Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chōshū Five Sesquicentennary

By Richard Tremaine

An enjoyable and successful exhibition was held at the Japanese Embassy in London from the 10th to the 21st of October, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Chōshū Five in 1863. They were 5 young men who came to study engineering at the University College London (UCL). At the time Japan was still 9 years away from it’s first operational railway between Tokyo (from the Shimbashi Terminal) & Yokohama. These young men rose quickly to the highest levels of government, including the 1st Prime Minister and 1st Minister for Railways following the Meiji Restoration. A seminar was held on the official opening day in the presence of some 150 senior railway industry personel, including a significant presence of managers direct from Japan.

Japanese woodblock prints of the early growth of railways set the scene of the Japanese Railway Society portion of a large impressive exhibition. A wide range of models and books within glass cabinets summarised the development of Japan’s Railways up to the 395 series Javelins of Hitachi, which had successfully supported the rail operations of the London Olympics. A model of Japan’s 1st locomotive (Vulcan works, Newton-le-Willows) of 1871 was accompanied by a full size brass replica works plate. The display included JRS Bullet-In publications and highlighted also Richard Trevithick, father of railways, whose grandsons were the 2 major westerners, of some 150 mainly British personnel, employed by the Japanese Government to develop the railway.
Models in ‘HO’ scale also included the 0 series Shinkansen (of 1964) and the 300X experimental Shinkansen which still holds the Japanese record of 443 km/hr employing steel on steel running.

A team from Japan came to set up the main display of 8 large (7’6″ square) panels, depicting the major British influence of Japan’s Railway development, through to the Shinkansen trains progress (included were 1/20 scale models of the vary latest E5 & E6 versions of 2011 & 2012), and the 800/801 trains that are to be constructed in the UK at a new Hitachi works in Newton Aycliffe, in the North-East of England.

Next year in 2014, we expect to be involved in celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen success at the National Railway Museum in York, with ‘our’ popular 22-141 vehicle which first went on display in 2001.

Below are some photographs of our stand.