|A 400-Series Shinkansen in its original livery.|
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The 400-Series Shinkansen is a high-speed EMU. They were built for the mini-Shinkansen line; the Yamagata branch line. Built between 1992 and 1995 they were designed to be shorter and narrower for the upgraded line operated by JR West. The whole fleet of 400-Series trainsets were refurbished between 1999 and 2001. They were withdrawn starting 2008 and ending with L3 on the 18th of April 2010.
These trainsets had to be built much narrower than other Shinkansen trainsets. The Yamagata line is an upgraded line, from narrow gauge to standard gauge. Though the gauge is the same as the main lines, the infrastructure wasn't built for such wide vehicles such as the 300-Series. So narrow was the 400-Series that when the train stopped at main Shinkansen lines, steps had to extend from beneath the doors so passengers could get to the platform.
There was a pre-production set (S4) made in October 1990. It had a 6-car layout; all the cars were powered. The set differed from production sets by having seat-back TV screens. Testing began on the 14th of November 1990. This series may have been smaller, but it wasn't slower... it was faster. On the 26th of March 1991 S4 set a new Japanese speed record of 208 mph (336 km/h), on the Joetsu line in the Yuzawa Tunnel. And to top that, S4 did 214 mph (345 km/h) on the 19th of September 1991, over the same piece of track. S4 was later modified to production standards becoming L1 on the 29th of June 1992.
In late-1995 a 7th car was added to the sets. This unpowered car took position 5 in the sets.
Construction was of steel, and a single set could cater for 399 (379 standard + 20 Green class) passengers. The end cars are 22.8 meters long and the intermediate cars are 20.5 meters long. Top speed is 150 mph (240 km/h) for the Tohoku line, and 81 mph (130 km/h) for the Yamagata line. It took 20/25 kV, AC at 50 Hz.
However most of the first eleven sets where withdrawn and all scrapped, but one car (Green Car 441-3) of the last set to be withdrawn, L3 remains stored at a location in Fukushima pending a possible future preservation,