The Red List of Trains in Japan

JR West 681 series

The sharp end

Data (as of 31 Mar 2024)

Status:  Endangered 
Constructed in: 1992-97
Number built: 102
Registered: 87


The 681 series is a type of dual-voltage limited express for Hokuriku Main Line. The company decided to raise speed to win the race against road transport so that maximum speed of the 681 series is 160 km/h (100 mph), while its peredecessor was 120-130 km/h (75-81 mph). Braking systems are also more powerful than other trains.

JR West replaced some Limited Express Raicho (Osaka - Kanazawa or Toyama), which were served by 485 series, with the 681 series. Services provided by the 681 series were called Super Raicho, and the company renamed them Thunderbird in 1997. Hokuetsu Express also introduced 18 carriages for Limited Express Hakutaka (Kanazawa - Echigo-Yuzawa).

The 681 series successfully made journey times between cities shorter. They were mostly used on Limited Express Thunderbird, and they later entered Nanao Line and even through-services to Toyama Chiho Railway towards Unazuki-Onsen and Tateyama as well. Furthermore, they were used on Limited Express Hakutaka via Hokuhoku Line.

When Hokuriku Shinkansen was extended to Kanazawa in 2015, the 681 series were mostly reallocated to Limited Express Shirasagi (Nagoya - Kanazawa). Hokuetsu Express resold their trainsets to JR West, as the extension of the new high-speed-rail meant their business was over. A few redundant carriages were scrapped by 2019.

Current Operations & Future Prospects

The 681 series trains are used for Limited Express Dinostar (Fukui - Kanazawa), Noto Kagaribi(Kanazawa - Wakuraonsen), Shirasagi (Nagoya - Kanazawa) and Thunderbird (Osaka - Kanazawa) and Rakuraku Biwako (Osaka - Maibara) along with 683 series.

(Updated: 31 Mar 2024)

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