Hideo Shima
Born(1901-05-20)20 May 1901
Osaka, Japan
Died18 March 1998(1998-03-18) (aged 96)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation(s)Engineer, Chief Engineer of Shinkansen Project

Hideo Shima (島 秀雄, Shima Hideo, 20 May 1901 – 18 March 1998) was a Japanese engineer and the driving force behind the building of the first bullet train (Shinkansen).[1][2]

Shima was born in Osaka in 1901, and educated at the Tokyo Imperial University, where he studied Mechanical Engineering. His father was part of a group of officials that had built up Japan's emerging railroad industry.[1]

Career in Japan National Railways

Hachikō Line derailment, 1947

Hideo Shima joined the Ministry of Railways (Japanese Government Railways) in 1925, where, as a rolling-stock engineer, he designed steam locomotives. Using new techniques to balance the driving wheels and new valve gear designs, he helped design Japan's first 3-cylinder locomotive - the Class C53, which was based on the Class C52 imported from the United States.[3]

Shima also participated in the design and fabrication of a standard heavy duty truck which was mass-produced by Isuzu when World War II broke out. This experience helped in the rapid growth of the Japanese automobile industry after the war.[3]

The Hachikō Line derailment in 1947 was a turning point in his career. JGR used the opportunity to obtain permission from SCAP to modify all wooden passenger cars (approximately 3,000 were in use then) to a steel construction within a few years.

Shima was also involved in the design and development of the Class C62 and Class D62 steam locomotives for express passenger trains and heavy-duty freight trains, respectively.[3] It was during these years that he came up with an innovation that would later be employed in the bullet trains—the use of trains driven by electric motors in the individual rail cars, rather than by an engine at the front ("distributed-power multiple-unit control systems").[1]

As Shima's career progressed, he became the head of the national railway's rolling stock department in 1948. But, after the establishment of Japanese National Railways in 1949, a train fire at a station in Yokohama that killed more than 100 people in 1951 led him to resign in the Japanese tradition of taking responsibility.[1] He worked briefly for Sumitomo Metal Industries, but was asked by Shinji Sogō, the president of JNR, to come back and oversee the building of the first Shinkansen line, in 1955.[3][4]

One of the original 0 Series Shinkansen trains

In addition to its innovative propulsion system, the Shinkansen also introduced features like air suspension and air-conditioning. Shima's team designed the sleek cone-shaped front from which the bullet train got its name.[1] The cost of the first Shinkansen line also cost Shima his job.[5] The building of the first line, which needed 3,000 bridges and 67 tunnels to allow a clear and largely straight path, led to such huge cost overruns that he resigned in 1963, along with the president, Shinji Sogō, who had backed Shima's ideas, even though the line proved to be popular and well-used.[1]

Post JNR career

In 1969, Shima began a second career, becoming the head of the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), where he pushed the development of hydrogen engines to power rockets. He retired in 1977.[1]


Hideo Shima was honored by the Government of Japan when the Emperor presented him with the Order of Cultural Merit.[1] As one of the most prominent engineers in post-war Japan, he has also been awarded numerous international prizes and honors, including the Elmer A. Sperry Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the James Watt International Medal (Gold) by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers.[3]

Hideo Shima is survived by three sons and a daughter.[1]

Locomotive designs

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Salpukas, Aigis (20 March 1998). "Hideo Shima, a Designer of Japan's Bullet Train, Is Dead at 96". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Hood, Christopher P. (2007). Shinkansen – From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan. Routledge, London. pp. 34–53. ISBN 978-0-415-32052-8.
  3. ^ a b c d e Shima, Hideo. "Birth of The Shinkansen - A Memotps://www.ejrcf.or.jp/jrtr/jrtr03/pdf/f45_shi.pdf". Japan Railway & Transport Review. 11. EJRCF: 45–48. ((cite journal)): External link in |title= (help)
  4. ^ Wakuda, Yasuo. "Japanese Railway History 10- Railway Modernization and Shinkansen". Japan Railway & Transport Review. 11. Japan Railways (JR): 60–63. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  5. ^ Smith, Roderick A. (2003). "The Japanese Shinkansen". The Journal of Transport History. 24/2 (2). London: Imperial College: 222–236. doi:10.7227/TJTH.24.2.6. S2CID 109409322.

Further reading