Early technical history of electric supply to electric railways is briefly reviewed as an introduction to the following seven papers included in this special issue on technologies for saving energy in railway operation. Continuous power supply played a significant role in the early history of railway technologies. The variable voltage variable frequency (VVVF) power electronic technology had also a substantial impact on railway traction systems after 1980s. VVVF technology made it possible to have more efficient drives, downsize rolling stocks, and develop regenerative brakes. Because detailed discussions on each technical development are presented in the following papers, the general remarks of those technologies made in this introduction provide logical links to the ideas presented in the accompanying articles. Copyright © 2010 Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.