Today in Transportation History – 2008: 40 Years of Shinkansen Series 0 Trains Comes To An End

The era of the Series 0 Shinkansen super-express trains (popularly known as bullet trains), which were the original trainsets built for a system of high-speed railway lines in Japan, came to an end after more than four decades of service. “Final bullet train makes ‘sayonara’ run,” proclaimed a headline in the English-language edition of the longtime Japanese newspaper Mainichi Daily News.

The Series 0 trains first operated in October 1964, just a little over a week before the Summer Olympics began in Tokyo. The trains started out on a route between Tokyo and the city of Osaka in the southern region of Japan’s main island of Honshū. These trains, initially reaching a maximum speed of 130 miles (210 kilometers) per hour, were the fastest in the world at the time of their debut.

While these pioneering trains had been officially retired from regular service at the end of November 2008, special commemorative trains made final runs within the first couple of weeks in December. The last of these runs was made on December 14 by a Series 0 Shinkansen train called the Hikari 347. Starting at 2:30 p.m. on that Sunday, a farewell ceremony took place at the Shin-Ōsaka Station in Osaka before the train left there for its final trip.

Approximately 2,800 people showed up for this ceremony. Those in attendance included 77-year-old Takashi Shima, who had worked on the Series 0 trains as a design engineer. His father Hideo Shima (1901-1998) was a chief engineer for Japanese National Railways and the driving force behind the development of the Series 0 trains. Hideo Shima managed to cut through a great deal of red tape and widespread skepticism to help bring about bullet-nosed trains that could zip through the Japanese countryside at record speeds. “If my father had been alive, he would have said ‘well done’ to the Series 0 for successfully fulfilling its role in society and going into honorable retirement,” said Takashi Shima in an interview with the Mainichi Daily News on the day of the final run of those trains.

At 2:56 p.m., the Hikari 347 – now filled to capacity – pulled away from the Shin-Ōsaka Station as crowds on both platforms there cheered. The Hikari 347 arrived at the Hakata Station, located 379 miles (611 kilometers) to the southwest on the Japanese island of Kyushu, at 6:01 p.m. About 1,600 people greeted the train upon its arrival.

For more information on the Series 0 Shinkansen trains, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/0_Series_Shinkansen and the 1 December 2008 Mainichi Daily News article “Train fans flock to bid farewell to Series 0 bullet train” at http://archive.li/tJwTh.

A video of the farewell run of the Hikari 347 train is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DisuQKFguVI.

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