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Release | nobu Kawashima

The express diesel car only for Hokkaido “183 Series” ran all over Hokkaido as different express trains

▲The photo above and all of the pictures below are provided by railway photographer Tomohiro Yano

“183 Series” is the express diesel car started operation in 1979. It was specially created for the cold district Hokkaido by Japanese National Railways. It ran all over Hokkaido as express trains connecting different places, but the first series will retire in 2018 spring. (Some of them by the end of 2018) Some parts of the cars are decided to preserve in Abira-Cho by volunteers.


183 Series ran all over Hokkaido as express diesel trains strong for coldness and snow

The express diesel cars operated in Hokkaido were the same cars from Honshu Regions until 1970. However, cars often experienced breakdown and damages in Hokkaido where the weather is severely cold and gets heavy snow. So people decided to develop special express diesel cars for Hokkaido which is durable for coldness and snow.
Then the 183 Series, the express diesel cars strong for coldness and snow was developed specially for Hokkaido. It has been used for different express trains in Hokkaido after the 1980s. 

By the way, there was also 183 Series express trains in Honshu Region so many people differentiate those by calling “Kiha 183-Kei” for 183 Series express diesel cars. 

183系が雪の中を颯爽と疾走!▲183 Series runs through the heavy snow! 

There are many different express trains in Hokkaido and express “Oozora” was the first one to use 183 Series. It was the predecessor of express “Super Oozora” and connected Kushiro from Hakodate and Sapporo. 

183系はデビュー当時クリームと赤のツートンカラー。通称国鉄色とも言われていました▲The color of 183 Series was cream and red. It was also sometimes called as Japan National Railways color. 

Right after the debut of 183 Series, Sekisho-Line which connects Minami-Chitose (it was Chitose Airport at the time of start) and Shintoku started operation in October 1981. Adding to the fact that superior trains from Sapporo to Obihiro and Kushiro changed the route from Takigawa and Furano to Sensho-Line and the latest cars 183 Series being used, the time to travel from central and south Hokkaido and eastern Hokkaido had dramatically short and comfortable. 

After that, 183 Series was used in various express trains. 

函館から網走までロングラン運転をしていた特急「おおとり」(右)と、札幌・網走間を結ぶ特急「オホーツク」(左)▲Express “Otori” (on the right) connected from Hakodate to Abashiri for a long time and express “Okhotsk” (on the left) connected Sapporo and Abashiri. 

函館から札幌まで倶知安・小樽経由で走っていた特急「北海」(運転区間が異なる時期もありました)▲Express “Hokkai” connects Hakodate and Sapporo via Kucchan and Otaru. (The route was different in different periods) 

People may imagine the daytime when they hear about the express train, but there were night trains to connect different parts of Hokkaido before. 183 Series was also used for night trains! 

 道内各地の夜行列車にも使用され、編成の途中には寝台車両が連結されていたことも▲183 Series was also used for night trains in different parts of Hokkaido. Sleeping cars were sometimes connected to 183 Series.

I can hear people’s voices who remembers the times when these trains were in operation. 
Those from Hokkaido or have some relations to Hokkaido must have used 183 Series on different occasions such as business trips, going back to home, traveling, etc. 


There are two kinds of 183 Series

183 Series has different minor versions depending on characteristics of cars and equipment. It will be too detailed if I try to explain in this article so won’t tell everything. In this article, I will call them “the first version” and “the latter version” and separate two versions according to the exterior. It might be more familiar to train geeks if I say “No.0” and “No. 500”.

“The first version” is, as the name suggests, cars produced in the beginning. The first car has square-like shape and non-through type (doors to connect different cars do not exist). 

183系の初期型▲“The first version” of 183 Series. 

“The latter version” is an improved version of the first version and appeared after a few years later. The first car is rounder than the first version, and it’s a through type (doors to connect different cars exist and people move between cars when it’s connected).  

183系の後期型。2018年春時点では特急「オホーツク」や特急「大雪」として石北線などを走っています▲“The latter version” of 183 Series. It ran in Sekihoku Line as express “Okhotsk” and express “Oyuki” in spring of 2018. 


People scraped gradually because of aging and generational change

The first version and the latter version were both used for a long time after the 1980s. However, the new version of express diesel cars using stainless appeared in the late 1990s, and many improved cars were developed after 2000s. 183 Series retired from the first version, and following that, the latter version gradually disappeared. 

 一時期は稚内へ向かう宗谷線にも一部の列車に183系が導入されていました▲183 Series was used in part of Soya Line which goes to Wakkanai. 

函館・札幌間を東室蘭経由で走る特急「北斗」にも長い間使用されてきて、晩年は臨時の「北斗」で登場▲183 Series was also used for express “Hokuto” which connects Hakodate and Sapporo via Higashi-Muroran for a long time. It appeared limited “Hokuto” in its later life. 

And because of aging, etc., the first version will retire in spring 2018. (By the end of 2018 for some cars)


Volunteers voice and power made preservation of 183 Series come true! 

Volunteers in and out of Hokkaido who heard the news about 183 Series first version retiring, many people wanted to preserve the car which contributed the improvement of traveling within Hokkaido, and the first express diesel cars made only for Hokkaido. They did crowdfunding to collect donations through the internet, and the preservation of part of first cars was decided officially! 
It will be preserved at Michi No Eki “Abira D51 Station” located in Oiwake Region, Abira-Cho, which opens in 2019 spring. The area is along the Sekisho-Line, which 183 Series ran as express “Ozora” before. 

 183系の初期型の先頭車は、真横から見るとカクカクっとした形が特徴的▲The head car of the first version of 183 Series has the square-like shape when it’s seen from the side. 

The special car carries memories of different people will retire, but it will go back to the rail line it used to run. The express diesel cars only for Hokkaido strong for coldness and snow. I hope the cars stand coldness and snow and stay beautiful as it is forever and ever. 

* Some of the pictures are taken during revival run (event trains) and not during regular runs. 
  • The express diesel car only for Hokkaido “183 Series” ran all over Hokkaido as different express trains