The First Shinkansen

I am a sucker for vintage industry promotion films, the kind of thing the third grade home room teacher would show as a treat on a dull Thursday afternoon. The soundtrack was warped, the film was scratched, patched and sometimes got stuck, but it was all fun.

Japanese rail fans love to post vintage photos and I came across this tweet with a fascinating video of the very first Shinkansen test car being pushed by a steam engine to the test site. It’s easy to forget how important the Shinkansen project was to Japan leading up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Even if you do not understand Japanese you can sense the importance of it all from the film clip: scrubbed technicians in pressed uniforms performing their jobs, testing the infrastructure, analyzing the performance, coaxing that first Shinkansen train to full speed.

It’s hard to believe that the Shinkansen project almost didn’t happen and was built just 18 years after the end of the Pacific War. I wonder how happy the project team felt when the first Shinkansen whooshed by. It must have been a great day. The future arrived at 256 km/h.