The Red List of Trains in Japan

JNR 185 series

The original livery

Data (as of 6 Jul 2024)

Status:  Critically Endangered 
Constructed in: 1981-82
Number built: 224
Registered: 12


This article is about 185 series (electric). Do not be confused with KiHa 185 series (diesel).

The 185 series is a type of limited express EMU developed by Japanese National Railways, based on 117 series.

JNR developed the 185 series both for limited express and regional stopping services so that standard coaches of the series were less comfortable than other intercity trains at that time. JNR introduced the 185 series to a few stopping services on Tokaido Main Line and Express Izu along with 153 series (retired in 1983). Izu services were promoted in 1981 to Limited Express Odoriko (Tokyo - Izukyu-Shimoda and Shuzenji). In 1982, JNR introduced the 185 series to Takasaki Line and used them for Express Kusatsu, Yukemuri and regional stopping services as far as Karuizawa.

As such, JNR used the 185 series for various services from regional trains to limited express. However, the series was not necessarily popular among passengers despite being new due to poor accommodation. What was worse, the series was not fit for stopping services as there were only two sets of doors per coach, contributing to severe congestion.

JR East took all coaches following the privatisation of JNR in 1987, and all of them were refurbished in 1995-2002. They were mainly used for Odoriko as well as Shonan Liner (Tokyo or Shinjuku - Odawara), Akagi (Ueno - Takasaki), Kusatsu (Ueno - Naganoharakusatsuguchi) and Minakami (Ueno - Minakami) services.

The 185 series lasted far longer than enthusiasts anticipated: all 224 carriages had been registered for use until 2013 (note that JR East has been known for replacing trains that are even less than 20 years old). The last regular services provided by the 185s were Odoriko, which were superseded by E257 series in 2021.

Current Operations & Future Prospects

There has been no regular service of the 185 series since the 2021 timetable changes. There are only two six-carriage units used for rail tours, but they do not run often. Newspapers once reported that all of them would be disposed of by the financial year 2022, but those two units still remain operational.


So-called "Shonan Block Livery" for those for Odoriko services.

So-called "New Limited Express Livery" for those in northern Kanto region, such as Limited Express Akagi (Ueno - Takasaki).

Shonan Livery modelled after JNR 80 series EMU repainted in 2010. It was restored to the Shonan Block Livery in 2013.

JNR Limited Express Livery, which was not originally for the 185 series. JR East painted a unit in such a way in 2012, but restored to the original livery in 2015.

(Updated: 6 Jul 2024)

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