Shinkansen WIN350

I’ve written about the Series 500 Shinkansen on this blog before. So this time I’m gonna talk about the experimental trainset that has let to the production and deployment of the flagship train then of the West Japan Railway Company (JR West). She had a few names, 500X, Series 500-900, or WIN350 (which is probably the more commonly known name and it stood for West Japan’s Innovation for operation at 350 km/h, yeah, really).

Osaka end of the WIN350
Hakata end
The concept of a train capable of 350 km/h in service on the Sanyō Shinkansen Line first surfaced at JR West in around 1990. The Sanyō Shinkansen Line is one of the more recent HSL’s in Japan, which opened in 1972. Compared to the original Tōkaidō Shinkansen Line, the Sanyō Line had more forgiving grades and radii of curvature and hence higher allowable top speed. The WIN350 officially rolled out in 1992. A number of new components were tested aboard the WIN350, including 3 styles of trucks, 2 nose shapes, and 2 styles of pantographs (one of which was the famous wing type pantograph used on the Series 500 W sets). Tilting technology was utilised on the WIN350 but not the production Series 500 due to unresolved technical issues. The trainset was formed with an all-powered 6-car consist, 4 of which had passenger seats fitted. The trainset looked very futuristically 1990s, and the car body was noticeably lower than any existing trainsets. The car body of the WIN350 was 11 ft. 1 in. wide but only 10 ft. 10 in. high from the top of rail. The trainset was of aluminium alloy construction and the entire 6-car consist weighed under 560,000 lbs. (to put this into perspective, a fully loaded standard modern freight car in North America weighs 286,000 lbs.). Power came from 24 traction motors and the WIN350 had a total maximum output of 9,655 hp, which gave the trainset a nominal operating speed of 350 km/h or 217 mph.

1990s style cab of the WIN350
The test program concluded in 1996 and the WIN350’s intermediate cars were scrapped. Although the operation of 350 km/h services were feasible, aerodynamic noise above 300 km/h or 186 mph caused violation of Japanese environmental laws (this was also the reason the Series E5 was capped at 320 km/h, or 199 mph). As a result, the production Series 500 only had a revenue speed of 300 km/h. The two end cars of the WIN350 were preserved at 2 separate locations and were used for public display on occasion. Below is a short film of the WIN350 from one of the versions of the video game Densha de Go.

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