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Shinkansen: High-speed revolution

Step back to 1960s Japan, where new innovations in high-speed rail changed the future of transport and admire the sleek modern design, suitably nicknamed 'bullet train'.

Revolutionary speed

In 1964, Japan reinvented passenger railways with the launch of the Shinkansen ('new main line'), the first route dedicated to moving large numbers of people in comfort and at high speed. Our 0 Series power car No. 22.141 was one of the first of the trains built and used on the new line and one of the last to be withdrawn from service. 

The bullet train ran at speeds of up to 130 mph and took a little over three hours to travel the 320-mile line between Tokyo and Osaka. The service was efficient and reliable—on average, bullet trains arrive within 24 seconds of their scheduled time.

The inside passenger carriage is currently open and available to view with accessible access via a ramp.

Curator with a camera

Join our curator Bob Gwynne for an in-depth tour of this stunning vehicle and find out the history of the Japanese bullet train, which was at the forefront of a transport revolution in the 1960s. 

 

About the designer

Born in Osaka in 1901, Hideo Shima joined the Ministry of Railways in 1925 as a rolling-stock engineer to design steam locomotives.  

In 1955 Shima was invited by Japanese National Railways to oversee the Shinkansen project as chief engineer. In addition to its innovative propulsion system, the bullet train also introduced features like air-suspension and air-conditioning. Shima's team personally designed the sleek cone-shaped front from which the Shinkansen got its name, taking inspiration from aircraft of the age.

How it came to us

After it was withdrawn from service in 2000, West Japan Railways generously donated the Shinkansen to our collection. Before arriving in the UK, over 100 people worked to fully restore it to its current condition.

The Shinkansen in the National Collection is the only bullet train outside of Japan.