Behold bullet trains and steam engines at SCMaglev and Railway Park

A prototype maglev steals the show from dozens of historic trains at Nagoya's SCMaglev and Railway Park. Here's a look around.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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SCMaglev and Railway Park

In a building that looks an awful lot like what you'll find inside, Nagoya's SCMaglev and Railway Park has trains of the past and trains of the future.

For more info about our tour, check out Japan's past and future trains float and roll at SCMaglev and Railway Park.

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Need for speed

Off to a dramatic start. Three examples of speed.

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Speediest steam

The C62 class were the largest and fastest steam locomotives used in Japan.

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Record holder

This C62 holds the record for fastest narrow-gauge steam locomotive, at 80 mph (129 km/h).

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This is the 300X, a 955 class electric multiple unit (EMU) built to test higher-speed train technologies in the mid-90s. It too was a record holder, with a top speed of 275 mph (443.0 km/h).

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The star of the show, however, is the prototype superconducting maglev

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It's got magnets!

Maglevs hover above the track, using magnets for levitation as well as propulsion.

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This prototype was built in 1995. Research and testing are ongoing, but the plan is to open for commercial service by 2027

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The maglev itself holds a record, with a top tested speed of a manned train of 375 mph (603 km/h).

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55 years separates these two trains, and the new one is 3.4 times faster than the old.

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Eye on speed

JR Central expects to operate the maglev at speeds of 315 mph (505 km/h), over 50% faster than a regular Japanese bullet train.

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Main hall

The main hall is expansive and well lit. Not quite as beautiful as Tokyo's Railway Museum, but certainly easier to see everything.

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You can go inside almost all the trains on display.

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Bullets to the past, youngest on the left.

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The 700 series entered service in 1999 and is due to be completely phased out by the end of the year.

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The 700 series was very successful and directly influenced not just its direct successor the N700, but other bullet trains like Taiwan's 700T and JR Kyushu's 800 series.

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91 trainsets were built, a total of 1,328 vehicles.

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The top operating speed of the 700 series was 177 mph (285 km/h). This one is currently going much slower.

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What's up, Doc?

A Doctor Yellow! These trains and there are always a few in service, travel the various shinkansen lines to make sure the rails and cables are all operating at 100%.

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Doctor engineer

To prevent delays these travel at normal operating speeds for the line they're on. This 0 series retired in 2005.

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As you'd expect, instead of seats there are lots of sensors and other equipment. 

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Orange and green

A 165 class EMU from the 1960s. These were more powerful and better suited for cold weather than their predecessors. 

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Mr. Barker's train

Oddly upsetting to look at, this train is actually used to test for any obstacles too close to the track.

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Most electric trains use pantographs, which extend up from the body of the train and keep in contact with the powered lines above.

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The 100 series was the first major update to the original bullet train and features a more aerodynamic nose among other improvements.

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They had a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h).

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Upper deck

While I've ridden on the upper deck of several TGV bullet trains in France, such double deckers are a lot less common in Japan. This was the first and was used with the 100 series.

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All the cooking was downstairs, on electric stoves and grills.

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Up we go

These cars entered service in the '80s. 

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Waitstaff station

Beverages could be kept up here, and food would come up via dumbwaiters on the right.

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Fine dining

Not a bad place for a meal.

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The oddly-nosed 300 series. This was one of the prototypes. These, which entered service in the early 90s, replaced the 100 series and were in turn replaced by the faster 700 series.

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Where it all started

It wouldn't be a Japanese train museum without a 0 series, the original shinkansen. This one dates from 1971.

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Build quality

A testament to the original design and build quality, these were built from the mid-60s to the mid-80s, with some trainsets in service all the way to 2008. 

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First course

The first restaurant car ever on the shinkansen was this type, which entered service in 1975. 

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This is a KiHa 181 series DMU, or diesel multiple unit. First launched in the late 60s, they were designed for the non-electrified and hilly terrain of the Japanese Alps.

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The other 181

This is a 381 series, and despite the color and number, the 381 isn't technically related to the 181, not least because it's a tilting electric multiple unit. 

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The 381 was the first tilting non-shinkansen train in normal service.

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This rather adorable EMU is a 52 series, which was built in the mid-30s. 

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Fairly simple controls.

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Wood and steel

As stylish inside as out.

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Orange you quiet

The 111 series was made for suburban service and were designed to be quieter than their predecessors. 

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Technological advances

This example is from 1962, and you can see how far cab, control, and instrumentation had advanced in the 30 years since the 52 series.

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100 year electric

This electric railcar, a Hoji 6005, dates from 1913. 

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Almost looks like the interior of a yacht or something. Anything but public transportation. 

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It's just a model

This is one of the best model railroads I've ever seen. It's huge, covers Osaka to Tokyo, and even has a day/night cycle. Things happen all across the diorama at different times. For example, one building has a "fire." Emergency trucks arrive, then a few minutes later the fire goes out and the trucks leave. Good fun.

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I love that in the Osaka portion there's Dōtonbori and the famous Glico man sign, except... it's either on the wrong side of the bridge or the wrong side of the river.

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Tokyo at night

The boats even move around Tokyo Bay in front of the artificial island of Odaiba. Though the diorama did have a miniature Skytree, I couldn't find Tokyo's Railway Museum.

As night descends on this miniature world, so too does my visit to the SCMaglev and Railway park come to a close. 

You can read more about the museum in Japan's past and future trains float and roll at SCMaglev and Railway Park

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