E3 Series Shinkansen

Made in collaboration with TreinspotterJeffrey/Sanyo J

From left to right: Akita Shinkansen Pre-Series Set S8/R1, Akita Shinkansen Full-Production E3 Series, Yamagata Shinkansen E3-1000 Series and the E3-2000 Series, also for the Yamagata Shinkansen.


All the necessary dependencies are included in this .rar or avaible on the DLS.

For some consists, you’ll need to install (or have installed) also Hirochi’s E2, E4 and E5 Series Shinkansens as well (all avaible on the DLS).







The E3 Series Shinkansen began commercial services in 1997 with the opening of the 130Km-long Akita Shinkansen, Japan’s second “Mini-Shinkansen” line (a “conventional” 1067mm-gauge line converted to standard gauge so to enable trough-services to and from “standard” Shinkansen lines, allowing for considerable reduction in travel times while avoiding the need to build an entirely dedicated Shinkansen line where population and ridership wouldn’t justify such an expense) running for roughly 130Km between Morioka (where it branched off the Tohoku Shinkansen) and Akita via the re-gauged Ou Main Line.


For the new Mini-Shinkansen line, JR East opted for an entirely new design instead of continuing to manufacture the very recent 400 Series, wich had been introduced only a few years earlier in 1992. Nevertheless, the new trains, to be classified as the “E3 Series” (using JR East’s brand new “Ex” designation for new-generation Shinkansen trains) were to be effectively based on the 400 Series, sharing the same dimensions (20m-long cars as opposed to standard Shinkansens’ 25-27 meters and a 2950mm width, to fit the conventional lines’ loading gauge as opposed to the 3380mm width of standard Shinkansen trains, with the eventual gap between the E3 Series and the platforms of standard Shinkansen stations, having been built for much larger trains, being bridged by retractible steps).


However, the new E3 Series fetaured several improvements compared to it’s predecessor: it’s bodyshell was made out of alluminium, making each car 2 tons lighter, internal seating was rearranged in a 2+2 formation (instead of a 2+1 formation on the 400 Series); the traction control was also changed, with the 400 Series’ Thyristor Phase Control being changed for a more modern GTO-VVVF inverter. Finally, the top speed was raised as well, with the new E3 Series being rated for a maximium of 270Km/h (compared to 240Km/h for the 400 Series).

Being intended for Mini-Shinkansen services, the E3 Series were designed as multivoltage trains (25Kv 50Hz AC for the standard Shinkansen lines and 20Kv 50Hz AC for the converted “conventional” lines) and were fitted with both ATC-2 (and later D-ATC) saftey systems for Shinkansen lines as well as ATS-P for conventional lines.


The styling of the new trains, fetauring a sleek white livery with a magenta stripe and a dark grey front portion, was designed by the GK Industrial Design firm and overseen by Kenji Ekuan, a famous designer wich had previously designed several trains for JR East, including the Narita Express 253 Series, the 255 Series and the 209 Series (and among other things, the “Gingko Leaf” logo of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the world-famous Kikkoman Soy Sauce bottle as well). 

Finally, the new E3 Series trains were intended to be formed in 5-car sets, with cars numbered 11 to 15 (in continuity with the 10-car Shinkansen sets they were intended to couple to), with car No.11 being the “Tokyo side” one (and the one that coupled to other trains) while car No.15 was the “Akita side” one. The fleet was to be manufactured jointly by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Tokyu Car Co.


A “pre-series” set was completed early on in 1995 and handed over to JR East for initial testing. Classified as formation “S8” and formed as a 5-car set, this pre-series set was different in appearance compared to the under-construction “full production” trains, as it had a front styling reminescent of the early 400 Series, with the distinctive four-lamp top mounted headlights. With testing of the pre-series set being deemded successful, the full-production E3 Series fleet began commercial services on schedule on the 11th of May 1997, running seamlessly between Tokyo and Akita on brand-new Komachi services, coupled between Tokyo and Morioka to Yamabiko services operated either by the equally brand-new E2 Series or by a select number of relatively older 200 Series sets wich had been adapted for a quick-coupling system compatible with the E3 Series’ one.


With the entry into service of the full production trains, the pre-series set was taken out of service and put in storage, however, as the new Komachi services were proving incredibly popular, JR East quickly decided to take the pre-production set and modify it to full-production standards (including the addition of a sixth car to match the lenght of the other E3s) to be used as an additional train. Reclassified as “Set R1”, the pre-production set re-entered service in 1998; in the same year, all the other 15 E3 Series sets (R2 to R16) were lenghtened to six cars (now numbered 11 to 16) and a seventeenth 6-car set (R17) joined the fleet as well.

By 1998 a total of 17 E3 Series sets had been manufactured, but thanks to the ever increasing popularity of Komachi services an additional nine E3 Series sets (R18 to R26) were oredered as well, being manufactured between 2002 and 2005, bringing the total to 26 E3 Series sets for the Akita Shinkansen. These were externally nearly identical to the late-1990s built E3 Series, but fetaured a few notable improvements, mainly the adoption of an up-to-date IGBT-VVVF inverter instead of a GTO-type one.


At around the same time, with the extension of the Yamagata Shinkansen, the other Mini-Shinkansen line, from Yamagata to Shinjo in 1999, a small fleet of new trains was needed. Since resuming production of the 400 Series was uneconomical, JR East decided to order two dedicated E3 Series sets for the Yamagata Shinkansen. 
Classified as the “-1000 subseries”, the Yamagata Shinkansen E3 Series sets were very similar to their Akita Shinkansen counterparts, as they fetaured the same bodyshell design and equipment, however there were two notable differences, with the livery, wich was changed to a silver and green one (designed to be similar to the one of the 400 Series) and with the formation, as Yamagata Shinkansen trains were formed as 7-car sets instead of the 6-car sets of the Akita Shinkansen.

Like the standard E3 Series for the Akita Shinkansen, the two E3-1000 Series trains were manufactured jointly by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Tokyu Car Co. and were delivered in late 1999, classified as sets “L51” (built by Tokyu Car Co.) and “L52” (built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries). An additional E3-1000 Series set, manufactured by Tokyu Car Co. and classified as set “L53” entered service in 2005.


By the mid-2000s, on the Yamagata Shinkansen, the 400 Series had aged and deteriorated quickly, with JR East eventually deciding for a replacement. Such replacement came in 2008 in the form of a specially-designed E3 Series derivative: the -2000 Subseries. These were based on the late-batch Akita Shinkansen E3 Series, and as such fetaured several improvements compared to older E3s, including the usage of an IGBT-VVVF inverter. Otherwise, the new E3-2000s were nearly identical to the previous E3-1000s for Yamagata Shinkansen services, including the livery, with the only tell-tale fetaure being the rounded headlights of the 2000 Series (instead of the squared ones of other E3 Series trains).
The introduction of E3-2000 Series sets was continuous and by 2009 11 sets (L61-L71) had been delivered, enough to replace the vast majority of 400 Series sets, with only one (L3) being kept in service until the 18th of April 2010, and subsequently replaced by an additional set (L72) delivered in the same year.


A few years later it was turn for the E3 Series to be replaced: with the introduction of the E5 Series, the new “standard train” for the Tohoku Shinaksen, capable of a top speed of 320Km/h, it was decided to introduce a new type of mini-shinkansen train to fully take advantage of the increased maximium speed of the new E5 Series (as the existing E3s were limited to 270Km/h). Entering service in 2013 on dedicated Super Komachi services, the brand-new E6 Series quickly replaced the existing E3 Series sets, wich were subsequently withdrawn and stored out-of-service. From the 15th of May 2014 all Komachi services were re-assigned to E6 Series sets, and subsequently, the E3 Series ended it’s services on the Akita Shinkansen.


Out of the several surplus Akita Shinkansen sets, the most recent four (R23 to R26) were converted into two 7-car E3-1000 Series sets (L54 and L55) and moved to the Yamagata Shinkansen, while two more sets (R18 and R19) being converted into two E3-700 Series sets for dedicated tourist services: the Yamagata Shinkansen “Toreiyu Tsubasa” train (former set R18) and the Joetsu Shinkansen “Genbi Shinkansen” (former set R19). The remaining were likely all scrapped, with some cars retained as “spare parts donors” for the other E3 Series sets.


Currently, 18 E3 Series sets are in service, all on the Yamagata Shinkansen: the five E3-1000 Series sets (three “original built” ones and two converted from surplus Akita Shinkansen sets), the twelve E3-2000 Series sets and the “Toreiyu Tsubasa” train (the “Genbi Shinkansen” was retired from service on the 19th of December 2020). However, they won’t last much longer, as their successors, the E8 Series (derived from the E6 Series of the Akita Shinkansen) is already on order and will likely enter service by 2024.



Trivia #1:
As of 2021, the E3 Series is the only Shinkansen train that wasn’t manufactured (partly or completly) or used any Hitachi-made components.


Trivia #2:
Initially, the “original” 16 Akita Shinkansen E3 Series Sets (R1 to R16) weren’t owned directly by JR East, but rather by the special ad-hoc created “Akita Shinkansen Vehicle Ownership” company, a joint-venture between the prefectural government of Akita and JR East. The agreement between the two stated that Akita prefecture would purchase the trains (or atleast contribute partly) and then lease them to JR East for a set period of time. The lease ended on the 21st of May 2010, with sets R1 to R16 being transferred to full ownership by JR East (set R17, and all subsequent others were fully owned by JR East since their delivery).


Trivia #3:

Between the retirement of the 400 Series in 2010 and the introduction of the E6 Series in 2013, the E3 Series was the only “Mini-Shinkansen” type of train in service in the whole of Japan.