Bronze ‘Yakumo’ train to launch in spring 2024 – Designed the tradition of San-in, Japan

JR West has decided on the rolling stock design for the new model “273 Series electric train” that is scheduled to be introduced on the limited express ‘Yakumo’ connecting the San-in and San-yo areas.

A design of the JR West 273 Series EMU, which is scheduled to start operation after the spring of 2024 as the limited express "Yakumo" (Image by JR West)
A design of the JR West 273 Series EMU, which is scheduled to start operation after the spring of 2024 as the limited express ‘Yakumo’ (Image by JR West)

Japanese traditional seat cloth pattern

JR West Group’s medium-term management plan formulated in 2018 indicated a policy to promote the refinement of the wide-area railway network centered on the Shinkansen in order to deepen coexistence with the region. Currently, between Okayama Station and Izumoshi Station, the ‘Yakumo’ using the 381 Series trains manufactured in the 1980s of the Japanese National Railways (JNR) era is in operation. Due to the aging of rolling stocks, it has already been decided to replace them with new train series that will be released after the spring of 2024 in a situation where there is a need to improve the service level and transportation quality of the feeder limited express of the Shinkansen.

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The concept of the rolling stock design is “a body that echoes with the scenery along the line and shines naturally” and “a warm and relaxing interior that feels like home in the San-in region”. The exterior design is centered on “Yakumo Bronze,” a symbolic color that reflects the nature, history and culture of the areas along the San-in and Hakubi Line. While inheriting the traditional head mark, the symbol mark and logo are drawn on the front and sides, which have been polished to a “modern overlapping clouds (Yakumo)” appearance.

The seats in the green cars are arranged in 2+1 rows, and are based on a yellow color that gives a feeling of spaciousness. Befitting a first-class car, the seats are decorated with the “stacked stones and tortoise shell” pattern, which is a symbol of wealth and longevity. It is said that the culture and natural features of the San-in region were also used as references, such as the Kikko Shrine in Yonago City, which has a legend about turtles, and the town name “Kamedake”. In addition, the seats in the ordinary cars are green based in the image of the mountains along the train line, and the “hemp leaves” pattern is drawn. The leaves has been used in Shinto rituals since ancient times and has the meaning of amulets to protect people.

In addition, “Group seats” for 2 to 4 people will be newly installed, taking advantage of the characteristics of railway rolling stocks. The seats are configured so that you can face each other so that you can enjoy the view from the large windows, and the seats can be laid flat. In order to create a relaxing atmosphere, a large table and loose partitions are installed, making it a space where you can feel a moderate degree of privacy (See the figure below about the design of the new ‘Yakumo’ train).

JR West decided on the design of a new ‘Yakumo’ limited express train

Improved riding comfort with the latest “pendulum method”

The design of ‘Yakumo’ this time was supervised by Ichibansen (Shibuya City, Tokyo), represented by designer Yasuyuki Kawanishi, and the design room of the manufacturer Kinki Sharyo (head office: Higashiosaka City, Osaka). Mr. Kawanishi is also working on the rolling stocks design for JR West’s long-distance train “WEST EXPRESS Ginga” and a new sightseeing train that will appear in the fall of 2024.

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The current ‘Yakumo’ 381 Series has a “pendulum system” that tilts the car body when approaching a curve for the purpose of traveling at high speed in mountainous areas. The 273 Series will be equipped with Japan’s first state-of-the-art technology, the “natural pendulum system with on-board control,” which will improve ride comfort, which has been an issue with current trains. Jointly developed by JR West, the Railway Technical Research Institute (Kokubunji City, Tokyo), and Kawasaki Railcar Manufacturing (Headquarters: Kobe City), it continuously compares on-board curve data with driving point data. They say that the tilt of the train body can be done at the appropriate timing.

In order to improve passengers’ convenience, Wi-Fi, power outlets in all seats, and large luggage space are installed in the trains. As a facility that is conscious of a wide range of users, in addition to expanding the wheelchair space, a multi-purpose space will be installed to enhance barrier-free features. A total of 44 rolling stocks (11 trainsets) of the 273 Series ‘Yakumo’, which pursues safety, stability and reduction of environmental impact, will be manufactured in the future, and commercial operation is scheduled to start after the spring of 2024.