The popular Shinkansen affectionately known as “Doctor Yellow” will be retired in the coming years. According to NHK, the inspection vehicle will cease operations in 2027 due to aging and other factors. It seems that there will be no official successor. After Doctor Yellow is retired, track inspections and other checks are likely to be carried out by the N700S — the bullet train that was introduced on July 1, 2020 — which will be installed with special equipment. An official announcement is expected soon. 

What is the Doctor Yellow Shinkansen?  

Monitoring the condition of tracks and overhead wires, Doctor Yellow is kitted out with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment. The first yellow T1 test trains were introduced in January 1965, four months after the launch of the Shinkansen. They then received significant upgrades in 1974 and 2001. The sleek models today must travel at the same speed as other bullet trains, though they are slightly shorter, with only seven cars. There are two Doctor Yellow Shinkansen in operation. One is responsible for the JR Central line from Tokyo to Osaka. The other operates on the JR West line from Shin-Osaka to Hakata.  

Sightings of the Doctor Yellow Shinkansen are rare as the schedule is not disclosed. Described by TW’s Ben Cooke as “the Japanese rail equivalent of a shooting star,” catching a glimpse of Doctor Yellow is said to bring good luck. Fans of the colorful Shinkansen have even created websites, providing information on where it’s likely to be on a given day. However, there are no guarantees. Many people have gone their whole lives without seeing Doctor Yellow. And with the majestic train set to be retired in a few years, it’s becoming increasingly likely that they never will. 

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