblings; however, things weren't looking particularily great for Chiba New Town itself: as the rural-to-urban immigration finally started to relent after two decades, the grandous "340'000 residents" forecast quickly became more and more irrealistical, in early 1986 the plans for Chiba New Town were modified and shrunk to a forecast of 176'000 residents, just a little more than half the original estimate.

HUDC was a railway company by all means, but had no personnel of it's own: trains were driven and tracks were maintained by Hokuso Railway employees - HUDC being essentially just the owner of the two 2000 Series trains and of (part of) the tracks on wich they ran. This was further streamlined in 1986, with some admnistrative changes, the two "lines" were officially merged togheter (having been separate only on paper) as the "Hokuso-Kodan Line".
March 1991 saw the second biggest change in the line(s)' operational history, as the 12,7Km section between Kita-Hatsuomi and Keisei-Takasago was finally opened, allowing for the commencment of trough-services between the Hokuso-Kodan Line, the Keisei Line, the Toei Asakusa Line and Keikyu Railway's Main Line, enabling direct services between Chiba Newtown and Tokyo's city center.
Coinciding with the commencment of trough-services, the 2000 Series was re-classified as the "9000 Series" (to avoid a numbering conflict with Keikyu's own 2000 Series) and, togheter with Hokuso Railway's 7000 Series, extended from six to eight cars by adding two newly-built intermediate cars. For trough-services, the cab cars of the newly re-classified 9000 Series were also retrofitted with a powered front bogie, a requirement of Keikyu Railway. Soon after, in July 1992, the provisional trough-services with the Shin-Keisei Railway were curtailed as planned.

1995 saw a further eastwards extension of the Hokuso-Kodan Line, 4,7Km to Inzai-Makinohara still part of "Phase 2" and thus built and owned by HUDC, but operated by Hokuso Railway. Coinciding with the opening of this new section, new trains were introduced in service - the funky uniquely-looking 9100 Series, and in 2000, "Phase 2" was finally completed, with the opening of Inba-Nihon-Idai station, the current easternmost terminus for almost all Hokuso Line trains (the line beyond Inba-Nihon-Idai, the Narita Sky Access Line to Narita Airport opened in 2010, but as of today is only served by a select number of express services to and from the airport. Almost all commuter trans terminate atInba-Nihon-Idai).

As the 1990s came to an end, the need for new housing shrunk as the asset price bubble had burst and was wreaking havoc in the Japanese economy, it was now apparent that such extremely large-scale "New Town" developments were no longer economically feasable, or even needed at all. Within a few years all major governmental housing plans being put on hold, including Chiba New Town, in wichever state they were at the moment - often actually rather far from completion. In 1999, the Housing and Urban Development Pubblic Corporation was extensively reformed, morphing into the "Urban Development Pubblic Corporation", reflecting the dwindling importance pubblic housing projects had. The new UDC however still inherited and maintained all the assets of the HUDC, including the rolling stock: three 9100 Series trains and our two 9000 Series sets, wich were fitted with UDC's new purple and dark blue logos in place of the HUDC's older ones.

The UDC however was always intended to be a sort of a "temporary entity", useful to take some time to evaluate wich one was to be the path that the agency should be following in the future. As the Japanese economy started to stagnate in the post-bubble era, the answer came in 2004: the once rather powerful former HUDC was considerably downsized and restructured into the "Urban Renaissance" agency, yet again reflecting it's changed scope: from now on, the new UR was just to manage the areas built by it's predecessors, focusing on redevelopment and regeneration of existing buildings; large-scale developments and "New Towns" were to be a thing of the past, glorious, but gone. As part of the reformation and downsizing, UR sought to sell off or hand over all unnecessary, superfluous or, simply, "unusual" assets acquired by it's predecessors, with the "railway area" being a perfect candidate. As such, in 2004, all of HUDC's owned rolling stock and trackage was spun off and trasnferred to an ad-hoc created company, Chiba Newtown Railway, wich began operations on the 16th of March of the same year. Chiba Newtown Railway as a company is even more "barebones" that HUDC (or it's pro-tempore successor UDC) was: it has no personnel of it's own, not even administrative, and basically exists only to provide a legal "owner" for the inherited HUDC rolling stock and trackage, wich is then leased to Hokuso Railway. In fact, for all operations and purposes, Hokuso considers Chiba Newtown's rolling stock as it own; after all, it operates, maintains and manages it in almost evry aspect - Chiba Newtown Railway's rolling stock is Hokuso's in all but name only.
In the same year, reflecting the various changes, the "Kodan" moniker of the old HUDC was dropped from the line's name, wich now returned to be just the "Hokuso Line".

Depsite all the various administrative and company-related shenanigans, the operational life of the two 9000 Series sets remained quite tranquil and regular, with very little changes to timetables and operations since 1991, when trough-services had begun. However, over the years age caught up with these trains, and a replacement began to be sought for. Out of the two sets, No.1 was the first to be retired, being replaced in 2013 by a single "9200 Series" set, purchased by Chiba Newtown Railway and essentially identical to Keisei's 3000 Series (derivatives of wich were being introduced by the other Keisei group companies as well: Hokuso Railway, with it's 7500 Series and Shin-Keisei Railway with it's N800 Series). Set No.2 instead lived on for four years longer, being retired from regular services on the 17th of March of 2017, being replaced by a single "9800 Series" set, this time an ex-3700 Series set leased from Keisei indefinitely. After a special, reservation-by-lottery-only, final run on the 20th of March, set No.2 was retired definitely as well, after thirty-three years of service.
Unfortunately all cars were scrapped immediately after retirement, with none surviving into preservation.

Trivia #1:
The "2000 Series" designation was officially choosen to symbolize "the path of Chiba New Town towards the year 2000".
The actual reason was, however, far more practical in nature: avoiding confusion with Toei, Shin-Keisei and especially other Keisei rolling stock; this however became moot with the start of trough-services with Keikyu Railway, with HUDC's trains needing to be re-classified into the unused "9000 Series" designation, as the "2000 Series" name had just become in conflict with Keikyu's own 2000 Series.

Trivia #2:
During the "2000 Series" era, the numbering system for the cars was essentially identical to TRTA's one. With the reclassification into the "9000 Series", this system was changed as well, in favour of a one more similar to Keikyu and Keisei's practices.

Trivia #3:
The red, green and grey (over silver stainless steel) color scheme of these trains were chosen so as to symbolize "the youth of the new town, and the tranquility of life in it".
This unusual combination also led to a slightly less edifying nickname among railfans: "Tomato Salad".

Trivia #4:
Chiba Newtown Railway is a fully-owned subsidiary of Keisei Railway, and it leases tracks and rolling stock to Hokuso Railway, wich is 50% owned by Keisei Railway.
In other words, Keisei Railway is paying part of the leasing costs to itself.

Trivia #5:
Out of the various small "heritages" of the HUDC era, one of the most interesting ones is the fact that, depsite having shed any direct participation in transport operations for near two decades, the successor to the HUDC, the Urban Renaissance Agency still owns 17,27% of Hokuso Railway's shares.

Trivia #6:
The actual population of Chiba New Town ended up being only about 100'000 residents (105'908 as of today), less than a third of what was originally forecast in the 1970s.
That's right, here's (with yet some more delay) Leoluchvizero's graduation present instead - the 0 Series, Chiba Urban Monorail's "Urban Flyer"!


Already available on my website!

The 0 Series was introduced in 2012 by Chiba Urban Monorail as a replacement for the older 1000 Series trains that the company had been using since the opening of the first section of the system in 1988.
Depsite being just around 20 years old, by the second-half of the 2000s, plans were already in motion to replace the original trains of the systems, as they had precociously aged, and were wearing down relatively fast due to the tortuous nature of the Chiba Urban Monorail system, with very tight curves and extremely steep slopes.

The first proposals to introduce a new train were made around 2006, and in 2007, the company provisionally settled on the "Urban Flyer 0" name. Original plans called for the new trains to be put in revenue service by 2009, but likely due to budgetary constraints, the first new trains arrived on Chiba Urban Monorail's premises in 2012.
Manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the new trains were (or better, had to be) based on their predecessors, the 1000 Series also built by Mitsubishi (as the conglomerate is the only holder of the SAFEGE monorail design licenses, it is the only possible manufacturer), in particular regarding the overall shape, aluminum bodyshell, door placement, internal layout and bogies. However, accordingly modern equipment was fitted to these trains, namely an up-to-date IGBT-VVVF inverter (manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric and of the same type that was being produced en-masse for JR East's then-new E233 Series trains), electrically-powered doors, LED destination boards and train number indicators and passenger information displays. Unlike the older trains, the new 0 Series was also designed to comply with the current norms regarding barrier-free access, something that the old 1000 Series trains weren't (and still aren't).

The exterior styling was contracted out to the renowned GK industrial design firm, wich created a strikingly modern black and light blue livery with white linings, a stark contrast with the dull unpainted aluminum livery of the older 1000 Series.
With the "0 Series" classification and the "Urban Flyer" nickname made official, the first of the new trains began a series of test along the Chiba Urban Monorail network , starting from static testing inside the system's Dobutsukoen depot, beginning in Januray, and then moving onto daytime test runs thruought the whole system, starting in April. With the mandatory test runs completed, the first 0 Series set finally entered revenue service on the 8th of July 2012.

Plans originally called for a bulk order of 0 Series trains to replace all of the twenty older 1000 Series sets in the shortest possible time, however due to yet more budgetary constraints (economically speaking, Chiba Urban Monorail isn't exactly doing well), the order had to be considerably curtailed, being limited to just three 0 Series sets for 2012, followed by one set more in 2014.
With four new trains available in service, gradual withdrawals of the oldest 1000 Series sets could began, with the very first batch (the 1988-built cars) being removed from service in 2015.
Two more 0 Series sets were delivered in 2019 (five years since the last delivery!) and were followed by two more in 2020, allowing Chiba Urban Monorail to retire the second-batch 1000 Series trains (wich had been built in 1991).
As of now, no new 0 Series trains have been delivered since, bringing the total to eight 0 Series sets in service as of today, currently amounting to exactly 50% of Chiba Urban Monorail's fleet, as the remaining 1000 Series sets are also eight, built between 1993 and 1999.
Chiba Urban Monorail's plans are to definitely retire the 1000 Series, but due to the already variously mentioned budgetary issues, this is expected to take quite a lot of time: official plans call for the introduction of atleast seven more sets, with the objective to replace the 1000 Series by 2028 at best!

Trivia #1
In 2012, the cost of each new 0 Series set was about 290 milion yen - 323 milion yen adjusted for inflation as of today, equivalent to 2,03 milion euro or 2,14 milion US dollars.

Trivia #2
GK Industrial Design's work was reviewed by a dedicated committee, formed by acaemic experts and officials from Chiba Urban Monorail, and modified atleast four times.

Trivia #3
The design concept for the 0 Series was "sora" ("Sky" in Japanese), in theme with Chiba Urban Monorail's "nature" of having trains gliding between buildings up into the sky.

Trivia #4
GK Industrial Design's work on the 0 Series was awarded the 2012 "Good Design" award.

Trivia #5
The door chime of the 0 Series was developed jointly with Chiba University.

Trivia #6
By 2028, the year of the planned replacement of the 1000 Series, the oldest 0 Series sets will be 16 years old, almost as old as were the oldest 1000 Series sets when their replacement began to be considered!
A 16-year production timespan with limited modifications is also something basically unheard of in modern times, and can only be rivaled by the more or less equally long production timespans of some of JNR's classic EMU, DMU and locomotive designs.
This is my last post of the forum. I am retiring from Trainz once and for all

All of my screenshots from the past will be on the Portal to view. My cosplay journey is now upon me
Hi Jdriver. Good luck with your future projects and thanks you for all the nice screenshots. I will miss them for sure. The door is always open for when you want to return. But for now I wish you much fun and fulfillment in your new hobby or career.
Hi Jdriver. Good luck with your future projects and thanks you for all the nice screenshots. I will miss them for sure. The door is always open for when you want to return. But for now I wish you much fun and fulfillment in your new hobby or career.
Thanks Pagroove. I have been doing this since 2022. When I started cosplaying, it made played Trainz less and going out more. It is really fun doing this, and I know I will be missed. I do have pics on my IG and Twitter if anyone wants to see. The links are in my profile
Happy Holidays everyone. Sadly my computer died and to some extent my Trainz. I did find out that it made a secret backup but do I have to somehow transform the backup Kuids folders into Kuids to get them to work again?
Merry Christmas everyone!
Unlike last year, this year i'm glad i managed to hold on to my "traditional christmas special release" - so, here it is, this year's "Christmas Shinkansen": the first mini-shinkansen and one of my actual favourites - the 400 Series!


From left to right: original livery, 6-cars formation (1992-1995) and the 7-cars formations in the old (1995-2001) and new (2001 to 2010) liveries.

Already available on my website!

As we all know well, the Japanese Shinkansen is special among high-speed railways, as it is entirely confined within it's own infrastructure, to the point of being conceptually inseparable from it: a new Shinkansen services equals directly the construction of new Shinkansen infrastructure. This is in contrast with "European" high-speed rail systems, where this correlation between the "train" and it's "infrastructure" is a bit more fuzzy, as high-speed trains are able (and the whole network was designed with the intent) to run both on dedicated high-speed railways, as well as conventional railways, either on approach to the "historic" city-center stations, or on the "outer parts" of their services, where construction of a dedicated high-speed railway line is considered unsuitable due to higher costs in comparison to perspective revenue earnings (for instance, within the German ICE system the correlation between "train" and "infrastructure" is even almost entirely nill).

This is a double-edged sword - on one hand, with a system that entirely requires it's own infrastructure, it is definitely harder to "half-ass" the extension of high-speed railway services, from both a political as well as technical-economic perspective: high speed "farces" where an high speed train only runs on conventional lines, or for only a minimal part of it's journey (while retaining the same fare price as "normal" high-speed trains) are nearly impossible to do with a Shinkansen-style system.
On the other hand, you still cannot "half-ass" extension, wich means that medium-sized towns and places that have the potential demand for an improved, high-quality and fast Inter-City service need to be excluded a priori
as building the completely segregated infrastructure carrying these services would not make any economic sense, with construction costs potentially never recouped by ridership revenue, not even in the very long term.

This problem, or better, inherent limitation of the system, was already well understood by JNR engineers working on Shinkansen planning togheter with the national and prefectural governments.
The choice of a completely segregated infrastructure was of course a foreced one: there was simply no (safe) way to attain high-speeds on 1067mm gauge tracks: adopting any other track gauge would've obliged the construction of an entirely new "network", completely segregated from the main "conventional" one (to this end, the shinkansen could very well be even broad-gauge, the result would've been the same).
To address this, more specifically the issue of "how do we bring quality higher-speed services to towns and places that do not warrant the construction of an entirely dedicated new Shinkansen line", JNR engineers dabbled into the "Super-Tokkyu" concept between the 1970s and the early 1980s: the idea was instead to extend the Shinkansen, to straighten and upgrade to near-Shinkansen standards (and predisposing them for an eventual long-term conversion to full-Shinkansen standard) sections of the existing 1067mm narrow gauge lines, allowing for specially-designed limited express trains (or "upgraded" standard ones) to reach up to 160Km/h on them, allowing higher speeds than conventional limited express trains, while being able to run for the rest of the journey on normal "conventional lines" at "normal" limited express speeds.
The concept unfortunately never fully saw the light of day, as the planned lines were curtailed one after the other, due to budgetary constraints - only the Hokuetsu Express line, with it's former 160Km/h service speed exists as a "spiritual heir" to the concept.

The idea was sound, if not intruiging , but at the time, due to the poor financial status of JNR, it was relegated to the bottom of the priority list. Only after JNR's privatization in 1987, the issue of extending Shinkansen services outside their specially-built infrastructure the issue resurfaced again: by then all major cities whose passenger demand warranted (or made economically viable) the construction of an entirely segregated infrastructure had been connected, or were being connected, with said infrastructure being under construction.

In particular, Yamagata city, with it's population of roughly 250'000 residents, was increaingly, and vociferously asking for an improved and direct connection to Tokyo, then only handled either by the "Tsubasa" limited express trains, with a meager five daily rountrips between Yamagata and Fukushima (where passengers were supposed to transfer to the Shinkansen, for a total of three hours and nine minutes of travel time) or by the daily Akebono sleeper train, an option that was rather impractical.

The final impetus towards serious consideration for a Shinkansen service to Yamagata came in the mid-1980s, as the city was selected to host the 47th "National Sports Festival" (a sort of "domestic olympics"-type of event), scheduled for 1992.
Plans to get a Shinkansen-style service to Yamagata actually had existed for some year in the form of Mr. Suichiro Yamanouchi's (JNR's manager for north-of-Tokyo lines, and soon after, vice-president of the newly formed JR East) musing and notes: inspired by the french TGV practice, he first drafted the first concepts to extend Shinkansen services onto conventional lines in 1983, with Yamagata city as case-study (the rationale being to serve the popular skiing resorts of the area). Depsite some interest from fellow colleauges, wich helped with detailed drafting and planning for the Yamagata extension, the plan was ultimately rejected by JNR's higher-ups, as privatization loomed. The project finally gained serious traction after bypassing the JNR upper management entirely, as Mr. Yamanouchi presented his plans to diet representatives and other elected officials from Yamagata prefecture, wich were enticed by the idea.
Using the scheduled sports festival as leverage, the "Yamagata Shinkansen" project finally got the go-ahead in 1988, as funding was reluctantly granted by the Ministry of Finacnes, wich remained rather skeptical of the concept overall. In the same year, the newly-formed JR East and Yamagata Prefecture decided to jointly fund the extension, rahter than leaving the whole burden on the national government, by forming a special ad-hoc company: "Yamagata-JR Direct Express Holdings", tasked with being essentially a funding "piggy bank" for infrastructural works, and the owner of the rolling stock to be used on the line (to be brought jointly by JR East and Yamagata Prefecture, and to be leased to the former for normal operation).

In actual infrastructural terms, Mr. Yamanouchi's TGV-inspired solution was essentially the opposite of the old "Super-Tokkyu" concept of 1970s JNR: instead of bringing "conventional lines" to near-Shinkansen standard, the idea was to have Shinkansen trains run on actual conventional lines, with little or minimal alignment alterations. This of course posed a handful of issues, due to the need to somehow interface a network with a wide loading gauge, 25'000v AC 50Hz electrification and, most importantly, 1435mm standard gauge, with a narrow loading gauge network with 20'000v AC 50Hz electrification (in Yamagata's case) and 1067mm gauge tracks.
The solutions were essentially pragmatic: 1435mm gauge prevailed - the conventional lines would've been re-gauged to 1435mm (while retaining local services, in the form of adequate electric multiple units built for or adapted to standard gauge). For the loading gauge it was instead to be the opposite: the narrow 1067mm gauge was to be retained (as enlarging tunnels and adapting the rest of the infrastructure to the Shinkansen's wide loading gauge was extremely expensive) with the inevitable "gap"at "full-Shinkansen" platforms to be filled by retractable steps. Electrification was the one that actually posed the least amount of problems: the new Shinkansen trains would've been just multi-voltage sets.

Dubbed "Mini-Shinkansen", construction works, chiefly the regauging of the Ou Mainline between Fukushima and Yamagata to standard gauge, began in late 1988. At around the same time, the first concrete steps were undertaken in regards to the construction of the extension's special rolling stock.
It's here that we finally see the birth of the 400 Series, the first entirely new Shinkansen design of the newly-formed JR East.
Being a train planned to fit the same loading gauge of conventional trains, the 400 Series used the 20m bodyshell lenght and 2945mm width rather than the Shinkansen's 25m and 3380mm respectively. Trains were to be formed of six cars, to be coupled to longer 200 Series trains (running Yamambiko services) for the leg of the journey on the Tohoku Shinkansen, between Fukushima and Ueno.
As such, the 400 Series had to be designed to be entirely compatible with it's JNR-era brethen, and thus had to fetaure a handful of slightly obsolete technical fetaures, such as a thyristor-phase traction control.

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While they shared a good deal of technical equipment with the 200 Series, in regards of styling, the 400 Series threw it out of the ball park: an unmistakeably sleek, stylish, elegant and modern appearance, with a tapered front nose, top-mounted quadruple headlight and especially a blue-hued stainless steel paint coupled with a black band around the passenger windows, bottomed by a thin bright green line, Yamagata prefecture's colour.

Built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Tokyu Car Co. with Hitachi electrical equipment,a "protoype" set, S4, was delivered in October 1990, and after a brief presentation to the press on October 26th, it was immediately put on test runs along the Tohoku Shinkansen, awaiting the completion of the hefty regauging works of the Ou Main line.

As these works came near completion, the remaining eleven 400 Series sets planned to be run on the Yamagata Shinkansen began to be delivered in the first half of 1992 at a rate of two per month: set L2 (the prototype S4 being since renamed to L1) being delivered on the 17th of January, followed eleven days later by set L3, set L4came on the sixth of March, L5 on the 23rd, L6 on the 2nd of April, followed by set L7 eleven days later, L8 on the 1st of May and L9 on the 11th, L10 on the 29th of May and finally sets L11 and L12 were delivered on the 12th and 25th of June, bringing the 400 Series fleet to completion.

Five days later, on the 1st of July 1992 (during the National Sports Festival), the Yamagata Shinkansen was officially opened to the pubblic, with trains running seamlessly between Yamagata and Tokyo (to Ueno Station) for the first time since the opening of the Tohoku Shinkansen, with a travel time of two and a half hours (shaving 40minutes off the previous travel time) and with daily 14 rountrips, inheriting the "Tsubasa" service moniker from the limited express they replaced.

The Yamagata "Mini-Shinkansen" was a success: not onlyridership fullfilled expextations - it even went beyond, warranting the necessity to add an additional car to all 400 Series trains in late 1995, bringing the formations to 7-car sets. These cars were directly purchased and owned by JR East, unlike the rest of the trains they were in, owned jointly by Yamagata Prefecture, a signal of JR East's growing confidence in the concept.

The Mini-Shinkansen idea was so successful that many other proposals for similar concepts in other areas of Japan were put forward.
The second Mini-Shinkansen line opened in 1997, the Akita Shinkansen, connecting Tokyo to the namesake city and prefecture.

Plans to extend the existing Yamagata Shinkansen northwards, to Shinjo were also being made, with some proposals already starting in 1993. The final go-ahead came in 1997, with JR East recieving 35,1 bilion yen (enough to cover most construction costs) from the "Yamagata Prefecture Tourism Development Corporation", an entity set up by Yamagata Prefecture (in a similar vein as the Yamagata-JR Direct Express company a decade earlier) to fund the extension, this time almost entirely covering the costs by itself, the first (and to this day the only) prefecture to do so.

The northwards extension finally opened on the 4th of December 1999, with Tsubasa trains now reaching Shinjo. To operate services on this new extension three new Mini-Shinkansen sets were procured, not of the 400 Series, but of the comparatively modern E3-1000 Series, these being derived from the E3 Series trains introduced on the Akita Mini-Shinkansen just a few years earlier.

At the same time, the 400 Series sets began to be repainted in a livery to match the newer E3-1000 Series sets: the blue hue silver livery was ditched in favour of a simpler two-tone grey livery divided by a bright green line. The first set to be repainted in the new livery was L4, on the 16th of December 1999, with the last being set L6, being repainted on the 16th of October 2001. At around the same time, the 200 Series sets were replaced on Yamabiko services, to wich the Tsubasa services ran coupled to, by the newerdouble-decker E4 Series.

After the extension to Shinjo, the service life of the 400 Series sets went along rather tranquil, with the trains shuttling back and forth between Tokyo and Yamagata prefecture.

However one issue soon caught up to them, a sort of "original sin": the 400 Series, being designed to work in multiple with the older 200 Series, retained the latters' maximium speed - 240Km/h - wich was now becoming an increasing impedment to JR East's plan to raise the Tohoku Shinkansen's maximium speed to 275Km/h and eventually to 300Km/h and above.

With the 400 Series also starting to show some signs of precocious ageing, JR East finally opted to prematurely retire the fleet, starting in 2008. Replaced on a set-by-set basis by twelve newly-built E3-2000 Series sets (derived from the existing E3-1000 Series but considerably upgraded), the first 400 Series sets began to be retired in 2009, with the former prototype set L1 leaving regular revenue services on the very first day of the year, the 1st of January, followed by set L2 on the 23rd of January, L9 on the 21st of February, L12 on the 19th of March, sets L8, L5 and L3 on the 3rd, 21st and 30th of April respectively, sets L7 and L6 on the 15th and 26th of May, L11 on the 19th of June, L10 on the 7th of August and L5on the 18th of September.

Only set L3 was left in service for a few months more, as a spare train. Finally, set L3 was officially retired as well on the 30th of April 2010, after it's last two runs, both special farewell runs between Shinjo and Tokyo, on the 3rd and 18th of April 2010, thus closing, with the final arrival of Set L3 at Tokyo station at 12:48, a short but interesing career, lasting just a little more than 15 years.

All 400 Series cars were scrapped after retirement, with just one surviving into preservation: car 411-3 from set L3, initially stored by Fukushima Shinkansen Depot and later transferred in 2017 to JR East's Saitama Railway Museum, where it sits on display to this day, alongside the E5 Series mock-up in the new annex building, repainte din it's stylish and elegant original livery.
After all, depsite it'short operational history, the 400 Series is still historically relevant and important as the train that spearheaded the successful "Mini-Shinkansen" concept.

Trivia #1:
In the very early days of the Yamagata Shinkansen project, the Ministry of Finances, the government entity that in the end de-facto decided wich projects were to proceed and wich weren't to, as they had authority over the national budget, remained skeptical, if not outright wary of the concept of extending the Shinkansen to Yamagata, wich they of course understood as needing it's own entirely separated infrastructure. Funding was only allocated after Kano Michihiko, the then-chairman of the Diet's transportation commission (and a Yamagata native) had to repeatedly go and explain to the ministry that it wasn't about the construction of a new line, but rather (euphemistically) "the revitalization of the existing one".

Trivia #2
The total cost of the Yamagata Shinkansen ended up being 63 bilion yen, of wich 37,5 bilion for ground and infrastructure-related work and 27,3 bilion for the 400 Series fleet.

Trivia #3
Mr. Suichiro Yamanouchi, the "father" of the mini-Shinkansen concept, would later actively participate in the development of the 209 Series, the new standard commuter train for Tokyo, and was the main driving force behind the overall "Shin-Keiretsu Densha" system, in particular the "Half the weight, half the cost, half the lifespan", wich has been JR East's basic founding philosophy regarding rolling stock design ever since.