A 185 series EMU formation on a Moonlight Nagara service, December 2013
|First service||16 March 1996|
|Current operator(s)||JR East, JR Central|
|Stops||Shinagawa, Yokohama, Odawara, Numazu, Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Toyohashi, Nagoya, Gifu|
|Average journey time||6:40 westbound, 6:16 eastbound|
|Line used||Tokaido Main Line|
|Rolling stock||185 series EMU|
|Track gauge||1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)|
|Electrification||1,500 V DC|
The Moonlight Nagara (ムーンライトながら?) is a seasonal rapid overnight train service operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), which runs from Tokyo to Ōgaki in Gifu Prefecture via the Tokaido Main Line. Since 2009, the service has been offered approximately three weeks per year, corresponding to the spring, summer and year-end holiday seasons.
Past rolling stock
From the introduction of the Moonlight Nagara service, trains were normally formed of three three-car 373 series EMUs owned by JR Central and based at Shizuoka Depot. Additional Moonlight Nagara 91 and 92 trains also operated during busy seasons, and these were formed of ten-car 183 series EMU sets owned by JR East and based at Tamachi Depot.
The Moonlight Nagara service was introduced on 16 March 1996. The name was taken from the Nagara River in Gifu Prefecture, and was formerly used for a semi express service which ran between Tokyo and Ōgaki from 1 June 1960 until 1 October 1965.
Overnight services on the Moonlight Nagara route had existed in various forms since 1899, when through services commenced between Shimbashi in Tokyo and Kobe, extending as far west as Kagoshima in the 1940s. Prior to World War II, as many as seven overnight round-trip services existed on this route. Rail services were cut dramatically in the wake of the war. The line briefly saw three to four daily overnight services in the late 1950s, but electrification of the line, coupled with the opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen high-speed line in 1964, reduced the need for overnight services.
Initially, cars 4 to 9 were designated as non-reserved seating cars west of Yokohama Station, but from the start of the March 2007 timetable revision, all cars were designated as reserved seating between Tokyo and Toyohashi.
The service's popularity declined in the 2000s due to competition from discounted overnight bus services. From March 14, 2009, the Moonlight Nagara stopped running on a daily basis and became a seasonal train running only during busy periods.
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