Welcome back to another installment of Anime of Rails, where we don’t have any ships, but we sure do have a lot of coupling. This episode we meet the other half of the Old Imperial Railways duo and “One Who Travels Through Tunnels,” Shirogane!
Dressed in a grey two-piece uniform, white blouse, and grey conductor’s hat and carrying a purse that looks more like a toolbox than a handbag, Shirogane is the Railord for the Kanmon Railway’s EF10 23 electric locomotive. While a bit timid, she is earnest and sincere, but becomes easily flustered by Ran’s forwardness.
The EF10 23 is the 23rd of 41 electric locomotives produced in Japan between 1934-1941. Since it was manufactured after the creation of the 1928 JNR numbering system, its class designation can help determine some of its characteristics. The “E” indicates that the locomotive is electric, while the “F” tells us it has six driving axles. The “10” indicates that the locomotive is designed to operate at speeds equal to or less than 85 km/hr, and the “23” designates it as the 23rd unit in its class. Like all EF10s, EF10 23 operated on 1,500 volt DC electricity, and was used to pull both passenger and freight trains in the mid-1900s.
EF10s were the first locomotives to operate in the Kanmon Railway Tunnel. The tunnel crosses the Kanmon Strait that separates the islands of Kyushu and Honshu and is the first ever undersea tunnel in Japan. Completed in 1942, the tunnel is actually two separate tunnels, each with a single railroad track. The tunnel is currently used only for freight trains, but before the completion of the Sanyo Shinkansen, the Kanmon Railway Tunnel was the only direct line between the islands, and carried both freight and passengers. Due to the very salty undersea environment in the tunnel, metal parts of both the rails and the engines operating on the line corrode much faster than under normal conditions. Some of the EF10s were modified with extra stainless steel to resist the corrosion and reduce maintenance costs. While operating in the tunnel, EF10s had to be outfitted with an extra five tons of cast iron in order to create enough downward force on the tracks to prevent wheel slippage.
Today, only one EF10 locomotive has been preserved. The rest were scrapped between 1975-1983. EF10 35, one of the units modified after 1953, is the last of its kind and is on static display at the Kyushu Railway History Museum. If you’re in the area, check out this endangered train before it goes extinct!