Can you guess what the bizarre-looking vehicle is used for?

Japan’s rail service has made news around the world for punctuality, cleanliness, and its ability to handle huge numbers of passengers in its stations every day. In fact, we’ve gone so far as to say there are at least 42 reasons to love Japan’s trains, and now we’ve come across a new entry to add to the list, and it comes in the form of an unusual red-and-white train.

Twitter user @YUMMYviolet spotted this mysterious-looking vehicle at a platform on Japan’s underground network recently, and snapped a couple of photos to share on Twitter, asking the question “What is this?”

Looking like a moving castle with turrets for shooting canonballs, train-loving Twitter users were quick to respond with ideas for what the train might be, with one user sharing another image of the same train, only this time pictured in the light of day.

According to Twitter user and rail enthusiast @moominedaddy, the train originally looked like this in a previous life.

So what could this specially remodelled piece of machinery be used for? Twitter user @kama_iruka has provided us with the answer.

The tweet explains that this is the Maya50 measurement carriage used by the E491 series train. Equipped with lasers and optical cameras, the carriage is able to measure and monitor track-clearance to ensure that trains are able to run freely on the line. While previous trains had to rely on poles attached to the top of carriages to manually check clearance distances on railway lines, this newer vehicle employs modern technology and optical sensors to do the job instead.

Inspection trains like these are especially popular with trainspotters, due to their irregular appearance on the rail network. This particular vehicle is said to appear on routes operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), which includes Tokyo’s popular Yamanote Line. Like the Shinkansen’s “Doctor Yellow” inspection vehicle, you’re said to be incredibly lucky if you spot one of these trains, so keep an eye out for it while you’re riding the rails in Japan!

Source: Togech
Top Image: Twitter/@YUMMYviolet