Tokyo: Train Fans Enjoy Seibu Railway Throwback to 1960s Color Scheme

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A New 101 Series train with raspberry red and beige coloring on the Seibu Tamagawa Line is seen at Shiraitodai Station.

Many people would think of the color yellow when they think of Seibu Railway Co.’s trains. However, in the 1960s, cars in red and beige were standard for Seibu lines. Four-car trains that reproduce this coloring design, called “aka-den” or red trains, now service the Seibu Tamagawa Line that runs in the Tama area of Tokyo and the Seibu Sayama Line in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

One sunny weekday afternoon, I took a ride on the Tamagawa Line.

The line is an 8-kilometer single-track line connecting Musashi-Sakai Station in Musashino, Tokyo, and Koremasa Station in Fuchu, Tokyo, with six stations including both terminals. As I waited on the platform of Musashi-Sakai Station, which the JR Chuo Line also serves, the inbound aka-den train arrived. The coloring of the train — the roof and lower part of the train painted a dull raspberry red and the window areas in beige — made me feel nostalgic.

This old design was reintroduced in 2017, in response to calls for a revival of the coloring collected at an event held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the line’s opening.

The current New 101 Series trains painted in the aka-den design are already old. They were first introduced in 1979, and the train I rode was produced in 1980. Most trains are now generally operated with one lever for both braking and acceleration, but the New 101 Series is still operated in the old-fashioned manner, with the right-hand lever for braking and the left lever for power control. “If it was a car, it would be like driving a manual,” Masaomi Hatano, 50, said. “I can operate it the way I want, with subtle control.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A driver operates two levers to control the New 101 Series train.

In addition to the aka-den, the Tamagawa Line offers a variety of other color designs, including the “yellow and beige” pattern popular in the 1970s, and the “blue and white” design modeled after the Seibu Group’s Izuhakone Railway.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A blue train is seen at the train depot adjacent to Shiraitodai Station.

Shiraitodai Station in Fuchu, the third stop from Musashi-Sakai, is one of the stations on the single-track line where the track splits so that inbound and outbound trains can wait and pass each other. The station is located adjacent to the train depot of the Tamagawa Line, making it a good place to see a variety of trains at once. There were families with children as well as a train enthusiast holding a camera with a huge telescope-like lens. “What color train will come next?” a child happily asked their parents.

“Time seems to flow slowly on the Tamagawa Line,” said Yasushi Iizuka, 58, the head of the Tamagawa Line management office. “Please enjoy the retro feeling of the trains.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Passengers have to use a crossing to reach the platform from the ticket gate at Shiraitodai Station.
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Seibu Tamagawa Line

In 1917, Tama Railway, which later merged with Seibu Railway Co., opened a section between Musashi-Sakai and Shiraitodai stations. The line was extended to Koremasa Station in 1922.

Photo location: Shiraitodai Station (2-71-6 Shiraitodai, Fuchu, Tokyo)