Gauge change train

The Gauge Change Train (GCT) or Free Gauge Train (フリーゲージトレイン?, "FGT") is the name given to a Japanese project started in 1994 to develop a high-speed train with variable gauge axles to allow inter-running between the standard gauge Shinkansen network, and the narrow gauge regional rail network.[1]

Two three-car "GCT" electric multiple unit (EMU) trains have been built for testing. The first train was built in 1998 and withdrawn in 2006. A second train was built in 2006, and, as of March 2012, is still undergoing testing.

First-generation train (1998–2006)

First-generation train on the Yosan Line, May 2003
Manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kinki Sharyo, Tokyu Car Corporation
Constructed 1998
Number built 3 vehicles
Formation 3-car set
Specifications
Car length 23,075 mm (75 ft 8.5 in) (end cars)
20,500 mm (67 ft 3 in) (intermediate cars)
Width 2,945 mm (9 ft 7.9 in)
Maximum speed 300 km/h (185 mph) (shinkansen lines)
130 km/h (80 mph) (narrow gauge lines)
Traction system RMT17 traction motors
(x2 per axle)
Power output 190 kW (250 hp)
per axle (25 kV AC)
Electric system(s) 25 kV AC (50/60), 20 kV AC (50/60), 1,500 V DC, Overhead wire
Current collection method Pantograph
Track gauge

The first GCT train was completed in October 1998.[2] It was designed to be able to run at a maximum speed of over 300 km/h (185 mph) on Shinkansen lines, and at over 130 km/h (80 mph) on conventional narrow-gauge lines under a catenary voltage of 25 kV AC (50/60 Hz), 20 kV AC (50/60 Hz), or 1,500 V DC.[3]

The train was formed as follows:

After preparation at the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) in Kokubunji, Tokyo, the train was moved to JR West tracks in January 1999 for testing on the Sanin Line at speeds of up to 100 km/h (60 mph). From April 1999, the train was shipped to the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado, United States for an extended period of high-speed endurance running until January 2001. Here, it recorded a maximum speed of 246 km/h and ran a total distance of approximately 600,000 km, with approximately 2,000 axle gauge changing cycles.[4]

In November 2002, the train recorded a maximum speed of 130 km/h (81 mph) on the Nippo Main Line in Kyushu.[2]

From May to June 2003, the train was tested for the first time in Shikoku, running late at night on the Yosan Line between Sakaide Station and Matsuyama Station. [5]

Testing on the Sanyo Shinkansen commenced on 23 August 2004 between Shin-Yamaguchi and Shin-Shimonoseki stations, delayed from the initial plan for testing to start during fiscal 2002.[2] A series of 15 return test runs were conducted late at night between 23 August and 27 October 2004, starting at a maximum speed of 70 km/h (45 mph) on the first day.[6] The maximum speed was increased to 100 km/h (60 mph) on the second day, eventually raised to 210 km/h (130 mph) on the final day.[6]

Testing ended in 2006, after which the train was stored at JR Kyushu's Kokura Works. In April 2007, the train was moved to storage at JR Shikoku's Tadotsu Works.


Second-generation train (2006–)

The second-generation set undergoing testing on the Yosan Line in Shikoku, September 2012
Constructed 2006
Number built 3 vehicles
Formation 3-car set
Capacity 36
Specifications
Car length 23,075 mm (75 ft 8.5 in) (end cars)
20,500 mm (67 ft 3 in) (intermediate cars)
Width 2,945 mm (9 ft 7.9 in)
Height 4,030 mm (13 ft 3 in)
Maximum speed 270 km/h (170 mph) (shinkansen lines)
130 km/h (80 mph) (narrow gauge lines)
Axle load max 12.5 t (12.3 long tons; 13.8 short tons)
Electric system(s) 25 kV AC (60 Hz), 20 kV AC (60 Hz), 1,500 V DC, Overhead wire
Current collection method Pantograph
Track gauge

Initially scheduled to be completed in 2004, the second train was delivered in 2006, starting test running based at JR Shikoku's Tadotsu Works. In March 2007, the train was shipped from the RTRI in Kokubunji to Kokura Works, where it was shown off to the press in May 2007.

This train is based on the E3 Series Shinkansen, and includes passenger seating in the intermediate car. Maximum speed is 270 km/h (170 mph) on Shinkansen lines operating under 25 kV AC (60 Hz), and 130 km/h (80 mph) on conventional lines operating under 20 kV AC (60 Hz) or 1,500 V DC.[7]

The train is formed as follows:

  1. GCT01-201: (Mc3) with pantograph
  2. GCT01-202: (M2) with 36 seats, tilting mechanism and pantograph
  3. GCT01-203: (Mc4)

The end cars are 23,075 mm (75 ft 8.5 in) long, and the intermediate car is 20,500 mm (67 ft 3 in) long.[7]

From December 2007, test-running commenced on conventional tracks between Kokura Works and Nishi-Kokura Station.

From June 2009, the train underwent test-running between the Kyushu Shinkansen and conventional narrow gauge tracks, operating at speeds of up to 270 km/h (170 mph) on shinkansen tracks.[8]

In 2011, the train was fitted with new lighter weight "E" bogies to improve stability and ride comfort when negotiating curves or points with radii of less than 600 m. These replaced the previous "D" bogie design. Late night test running took place at speeds of up to 130 km/h (80 mph) on the Yosan Line from August 2011, with the train based at Tadotsu. Endurance testing was then scheduled from October 2011 on the Yosan Line between Tadotsu and Matsuyama to accumulate approximately 100,000 km.[9]


See also

  • Mini-shinkansen, the concept of converting narrow-gauge lines to standard gauge or dual gauge for use by Shinkansen trains
  • Super Tokkyū, the concept of building narrow-gauge lines to Shinkansen standards
  • Train on Train, an experimental concept for conveying narrow-gauge container wagons on Shinkansen tracks through the Seikan Tunnel

Further reading

References

External links

  • Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) (English)
  • Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport details (Japanese)