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  ICBTT2004 Technology & Society Division, JSME

From the old military technology in Japan to the railway technology of the Super express "Shinkansen"


The research and development for Super express "Shinkansen" were done mainly in the actual test in Railway Technical Research Institute, Japanese National Railways (RTRI, JNR) and the testing track. The RTRI had superior talented people who supported Japanese military technology during the World War II. The non-railway technical experts above all, who lost their jobs of the aircraft and the shipping relation, were there. The RTRI adopted in 1945, for example, 85 newly graduated people and 124 graduates from previous years, 82 out of the latter had antecedents in the army and the navy and the Central Aviation Research Institute.
Though all of the non-railway technical experts in the RTRI did not concern the research and development for Super express "Shinkansen", they brought a theoretical analysis method and a new phase from the outside into the exclusive railway technology that was a hard mass of the experimental engineering, and produced the Super express "Shinkansen" in addition to the railway revival.

Key Words: Shinkansen, Military Technology, Non-railway Technical Expert

1. Investigating system in Railway Technical Research Institute, Japanese National Railways (RTRI, JNR)
The Shinkansen, Super express, proved to be a railway system that could meet the demands of our society even today, and demonstrated the advanced railway technology of Japan both domestically and internationally. It is a fact that the use of railway in the field of rapid transportation among the cities and the technological development for this purpose were also begun later in France and Germany individually and competitively. Although the fundamental specifications of the Super express "Shinkansen" in our country were set when the bullet train was planned in 1938, the investigation for the realization of new railway was promoted again mainly in the actual test in RTRI from 1958 and on the model railway track from 1962.

The person, who managed the technology for the Super express "Shinkansen", was Hideo Shima, the first son of Yasujiro Shima, one of the pioneers of the Japanese railway.
RTRI arranged the investigating system corresponding to the development of the Super express "Shinkansen". The priority research groups were organized crossing the frame of existing groups, that is, the researchers engaged in joint research of the common theme under a foreperson, while they also carried the theme of the Super express "Shinkansen". On the other hand, the construction of the model railway track was preceded in order to make the real-scale experiments with the Super express "Shinkansen". As a part of the model railway track was completed, various kinds of examinations using the test car were begun in June 1962. The speed record of 200km/h on October 31st and that of 256km/h on March 30th were established. The data to design mass production cars and full-scale track facilities were gotten from the actual test in the model railway track. A large expenditure of money on the Super express "Shinkansen" construction was also distributed to RTRI in addition to the current expenditure, and the number of the RTRI personnel also increased from 791 in 1958 to 912 in 1961.

2. Participation in the research of the past military technical experts
Before the actual construction of the Super express "Shinkansen", however, RTRI had accepted a lot of superior talented non-railway technical experts in the field of aerodynamics and shipping engineering, who supported Japanese military technology during World War II and lost their jobs after the war. The number of RTRI staff increased from 385 to 1162 in 1945, according to "History of fifty years of RTRI".
In 1945, the whole JNR (Japanese National Railways) adopted 85 new graduates and 124 graduates from previous years, 82 out of the latter had their personal history in the army, in the navy or in the Central Aviation Research Institute. Not all of the non-railway technical experts were assigned to the RTRI for the research and development of the Super express "Shinkansen", nor was the Shinkansen born just from the military technology itself. But, a kind of "technology transfer" might happen.
It is a fact that the non-railway engineers brought different theoretical method from the outside into the exclusive railway technology that had been a hard mass of the experimental engineering, and they contributed to the railway revival.

Speaking of the technology relating to the Super express "Shinkansen" for example, the relation between the phenomena of the snake motion as a self-oscillation and the derailment of a bogie truck was made clear in the vehicle movement laboratory by Tadashi Matsudaira who had researched a blade vibration of "Zero type fighter" at the Navy Aviation Technical Research Center.

The technical expert Tadanao Miki, who came also from the Navy, proposed the necessity of the aerodynamic study of the high-speed vehicle at the vehicle structure laboratory, and then the wind tunnel experiment that fixed the shape of the vehicle was started in 1953.

The bullet train, that was planned to be hauled by a steam locomotive before the war, was realized as the electric-car train of the power dispersion method, that is to say "Electric Multiple power Units" in case of the Super express "Shinkansen". Hideo Shima contributed to change the policy.
There is a history of EMU train on the narrow-gauge Tokaido line:
The Shonan train, which was the first medium-distance 15-car composed EMU train, started service on the Tokaido line in 1950.
The Odakyu Super Express train, which had light-weight structure and low center of gravity, achieved 145 km/h test run on 1067mm narrow gauge of Tokaido line in 1957.
The"Kodama"Limited express train with a maximum speed of 110km/h appeared in 1958.
Alternating Current electrification technique was added to this EMU train. "Hikari" the Super express "Shinkansen", with the electric system of 25 kV AC, single phase 60 Hz commercial frequency , began 200km/h business run on 1435mm standard gauge of New Tokaido line in 1964.

For the Shinkansen, the main motor should be light-weight, small-size and big output machine. The electric power machine laboratory steadily continued the study of the direct current electric motor, the alternating current commutator electric motor, and the electric motor for the pulsating current rectified from the alternating current, from the viewpoint of commutation. The chief of the laboratory was Tatsuo Yamamura who had researched the electric motor for the wind tunnel at the Central Aviation Research Institute during the war.

The electric power feeding laboratory found the analogy law or the similarity law that made the miniature experiment on the contact conductor wiring of the electric power feeding line possible, and developed the wiring structure, what is called, the synthetic compound catenary system, with uniform pushing-up quantity against pantograph sliding. Ikuro Kumezawa, the leader of the laboratory, had a study career in the Army.

The signal facilities with the "Automatic Train Control", that could keep high-speed and high-density train operation safe, has been installed in the Underground railway Hibiya line in Tokyo from 1961. The ATC of the non-contact method using the electromagnetic induction, has been developed from the conventional "Automatic Train Stop" with the mechanical contact, as the newly-built underground railway was connected with the suburban electric railways directly.
These technical developments had the same root as the results of research on the automatic train protection and the signaling system for the high-speed operation of the Super express "Shinkansen". Therefore, the automation of the railway operation by means of the electromagnetic technology like the ATC was realized , when the Super express "Shinkansen" was planned. The contribution that the signal system laboratory made to the series of these researches was distinguished. The chief of the laboratory was Hajime Kawanabe who was a technical expert returned from the Army.

On the other hand, the research on the running rail and track of the high-speed railway was carried out at the rail and track structure laboratory. Yoichi Hoshino, the chief of the laboratory, was a career railway engineer. He might be exceptional. He got excellent results by the theoretical study to lay and fasten such a long welded rail as 1500m.

Today, the Tokaido Super express "Shinkansen" functions as the high-speed railway among the cities in the Tokaido megalopolis. This shows that the railway is not the declining industry, and the technology of the railway can be utilized still more sufficiently today.

3. Conclusion

The technology development for "Shinkansen" is summarized and diagrammatically shown in the above figure. It can be said "a kind of technology transfer" from the old military technology to the new railway technology, but it can perhaps best be described as that the ex-military engineer's non-railway technology stimulated the conventional railway technology into activity and that the non- railway technology metamorphosed the conventional railway technology into the new railway technology for the super express "Shinkansen".

4. Literature

  1. Japanese National Railways, Railway Technical Research Institute (ed.): Goju-nen-shi (History of fifty years of RTRI), 1957. (in Japanese)
  2. Kato, Ichiro: Tokaido "Shinkansen", Diamond -sha, 1964. (in Japanese)
  3. Kakumoto, Ryohei: Tokaido "Shinkansen", Chu-kou-shinsho, 1964. (in Japanese)
  4. Japanese National Railways, Railway Technical Research Institute (ed. & Supervision): Kosoku Tetsudo no Kenkyu-----Tokaido Shinkansen ( Studies on High-Speed Railway -----Tokaido "Shinkansen"), Ken'yu-sha, 1967. (in Japanese)
  5. Ikari, Yoshiro: Cho-kosoku ni idomu (Challenge to High-Speed), Bungei-Shunju, 1993. (in Japanese)
  6. Nakayama,Shigeru et al.: Nippon no Kagaku-gijutsu (The Social History of Science&Technology in Contemporary Japan) Gakuyo-Syobo, 1995. (in Japanese)