There are four main train lines running through Sendai:
-Tohoku Shinkan-sen (Tohoku Bullet Train Line)
-Tohoku Hon-sen (Tohoku Main Line)
-Senzan-sen (Senzan Line)
-Senseki-sen (Senseki Line)
Click the links below for information on specific services:
The Tohoku Shinkan-sen runs to various locations, including south to Tokyo and Yamagata, and north to Iwate, Akita and Aomori.
The Senseki-sen runs from Aoba-dori Station, to Ishinomaki-shi, north-east of Sendai.
You can get schedule information in English for any JR train line in Japan at Hyperdia
Simply click on the small button in the upper-left hand corner to go to the English page. Select your departure station, destination, and rough time you want to travel. You'll then get listings of all the trains fitting your criteria. You can also call the JR East English helpline for train information: 050 2016 1603 (available from 10am to 6pm).
Delays and Cancellations
The JR train lines in Sendai are susecptible to delays and cancellations when there is inclement weather, strong winds, earthquakes, malfunctioning signals, and so on. You can check here at JR Higashi Nihon`s English or Japanese websites for delays on the JR lines in the Tohoku Region. Just look for the name of the line you wish to check in the list. If it is not listed, that means there are no problems with the line at that time (at least no problems that are making the trains run 30 minutes or more behind schedule).
Train Tickets and Cards
For information on types of ticket, how to change your ticket, and for diagrams explaining how to read your tickets, see JR East's English website.
Automatic Ticket Machines
You can use automatic ticket machines, both for local and long distance trains. Machines with a slanted display provide information and instructions in English. If you purchase your shinkansen (bullet train) tickets from ticket machines, you can usually press the 'English' button to make your purchase and print your tickets in English.
For local trains, there will usually be a route map above the ticket machine, including the ticket prices. Depending on the station, this may, or may not, include English information. If you are unsure how much to pay, buy the cheapest adult ticket available. When you reach your destination, there should be a 'Fare Correction' machine before the exit gate. Simply pop your ticket in, and the machine will tell you how much extra you need to pay. Put in the additional fare, and it will print you a new ticket allowing you through the exit gate.
Midori-no-madoguchi (Reservation Ticket Office)
These offices are found in many JR Stations. You can buy reserved tickets here for many trains.
View Plaza (Travel Service Center)
Found in larger stations, these are basically JR-owned travel agencies, where you can purchase reserved train tickets, plus book ferries, internal flights and long distance buses. They also do great train/hotel package deals.
If you travel regularly on JR trains, consider getting a Suica pass. This electronic card can hold a renewable season pass or an amount of credit, saving you the hassle of buying a ticket. They can be purchased, renewed, and topped up with credit at the machines in Sendai Station. You can also use them for payment at some stores within stations - great if you're in a hurry to catch the train. You can't use them on the shinkansen though. For more information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suica or http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/s_users_guide.pdf (amazingly detailed explanations in English!)