Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Sunday Streamline #70: Stylish and Slow

This Sunday, our streamliner is small, electric-powered and not too fast.

The EF55 class consisted of three locomotives built in 1936 by Hitachi, Kawasaki, and Tōyō Electric in Japan. They had 2Co+Co1 wheel arrangement and were originally intended to haul limited express trains on the narrow gauge (1067mm, 3'6") Tōkaidō Line.

Although based on the earlier EF53 design, the EF55s featured a unique non-symmetrical wheel arrangement with a streamlined cab at only one end. The number 2 end had a traditional-style cab with access deck.

Don't hurry to exclaim: "Shinkansen!". The EF551-553 are only distant predecessors of the Bullet Train. Despite their ultra-modern appearance (especially striking when compared to boxlike electric locos built just a few years earlier) and quite substantial power output (1810hp) they were slow, top speed not exceeding 75 km/h.

After WWII, they were nicknamed "Moomin". Their shape is reminiscent both of the C5343 steam streamliner, also built for the Tōkaidō Line, and post-war German DMUs, Senator and Komet.

The need to turn locomotives in regular use proved to be the downfall for this small class, and the locomotives were placed in storage from 1958, and then officially withdrawn in 1964. Following withdrawal, EF55 1 was moved to the former Chūō Railway Institute near Nishi-Kokubunji Station for apprentice training purposes. EF55 3 was cannibalized to donate motors and other components to the ED30 prototype AC electric locomotive, and EF55 2 was also cut up shortly after. In 1978, EF55 1 was designated as an important piece of railway heritage, and was subsequently restored to running condition, re-entering service in 1986 for use hauling special event trains.

It was operated by JR East, based at Takasaki depot, until it was finally withdrawn in December 2008.

There are some videos of the EF 551 shot during its active service. Two video channels are recommended: 1 (YouTube), 2 (zomobo.net).

Photographs: Wikimedia Commons. Headline picture: 1st-train.net

Sources: Wikipedia (EN) (JP)

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