681 series

The 681 series (681系, 681-kei) is a dual-voltage electric multiple unit (EMU) train type operated by West Japan Railway Company (JR-West) and Hokuetsu Express on limited express services in Japan.

681 series
A JR-West 681 series train on a Hakutaka service in September 2014
Entered service1992
Number built102 vehicles
Number in service99 vehicles (as of 1 October 2015)[1]
Number scrapped3 vehicles[1]
Formation3/6 cars per trainset
Operator(s)JR-West (1992–)
Hokuetsu Express (1997–2015)
Depot(s)Kyoto, Kanazawa
Line(s) servedTokaido Main Line, Kosei Line, Hokuriku Main Line, Nanao Line, Shinetsu Main Line, Joetsu Line, Hokuetsu Express Hokuhoku Line
Car body constructionSteel
Maximum speed160 km/h (100 mph) (Hokuhoku Line)[2]
130 km/h (80 mph) (JR lines)
Traction systemThyristor drive + Variable frequency (GTO)
Acceleration1.8 km/h/s (1.2 mph/s)[3]
Deceleration5.5 km/h/s (3.4 mph/s)
Electric system(s)20 kV AC 60 Hz / 1,500 V DC overhead
Current collection methodWPS27C scissors-type pantograph
Braking system(s)Regenerative brake, electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, snow-resistant brake
Safety system(s)ATS-SW, ATS-P
Multiple working683 series
Track gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)


681-0 series

Four six-car sets (T01–T03, T06) and five three-car sets (T11–T13, T15, T17) are used on Thunderbird services. These trains feature "Thunderbird" branding. Also four six-car sets (W01–W04) and four three-car sets (W11–W14) are used on Hakutaka services. These trains feature "White Wing" logos.[4]

From February 2015, Hakutaka W sets began being repainted into the same livery as 683 series trainsets used on Shirasagi services, with thin blue and orange lines below the window band.[5]

681-1000 series

The pre-series six-car set (T18) and one three-car set (T07) are used on Thunderbird services.[4]

681-2000 series

Two six-car sets (N01–N02) and two three-car sets (N11–N12) are used on Hokuetsu Express Hakutaka services. These trains feature "Snow Rabbit Express" logos.[4]


Future developments

All of the 681 series trainsets used on Thunderbird limited express services are scheduled to undergo a programme of refurbishment from autumn 2015 until the end of fiscal 2018.[6]


  1. JR電車編成表 2016冬 [JR EMU Formations - Winter 2016] (in Japanese). Japan: Kotsu Shimbunsha. November 2015. pp. 359, 422. ISBN 978-4-330-62315-3.
  2. JR全車輌ハンドブック2006 [JR Rolling Stock Handbook 2006] (in Japanese). Japan: Neko Publishing. 2006. ISBN 978-4-7770-0453-9.
  3. Sugiyama, Junichi (23 November 2014). "特急「はくたか」在来線最速160km/h! ほくほく線の黄金時代" [Limited express "Hakutaka" up to 160 km/h on conventional line! Golden Ages of Hokuhoku Line]. news.mynavi.jp (in Japanese). Mynavi Corporation. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  4. JR電車編成表 2009夏 [JR EMU Formations - Summer 2009] (in Japanese). Japan: Kotsu Shimbunsha. June 2009. p. 132. ISBN 978-4-330-06909-8.
  5. 特急〈はくたか〉681系に〈しらさぎ〉色編成現る [Hakutaka 681 series trainsets appear in Shirasagi livery]. RM News (in Japanese). Japan: Neko Publishing Co., Ltd. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  6. より快適に!北陸~近畿を結ぶ特急「サンダーバード」、車両リニューアルへ [Rolling stock to be refurbished for Thunderbird limited express trains linking Hokuriku and Kinki]. Tetsudo Shimbun (in Japanese). Japan. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.

Further reading

  • オールガイド 681・683系 [Full Guide: 681/683 Series]. Japan Railfan Magazine. 49 (577): 56–65. May 2009.
  • 北越急行681・683系 [Hokuetsu Express 681/683 Series]. Japan Railfan Magazine. 49 (577): 46–55. May 2009.
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