Sad news for railfans – JR East will retire the last double-decker high-speed bullet train this autumn. First introduced in 1997, the E4 series was the second double-decker series of shinkansen trains after the E1 series which was introduced in 1994 and retired in 2012. Both series were marketed under the name “Max” or “Multi-Amenity Express” and were built to transport more passengers on busy commuter routes between Tokyo and the cities of northern Japan. Formerly running on the Tohoku, Nagano, and Joetsu Shinkansen lines, the E4 now runs only on the Joetsu Shinkansen which runs between Tokyo and Niigata.
Running at a maximum speed of 240 km/h, the E4 typically runs in an eight-car formation with seating for 817 passengers. However, two eight-car sets are sometimes coupled together providing seating for 1,634 passengers – which is the world’s highest passenger capacity for a high-speed train.
On the Joetsu Shinkansen the E4 series is currently used for the limited stop “Max Toki” service and the slower “Max Tanigawa” service. However, all E4 trains will be withdrawn and replaced with single-decker trains this autumn, with the E4’s last regular commuter run scheduled for October 1st.
Following its last regular run there will be special round-trip tours of the E4 on October 9th and 10th between Niigata and Morioka stations and on October 16th and 17th between Niigata and Tokyo stations. Special “Thank you! Max!” goods will be available for sale on these tours and are also currently available from kiosks in Joetsu Shinkansen stations in Niigata Prefecture. These special souvenir goods include stationery, towels, tote bags, t-shirts, and face masks.
For more information on the E4’s history, design, and its last run please visit the official Max Last Run website (Japanese language only).
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos courtesy of JR East. All rights reserved.